History of Blennerville Windmill

The Windmill was built around 1800 by Sir Rowland Blennerhassett (1740-1821), the First Baron of Blennerville, who founded the village and developed the port. Unfortunately, tragedy struck shortly after its opening when Sir Rowland’s wife – Lady Millicent Yielding – was killed instantly in 1801 when she ventured onto the first-floor stage or platform and was hit by one of the massive windmill sails. Public access to the stage is now prohibited!

The windmill continued in use until the late 1820s but ceased production after the Napoleonic Wars when the government bounties for corn production ended. The building was used as a store until the 1880s when its millstones were powered by a steam engine installed by Tralee corn merchants, McCowans, and again as a store between 1889-1891 during the construction of the Tralee & Dingle Light Railway.

Thereafter, the building was in disuse and began to deteriorate. Within a century all that remained was a ruined shell, without roof or floors. The derelict building was purchased by Tralee Urban District Council in 1981 and a volunteer group – the Blennerville Windmill Restoration Committee – began the painstaking restoration with FÁS assistance over the period 1984-89. These works were supervised Dr. Fred Hamond, an industrial archaeologist from Belfast, with the funding support of Tralee UDC, Kerry County Council and local businesses. The Windmill Visitor Centre was opened in 1992 and Kerry Model Railway Exhibition in 2012.

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History of Blennerville


Blennerville has a rich maritime history and has played an important role in the area’s trade and transportation for centuries. Tralee Bay also has historic links with St. Brendan the Navigator (484-578 AD) believed to have led his Irish seafarer monks to North America in the early sixth century.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Blennerville served as the Port of Tralee with ships carrying goods such as wool, butter, and hides to England and emigrants outwards to North America and others returning with timber and corn from North America, The silting of Tralee Bay eventually led to the construction of the Tralee Ship Canal between 1832 and 1846 and the transfer of port facilities to Fenit, further out in the bay, in the 1880s.

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The Windmill

Blennerville Windmill stands as the dominant landmark in Tralee Bay – where the town of Tralee meets the Dingle Peninsula. It was authentically restored to full working order in the 1980s. It is the only windmill along Ireland’s Atlantic Way and is the largest working windmill in Ireland.

A visit to Blennerville Windmill Centre will involve viewing a short video presentation on the history of the windmill and Blennerville as an emigration port during the Great Famine in the mid-1800s. There will be time to browse in the exhibition on emigration and the JEANIE JOHNSTON famine ship, followed by a guided tour of the Windmill. Children particularly like to see how flour is made by turning the ancient quorn stone.

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Jeanie Johnston

The original Jeanie Johnston (1847-58) was unique among the Irish famine ships having never lost a soul to disease or the sea. Blennerville was her home port. Between 1998 and 2000 a full-size replica of the original three-masted barque was built at a purpose-built shipyard adjoining the windmill. The vessel was fitted out in Fenit and sailed to North America in 2003 visiting 32 US and Canadian cities attracting over 100,000 visitors. She is currently berthed in Dublin.

Blennerville Windmill has a special exhibit on the history of the original Jeanie Johnston, which tells the story of the ship and its passengers. Visitors can learn about the conditions that the emigrants faced during their journey, and see artifacts such as personal belongings and immigration documents.

The Jeanie Johnston is a symbol of Ireland’s emigration history and the resilience of its people in the face of adversity.

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Something for everyone - Book Now

We offer a range of fun activities including guided tours and interactive exhibits. Visitors can learn to make their own traditional crafts or participate in baking demonstrations using flour milled on-site.

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