Cill Airne

I didn’t post on the blog yesterday, because we spent the day taking the train from Galway to Killarney.It all looked kinda liked this:

We got into Killarney in the mid-afternoon, and went to my favourite place to stay in all of Ireland – Larkinley Guest Accommodations. We got a warm greeting from Toni, and she took us to a laundromat to get the laundry done that we completely failed to do in Galway.

She also made some recommendations for tours and restaurants, and offered to book us on the tours we wanted to take. After we settled into the room, we walked down to the town centre to scout it out, get some dinner, and pick up some groceries. Then, back to Larkinley for the night.

This morning, we got on the Red Bus, which gives a hop-on-hop-off tour of some of the main sites in the Killarney National Park.

Ross Castle is a favourite of mine. We got off here, and took a boat out to Innisfallen, another of my favourite spots, where there’s the ruins of a twelfth-century monastery.

Here’s a view off the back of Innisfallen, looking out across Lough Leanne at the mountains.

This is a section of the monastery wall with a big ol’ yew tree beside it.

A cool looking doorway in the wall, looking out at a different yew tree.

After we got back to the castle, we got back on the bus and went to see Torc Waterfall. It drains the water from a spring, called The Devil’s Punchbowl. The story is that the devil was so angry with the Abbott building an abbey in the area, he bit a piece out of the mountain and spat it at the Abbott, who was fishing in Lough Leane. The devil missed him, of course, but the piece of the mountain landed in the lake and became The Deviul’s Island. And the bite mark in the mountain filled up with water which flows down through the Torc Waterfall.

It’s not a huge waterfall, but it is very photogenic.

After that, we crossed the road and took a ride in a horse cart along the lakes to Muckross Abbey.

A view of Muckross Lake. Muck is Irish for pig, and Ross is Irish for peninsula. Apparently, the area used to have a lot of wild pigs there.

After the abbey, the cart took us back to Muckross House, which was closed for renovations. So, we walked around the gardens, had a bite to eat in the tea room, and caught the bus back to Killarney.

Now, we’ve had dinner, heard a little bit of live music, and are settled in for the night. Tomorrow is our tour up the Gap of Dunloe.

Apparently, there’s going to be rain.

Killarney Wandering Redux

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.

  1. Though that’s pretty true of most castles. []
  2. Or Lough Leane, to give it the modern spelling. []
  3. Home of the Puck Fair, remember? []
  4. The 4000 foot soldiers and 200 horse probably helped, but let’s not ruin the story, right? []
  5. Which were mainly timber. []
  6. I think. I can’t remember precisely, and can’t find an accurate date online. []
  7. Spoiler: not nice, but better than some other alternatives. []
  8. And that’s why there are no pictures in this post. []
  9. Normally, a space for men only. []
  10. 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. []

Killarney Wandering

I remembered that I had loved Larkinley Lodge last time I stayed in Killarney. In fact, it was one of the reasons that I decided to spend some time in Killarney again this trip. But man, wonderful as that first stay was, it’s nothing compared to how great it is this time. Last time was a flawless B&B experience; this time, it’s like I’m a favourite family member come to visit for a few days1. Toni and Danny have been so friendly, welcoming, and helpful it makes me want to move here.

So, if you’re coming to Killarney, and you don’t stay at Larkinley Lodge, I just don’t think we can be friends anymore.


This morning, I went down to the tourist office to catch the shuttle bus out to some of the places near Killarney I had wanted to see last time but didn’t really get the chance. First stop was Ross Castle.

Here’s a picture of Ross Castle, with the lake and the mountains in the background. I’ve been here before and, just like last time, I didn’t actually take the tour of the castle. I had other things on my mind.

Here’s another picture of the castle to make up for it.

And around the front of the castle, there was this truck parked, and I was feeling whimsical, so I tweeted “Fully restored 15th-century siege truck.” And, of course, one of my friends replied, “Not a period shade of blue, and the sleeper cab dates from no earlier than the 16th century.”2

While I would have liked to have toured the castle, my main goal at this stop was the island of Innishfallen. This started with a small abbey founded in the 6th century that grew into a famous site of learning and scholarship for close to a thousand years. The lake became known as Lough Leane, the Lake of Learning, and it is said that the High King Brian Boru was educated there. It is also where the Annals of Innisfallen were written, documenting almost a thousand years of local history.

