23 Jul Tralee, County Kerry
The Rose of Tralee International Festival, which any woman With even remote Irish connections may enter in the hope of becoming the ‘Rose of Tralee’, has made the chief town of Kerry famous, The event is accompanied by a week of pageantry, music and merrymaking. ‘The Rose’ is also the subject of a love song, The Rose of Tralee, written in the 1800s by C. Mordaunt Spencer. The song is said to be based on the story of Mary O’Connor and her sweetheart, a young soldier sent to fight abroad in the British Army, who arrived home from the wars hoping to marry her, only to see her coffin being carried to the graveyard – a tragic victim of an early death.
Tralee originally grew up as a fortified settlement around the 13th-century Desmond Castle, the seat of the Desmond earls, which has long since gone. Once composed of streets of thatched cottages, the town and its castle were destroyed in the mid-17th century by Cromwellian troops. But today some majestic 18th-century houses can be seen in Denny and Castle Streets. Just off Castle Street is the impressive 19th-century courthouse with a splendid Ionic portico, designed by Sir Richard Morrison. Two cannon flank it, commemorating Kerrymen killed in the Crimean War of 1854 and in the Indian Mutiny of 1857-8. At Day Place, on the site of a 13th-century friary, is the 1861 Dominican church designed by Edward Pugin, which has some line stained glass. St John’s church, built in 1870 in Castle Street, is reputed to have the tallest spire in Ireland, soaring to 200ft.
The town is also home to the delightful Siamsa Tire Theatre, a centre for mime, dance and folk theatre. It holds regular concerts of traditional music with flutes, pipes and fiddles and the artistes dress in colourful native costume.
Tralee is a must see attraction on your Ireland tours.