Killarney National Park is the gateway to the Ring of Kerry. Having the advantage of super-naturally long summer days, we were able to explore both the Dingle Peninsula and Killarney National Park, starting our Ring of Kerry experience, all in one day (with daylight to spare!).
Upon arrival, we spent some time ogling over the gorgeous Muckross Estate. It’s very Downton Abbey (for any fans out there). Built in 1843 by Scottish architect William Burn for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, it has sixty-five rooms (what a shack!) and was built in the Tudor style (see? Downton!) . The estate is located on the Muckross Peninsula between two of the Lakes of Killarney: Muckross Lake and Lough Leane.
The poor Herbert family encountered financial hardship in the mid-1800′s, largely, it is believed, from dear old Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861. The Heberts spent some serious cash to “improve” Muckross Estate for the Queen’s visit, which, in turn, forced their hand to sell the estate to Arthur Guiness in 1899. The mansion was later sold to a yank, William Bowers Bourn, a mining magnate from California, in 1911. He gifted the estate to his daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Vincent for a wedding present. Most people get china or a food processor. Maud got an Irish mansion. sigh.
The estate and its 11,000 acres was presented to the Irish nation by William Bourn and Arthur Vincent in 1932 (after Maud died of pneumonia), becoming the Republic of Ireland’s first national park (and is the basis for today’s Killarney National Park).
Also in Killarney National Park is an older relic, Ross Castle. Built by local ruling clan the O’Donoghues in the late 15th century, it resides on Lough Leane as well.
I found this really neat rendering (illustration) of Ross Castle’s inner structure on Wikipedia. The rooms don’t seem all that spacious, especially that fourth floor bedroom. No vaulted ceilings? Then again, people were smaller back then, weren’t they? I know my nearly six foot-tall head would’ve hit a door frame or two.
The surrounding scenery is what really makes this national park a magnificent one. The castle and mansion are beautiful pieces of architectural history, but it was the land that drew the Heberts and the O’Donoghues in the first place.
Before our Ireland road trip came to a close, we spent a day driving around the Ring of Kerry, overnighted in the quaint (and fun!) Kenmare, then made our way back east to Dublin via Waterford (One day I can tell my chillins, “Mama went to the place where our wedding crystal was made!” – although it was likely produced in Slovenia or Czech Republic).
One more post on our Irish road trip! Then I’ll be able to share photos and stories of hiking out West (U.S.). We’re flying to Salt Lake City tomorrow- bound for Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks!
By the way, most U.S. national parks offer free admission this weekend in honor of Veteran’s Day! Get your hiking boots on!