"COUNTY KERRY, a maritime county of the province of Munster, Ireland. It is bounded by the mouth of the Shannon (which separates it from county Clare) on the N., by counties Limerick and Cork on the E., by county Cork and the estuary of the Kenmare on the S., and by the ocean on the W. It lies between 51° 41' and 52° 33' N. lat., and 9° 7' and 10° 30' W. long. Its greatest length N. and S., from the Priest's Cap, on the Cork border, to Carrigfoyle, on the Shannon river, is a little short of 55 miles. Its greatest breadth E. and W., from Lisheen, county Cork, to Dunmore Head, is 58 miles. The county extends over an area of 1,853 square miles, of which 414,614 acres are suitable for cultivation, 726,775 are uncultivated, 11,169 are-in plantation, 807 are occupied by the sites of towns, &c., and 32,761 are under water, making in all an area of 1,186,126 acres. The coast line includes numerous indentations and inlets, and measures over 220 miles. The name Kerry is said to be derived from Cair reeght, i.e. the "kingdom of Cair," who was a son of Fergus, King of Ulster. It was formerly part of the ancient kingdom of Desmond, governed by the MacCarthies. Raymond le Gros having joined Dermod MacCarthy in suppressing the rebellion of Cormac, his son, he received an extensive grant of land in the N. of the county, where Maurice, son of Raymond, settled in 1177, founded the family of Fitzmaurice, and gave name to the barony of Clanmaurice. In the close of the 13th century Thomas Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald was lord of Desmond. His sons were John, Earl of Kildare, and Maurice, Earl of Desmond. The estates of this family were forfeited by the rebellion of Gerald in the reign of Elizabeth. In 1641 the Irish took Tralee from the English, and held the county until they were routed in 1652 by Ludlow, when further confiscation took place. Among the new proprietors was Sir William Petty, who established the Kenmare iron works, which existed so long as the neighbouring supply of timber held out. The last rebellion gave cause for still further confiscation of lands, to the extent of 90,116 acres. The principal landowners are now the Marquis of Lansdowne, to whom it gives title of earl, Lord Kenmare, Lord Headley, Lord Ventry, and the Knight of Kerry. In the northern portion of the county the surface is flat and open, and comprises the great bog district of the Cashen. The hill of Doon and Knockanore, with a few other low hills, alone diversify the contour of the surface in this district. The plain of Ardfert extends for about 16 square miles, passing Barra Head and Tralee Bay. To the E. of the district the Clanruddery mountains run for about 7½ miles N. and S. The Stacks range commences at Tralee Harbour, and extends north-easterly to the head waters of the river Feale. The principal summits of this range are Knockacur, Knockanadirive, Mount-Eagle-Loyal, Knocknagossy, Knockmanaghan, Knockfreaghan, Knockbrack, and Knockgnagh. From Castlemaine Harbour to the E., near the head waters of the Main and Brown Flesk, there stretches a very extensive plain of champaign country, embracing some of the most fertile parts of Kerry. Further to the S.W. the Slievemish mountains stretch away directly to the E. The principal summits of this range are Cahirconree and Bautregaun. The northern peninsulated district of the county is traversed throughout by a succession of alpine acclivities. The chief elevations are Ballyvalder, Cappaclough, Binsheehy, Binroe, Croskerdagh, Connor, and Sugarloaf. In the N. of the peninsula the Brandon attains the height of 3,126 feet. Passing over another extensive plain of level champaign country, of which Castle Island, Killarney, and the Paps, may be called the southern boundaries, we enter the great W. and S.W. highlands of the county, occupying the S. peninsular district. Some of the principal summits are Mangerton, in Glanerought, with the Devil's Punch-Bowl, and Glen of the Horse, Crohanne, Coombnie, Glenkeagh, and Caha mountains; in Dunkerrin, MacGillicuddy's Reeks, with Carn Tual, the highest peak in Ireland, Toomies, Glena-Purple, and Coomenagh; in Iveragh, Curragheen, Culleen, &c. The coast, which is in general bold and cliff-bound, has two great indentations, the bays of Dingle and Tralee. In the N. is Tarbert Bay, with