During my last visit to Ireland I spent a day in Killarney. There is among Muckross House, a stately home amidst the Killarney National Park, also a traditional farm, as it was common in Ireland. Furthermore the Killarney National Park offers some wonderful hiking trails and spectacular views on the lakescape of the national park. AS if this wasn't enough, there is an old abbey, which withstood plunderings and fires without loosing its mysticla aura.
Muckross House and Gardens
Walk, a coach ride or to park in front of the house.
If you liked Downton Abbey, you should definitely pay a visit to Muckross House.
When you enter the park, you will realize how big the areal is. There are different parking possibilities, depending on how good you are on foot, you can park near Muckross Abbey or at Muckross House. I can only recommend the walk from they Abbey to the house which is around 2km long, you will hear more about it later. There is also the possibility to explore the park and see all places of interest in a horse carriage.
But you should be very careful and compare the prices of the different coachman in advance, or could be in for a nasty surprise. Since apparently every carriage driver has his own price. Most of the coachmen are very endeavored and know a lot about the flora and fauna of the park, the history of the Abbey as well as Muckross House, but there are also other, less endeavoring carriage drivers.
You can visit the house only as part of a guided tour, which costs 9€ for adults. But be careful to coordinate your visit with the tour times, you can find them on the Muckross House homepage, to avoid unpleasant surprises.
The noble estate offers much on the inside. Aside from the state apartments of the lordship there are the servants rooms and a big kitchen, even the bells, which where rang for the servants, are still there. For die-hard fans of such manors a great experience, but there are also other manors like this in Ireland, which are furnished with much more affection and are also partly inhabited.
For me the tour was too lengthy, even though the guide was very endeavoring. The house didn't feel like it was inhabited anymore. Maybe my demands are very high, but who has been to such estates in Ireland knows what I'm talking about. The entrance fee for the house is 9€ and taking pictures in the house is unfortunately forbidden.
The turbulent history of the manor up to Irelands first national park
During the tour you learn that Muckross House was built in the years 1839-1843 according to William Burns designs. The building was commissioned ba the Herbert family, who originaly came from Wales.
1861 Queen Victoria spent some days in Muckross House, for this occasion the house was expanded. The Herbert family incured some debts for this, by what they lost the house in the end. After this the manor was acquired by Lord Ardilaun, who gifted it to his daughter on her wedding.
Under her ownership the garden was renovated. A really beautiful park, which is great for a walk. But after Lord Ardilauns daughter died very young, her husband decided to gift the house and it's grounds to the irish State, who pledged to take care of the manor. So Muckross House and it's surroundings became Irelands first national park.
Muckross Abbey - A magical place
My absolute favourite in the Killarney National Park... About 2 kilometers from the main house there lies, amidst a cemetery, Muckross Abbey. From the outside the former monastery looks inconspicuous, but if you enter the inner yard, the walls reveil their mystical charme.
Through the cloister you can see in the middle of the monastery a mighty yew. The tree appears a bit outlandish, but very fascinating. The monastery was founded 1340 by Franciscans, but abandoned soon after. In the year 1448 Donal McCarthy Mor started to look after the building and had it restored. The building was destroyed multiple times through the years. Only the yew in the middle of the cloister outlasted the time. The best is, that there are many hidden staircases, through which you can get up into the towers. As it is custom in Ireland, nothing is off limits or secured, this way you can have a great view into the inner yard as well as the surrounding landscape. The entrance to the abbey is free of charge.
Muckross Traditional Farms
Beside Muckross House there is also the possibility to visit Muckross Traditional Farms. Here you have to pay another 9€ entrance fee. But you can also get a combined ticket for 15€ (House and Farms).
Muckross Traditional Farms is an open air museum, where you can experience the former live of the irish farmers. There are simple farmers homes to be seen up to the grand homes of the provosts. Even from afar I could see the smoke rising up from the chimney of one of the simpler farmers houses. The smell of bog was in the air. After all the houses where still managed and so I met "the Bean", the landlady, who invited me freshly prepared bread and butter. While I was eating my snack, I chatted with this nice old lady, who told me much about the harsh live of the irish farmers.
A walk through Irelands history
When you come to the houses of the bigger and richer farmers, you can see more animals. There are some horses, cattle and cats. Everywhere you meet people, who are happy to take some time to chat with you and answer your questions.
A vist there is recommended for everyone who is interested in agriculture throughout the times and in the live of the simple farmers.
A real nice walk through the history of Ireland.
Killarney National Park
As mentioned above, there is much to see here. But here it is, as often in Ireland, the nature and the landscape are the main attraction.
Hiking through the spectacular landscape
The Killarney National Park spans more than 102 square kilometers and includes three lakes. The Muckross Lake, the Upper Lake as well as the Lough Leane. These lakes make up more than 22 square kilometers of the whole park. The best and most beautiful way to explore the park is probably by foot.
There are many hiking trails through the park as well as a ferry to cross the lakes. Furthermore the long distance walking trail "Kerry Way" leads through parts of the park, which is 214km long. It doesn't matter if you want to just take a "short" walk through the park or if you want to stay some days there, you will find something that suits your needs.
The best at last - The "Ladies View"
My absolute highlight comes at last. The Ladies View.
From there you can enjoy a marvellous view on the park as well as the Upper Lake, which also has been enjoyed by Queen Victoria's court ladies. Every time when I look at pictures of this landscape, I can't believe that I have been there. The landscape of the national park is so unbelievable beautiful and harmonious. If the hike up there is to exhausting for you, you also can drive up to the observation point, there is also a small Café, where you can get beside a cup of hot tea also a great piece of chocolate cake. On my next visit to Ireland, I'm planning to stay some days in the national park to explore this great place further.
In conclusion I can say that if you want to see Killarney and it's points of interest, you should plan to stay a couple of days. Don't forget to bring your hiking gear, to get to know the National Park and it's surroundings much better. The place really has much to offer. There is for example the Torc waterfall, Innisfallen Island and Innisfallen Abbey or Ross Castle, where you can see how the chieftains lived in former times. The Gap of Dunloe, with it's winding road and the breathtakingly beautiful nature is worth a visit
To view the pictures in full screen click on them.