Trip Reports

Wish I Was In Ireland – Sneem

Sneem, Ring of Kerry_Ireland

The Kingdom of Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland offers the visitor an unforgettable experience. Here you will find breath-taking scenery, hidden gems off the beaten path, charming villages, traditional music & dancing, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet!

This is the 3rd post in a blog series authored by Cathy Cunningham Fennel. She will share her day-to-day experiences of her trip to County Kerry including the amazing places she visited, lodging, Irish food and drinks, and a bit about the folks she now calls friends. This blog is all about the picturesque village of Sneem on the Ring of Kerry! Cathy's captivating stories will make you wish you were in Ireland!

Cathy turned to writing when she retired from her day job. Thanks to her Grandpa Phalen, she is one-quarter Irish and proud of it! Cathy lives and writes in South Texas and dreams of returning to Ireland.

Follow Cathy’s upcoming blog posts as she uncovers the myth & magic of the Kingdom of Kerry!

charmed from the start

Sharon and I made our home base in Sneem and what a gem of a town it is! We had hoped for a picturesque village and we most definitely found one. The gorgeous Sneem River runs through it, separating the North Square from the South Square. No matter how many times we walked or drove across the bridge, I was always enthralled with the view.

I can’t speak for Sharon, but my expectations were truly met. It was more than I had hoped and all that I could imagine. I grew up in a small town and I love small towns to this day. A perfect fit!

friendly folks everywhere

On our “free day” we walked about the town of Sneem as well as its outskirts, taking in the views and chatting with the folks we met along the way. Sharon is an avid gardener and when we met up with a father and son team putting plants in the ground, she greeted them and asked some questions about their project. While they talked flowers and soil types, I listened to the friendly conversation, marveling at how approachable everyone was. Somehow, we always knew we would be treated kindly when we stopped to visit. Before we moved on, we had thoroughly covered the subject of horticulture as well as many others, and inexplicably ended our chat with an informative discussion of local healthcare! I hope they enjoyed their break from work as much as we did although I’m quite certain news of the two chatty American women in town spread rapidly through Sneem. Forewarned is forearmed!

shop and stroll and shop some more

Despite its size, Sneem has a lovely selection of shops. The shops are all easily accessible by walking or I should say strolling. The pace is relaxed, especially when you have no agenda for the day. We meandered in and out of the establishments and found sweaters, scarves, socks, slippers, and all kinds of clothing, souvenirs, décor and craft items and the goodies in the music store! We found ice cream, baked goods, cafes, restaurants, and pubs. We also made time to simply sit and enjoy the view throughout the day.

The idea of Americans buying woolen goods in Ireland is almost trite. Still, I was advised by others who had made the trip before me to buy a sweater, or I would regret it. So, I did and so did Sharon. Sharon lives in a cold climate, so she makes better use of hers, but I can wear mine when the weather turns chilly in Texas. I do so proudly and always hope someone will ask me where I bought it.

always someone to talk with

Upon entering one local store, we spied a familiar face near the back of the room. It was Ester, doing a bit of shopping on her day off. We had a great laugh about not being able to get away from her even on our “free day”! The best conversation in that shop, however, was with Mary, a capable and approachable employee. In the time it took to pay for our purchases, we learned a great deal about Mary and her family, and she learned much about us as well! Truly, who would have thought we would be standing in a village shop in County Kerry talking about our trials and tribulations, like three lifelong girlfriends. Conversation seemed to flow wherever we went, and I was in heaven!

This might be a good time to mention that friends and family back home had requested, make that insisted, I not kiss the Blarney Stone during my visit.  Was it that they were afraid for my safety as I hung upside down to place my lips on the fabled rock? Not at all. They were afraid of the legend. As everyone knows, the legend says the gift of gab will be bestowed upon those willing to carry out the tradition and, as my sister put it, “You’ve already got enough gab for our entire family.  The last thing we need is for you to acquire more!”  She was so right. I was blessed with the gift of gab at birth and, while it irritated some people, the folks of Sneem were good enough to indulge me and I “gabbed” at will with anyone who would hold up their side of the conversation!

fairies and other fascinations

It was suggested to us that we visit The Way the Fairies Went while we were out and about. It is a lovely, whimsical spot. Kids will certainly enjoy it and for adults, I recommend you turn on your imagination and play along. In Ireland the fairies abound.

The Fairies led us to St. Michael’s Church and, while we didn’t enter, we spent some time admiring the architecture. I encourage you to visit there as well as stopping by the Church of the Transfiguration. You will also discover many monuments, memorials and landmarks commemorating people and events. Markers and plaques told the stories of these people and their connection to the village. Charles de Gaulle, John Egan, Steve Casey, and John F. Kennedy are all represented. Look for them as you explore!

the art of drinking guinness

While we spent our day shopping and viewing the local attractions, in the evening we were entertained in the pubs. We especially frequented D O’Shea’s and Murphy’s during our time in Sneem. The food was quite good, the ambience welcoming, and, thanks to Gerrit, we learned the proper way to drink Guinness! Ask for his help and he’ll teach you as well.

a girl's night out with Elvis

Hoping to find some traditional Irish music, we were directed to the post office where the bulletin board held notices of bands playing the local venues. One notice announced there would be traditional Irish music at the Sneem Hotel that very evening and we made plans to attend.

Walking to the hotel after dinner with a fellow traveler staying at the Bank House, we happily anticipated the live entertainment. I wondered if it would sound different than Irish music played back home. Maybe I had become accustomed to an Americanized version of Irish music. We entered the lounge of the lovely hotel, prepared to hear a good old Irish ditty, and were greeted with the refrain of an Elvis Presley song. We grinned at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and made our way to the bar. Irish music or no Irish music, we meant to have a good time, and we did. 

Seated at the bar, Sharon and I spent the evening drinking Guinness properly, enjoying the decidedly American music and visiting with a group of women who were having way too much fun! They reminded Sharon and I of our friends back home and the fun we would have during our girls’ getaway each year. Some things are universal, requiring no translation. Girlfriends out for a night on the town is one of them.

summing up sneem

Sneem is a beautiful, immaculate place, filled with charming buildings and lovely outdoor spaces. Our “free day” was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the people, the sights, and the sounds of Sneem. Far from a bustling city, Sneem represents all that is good and beautiful about small towns, be they in America or County Kerry!

In future blogs I will share our day-to-day experiences including where and what we ate, places we visited in County Kerry and a bit about the folks we now call friends.

Cathy Cunningham Fennel

Read Cathy's other blog posts in the series Wish I Was in Ireland 


Curious about the 8 day private tour that made Cathy & Sharon fall head over heels in love with Ireland and the people of County Kerry? Find out more here:
Best of Ireland’s Southwest – 8 day private tour

About Kerry Experience Tours

For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours, and multiday tours  tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories. Enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime. Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.