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Ard Fhearta
Ardfert is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°21′00″N 9°41′00″W / 52.35°N 9.6833°W / 52.35; -9.6833Coordinates: 52°21′00″N 9°41′00″W / 52.35°N 9.6833°W / 52.35; -9.6833
CountyCounty Kerry
78 m (256 ft)
Time zoneUTC+0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-1 (IST (WEST))
Irish Grid ReferenceQ782211

Ardfert (Irish: Ard Fhearta, meaning 'the hill of miracles') is a village in County Kerry, Ireland. Historically a religious centre, the economy of the locality is driven by agriculture and its position as a dormitory town, being only 8 km (5 mi) from Tralee. The population of the village was 749 at the 2016 census.[1]


The village's name signifies, according to Sir James Ware, "a wonderful place on an eminence", or as some interpret it, "the hill of miracles." Ardfert has also been considered a corruption of Ard Ert, "the high place of Ert or Erc", so called after the 5th century Irish Bishop Saint Erc, who made the place a bishop's seat. Ardfert was written by the Four Masters as Ard-ferta, the height of the grave.[2]

Ardfert from the G.A.A. field

History and heritage[edit]

Ardfert is a parish in the Barony of Clanmaurice, County Kerry, Ireland, anciently in the territory of Ui Fearba/Hy Ferba, of which the O'Laeghain (O'Leyne, Leen or Lane) were once the Gaelic Lords, until the Normans came.

Ardfert Cathedral

Ardfert is the home of St. Brendan's Ardfert Cathedral, which was destroyed in the War of 1641 (Irish Rebellion of 1641), and the birthplace of St. Brendan the Navigator, who was educated about the year 500 AD. He founded a monastery there in the 6th century, but both town and monastery were destroyed by fire in 1089, and again in 1151.

The Norman influence can still be seen not only in the architecture, but also in local families such as the Cantillons (Barons de Ballyheigue), and Fitzmaurices, and in place names, such as Ballintobeenig, a nearby townland below Mt. Crusline called after St. Aubin.[3] Thomas FitzMaurice, 1st Baron Kerry founded a Franciscan friary there in 1253, and Nicholas, the 2nd Lord Kerry, built a leper house there in 1312. It was the seat of a bishopric until 1660.

The Crusader Knights Hospitaller of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (later known as Knights of Malta), also had some rights in Ardfert, although there is a record of a dispute between them and the Franciscans in 1325 about the market cross and pillory. They had already been established in the area in c. 1200 when Meiler FitzHenry, grandson of King Henry I of England, and Justiciar of Ireland under King John, established a preceptory at Rattoo under a Fra' William from Dublin.[4] Under the terms of a royal grant in letters patent of James I of England on 6 July 1612, the Lord of Kerry (FitzMaurice) could hold courts baron and leet.

The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, recount how in 1601, Prince Hugh Roe O'Donnell, on his way to the Battle of Kinsale, sent some of his kinsmen troops there to reconquer Ardfert, Lixnaw, and Ballykeally for his ally FitzMaurice. En route, true to his family arms and Constantinian motto (In Hoc Signo Vinces) and in anticipation of the battle to come at Kinsale, he visited and venerated a relic of the True Cross (Holy rood) on the Feast of St. Andrew, on 30 November 1601, at Holy Cross Abbey, near Thurles, County Tipperary, which was a rallying point for the defence of religious freedom and for Irish sovereignty. From there he sent an expedition to Ardfert, to win a quick victory and successfully recover the territory of his ally, Fitzmaurice, Lord of Kerry, who had lost it and his 9-year-old son, to Sir Charles Wilmot. The expedition captured Caislean Gearr (Short Castle, of which no trace remains), adjacent to the Cathedral in Ardfert. An O'Donnell from Tyrconnell remained behind in stewardship to hold it, according to "The Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell"written by Lughaidh O'Cléirigh, circa 1603 in Gaelic.[5]

Tomb of John O'Donnell in the grounds of Ardfert Cathedral

A large tomb in the grounds of the cathedral was built much later by John O'Donnell (1803–1879), the most prominent descendant two centuries later, and whose own direct male descendant was the late Patrick Denis O'Donnell (1922–2005), well-known Irish military historian. He owned the summit overlooking Ardfert (Mt. Crusline, Ballintobeenig, from where his ancestral O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, under authority of Prince Hugh Roe O'Donnell would have launched the battle to regain Ardfert for Lord Kerry in 1601). The family seat of John O'Donnell, at Tubrid mentioned by Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of 1837, passed through a female line to the O'Carrolls. The house expanded by John O'Donnell in Tubridmore is now listed as an intended "Protected Structure" in the archaeological monuments section of the draft Kerry County Development Plan 2015-2021 [1].

In the early 19th century, the Earl of Listowel (Hare) was Lord of the Manor and held court every three weeks in Ardfert, through an appointed Seneschal, having bought those rights from the Earl of Kerry, Fitzmaurice.

