The Jewel of Killarney!
Located within the Killarney National Park, and the reason the park was created, is the Muckross House - a fine building of white Portland Stone set on beautiful grounds alongside the middle lake. Open to the public, it is a must see for the region.
In the front of the mansion you can catch a horse drawn cart to tour the rest of the grounds, including Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall and Dinis Island.
The mansion was designed by the Scottish architect, William Burn, and built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolourist Mary Balfour Herbert. With 65 rooms, it was built in the Tudor style. Extensive improvements were undertaken in the 1850s in preparation for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. It is said that these improvements for the Queen's visit were a contributory factor in the financial difficulties suffered by the Herbert family which caused the sale of the estate.
20 rooms are open to the public and house both period pieces and a collection of the arts and crafts of county Kerry, including some great examples of fine furniture carved locally. Even if you don't go in, the mature gardens are worth the visit.
Admission 3.80 adults, 2 E for students and kids. Jul-Aug 9AM to 7PM, rest of year 9AM to 5:30PM.
The basement has a great shop (Mucros Craft Centre) where you can buy local woolen products and watch artisans working the looms. A decent coffee shop is located here as well.
Killarney National Park (Irish: Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne) was formed principally from a donation of Muckross Estate, which was presented to the state in 1932 by Senator Arthur Vincent and his parents-in-law Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, in memory of Senator Vincent's late wife, Maud. The park was substantially expanded by acqusition of land from the former Earl of Kenmare's estate.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Castles and Palaces
Gap of Dunloe
Beautiful spot to hike up to or take a horse drawn cart. Parking available at a cosy pub/restaurant by the name Kate Kearney's Cottage. My cousin was driving and he ended up driving up to the Gap and beyond. After the pub the road narrows to a one lane/one way affair so use caution as oncoming traffic cannot get past you in most spots. Small alpine-like lakes and narrow bridges in a steep sided treeless valley. It's about four miles to the Gap. You can walk or take a jaunting car (or drive if you have a fearless Irish cousin).
The land beyond the gap was a magical glimpse into old Ireland where we ended up lost for a few hours trying to find the way back to the main highway.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
Molton Brown Spa
As Killarney is the tourist capital of Southern ireland, it has many excellent hotels and most of them have equally excellent spas.
The one that I visited recently was the Molton brown spa at the Killarney Plaza hotel. It's situated at the lower level of the hotel and is a haven of peace and quiet. Treatment rooms are in little spacious capsules of delicate scent and they are so exclusive that you're not even allowed have a look unless you're having a treatment.
The treatment menu is divided into the four seasons, with therapies complimentary to each season.
There's also an extensive stock of Molton Brown products which are for sale to both spa users and members of the public.
Molton Brown doesn't come cheap, but you get what you pay for!!! I have to recommend the Heavenly Tigerlily body shimmer perfume and oil range!! It does what it says on the tin, and leaves you feeling scented and shimmery.Related to:
- Spa and Resort
- Women's Travel
Try a Jaunting Car Ride
In practically all of the touristic areas of Kerry you will find that the jaunting car is the mode of transport that is most practical. A jaunting car is, essentially, a horse pulling an open cart in which up to five passengers plus that driver ride.
The reason it's most practical is that it is the only mode of transport that is allowed open access through the grounds of Killarney National Park, daytime access through the Gap of Dunloe, etc. As these can be long walks and only for the brave and ernest hiker, the jaunting car is to be recommended.
Apart altogether from being practical, it's great fun. Generally you will get a potted history of the area from your "driver". You can agree both a price and a desired route with them in advance. I found the younger drivers to be both least expensive and most informative - many of them are tourism students and all are from the immediate area. The carts are all locally owned.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Adventure Travel
- Horse Riding
You don't have to "go" anywhere in Killarney, just walk the streets!
The shops open very late, street traders ply their wares, and buskers provide equal if not better entertainment than many of the bars.
It would be a great place to go if you were on a tight budget as the street entertainment is free.
Also, as this part of Ireland has perhaps the mildest weather in the country, it's a pleasant place for a walk at any time of day or night.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Boating on the Lake
There are two types of boating trips on the lakes - the glass covered boat that traverses the big lower lake and then the one we chose - the open wooden boat with a small motor on the back. In my opinion, this is the most fun.
We first of all took a jaunting car to the old stone boathouse, though we could well have walked the couple of mile through the grounds of Muckross Park. There's a blackboard hanging from the boathouse that tells you what time the boat is due. As we stood and waited we enjoyed the peace of the lake and the trees and chatted to other waiting would be sailors.
By the time the boat arrived the rain had started and most of the other people had drifted away. We clambered on board and donned life jackets as we positioned ourselves on the wooden planks that were seats.
As we crossed the lake the winds whipped at our hair, pulling at our jackets, and the rain beat our faces. At times we came confused between which was rain and which the spray from the lakes. At one stage the lake got especially choppy as we rose up into the air and then down with a bang! Exhilerating.
At the other side of the lake we tied up for half an hour or so at Dinis tea rooms (see seperate review) for hot Irish coffees.
