Killarney National Park Landmarks
Lily of Killarney Lake Tour Landmarks
Our Tour on the Lily of Killarney Watercoach provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about the highlights of the Killarney landscape while gliding peacefully through its serene lakes, renowned for their spectacular beauty.Sit back and relax as our Tour Guide takes you on a journey of the town’s most iconic landmarks, giving you a unique insight into the wildlife and history of the Killarney National Park.
1s Stop – Ross Castle
With a long legacy and illustrious history, Ross Castle, a Tower House and Keep dating back to the 15th Century, sits majestically on the shores of Lough Leane and marks the departure point for the Lily of Killarney Lake Tour. The Castle itself was once ruled by the great O’Donoghue Clan in the 1700’s, before being overthrown by the MacCarthy Clan during the Desmond Rebellion. Later, it was handed over to Sir Valentine Browne, one of the Earls of Kenmare, an Anglo-Irish family, who at the time owned much of the town’s land.
In 1688, Sir Browne built a fortified house beside the Castle’s grounds and demolished what was left of the old bawn fortress, originally used as a protection wall against its enemies. The Castle was also famously one of the last Irish strongholds to surrender to the Cromwellian Army in the Irish Confederate War of the 1650’s.
Today the Castle stands proud as an iconic symbol of Killarney itself and remains ones of the town’s premier visitor attractions. Over the years, the interiors of the Castle have been lovingly restored to their former glory and tours to the public operate daily.
The Lily of Killarney Lake Tour departs from the rear end of the Castle and offers a unique viewing point of the landmark complimented by the still reflection of the tranquil Lakes of Killarney.
Up Next – Innisfallen Island
Innisfallen island is home to the ruins of an ancient monastic settlement dating back to the 6th century, founded by St. Finian and run by the Augustinian Monks. Between the 10th and 13th century, the events of the island and that of the surrounding area were famously recorded by the Monks of the Abbey in a piece of literature called the Annals of Innisfallen, which was documented in both Latin and Gaelic. While the book itself made a brief visit back to its home of Killarney in the 1980’s, it now resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
The small island of Innisfallen is now uninhabited apart from the local wildlife including the native Red Deer, who can often be seen swimming back and forth to the mainland in search of food. Remember to bring your camera for that perfect photo opportunity!
Round The Bend – Tomies Wood
Round the corner from Innisfallen Island and you will start to see the spectacular tree tops of an ancient Oak Forest come into view in the form of Tomies Wood. The forest itself dates back to the First Ice Age and still to this day holds great scientific interest for geologists the world over, due to its long lineage and pristine condition.
The woodland offers a popular loop walk of approx. 9 kilometres which provides magnificent views of the Lower Lake and the slopes of the Shey Mountains and it’s also the best place to encounter the charm and scenic beauty of O’Sullivan’s Cascade, a towering waterfall renowned as one of Killarney’s hidden gems.
A trip to the native oakwood is also recommended if one wishes to catch a rare glimpse of the White Tail Eagle species, just another aspect of the Killarney National Park’s extraordinary wildlife as well as its unique flora and fauna.
On The Lakeshore – Glena Cottage
The ruins of Glena Cottage are yet another historic landmark which you will learn about during the Lily of Killarney Tour. Built by the Lord and Lady of Kenmare to entertain their friends and family as a Summer House, it was once a place of huge social significance, attracting locals who journeyed by boat to attend the popular dances in its moonlit Ballroom. It’s also most famous for its visit from Queen Victoria who lunched there in 1861 on her trip to Killarney as a guest of the Herbert Family.
In 1922, the house burned down when an accidental fire broke out but its ruins are still evident to this day, largely owing to its short distance from the lake shoreline and its water’s power of preservation.
Access to the cottage ruins in modern times is limited due to the surrounding marshland and is best accessed by row boat from nearby Muckross or Torch Boathouse.
Off In the Distance – The Copper Mines
Thought to be one of the first locations where Copper was extracted in Western Europe, the Ross Island Copper Mines in Killarney are over four and a half thousand years old, dating back to the Pre -Bronze Age and our Celtic ancestors. Later in the 1800’s, the success of the mine was spearheaded by the Ross Mining Company, a group of miners from England & Scotland, thought to be contracted by the Earls of Kenmare to extract large quantities of Iron Ore for export to Wales. Although successful for a long period of time, the lakes caused problems for the miners and eventually led to its closure in 1828 with large amounts of water flooding into the mines.