lighthouse, which has excellent harbourage. Ardmore Point and Bay next occur, near which are Crockeen Point and Carrigafoyle Island. Passing Beal Point and the caves of Ballybunian, we observe the mouth of the river Cashel, with its harbour. Rounding Kerry Head, Ballyheigue Bay sweeps round with a curve, but is too open to offer safe anchorage. Here the coast assumes a change from bold cliff to low beach, with a continuous screen of upland, and thus continues as far as Brandon Bay. Tralee Bay and Harbour, with its canal to the town, and fishery pier, next occurs. It is well sheltered, and has from 2 to 3 fathoms of water, with Fenit Isle to the N. Brandon Bay offers good anchorage, and has a fishery pier. Brandon Head is its western extremity. From here to its termination the coast resumes, but on a grander scale, its former boldness of character. Smerwick Harbour indents the coast between Ballydavid and Dunourlin heads, and has good anchorage. Passing round the extremity of the peninsula of Corkaguiney, by Ferriter's Cove, the Blasquet islands, and Dunmore Head, we enter Dingle Bay, and follow its shores, taking in Ventry Harbour, Dingle Harbour, Castlemaine Haven (the head of the bay), and the estuary of the river Maine. Valentia Harbour, with lighthouse, is a channel separating the island of Valentia from the mainland, and has excellent and safe anchorage. Lamb Island lies in the N. entrance. Next to Dingle Bay are St. Finian's and Ballinaskelligs bays, with numerous small islands and headlands. Beyond these to the S. is the estuary of the Kenmare, or Kenmare Bay, which has the islands of Two Head, Rossmore, and Dunkerrin, and terminates at the town of Kenmare, which has a fishing harbour. The rivers of Kerry are few and unimportant. The Cashen, whose head streams are the Geale, Feale, and Brick, flows in a north-westerly direction to the sea. The river Maine rises on both sides of Knockanadirive, and flows W.S.W. to Castlemaine. The Brown Flesk rises at Mount-Eagle-Loyal, and flows to the Maine. The Flesk rises in the county Cork, and falls into the Lower Lake of Killarney. The Deanagh rises in the N. of Magonihy, and falls into Lower Lake Killarney. The Laune flows from that lake, and takes a N.W. course towards Castlemaine. Other streams are, the Carra, falling into the upper part of Dingle Bay; the Fertin, into Valentia Harbour; the Inny and Cununara, into Ballinaskelligs Bay; Sneem, Blackwater, Finchy, and Roughty, into the Kenmare estuary; and the Sheen, falling into the head of Kenmare Bay. The lakes comprise the far-famed Lakes of Killarney [which see], Currane on the Iveragh coast, Derryana and Lannan on the Cununara, Ganvan, Gutane, the Devil's Punch-Bowl, and some other small pools. There are medicinal waters at Killarney, Iveragh, Valentia, Iraghticonnor, Ballybeg, Castlemaine, near Tralee, and Magherybeg. The prevailing rocks in the mountain districts are red and grey conglomerates and sandstones, with superincumbent silicious flags. The valleys of the Feale, Main, and Roughty are the chief limestone districts. From Ardfert to Kerry Head argillaceous sandstone occurs, and further on, limestone, accompanied with alum and slate at Ballybunian. The great Munster coal district embraces a tract extending from Tralee towards the E. boundary. The iron mines of the county were formerly very considerable, Killarney being a great seat of smelting operations, but mining is now almost abandoned. Copper has been raised at Muckross and Ross Island, and lead ore is found at the Lower Lake of Killarney. Copper is also worked at Kenmare to some extent. A valuable slate for roofing is quarried at Valentia Island. Rottenstone is found at Bushfield, and various other clays and earths of commercial value. Castle Island produces Irish slate, or Lapis Hibernicus, "Kerry atones." A variety of hard crystals are found at Ballyheigue and near Dingle. Amethysts are brought from Kerry Head, and other pretty though valueless crystals are found in the county. The climate of Kerry is humid, and subject to storms along the coast; but inland, and in the neighbourhood of Killarney, it is warm, and vegetation most luxuriant. The soil in the S.W. has much bog, but is otherwise of rather a stiff loam consisting of decomposed clay slate. The southern districts have been greatly influenced