There’s so much to see and do in and around the town of Killarney. Culture, history, heritage… and enough to keep the outdoor enthusiast in the family busy for days on end. Welcome to the Kingdom!
Muckross House, sitting in the heart of the National Park, has been drawing visitors for many years, the most prestigious being Queen Victoria in 1861.
Designed by William Burn, a Scottish architect, Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colourist Mary Balfour Herbert. This was the fourth house that successive generations of the Herbert family had occupied at Muckross. Building commenced in 1839 and was completed in 1843.
Today, you can tour the house and its elegant furnishings and explore the basement where the many servants worked to keep the busy house running smoothly.
Muckross Traditional Farms
Adjacent to Muckross House, and in stark contrast from a cultural point of view, Muckross Traditional Farms representa a visit to a very different Ireland – rural Kerry in the 1930s and 1940s, when a trip to the well was still a daily chore for the housewife and electricity had yet to be introduced to the countryside.
See the men work the farms and the ‘bean an tí’ make butter and keep the house in the same way and using the same tools as they did back then. The farms are complete with cattle, horses, pigs, hen and geese to mention a few!
Step back even further in time to 1448, when Muckross Abbey was founded for the Observantine Franciscans by Donal McCarthy Mór.
This is a building with a violent past. Persecuted by Cromwellian forces under Lord Ludlow, many of the monks were murdered here in 1652.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Abbey became the burial place of the three Gaelic poets: Aodhagan O’Rathaille, Geoffrey O’Donoghue and Eoghan Rua O’Suilleabháin.
Today, the abbey is remarkably well preserved, and visitors can get a strong sense of what it was like to live here. The centrepiece of the Abbey is an ancient Yew tree, located on the middle of a cloistered courtyard and is said to be as old as the Abbey itself.
Slightly further on along the road to Kenmare, take time to stop and view the waterfall at Torc. Especially impressive after sustained rainfall, the waterfall is only a 10-minute stroll from the main road.
If time allows, and the legs are up to it, ascend the steps beyond the main waterfall viewing point to take in the various vantage points and views across the lakes. This path splits into a number of directions, one of which leads to the upper car park and the start of the Old Kenmare Road which was used many years ago as a pathway through the mountains to Esknamucky Glen to Derrycunnihy and over the windy Gap to Kenmare.
Closer to Killarney town, and on the shore of Loch Léin (Lake of Learning), stands Ross Castle, the fortress built by O’Donoghue Mór in rhe 15th century.
This was was one of the last fortified castles in Ireland to fall to Cromwellian forces in 1652. Out from the grounds of the castle is a small rock named O’Donoghue’s Prison, where the chieftain imprisoned and confined his rebellious son, Teighe.
Legend has it that O’Donoghue Mór can be seen galloping along the shore of Loch Léin every seventh year, and should you see him, you’ll be bestowed with good luck for the rest of your life… well you never know!
St Mary’s Cathedral
The impressive structure of St Mary’s Cathedral stands adjecent to the Knockreer entrance of the National Park. Designed by the famous architect Augustus Welby Pugin, it was inspired by the ruins of the Ardfert Cathedral in North Kerry and was commissioned in 1840 with the first stone laid in 1842. Construction ceased almost immediately until 1848 due to the horror of the famine years. The grounds of the church now hold the remains of many of the children who starved to death during those years.
In 1972/73 the interior was completely gutted with the original plaster being removed from the walls to leave the finish you can see today.
We had a great stay in Nicola and Donal’s apartment. The apartment is in a great location close to Killarney and is finished to a very high standard. The kitchen and living room are very well equipped and it would be a very comfortable space to stay for an extended period of time.