The area is rich in terms of its archaeological heritage. The medieval cathedral, St. Brendan's, and associated churches, Temple na Hoe (Church of the young Virgin) and Temple na Griffin, have become a major tourist heritage attraction in the Kerry area due to their central location. The 13th Century Franciscan Friary to the north east of the village is of equal merit, but due to its peripheral location, its contribution to the character of the village is not as obvious. It was once an integral part of Ardfert Abbey - not an abbey at all but the name of the Talbot-Crosbie mansion destroyed by fire in 1922 by the IRA.

Five other structures included on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) are located in Ardfert; St Brendan’s Catholic Church (consecrated in 1855), the Old Gates of the Earl of Glandore's Demesne, the Talbot-Crosbie Memorial, the Ardfert Parish Room (now a site registered as derelict by Kerry County Council) and Brandon House. There are also many other structures within the village which are not included in the RPS, but are considered to be of considerable architectural and heritage value, such as the Ardfert Retreat Center. Of note are the surviving estate walls which contribute to the character and identity of the village. The following structures are of particular merit and should be considered for inclusion in the Record of Protected Structures:- Gate lodge adjacent to the Ardfert Retreat Centre; Gate Lodge at Skrillagh, Ardfert; Cut stone structures adjacent to St Brendan’s Church.

Evolution and geography[edit]

From the 17th century (possibly 1639) until 1800 the area was a borough constituency. The borough corporation (its local Council) elected two members of the Irish House of Commons. The borough was disenfranchised by the Act of Union 1800 and from 1801 the area was represented as part of the county constituency of Kerry. Ardfert lost borough status under section 13 of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840. It was one of fifty-eight borough corporations dissolved on 25 October 1840. At this time, about a half-mile east of the Cathedral, Ardfert Abbey was the home of the Crosbies, Baron Brandon, and contained the ruins of the old Franciscan Abbey. They also maintained a well-stocked deer-park, and extensive gardens.

The village is located within an area of good agricultural land which is flat and low-lying. The main Tralee-Ballyheigue road bisects the village in an east–west axis and road width restrictions on the western side of the village leads to traffic congestion. To the north of the village the Tyshe River traverses the village road network. The village settlement pattern is radial and dispersed and consists of a mixture of single site depth development along radial roads interspersed with housing estates. Within the core of the village there is a mix of dwelling types of various traditional designs. More modern design predominates in the one-off housing on the radial routes. The largely linear settlement form is undermining the traditionally compact and sustainable urban form. The development of a central retail and social node has been constrained to some extent by need to protect historic buildings and monuments within the village. The traditional urban form and structure which has defined the streetscape is being undermined by fragmented building lines and architectural design elements which do not relate in scale or character to existing development.

Economy and demography[edit]

The village offers a comprehensive range of local goods and services. Despite its advantages, demand has been suppressed by a lack of sewage treatment capacity. There are, however, sizeable landbanks in core areas within the village to allow for sustainable growth. While Ardfert provides a very broad range of services, for a settlement of its size, serving the local community and rural hinterlands, recent developments have increased its role as a dormitory suburb for Tralee. Local employment possibilities are limited with no major employer or industry. The village also functions as a local service centre for the surrounding agricultural hinterland. The village also acts as a convenience stop for tourist and local through traffic. The village is well served by social and retail services. The village core houses an An Post post office, Garda station, health centre, garage, petrol station and a number of retail outlets and public houses. In addition there is a Roman Catholic Church, a school and a community centre with gym and launderette. Planning permission for residential development has recently been permitted on the existing Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) grounds, with replacement facilities planned elsewhere on the periphery of the village.

The village is experiencing significant residential growth, and while there is already a significant level of service provision within the village, including a new modern medical centre, further parallel growth in retail, employment, civic and other services and facilities will be necessary if the independent character of the village is to be maintained. In particular growth in local employment opportunities will promote the sense of local community and identity, and balance the tendency towards its development as a dormitory town for Tralee.

Ardfert has developed around a crossroads of local roads and the Tralee-Ballyheigue regional road. There is therefore, a considerable level of through traffic, and its infrastructure needs to be better planned and developed. This situation is compounded by the quarry to the north east of the village which generates significant HGV traffic movements through the village. During the summer months the situation is exacerbated by through traffic to coastal locations. The Tralee-Ballyheigue Road at the northern end of the village is too narrow to allow traffic to flow freely and the consequent bottleneck delays traffic into and out of the village. The building line of existing development does not allow for the widening of the road. In order to reduce traffic congestion, through traffic must be diverted around the village. Existing footpaths are segmented and piecemeal and pavements are not provided throughout the entire plan area. The majority of the plan lands are within 800 metres or ten minutes walk of the village centre. There is therefore excellent potential to encourage pedestrian and cyclist activity.


Ardfert railway station opened on 20 December 1880, was closed to passenger traffic on 4 February 1963, and finally closed on 2 June 1978.[6]


Gaelic football[edit]

Ardfert also has the distinction of winning the All-Ireland Junior Club Football Championship in Croke Park on 19 February 2006 beating Loughrea of Galway 1-07 (10pts) to 0-09. On winning the county Junior final 2005 Ardfert was promoted to the intermediate championship. Success followed later that year as they defeated Annascaul in the Kerry Intermediate Football Championship final. The team's accomplishments were further cemented when they won the 2007 All-Ireland Intermediate Club Football Championship, defeating Derry and Ulster Champions Eoghan Rua by a scoreline of 1-04 (7pts) to 0-05 on 10 March 2007 again in Croke Park.