by the agricultural improvements introduced upon Lord Headly's and the Marquis of Lansdowne's estates. In the N. the soil is stiff and clayey, and much of the land is in pasture. The soil of the midland districts is a rich loam, well adapted for grain crops and dairy farming. Of late years great progress has been made in the systems of agriculture; but the habitations of the poorer classes, who are in general Irish speaking, are still miserable huts. The large farmers are principally feeders for dairy produce, which is carried in large quantities to Tralee. Wheat, oats, barley, rye, peas, beans, potatoes, green crops, roots, flax, and clover, are also raised. The breeding of cows is particularly attended to. The native breed is small, but symmetrical, and easily fattened, and when kept for stock, are excellent milkers. The Kerry pony is small, and ill adapted for draught, while the horses of foreign breeds are light and active, but not powerful. Pigs and sheep are much mixed and crossed. The wild animals are not numerous. The gourder, or Irish ortelan, is said to be peculiar to the Blasquet islands. It is larger than a sparrow, web-footed, and is esteemed a great' delicacy. Wild swans are sometimes seen in Corkaguiny. The mountains abound with grouse, eagles, hawks, pheasants, &c. Sea fowl are very plentiful along the coast. The arbutus, which grows naturally nowhere else in these latitudes, is found in the woods of Killarney and Bantry. The same may be said of the pinguicula, grandiflora, and numerous other indigenous plants, indicating the peculiar geniality of soil and climate. Oak, ash, and fir, form the principal plantations. This county is divided into eight baronies, viz: Iraghticonner, N.E., Clanmaurice, N.W., Corkaguiney, W., Dunkerrin, S.S.W., Iveragh, S.W., Glanerought, S., Magunihy and Trughanacmy, midland. These baronies contain 87 parishes. The principal towns are, Tralee, the county town, Killarney, Dingle, Listowel, Cahirsiveen, Castleisland, Ardfert, Ballylongford, and Tarbert. The county is within the Munster circuit (the assizes being held at Tralee), and in the military district of Cork, of which the barrack station is at Tralee. There are 39 stations of constabulary, and coastguard stations at Ballyhigue, Dingle, Cahirsiveen, and West Cove. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, 19 deputies, and about 112 magistrates. It sends two members to parliament for the county, and one for the borough of Tralee. The constituency of the county in 1859 was 5,278, and of the borough 244; population in 1851, 238,239, in 1861, 201,800; net value of county property, £275,132. The Poor-law Unions are, Cahirsiveen, Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney, Listowel, and Tralee. The trade of this county consists chiefly in the export of its farm produce, principally oats and butter. Woollens are manufactured for domestic use, and linen is woven at Dingle and its vicinity. The principal fishing stations are Dingle, Valentia, and Listowel. In 1850 there were 1,092 boats employed in the fisheries around the coast. The chief takes consist of turbot, cod, ling, hake, haddock, gurnet, pollock, plaice, soles, dorees, brill, mullet, mackerel, herrings, &c., also several varieties of shell fish, as oyster, crab, lobster, and scallops. Seals formerly resorted to the Kenmare estuary, but are now rarely seen. There are many objects of antiquarian interest, as the cyclopean fortresses of Cahirconree, Cahir-Donnel, and Staigue; the sepulchral monuments with Ogham inscriptions near Dingle; the stone cells at Kilmelchedor, Ventry, and Skellig; and the pillar towers at Lough Currane, Rattoo, and Ardfert, with a fragment of one at Aghadoe. There are vestiges of 13 different monastic buildings, of which the abbeys of Ardfert, O'Dorney, Derrynane, Lislaotin, and Mucross, are the most interesting; also of 30 feudal castles, and of ancient fortifications of every description, scattered over the county. The principal roads are from Tralee to Abbey O'Dorney, Ardfert, Lixna, Ballybunian, Listowel, Tarbert, Kilgoblin, Dingle, Dunmore Head, Castlemaine, Killorglin, Glinsk, Cahirsiveen, Valentia, and Killarney, from thence to Cork, Kenmare, Bantry, Castleisland, Limerick, and King Williamstown."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018