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Tralee is not really a pretty town, but it has some attractive Georgian architecture and a few sights worth seeing. Mostly, though, it's a good place to load up on supplies and gas up the car before heading into the countryside. A fairly short drive away, the town of Listowel is a neatly laid out Georgian town on the River Feale. It's also home to the Kerry Literary and Cultural Center, which is a small but interesting exhibit on local writers. Nearby, Carrigafoyle Castle stands its ground as it has for 500 years.

Could You Be the Rose of Tralee?

Beauty pageants may have gone out of fashion in much of the world, but at the annual Rose of Tralee, they’re still going strong.

A 19th-century song about a pretty local girl named Mary O’Connor is at the root of this world-famous beauty contest. William Mulchinock’s tear-jerker tune about the girl he was stopped by fate from marrying so caught the public’s imagination that more than 100 years later, it is still performed in Irish pubs worldwide. Thus, in 1959 the idea was born for a contest to find the loveliest lass in Tralee and crown her.

Every August, the town fills with striking young women, those who make them beautiful, and people who want to look at them. The contest rules are fairly generous in terms of who is Irish, not to mention Traleean—the rules require contestants to be of Irish birth or ancestry, so past winners have been from places as far-flung as the U.S. and Australia. The festival lasts 5 days, during which time the entire town becomes somewhat obsessed with it—restaurants, pubs, and theaters all get involved in hosting events related to the Rose of Tralee. In recent years they’ve also added a men’s section, the “Escort of the Year.”

If you want to join in the fun, or if you know a pretty girl with an Irish last name, contact the Rose of Tralee Festival Office (www.roseoftralee.ie; 066/712-1322).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.