This is kind of a boring post, I suspect.
Today was a free day for me, with nothing scheduled. So, I decided to go and do some of the stuff from Thursday that I didn’t find time to do. Specifically, I wanted to see the insides of Ross Castle and Muckross House.
And that’s what I did.
I got the shuttle bus again in the morning to Ross Castle, and looked around a bit before finding the entry to the castle itself. They were just starting a guided tour, so I was really happy to get in on that. I was less happy that they had a no photography policy, but that’s the way it goes.
Ross Castle was built in the 15th century, a tower house and keep for the local Celtic chieftain. It was pretty unassailable, as long as food stores were reliable1. There was even a Macbeth-like prophecy:
Ross may all assault disdain
Till on Lough Lein strange ship shall sail.
Lough Lein2 didn’t have any ships on it – there were boats, but the waterways in the area just didn’t support actual ships that could be useful in attacking from the water. So, of course, those mad bastards under Oliver Cromwell built ships in Kinsale, sailed them to Kilorglin3, and carted them by oxen to Lough Lein to unnerve the inhabitants of the castle and hasten their surrender4.
Well, after being used as a garrison by the British for many years, the castle was abandoned, and fell into disrepair. Notably, the stone roof collapsed, water got into the stone floor of the top level, and that eventually collapsed down through all the lower floors5, leaving the castle an empty, ruined shell. It was only around 19706 that restoration work began.
And they restored the castle beautifully. On the tour, you can go right up to the great hall on the top floor, and each level has period furniture. The guide was really good at explaining what it was actually like to live in a 15th-century castle7, and really entertaining to listen to.
We even got to see the garderobe.
After that, I got back on the bus to Muckross House and took the tour there, where – guess what – they didn’t allow photographs8.
Muckross House is a Victorian country house, never really fell into ruin, and has been beautifully restored. It’s HUGE. Like, 25 bedrooms huge. 16000 square feet huge. Large enough to support a staff of 22 looking after the place.
I didn’t find the history of the house nearly as amusing as Ross Castle, but there were a couple of things that I found interesting:
- So very many hunting trophies on the walls – various deer, birds, goats, fish, and another rack of giant Irish elk antlers, even bigger than the ones I saw in Kilkenny.
- The heads of the red deer were almost as big as horse heads. Not quite, but pretty big.
- Before taxidermy was really a thing, the deer heads would be stripped to the bone and the initials of the hunter, the size of the deer, and the date would be etched into the bare skull, and that mounted on the wall. They look like props for a horror film.
- Queen Victoria stayed here for two days in August of 1861. They papered the billiard room9 with lovely hand-painted silk wall coverings in deep blue with birds and flowers. She used it as a private breakfast room, and they never changed the wall coverings back to something more masculine.
- Queen Victoria was apparently very afraid of fire, so insisted on sleeping on the ground floor. They even built a cast-iron, four-foot tall fire escape to make it easy for her to exit her room in an emergency.
- I saw evidence of my spiritual ancestors: this lovely wood inlaid gaming table was on display.
Then it was back to Killarney. This evening, I went out for some dinner and looked for some entertainment. Most of the interesting stuff was starting much later, so I decided to go see a movie, which was fun. And walking back to Larkinley Lodge, I again was awash in traditional music coming out of pretty much every pub10.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Galway. Another day of train travel.
- Though that’s pretty true of most castles. [↩]
- Or Lough Leane, to give it the modern spelling. [↩]
- Home of the Puck Fair, remember? [↩]
- The 4000 foot soldiers and 200 horse probably helped, but let’s not ruin the story, right? [↩]
- Which were mainly timber. [↩]
- I think. I can’t remember precisely, and can’t find an accurate date online. [↩]
- Spoiler: not nice, but better than some other alternatives. [↩]
- And that’s why there are no pictures in this post. [↩]
- Normally, a space for men only. [↩]
- One of the songs I’m hearing everywhere is Green Fields of France. It’s not a new song. It didn’t used to be so popular, but it’s everywhere this trip. [↩]