With the Rose of Tralee only days away, our Kerry native Edaein O'Connell takes a look at the town of Tralee and all the reasons why you should visit
As a child, Tralee was a magical place.
It had Penneys, Jungle Jims, McDonald's and Roches Stores. Then, it got Smyths. The children (and parents) of County Kerry lost their marbles. Tantrums were heard from Valencia all the way up to Tarbert and many an eardrum has been burst and purse emptied in those hallowed aisles.
If you weren't from Tralee, you acknowledged it as the town you went to for the purchase of your new school shoes from Walsh Brothers. It was also home to Shaws where you would trawl behind your mother as she met cousins while looking for a "good dressy top" in Wallis. Dunnes Stores was visited on special occasions if you were feeling quite fancy about your weekly shop and Tesco was for the basics.
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Then there were special occasions like the Rose of Tralee. If you were lucky and had been well behaved in the months prior, you would be taken to the funfair. Even better, on the night the Rose of Tralee was crowned, bedtime was thrown out the window and you would be transported to another world.
This world was Tralee after 11pm.
Seeing the Rose paraded beneath the lights of Denny Street was a sight to behold as a wide-eyed eight-year-old. Killarney and Dingle are well regarded as the tourist hotspots of Kerry and many people bypass towns like Tralee when making the trip to the Kingdom.
However, Tralee has got a lot going on: beautiful hotels, great restaurants, homegrown theatre and an innate sense of self. If you come from Tralee, you are Tralee through and through and the locals are at the heart of its being.
The Ashe Hotel is a stone's throw away from the centre of the town and it does a brilliant weekend brunch. It was far from brunch us Kerry folk were reared, but Alfie's is slowly but surely changing our ways.
If you are from Kerry and its neighbouring counties, you will have attended a wedding in Ballygarry House Hotel & Spa. An institution in the county, it is situated outside of the town at the foot of the Kerry Mountains.
The hotel is also home to the award-winning Nadúr Spa, the perfect spot to calm oneself after encountering the wild and carefree nature of the kingdom contingent.
Tralee is the town where many a relationship has blossomed and many a first date has failed. These dates usually take place in Bella Bia. Even when the conversation falls flat, the food is fantastic.
Cassidy's restaurant is situated in the heart of the town and has one of the best early-bird menus in Munster. The Brogue has everything you could want for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and it's carvery is renowned). It is in a convenient location with great staff and great food.
Seán Óg's is a Tralee institution. Small in size but big in personality and charm, it's a pub that encapsulates the heart and soul of the town. Teach Beag is the spot for music, good pints and romance.
While Roundy's is the type of cosmopolitan establishment you would not expect to find down the south of the country with craft beers and experimental cocktails on tap.
Siamsa Tire, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, brings the Ireland of yore to life through music, song and dance. The Festival of Folk takes place each year and is running until September 22nd. It is a feast for the cultural senses. For a country such as ours, it's important to keep our traditions alive and the theatre has done so with skill, expertise and pure talent.
Performers take to the stage every night with each production played out to perfection. I may be biased as a former performer myself, but these guys are the real deal.
A personal favourite is Oileán which depicts the lives, the traditions and the culture of the Blasket Islands. It's emotive, invigorating and takes you along on a journey to the past. Throughout the year Siamsa Tire also hosts a range of concerts, musicals and plays, meaning you will never be stuck for choice. Find out more here.
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When it comes to activities you have an array of possibilites at your fingertips. From the Kerry County Museum for your bite of history to a walk on the stunning Banna Strand or through Ballyseedy Woods, your days will be filled. Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre is the perfect destination for families, while a trip to Blennerville Windmill–which is located on the Wild Atlantic Bay–boasts stunning views of Tralee Bay.
The town is also the perfect base for a trip to other parts of the county. Killarney is only a 40-minute drive from the town and the seaside town of Dingle is an hour away.
It's time to go
While Dingle and Killarney get the merit and the influx of summer tourist, Tralee deserves a part of that pie too.
Full of life and personality, it's a jewel in the Kerry crown. It's time to put it on your list.
You won't be disappointed.
Image: Andres Poveda
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