This historic city offers views of green patchwork fields and the crashing waves of the sea.
Most visitors to Ireland’s County Kerry head for Dingle, Killarney or the famous “Ring of Kerry.” Meanwhile, apart from the week of the international Rose of Tralee festival in late August, the county town of Tralee and the surrounding Tralee Bay area are largely bypassed.
But Tralee offers much more than one week a year of street entertainment. In many ways, this is the ideal place to base yourself to enjoy the best of Irish country life in retirement surrounded by postcard-perfect green fields, stone walls, grazing cows and country cottages.
Here, you’re surrounded by some of Ireland’s most dramatic landscapes and seascapes, while remaining close to the conveniences of town and supported by better-than-typical (for Ireland) infrastructure and services. And Tralee is a welcoming town that preserves its past culture and history like no other.
Tralee town and its suburbs have a population of about 24,000. Its name comes from the Gaelic “Trá Lí,” meaning “beach of the Lee”. (The River Lee runs through town.)
Almost 800 years old, the Norman town was founded in the 13th century as the home of the Earls of Desmond. The town was destroyed in 1580 as revenge for the Desmond Rebellions against Elizabeth I, then, later, was granted to Sir Edward Denny. The Denny’s held their estate here up to and beyond the Great Famine.
Ireland’s west coast counties, including Kerry, were worst hit by the Famine. Between the years 1845 and 1852, more than a million starving Irishmen, women and children started out on the journey to America on tall ships that became known as “coffin ships,” with the hope of a better life on the other side of the Atlantic.
Some 100,000 people never saw the other side. However, those who travelled on the Jeanie Johnston from Tralee (since called “the luckiest ship in the world”) all got a second chance. The Jeanie Johnston didn’t lose a single passenger.
Today Tralee comes across as a thriving town, despite the situation in Ireland in general. While elsewhere in the country businesses have been downsizing and closing over the past few years, leaving unoccupied stores on every corner, this has not been the case in Tralee. More than perhaps any other town in Ireland, Tralee has a feel of self-sufficiency and is making the best of its history, culture and landscape to feed its economy.
Other cities and towns across the country, Dublin in particular, continues to move in a European direction. You see the same brands, franchises and shop fronts as in any European city. This is not so in Tralee. The town’s architecture is well preserved. This is particularly visible on Denny Street, which is lined with Victorian and Georgian buildings, including the beautiful Grand and Imperial hotels, and runs up past Tralee Town Park to the Kerry County Museum.
The ideal situation for a retiree in this historic corner of Ireland would be a home in or near Tralee town and with views over the patchwork fields all around and the crashing waves of the nearby sea. This is the best time in many years to shop for such a home. Prices are down as much as 50 percent from their peak values in 2006 and 2007.
In Tralee, retirees enjoy a notably charming and authentic Irish country town and an idyllic Irish countryside. And they are also on the doorstep of Banna Beach, an unspoiled shore that is seven kilometres long and a favourite with local runners, dog walkers and surfers.
If you’re enamoured with the idea of retirement on this green isle, but are (understandably) put off by the thought of its weather (which might most generously be described as “unpredictable”), consider basing yourself here part of the year.
June through September are the months with the best weather. It’s also the liveliest season, when you’d be sharing your adopted home town with visitors from all over the world, especially toward the end of August for the annual Rose of Tralee festival.