ByRoute 5.2 Co. Tipperary (SW) // Co. Kerry

Kilgarvan (Co. Kerry / South)

Kilgarvan (Cill Garbháin – church of Saint Garvan) (pop. 200) is located an idyllic setting near the confluence of the Rivers Roughty and Slaheny, overlooked by Mangerton Mountain. Although the village is small, it services an extensive if thinly populated hinterland.


The attractively curved Main Street has several interesting shops, notably the one selling fishing tackle for anglers on the local rivers.

St Patrick’s church (RC) was inaugurated in 1907 by Fr Denis McGillicuddy, whose namesake grand nephew was the main celebrant at the centenary Mass held in March 2007 with the Bishop of Kerry and 20 other priests.

A ruined church stands behind the local Post Office.

The village has four pubs (two called O’Reilly’s).

The Michael J Quill Centre, housed in the former Church of Ireland building, is a training centre for handicapped people, with a gift shop and a café. It is named for the locally-born founder of the Transport Workers Union of America in New York, where he gained both fame and notoriety. Read about him hereand here.

Kilgarvan Motor Museum, a private collection run by the Mitchell family, contains a wide range of vintage and classic cars, of which several are  still in use or weddings etc. (Photo by Simon A Lee)

Ardtully Castle / House


Ardtully Castle was first established in 1215 and rebuilt several times over the centuries, and was asociated at various times with the Carew, Babbington, Dillon and Conway families.


The Castle was long a Mac Finneen MacCarthy stronghold, where the Papal Legate Cardinal Rinnucini stayed en route to Kilkenny in 1641. Donal Mac Finneen MacCarthy was killed at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, and the lands were forfeit to the Crown.


It was granted by the Hollow Blade Company to the Conway family but passed in the C18th to the Orpens, who had come to County Kerry as land agents for Sir William Petty. They built a mansion that was replaced in the mid-C19th.


Ardtully House, built in 1858, was designed by Sir Thomas Dean as a holiday home for Dublin solicitor Sir Richard Orpen, landlord of over 12000 acres of land in County Kerry and grandfather of the famous painter Sir William Orpen. It was looted and set on fire by zealous patriots in 1922. (Photo by Roman van der Krogt)

Local places of archaeological interest include several Standing Stones and burial sites, notably the Gurteen Stone Circle and the great Knockanuaha wedge tomb.

The Battle of Callan


The Battle of Callan took place on 24th August 1261 in the townland of Callan (pronounced “Collon”).


A Norman army, together with troops formed from the Sept led by Donal Roe MacCarthy, approached from the east and entered Callan Valley through the pass of Cummar Gleann, where they were set upon by a large contingent of foot and mounted soldiers of various other MacCarthy Septs. The Norman knights’ armour was useless in such circumstances, and many were slaughtered.


Amongst the Norman casualties were Sir William Denn, Lord Justice of Ireland at the time, and John FitzThomas, ancestor of the Earls of Desmond. His younger son is reputed to have survives the debace, and was known for the rest of his life as “John of Callan“.


Folklore maintains that  the local chieftain Donal MacCarthy was slain at the end of the battle and is buried under the great flagstone at Callan.


This event set the conquest of the West back by centuries.

Clontoo Copper and Lead Mines in the Roughty River Valley are recalled by a landmark chimneystack.

Kilgarvan is the home of Jackie Healy-Rae TD, an independent politician many Dubliners love to loathe as the epitome of provincialism.

Part of Ken Loach’s 2005 film The Wind That Shakes the Barley was filmed in Muing Mhór near the top of the Borlin Valley near Kilgarvan. The sequence featured breathtaking scenery of the Rusheen Valley in the background and a booley house where the renegade guerrillas took rest, food and shelter before executing two of their captives and continuing on their journey.

The Kilgarvan Traditional Music Festival takes place every year at the end of May.

The Kilgarvan Show is held every August Bank Holiday weekend.

Kilgarvan, the western terminus of ByRoute 5, is within easy reach of Kenmare on ByRoute 1, and linked via a high narrow road through the Slaheny Valley (with views of the Borlin Valley) with Coomhulla Bridge at the end of ByRoute 4.

The Borlin Valley. (Photo by Mike Searle)


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