The original abbey buildings were timber, so they’re all gone, but the stone buildings that replaced them in the 10th century are still there.

It’s not a huge abbey, nowhere near the size of Jerpoint, for example, but still looks pretty cool.

I thought this archway with the wildflowers growing in the stone was kind of neat. The purple of the flowers doesn’t show up as well in this picture, but I still like the colours of the stone.

This church is up on a little promontory some distance from the abbey.

It’s roofless and empty, except for this small Celtic cross. This was, apparently, found by some local fishermen, and dates to about the 14th or 15th century, if I remember correctly.

So, the trip out to Innisfallen was nice for another reason. I had to wait around for a while at the pier for one of the boatmen to take me over – taking a single passenger is not ideal for them, as they charge by the passenger. They were happy to take me, but hoped for a couple more people to join the trip.

No takers showed up, and finally one of the boatmen, Charlie, I guess got bored of sitting around and ran me over to the island. He had a dog with him – it seems like about half the boatmen had dogs with them – so when I climbed into the boat, I let the little fluff ball sniff my hand and scratched her ears to say hello3. She then ignored me for the entire trip across to the island.

On the way back, when I climbed in the boat, she looked at me, climbed across to my side, snuggled up against me, and began nudging my hand to pat her. She kept nosing at me whenever I stopped patting her.

Her name was Bella. I love dogs.

Anyway, I caught the shuttle bus again, and went off to the Torc Waterfall. The driver gave me directions on how to walk from there back to Muckross Abbey where he’d pick me up in a couple of hours, and I went to find the waterfall.

Okay, it’s about a 200m walk from the car park to the waterfall itself. It never occurred to me – but it should have – that hiking to a forest waterfall at the edge of the mountains would require negotiating hills. I stopped a couple of times along the way to take pictures, and not at all to catch my breath.

The actual waterfall was very pretty, and worth the effort.

The walk back down from the waterfall was easier, and then I found out it was about a 2km walk to Muckross House and Gardens. That was a little farther than I had expected, but so be it.

A lengthy portion of the walk was along the shore of Muckross Lake, and I noticed that the fence on the side of the path had only single strands of wire mounted on plastic pegs nailed to the post, “Hmmm,” I thought, “that looks an awful lot like an electrified fence. But surely there would be signage!” It was another half a kilometre or so before there was, indeed a sign that the fence was electrified. I was very pleased that I hadn’t given in to my experimental urges earlier to find out if the fence was hot4.

I figured the fence was there to keep cattle in the field, but a ways along, I saw the actual occupants.

These are Irish Red Deer, a large species native to Ireland. They’ve almost gone extinct a couple of times, and the Killarney National Park is one of the sites where there is a breeding project to revive the species.

I made it to Muckross Gardens, first.

It’s a pretty, formal garden. The weather was clearing up by then, so there were lots of people wandering about.

Next came Muckross House, but I was running out of time. If I didn’t make it to the pick-up point at the abbey by 2:30, I’d have to wait for 5:00 for the next bus. So, I didn’t go in. Maybe on Saturday.

And then it was another 1.5km through the woods and over hills to Muckross Abbey.

I only had a short time to look at Muckross Abbey if I wanted to make my pick-up time – it was still almost a kilometre to the bus stop. But it was pretty cool.

I caught the shuttle bus back to town, and ran a couple of errands. Most importantly, I wanted to find where my Ring of Kerry tour leaves from tomorrow so I’m not wandering around or rushing in the morning. And, while I was there, I figured I might as well pay for it5.

And then I had some dinner, and came back to Larkinley Lodge to do up this post.

Which is now done.

  1. My actual family members may be asking themselves how I could possibly know what it feels like to be someone’s favourite. First, shut up. Second, I read a lot. []
  3. As all my friends know, I’m a big softy when it comes to dogs. []
  4. There was a lengthy internal debate on the subject. It was close. []
  5. They take a credit card to reserve a spot for you, but you need to come into the office and pay to actually get your ticket. []