The traditional game played in Ardfert is hurling. The local hurling club is St Brendan's, Ardfert. They have won the Kerry Senior Hurling Championship on 8 occasions, most recently in 2013.

The famous eventing horse "Village Gossip" ridden successfully between 1976 and 1985 by British team rider Lucinda Green (nee Prior Palmer) was born and bred in Ardfert. He completed Badminton Horse Trials on several occasions, placing 2nd in 1978 and was the fastest competitor at the World Three Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky, the same year.


A short lived greyhound racing track was opened in the village on 21 August 1929. The venture run by the Kingdom Greyhound Racing Club and only lasted until Wednesday 25 September 1929. The last race was the Ardfert Stake which was won by Captain Off, the even money favourite. The main reason for the closure was the fact that a larger track called Oakview Park (to the south in Oakview Village) was due to open.[7]

Common surnames[edit]

According to Irish census of 1901 and 1911, common names in the area at the time included: Dowling, Sullivan, Fitzgerald, Fitzmaurice, Griffin, Connor, Kirby, O'Connor, Evans, O'Connell, O'Driscoll, O'Sullivan, Slattery, Stack, Carmody, Carroll, Gallagher, Mulrennan, McElligott, Lawlor, Murphy, Nunan, Rahilly, Shea, Brick, Cavan, Clifford, Crosbie, Hannafin, Higgins,Hennessey, Maguire, O'Shea, Reidy, Riordan, Sheehan, and Sugrue.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Sapmap Area: Settlements Ardfert". Census 2016. Central Statistics Office. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  2. ^ Joyce, P.W. (Patrick Weston) (1910). THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF IRISH NAMES OF PLACES. London Longmans, Green. pp. 149.
  3. ^ The Chevalier St. Aubin was a renowned Knight Commander of the Knights of Malta, who ran against the naval blockade imposed by the Ottoman Turks during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. See Malta 1565 - Last Battle of the Crusades, by Tim Pickles, published by Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 1998 ISBN 978-1-85532-603-3, page 33
  4. ^ See pages 52 and 253, 254 and 256 of Discovering Kerry - its History, Heritage and Topography, by T. J. Barrington, published by The Blackwater Press, Dublin, 1976. (ISBN 0-905471-00-8)
  5. ^ The following is an extract from The Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell (Beatha Aodh Rua O Domhnaill) by Lughaidh O'Cleirigh (original Gaelic manuscript in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin), translated with notes by Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., M.R.I.A., and published by Sealy, Bryers, & Walker, Dublin, 1893 (pages 304-307): Ro tharmnaidheadh do mhuintir uí Dhomhnaill an turus do deachattor ar ro creachadh agus ro leirscriosadh sochaidhe leó do earccairdibh mic Muiris do neoch robtar fotha dia tocharsomh for longus agus ionnarbadh co húa nDomhnaill, agus ro gabhadh leó tri caisteoil do daghdúinibh an tíre, i. Leachsnamha, Caislén Gerr Arda Fearta, agus Baile Uí Chadhla, agus fosragaibhseat drong dia muintir occa niomchoimhéd. (pages 304, 306)
  6. ^ "Ardfert station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  7. ^ Barnes, Julia (1988). Daily Mirror Greyhound Fact File, page 409. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-15-5.

Further reading[edit]

Ardfert in Times Past [Tommy O'Connor, 1999] ISBN 0951573616

Ardfert Church 150 : A history of St. Brendan's Church, Ardfert 1855 - 2005 [Tommy O'Connor, 2005]

  • Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Annála Ríoghachta Éireann) by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616, compiled during the period 1632-1636 by Brother Michael O’Clery, translated and edited by John O'Donovan in 1856, and re-published in 1998 by De Burca, Dublin (Volume VI, page 2279).
  • The Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell (Beatha Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill) by Lughaidh O'Cleirigh. translated with notes by Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., M.R.I.A., and published by Sealy, Bryers, & Walker, Dublin, 1893 (pages 305-307); also later edition edited by Paul Walsh and Colm Ó Lochlainn. Irish Texts Society, vol. 42. Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland, 1948 (original Gaelic manuscript in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin).
  • A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (Two Volumes), by Samuel Lewis, London, 1837 (see entry on Ardfert in Volume I, pages 47–50)
  • Discovering Kerry; its History, Heritage and Topography, by T.J. Barrington, Blackwater Press, Dublin, 1976 (pages 252-255).
  • Vanishing Kingdoms - The Irish Chiefs and Their Families, by Walter J. P. Curley (former US Ambassador to Ireland), with foreword by Charles Lysaght, published by The Lilliput Press, Dublin, 2004 [ISBN 1-84351-055-3 & ISBN 1-84351-056-1]. (Chapter on O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, page 59).

External links[edit]

  • Ardfert website [2]