Tralee to Spa


The North Kerry Way starts in Tralee, the capital town of County Kerry.


Here you are walking on the tow path of the Tralee Ship Canal. From the docking area at the Basin it extends for 2.5 km, to where it enters the Bay between two protruding ramps always referred to as "The Point". This waterway was opened in 1846 and for

100 years it was the supply line to Tralee as freighters brought grain, timber and such heavy cargo to the merchants of the town. The boats went away laden with agricultural produce from the locality.

Inevitably modern means of transportation took over and the canal fell into disuse until, happily, a new generation recognised its worth and it is now being restored as a leisure amenity.


During the summer months Walkers may hear a whistle to their left and see, across the marshes, a steam train puffing along. Its engine is the self same one that once pulled a narrow-gauge train over some very difficult terrain to Dingle, 50 km away. From 1891 to 1953 this railway provided a vital means of communication for those living on the Corkeguinny Peninsula

Now it piles as far as Blennerville and gives its passengers a flavour of what steam travel was like in a by-gone age.


The Dingle Way and the North Kerry Way part company at Blennerville Bridge. The Windmill, which has been a beacon since the start of the walk, is now just across the road. Here again is something that was almost lost to the "age of progress" but was rescued just in time by far-seeing local people. Oh! Yes it's the real thing. It grinds corn as it always did, driven by the winds that sweep down from the hills. It also houses a museum that tells many sad stories of those forced to emigrate from here during famine times, and also where the full-scale replica of the "Jennie Johnston" was built - a famine ship which has since sailed the seas as its predecessor did in the black days of the 19th century.


Tralee Bay is very shallow - except for a narrow shipping channel - and at ebb tide reveals broad mud flats. These may look grey and barren but, in fact, they teem with tiny crustaceans and support profuse marine grasses. A great number of birds are attracted here. All year round there are the usual species of estuary feeders - grey herons, ducks and common waders - but in winter the inlet is particularly interesting when vast flocks of lapwing and golden plover congregate on the ooze and rise to fill the sky with swirling, dancing acrobatic displays.


The sluice spanning this small stream is called the Meal Bridge, locally pronounced "Male" Bridge. During the Great Famine of 1845 - 48 relief works were set up in this area in an attempt to relieve the appalling hardship of the people. Where you now stand is the place to which the workers came to receive their wages - the currency being Indian meal.

Pause here and look around. Tralee Bay stretches before you - sometimes as a wide sheet of water, sometimes as gravel and mud banks. It depends on the tide. Beyond is the long range of Slieve Mish rising gradually to the peak of Baurtregaum (851m) and then dropping sharply to continue brokenly to Mount Brandon away to the west. The narrow coastal strip of cultivated fields on the far shore can be clearly seen in sharp contrast to the rugged glens and moorlands above them.

You have come some distance from the Windmill, but it can still be seen. Behind the tree-fringed headland to the right is Fenit, the port of Tralee.


This is the Spa. The way to pronounce the name will immediately reveal if you are a stranger. Hereabouts it's pronounced "Spaw," spoken with a touch of grandeur! Perhaps this comes from the 18th century when there was a large English population in the district and many visitors came to take the waters of a local sulphur spring. Traces of the old pump house still remain as do many of the mansions built in this once fashionable suburb. Those who wish to take a break here will find the Oyster Tavern provides everything from a cup of coffee to full dinner.

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