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Splashing out with colour paint in DingleTralee is the capital of County Kerry, but is better known worldwide for the Rose of Tralee International Festival, held every August. 

It's a week-long carnival when the sound of song and session music echoes through the town. Day by day you can expect a full range from Celtic rock bands, discos and Cuban Salsa groups to busker entertainment of every type. Virtually all the music and dancing is free.

Everything centres on a contest to select a Rose of Tralee from an international short-list of girls chosen for their beauty and 'the truth in her eyes ever shining'. 

The festival sparkle also spreads to the Ballybeggan Park Racecourse adjacent to the town, for four days of great racing. 

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2008 events in County Kerry:

Samhaioch Easter Arts Festival & Bumble Bee Festival - a family event in Tralee.

Aug 10-12 - Puck Fair at Killorglin - horse fair. This is the oldest traditional fair in Ireland.  Includes the coronation of King Puck, music, dancing, buskers, fireworks, children's competitions.

Aug 21-26 Fri-Tue Rose of Tralee Festival.

For more information: Tourism Ireland, Nations House, 103 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QS. Tel: 020 7518 0800. Website: www.tourism

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In fact Tralee is a year-round destination, a good base for exploring County Kerry, Ireland's top tourism county. Among Tralee's attractions is Siamsa Tire - The National Folk Theatre of Ireland. It gives summer-season performances of music, dance and folklore.

It's also home to 'Kerry the Kingdom' Museum which sets the historical scene from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. The museum's Medieval Experience features the sights, sounds and smells of town life in the Middle Ages. 

Tralee is only a half-hour drive from Killarney, and is the gateway to another panorama of beauty - the stunning scenery of the Dingle Peninsula. That's the bit sticking out from Ireland's west coast like a jagged hitch-hiker thumb. Just off-shore at Slea Head are the Blasket Islands which mark the most westerly point of Europe.

The Dingle Peninsula has more antiquities, historic sites and varied mountain scenery than any other part of Ireland. It was the movie setting for 'Ryan's Daughter' and 'Far and Away'. 

From Tralee to Dingle Harbour is 31 miles with choice of two roads. While your nerves are still steady, try the route over the Connor Pass - the highest in Ireland - and enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery. 

It's locally known as 'an unimproved road', with potholes dating from last century. Sheep pastures are three-dimensional, laid out on steep slopes like grazing in a pie-dish. Fields are bordered by fuchsia hedges or dry-stone walls. 

Invitation to fresh seafood near Dingle fishing harbourDingle itself makes the best refreshment or lunch stop with a good range of cafes, pubs and restaurants that offer seafood that's really fresh. A typical menu includes mussels steamed in white wine; wild Dingle Bay salmon; smoked cod or haddock. 

Stroll along the quayside to perk up your appetite and breathe the Atlantic air-stream. The encircling fishing-boat harbour provides total shelter from the fiercest storms. 

Small hotels and B&Bs give the chance of enjoying informal song and dance. One of the local pubs features 'a traditional music session with banjo and guitar and friends'. There's another day for set dancing, or an evening of the Blues. 

Wandering along the main streets gives you a vivid impression of the Irish flair with cans of paint. Originally all buildings were of grey stone. But splashing out on paint became a way of showing off prosperity. Although the Irish countryside is famed for its forty shades of green, townsfolk and villagers favour forty shades of rainbow. Purple, blue, red, white and yellow are preferred.

As you drive further along the coast, there's another architectural style - Beehive Huts dating from 400 BC onwards. 

Built entirely of stone, they are called clochans. More than 400 have been discovered between Ventry and Slea Head. The best are at Fahan. 

These stone-building techniques have remained over the centuries. Farmhouses and barns still survive entirely with grey stone walls and roofs, and only tiny windows.

Stonehouse Restaurant, typical of the local building style near Slea HeadThe rugged coastal highway alongside Dingle Bay to Slea Head is little more than single track with passing places. Sandwiched between the foaming Atlantic waves to your left, and the slopes of Mount Eagle, 514 metres high on your right, there are plentiful excuses for stopping to admire the view.

Especially worth a close look is the Stonehouse Restaurant, built in that local style. A short distance in the background is a refurbished 'Famine Cottage' which was abandoned when the potato crop failed for three consecutive years in mid-19th century.

For a small admission fee, you get an idea of peasant lifestyle before the inhabitants migrated on 'coffin ships' to Britain and America.

Near here was the setting for much of the filming of Ryan's Daughter. The producers built a mock-up village; and when they had finished filming, they demolished it. But the awesome scenery of the movie remains for evermore. 

Slea Head, the most westerly point of EuropeAnother popular film location is the Inch Strand - a broad 3-mile beach backed by sand dunes reaching out to Inch Point. It's popular for the bucket-and-spade trade.

Wherever you stop, take time to watch the ever-changing pattern of the clouds, rolling in from their transatlantic journey. They build up on the mountain peaks, all set on their mission to keep Ireland green, and the rivers and lakes a paradise for anglers.

Read about these other areas of Ireland

BLARNEY - enjoying the talk in Counties Cork and Kerry

DUBLIN - Pub-crawling for literature

DUBLIN - Take a new look

IRELAND WEST COAST - Coach-touring the west

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

The Rough Guide to Ireland - by Margaret Greenwood, Mark Connolly, Geoff Wallis - A detailed guide which makes excellent reading.

The Rough Guide to Irish Folk - CD with various artists - Revive your memories of those evenings spent in the singing pubs. Listen to online samples of the melodies.

The Dingle Peninsula  by Steve MacDonogh - Written by a specialist on the region.

Lonely Planet Ireland  - A good choice for capturing the atmosphere of Ireland.

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