Kenmare is located at the head of Kenmare Bay (where it reaches the farthest inland), sometimes called the Kenmare River, where the Roughty River (An Ruachtach) flows into the sea, and at the junction of the Iveragh Peninsula and the Beara Peninsula.
The traditional Irish name of the bay was Inbhear Scáine from the Celtic inver, which is recorded in the 11th Century narrative Lebor Gabála Érenn as the arrival point of the mythological Irish ancestor Partholón.
Kenmare Bay stretches 50 kilometres from Kenmare out to the Atlantic Ocean. The name is anglicised version of Ceann Mara which translates into “head of the sea” in English. The original Irish name for the town is Neidin meaning “little nest” because the town “nestles” amongst the surrounding mountains which are such a striking feature of the landscape.