Situated at the confluence of some small rivers and adjacent to marshy ground at the head of Tralee Bay, Tralee is located at the base of a very ancient roadway that heads south over the Slieve Mish Mountains. On this old track is located a large boulder sometimes called Scotia’s Grave, reputedly the burial place of an Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter.
Anglo-Normans founded the town in the 13th century, which became a stronghold of the Earls of Desmond, who built a castle. John Fitz-Thomas FitzGerald founded the monastery of the Dominican order and was buried there in 1260. The medieval town was burnt in 1580 in retribution for the Desmond Rebellions against Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I in 1587 granted Tralee to Edward Denny and it was recognised in 1613 by Royal Charter. Sir Edward was the first of the Dennys to settle in Tralee; the Dennys did not occupy the castle of the Earls of Desmond until 1627. Sir Edward’s son was Arthur Denny, in whose lifetime the town’s charter was granted by King James, containing the right to elect two members of parliament. The third English settler, another Sir Edward, married Ruth Roper, whose father Thomas Roper was the lease holder of the Herbert estate centred on Castleisland. This Sir Edward was a royalist. He fought for the King in the wars of 1641. He died in 1646, before the triumph of Oliver Cromwell over affairs in England and Ireland.
He granted “the circuit of the Abbey” to the corporation set up under the charter, in return for the fees of the town clerk. His son Arthur Denny married Ellen Barry, granddaughter of Richard Boyle. The latter held many land titles in West Kerry and also claimed property in Tralee. Sir Edward Denny, 4th Baronet was a notable landlord in his day: during the time of the Great Famine, he maintained rents to suit his tenants, when other landowners increased them. He was a notable Plymouth Brother.