Muckross House and Beyond
From Kenmare it's an easy drive to our first stop today. We headed north and crossed through Killarney National Park on our way to Torc Waterfall.
We were treated to more stunning views on this cloudy day.
Clouds and fog can create their own wonderful ambiance. We were treated to a glorious show of subdued grays and greens from the land and from the sky.
Torc Waterfall is a much visited site with not a lot of parking. We were lucky to snag a spot as it was pretty early in the day. Lots of backpackers and tourist buses make the walk to the waterfall quite busy. The forest seems primeval as it closes in on the path. Makes for great atmosphere and interesting photos.
A short ride and more gorgeous vistas and we arrived at Muckross House. this is another historic house managed by the OPW so we gained free admission and tour with our Heritage Card. The house is quite large and is surrounded by beautiful gardens which were in full bloom this day.
There is also a farm for families but we decided to skip that for this trip.
You can't take pictures in the house but the tour is quite interesting.
This 19th C. Victorian house was built for Henry Herbert and his wife, the water-colorist Mary Balfour Herbert. Some of her paintings are on display in the house. The house is located on Muckross Lake and has expanses of sloping lawn leading to the water. This is a great destination for families with children as there is lots of outdoor space to run around.
The Visitor Center is extensive and boasts a really nice cafe for lunch.
After leaving Muckross House we turned toward Ross Castle and saw a sign for Muckross Abbey. We turned into the very tiny parking lot and squeezed into the last space and walked down a wooded path to the Abbey. Later discovered you can walk it in five minutes from Muckross House.
The ruins are of a Franciscan Friary founded in the 1400's. It is reportedly built on the foundations of a 6th C. church. The cloisters are in their original and complete state which is pretty amazing. I love cloisters. Cromwell drove the monks away in the 1650's. There is an active graveyard right next to the Abbey.
It isn't often that the cloisters have retained their roofs. In many abbeys and cathedrals that we visited the cloisters were open to the sky. Here you have a real sense of what the monks would have experienced each day as they walked and prayed. The cloisters are built around an open green space protecting the monks from rain but allowing them some outside time. Beautiful stone work with graceful arches.
You can see in this picture how the light enters the window openings and brightens the walk. It was stunning.
The graveyard that is still being used today. It sits right outside the Friary in a beautifully peaceful setting.
We left the Abbey with regret but we still had things to see and it was getting late.
Our next stop was Ross Castle just north of Muckross Friary. They have ample parking so you don't have to worry. This site is heavily visited by busloads of tourists and it's a favorite stop for the Jaunty Carts. Loved this view of the river with the boats sheltered in this little inlet.
Ross Castle sits on the edge of Killarney's lower lake and was built in the 15th C. It was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Cromwell.
Ross Castle is on the Heritage Pass so you get free admission and a tour. the tour tells the tale of the family who owned it and how they fought against Cromwell. Really interesting.
Ross Castle is an Irish Tower House. This type of castle is scattered all over Ireland and you are able to visit a number of them. They generally consist of multiple single floor rooms piled on top of one another. The construction is quite fascinating. They are accessed by a spiral staircase -- very narrow -- which aids in defense should the castle be breached.
Loved the thick, heavy oak doors that were studded with iron and had these wonderful handles. The keys that fit these doors would have been huge.
After the wonderful tour we headed back to Kenmare tired but excited about all we had seen today. Four major stops seems like a lot for one day. However, the distances between things was short so it didn't take much time to get from place to place. We didn't rush and were able to see everything we wanted. We didn't take a Jaunty Cart ride and we didn't take a boat ride but you could certainly do that in place of one of the other stops.