Located slightly inland without a clear view of Kenmare Bay, Kenmare is a natural stopover for Ring of Kerry buses and travelers as it is the closest town to Killarney. Set at the head of the sheltered Kenmare River estuary, this small but bustling market town makes a lively touring base for those who wish to skip hectic Killarney altogether. The town was founded in 1670 by Sir William Petty (Oliver Cromwell's surveyor general, a multitasking entrepreneur), and most of its buildings date from the 19th century, when it was part of the enormous Lansdowne Estate—itself assembled by Petty.
It's currently a matter of some debate as to whether Kenmare has displaced Kinsale as the culinary capital of Ireland. Kenmare offers an amazing number of stylish little restaurants for a town its size, and also boasts the top-rated Kenmare Market, with purveyors of organic goods and foodstuffs (March–December, Wednesday 10–5). The shopping is pretty good, too, with Irish high fashion, crafts, and original art vying for your attention.