Today the entrance to the mines is a highlight of one of the scenic walking trails starting from nearby Ross Castle. Two of its large open cast pits are still visible and today are filled with water. The larger of the two, locally knows as the blue pool, is particularly captivating due to its unique blue and green hue.
Deep In the Forest – Muckross Abbey
The mystical ruins of Muckross Abbey, which are buried deep in the heart of the Killarney National Park and date back as far as the 15th century, are a beautiful yet eerie reminder of our local history. As legend has it, Daniel MacCarthy Mór, of the MacCarthy Clan Dynasty, was inspired to build the Abbey after a dream in which he heard a young girl singing to him and in 1448 his dream was realised, as the Christian Monastery was completed for the Franciscan Order.
Sadly, its rein didn’t last indefinitely as it was largely destroyed by a fire during the Cromwellian Rebellion of the 1650’s, driving the Monks to seek refuge further afield in Friar’s Glen, nestled high in the hills of Moll’s Gap.
It is unclear whether the Monks ever returned to their humble abode in the Abbey but the picturesque monastery, famed locally for its charming courtyard with its majestic yew tree as well as the remnants of the church, are still to this day well preserved and visited by many. The Abbey also boasts an active graveyard which is the burial home to many of the O’Donoghue Chieftains of its time, as well as the three famous Kerry Poets, Geoffrey O’Donoghue, Aodhagan O’Rathaille and Eoghan Rua. It is also believed that the famous Dublin writer Bram Stoker used often visit this Abbey and to have found his inspiration to write the Dracula story from here.
The Lake’s Most Famous Landmark – Muckross House
Built by Henry Arthur Herbert in 1843, the Victorian Mansion, Muckross House, is possibly one of the most well-known landmarks on the lake tour’s trail. The lavish house was designed by Scottish Architect, William Burn and is made from Portland stone which was imported from England and thought to be transported from Kenmare Bay through the Old Kenmare Road by horse and cart to Killarney. Its famously sculpted gardens and beautiful streams are thought to be one of the many components which contributed to the bankruptcy of the Herbert Family in preparation for the notorious visit of Queen Victoria in 1861.
A few years after her visit, the Muckross Mansion and its grounds were sold to Lord Ardilaun of the Guinness family, whose wife was also a relative of the Herbert’s. Although it was kept in the family, it was thought that the Ardilauns themselves rarely stayed there and for many of the years that followed, the house and its grounds were rented by various members of the English gentry, who retreated to the area to partake in its abundance of hunting and fishing opportunities.
In 1911, the House was sold again, this time to a Californian businessman, William Bowers Bourn, who gave the estate to his son in-law, Arthur Vincent and his daughter Maud as a wedding present. The couple spent twenty happy years at Muckross bringing up their two children, Elizabeth and Roise, the latter whose name is thought to have great significance in the naming of the secret beach on the lakeshore, so called ‘Rosie’s Beach’.
In 1932, the Mansion’s illustrious history took quite a remarkable turn as the Vincent Bourn family donated the house as well as its surrounding parkland to the Irish State following the death of Maud in 1929. Today the House stands proudly as one of the finest kept stately homes in Ireland and is visited every year by over half a million visitors to the town of Killarney.
High In The Sky- St. Mary’s Cathedral
Designed in 1842 by English Architect, Augustus Welby Pugin, St Mary’s Cathedral is the most prominent structure in the Killarney skyline. The construction of the Cathedral, which was thought to be sponsored by the Earls of Kenmare, was by no means a seamless affair with the arrival of the Great Famine in Ireland and lack of funds putting a halt to its errection. During this period of great misery in Ireland, it was thought the shelter of the Cathedral was used as a hospital and soup kitchen to help the poor and sickly.
Shortly after the famine, work continued and in 1855 the Cathedral was completed; however its iconic nave & spire were not added until later.
In the 1970’s, the building was dramatically renovated in accordance with the new literary of Roman Catholic Mass, under the guidance of Kerry Bishop, Eamon Casey. Sadly, this led to many of the original design features within the church being removed and was a somewhat a controversial issue at the time. Today the gothic structure stands tall against the backdrop of the breath-taking Kerry Mountains and is a proud talisman of the town itself.