The return trip seemed far quicker than the other and I admit that we were a little sad when it was all over.
At €10 per adult and €5 for children it was good value for money and lots of fun.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Water Sports
- Sailing and Boating
The Lakes Hotel
I have included this tip under "things to do" because, if you're not actually staying here, you should make a point of going for lunch or drinks or dinner. The grounds of this hotel are situated right on the banks of the lake and as far as hotels go the view here is spectacular.
There's a big long bar where you can sit for drinks or pub food, with doors that open onto the gardens and patio areas. Plenty of tables and chairs are provided for eating and drinking outdoors and as the warm Irish summer sun makes your face glow you can gaze across the gardens to the lakes, the mountains, and the sky.
There are ruins of an old castle just at the water's edge and it makes a short but romantic walk to stroll out there, climb the old stone steps, and drink in the view.
I watched an elderly man order a bottle of champagne. I waited for his wife to arrive, but he sat alone reading the paper and sipping his bubbly drink. A sad smile crossed his face and after a while he gave the bottle of champagne to some other guests. It made me realise how so many people have so many memories of Killarney.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
Carrantouhill - Irelands highest mountain
Standing at 1034M (3414 Ft) Carrantouhill is Irelands highest mountain. There is a stunnig view of the surrounding landscape, you can see for miles & miles. It's about a 4 hour hike, be prepared for adverse weather conditions. Unfortunately, when I took the picture below the clouds began to move in. It gets very dangerous if you are not careful!Related to:
- Mountain Climbing
From Ross Castle we kept heading west on N71, away from Killarney, until we reached Ladies View, a scenic overlook on the Upper Lake and all of it's channels running into the other lakes in Killarney National Park. The name Ladies View comes from Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting who said this was the finest view in the land. After taking in the view, we turned around and headed back towards Killarney to go see Torc Waterfall and Muckross House before starting on the Ring of Kerry.Add to your Trip Planner
Gap of Dunloe
The gap of Dunloe is well worth a visit. The road runs from Kate Kearneys cottage through to the black valley. On of the trips available includes a bus from the town to Kates, followed by jaunting cart through the gap of Dunloe to Lord Brandons cottage followed by a boat trip through all the lakes back to Ross castle in Killarney. A lot of people walk up the gap, especially at the weekend. A nice pint of Guiness is always waiting for you in Kates!Related to:
- Adventure Travel
The road to Kenmare
Our plan had been to get to Kenmare for lunch, look around and decide whether to stay in Kenmare or drive on further along the Ring of Kerry. But after my intrepid Irish cousin decided to drive THROUGH the Gap of Dunloe and we spent a few hours lost (he denies this still) in the farming land beyond, we decided to return to Killarney and regroup (read Guiness). Finally reached the N71 about 3PM and turned left away from Moll's Gap. Great views the whole way and enjoyed the day immensely.Related to:
- Road Trip
Muckross House had three private owners, the house was built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife Mary, when Herbert got into deep debt, the house was sold to Lord Ardilaun of the Guinness family in 1899. The last owner was American Williams Bowers Bourn who bought it as a wedding present for his daughter Maud in 1911, when she died unexpectedly in 1929 he donated the estate to Ireland and it became Ireland's first National Park
Muckross House is visited by guided tour only but we only had to wait about 10 minutes for the next tour. Our guide could have very well been a robot as her speech was obviously memorized and her speaking tone with little to no inflection. Admission is included on the Heritage Card. The traditional farm at the same location is NOT included on the Heritage Card, we didn't have enough time to see it so we passed on that part of the grounds. The tour takes approximately 55 minutes.
One of the interesting things the guide did point out, albeit in a monotone, was the windows on the downstairs of the house, back then there was a tax on large windows but when Queen Victoria was scheduled to make a visit they swapped out the small downstairs windows for large ones. The Queen gave them 6 years notice of her visit and the family spent thousands of pounds on redecorating and repairs hoping to get a title out of a successful visit. Unfortunately for the family, her husband, Prince Albert, died soon afterwards and the Queen forgot all about them and her visit here.
I did happen to note that this was one sight that was handicap accessible as we did have someone with a wheelchair on our tour, there are elevators throughout the house and most of the rooms are accessible.Add to your Trip Planner
MUCKROSS PARK GARDENS
These gardens had extraordinary, high rhododenrons in bloom as you can see in this photo. I was amazed at the luxurious nature of these gardens and the beautiful colors which were everywhere.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Take a wander round the town
Killarney town is not huge and is very easy to negotiate on foot. It is also very colorful.
Take a wander, window shop (even buy a few things,) have a drink at one of the very numerous pubs.
There is lots to see here, the town is pedestrian friendly with some intrigueing small alleys.Add to your Trip Planner
The Skellig Ring
The Skellig Ring, is a ring road that branches off the Ring of Kerry circuit.
Coaches can only get to the first part of it (PortMagee,) as the road fr4om there is far to narrow and steep in places for any kind of bus.
The scenery here is certainly spectacular and well worth the extra mileage to drive.Related to:
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