Where to go in Kerry

Muckross Franciscan Friary & Ross Castle

Located on the shores of Lough Leane (Loch Léin in Irish), Ross Castle consists of a square medieval tower built by the O'Donoghue Ross Chieftains. It was their defensive stronghold for 100 years before passing hands and ending with Sir Valentine Browne. The castle was amongst the last to surrender to Cromwell, taken only once artillery was brought in. The place subsequently housed a garrison until its later landlord, Lord Kenmare, had the roof of the barracks removed and the large windows altered.

Ross Castle may be considered a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. It is a rectangular structure built on a limestone outcrop, surrounded by a fortified bawn, a curtain wall defended by circular flanking towers. The most important chamber inside is the Great Hall and it is situated at the highest level. It has large windows and the finest fireplace. It is also served by a kitchen and a minstrels' gallery. The whole space is covered by a stunning reconstructed oak roof.

Muckross Friary was founded in the 15th century and the ruins are in a remarkable state of preservation. The cloister and its associated buildings are still complete. The Friary features a mixture of Norman and Gothic architecture. