Tralee: The Best of Irish Country Life in Retirement

This thriving town has charming Irish culture and beautiful scenery.

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County Kerry is one of the best-known regions of Ireland, for good reason. It is quintessentially Irish, with rolling green hills and charming coastal villages.

Kathleen Peddicord
Kathleen Peddicord
In this part of Ireland, Dingle, Killarney and the famous “Ring of Kerry" are the typical destinations of tourists. I suggest that would-be retirees in this part of the world head instead to the county town of Tralee and its surrounding Tralee Bay area. Here, you're surrounded by some of Ireland's most dramatic landscapes and seascapes, while remaining close to the conveniences of town. This welcoming town preserves its past culture and history like no other in Ireland, shows few signs of the ongoing Irish recession and the local Irish residents are among the most welcoming you’ll find anywhere on the Emerald Isle.

Tralee is a great choice for a retiree looking to enjoy a more active lifestyle. It’s close to the buzz and amenities of town, with good infrastructure and the services of a good hospital. While much of Ireland is desirable for only part of the year due to weather and an extended off-season that is very quiet, Tralee is somewhere you could keep yourself busy all year.

Tralee is a particularly appealing choice for retirees who would like to be close to the sea. You only have to drive five minutes out of town, and you’re surrounded by rolling farmland and open sea views.

While elsewhere in the country businesses are downsizing and closing every week, leaving unoccupied stores at every turn, Tralee comes across as a thriving town. Franchises that have closed elsewhere in the country are still in business here.

More than perhaps any other town in Ireland, Tralee has the feel of self-sufficiency and is making the best of its history, culture and landscape to feed its economy. Projects like the remodeling of the Jeanie Johnston coffin ship, the Wetlands nature reserve and the restored windmill at Blennerville (the largest working mill in the country) are good examples.

Entering Tralee, you’ll be struck by how well it has managed to preserve itself and its Irish culture. Other cities and towns in Ireland, Dublin in particular, continue to try to become more American or more European. You see the same brands, franchises and shop fronts as in any other European city, with little of the town’s own heritage and character shining through. But this is not so in Tralee, which maintains a very Irish country village feel.

The town’s classic Irish architecture is well preserved. This is particularly visible on Denny Street, which is lined with Victorian and Georgia buildings and the beautiful Grand and Imperial hotels, both of which live up to their names.

Looking beneath the surface of this pretty town, you find that it’s also one of the friendliest in Ireland. Tralee thrives on tourism, so is well practiced in receiving outsiders and showing them a good time. It’s more popular among Irish than international visitors, so, as an American, you’re still in the minority enough to be treated as a guest, or perhaps even one of the family.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 28 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her newest book, How To Buy Real Estate Overseas, published by Wiley & Sons, is the culmination of decades of personal experience living and investing around the world.