The land and landmarks of Kerry
Sharon Ni Chonchuir looks at the many delights of her home county
Who was the first European to discover the Americas? Contrary to popular opinion, it may not have been Christopher Columbus. In fact, it may well have been St. Brendan - an Irishman who hailed from Co. Kerry.
Kerry is one of the loveliest of Ireland's counties and if you have not yet paid it a visit, it might now be time for you to undertake St. Brendan's journey in reverse. Do this illustrious saint who was known "the Navigator" the honor of visiting his beautiful home place.
A county of mountainous landscapes and dramatic coastlines, where ancient historical sites sit alongside post-Celtic-Tiger modernity, Kerry is what many people imagine Ireland to be. Indeed, so superior is its splendor that it's often referred to as the Kingdom - the high seat of all of Ireland.
So, where should you start your explorations of Kerry?
Where better than in St. Brendan's own birthplace of Ardfert in the north of the county? This village and its surrounding areas are rich in archaeological heritage - the most impressive of which is St. Brendan's Cathedral, a medieval structure built in memory of the village's most revered son.
Further north is Ballybunion, once a thriving holiday destination that drew hundreds of Irish families to its beautiful beach. Though its allure has faded, this village still has its attractions, including a 14th-century castle, great natural beauty, and a golf course that's listed among the top ten in the world (just ask Bill Clinton, who played there).
Ten miles down the road, you'll come upon the bustling town of Listowel. A cultural Mecca of sorts, this town has produced stellar writers such as John B. Keane and Bryan McMahon and it celebrates this literary heritage with a writers' festival every June.
Listowel has much more to boast of too. Its castle looms over the town center ,and the acclaimed St. John's Theatre and Arts Centre right in the heart of the town square stages the best in Irish and international plays, music and exhibitions.
It also has attractions of its own, such as Ireland's second-largest museum, Kerry the Kingdom in the Ashe Memorial Hall. This tells the story of the county from 8000 B.C. to the present day, using a mixture of audio-visual displays and an evocative re-creation of the medieval town streets, complete with nose-wrinkling stench.