In County Kerry, Ireland, southwest of the town of Killarney, is a spread of craggy, mountainous country. Here, visitors will discover McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland. Cradled at the foot of these impressive mountains are the world-famous lakes of Killarney. This is the home of Killarney National Park.
Killarney National Park is a sight to behold. It is located an easy 6.5 kilometres from Killarney on the N71 (Kenmare Road). The Killarney National Park consists of hectare after hectare in what seems to be an endless landscape of handsome lagoons and picturesque foothills. The park is eminent for its native habitat and species such as yew forest, oak holly woods and local deer.
At the Killarney National Park, visitors will doubtlessly enjoy the self-guided trails. Within the Muckross House, travellers can find much information on the many features of this incredible park at the National Park Visitor Centre. More information is also available at Information Point, found near Torc Waterfall. The park also offers guidebooks as well as an audio-visual presentation called ‘Mountain, Wood, Water’, which is featured in English, Irish, French and German. Knockreer House is home to the Educational Centre and offers a wide variety of events regarding nature conservation, ecosystems and the unspoilt natural environment of the region.
While the scenery and natural landscape of the Killarney National Park is noteworthy, the Muckross Trustees, in conjunction with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltecht, offer so much more. At Muckross House, one of Ireland’s leading, splendid Victorian mansions, the gracefully endowed rooms offer a glimpse of the level of affluence of its former gentry, while visitors can also experience, first-hand, the working standards of those employed at the home in its basement. The private grounds at Muckross House are legendary universally for their splendour. Most noteworthy is their remarkable collection of azaleas, an impressive water garden, extensive rhododendrons and a lovely rock garden created out of local limestone. Muckross House also offers visitors a chance to view local, skilled craftsmen demonstrating various Irish arts, including weaving, pottery and bookbinding in the adjacent garden centre.
Discover Ireland’s past at Muckross Traditional Farms, which cherish the past farming traditions of Ireland’s countryside in today’s real world. The three separate working farms demonstrate to visitors what life was like when all work was completed using traditional methods only. Muckross Traditional Farms offer an interactive experience where you can meet the farmers, chat with their families and engage in the day-to-day work in the house, on the land or with the livestock. A complimentary traditional coach operates throughout the farms for the benefit of the elderly and disabled visitors.
Muckross Abbey is another location unquestionably worth a stop for interested visitors. Formerly known as the Franciscan friary of Irrlagh, the abbey was built in 1448. The friars continued to remain at Muckross until Cromwellian times, despite the disbanding of their monasteries. These contemporary ruins are well preserved and visitors have the opportunity to view the church, tower and courtyard. In the centre of the courtyard lives an ancient yew tree, which, local legend has it, is as old as the Abbey itself. Muckross Abbey was the final resting place of native tribal chieftains and poetry buffs will be interested to note that, during the 17th and 18th centuries, several famous Gaelic poets were also laid to rest at the Abbey.
Dinis Cottage is another point of interest not to be missed. Located on Dinis Island in Killarney National Park, the cottage overlooks Middle Lake. The cottage has been described as a woodcutter’s hut and dates back to the 1700s. In recent years, it has been marvellously renovated and operates as a tearoom.
Ross Castle, in Killarney National Park, is nestled on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake and was built by O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century. Legend has it that O’Donoghue still resides in a magical slumber deep in the waters of Lough Liene and every seven years, on May Day, he rises from the lake astride his albino horse and circles the lake. Those who are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him are said to be certain of a good fortune for the rest of their lives on this Earth. History buffs will be interested to know that Ross Castle was the last stronghold in the area to hold out against Cromwell. Access is by guided tour only and the maximum number of visitors is just 15 at one time, so pre-booking is essential.
The magical Innisfallen Island can be observed in the distance from Ross Castle beyond the bay. A monastery was created on Innisfallen in the 7th century. It evolved into a place famous for learning. Some even claim that King Brian Boru studied there. Today Innisfallen offers visitors the ruins of a massive 12th century Augustinian priory, as well as a much smaller 11th century Romanesque church. The chronicles of Innisfallen, one of the most noteworthy foundation pieces of ancient Irish history, were first written on this tiny island. Boat trips are offered from the Ross and Reen piers.
Whether interested in the beautiful scenery, dreaming of a peaceful walk, intrigued with Killarney’s rich history and heritage, the Killarney National Park will meet and surpass your dreams for your next holiday.
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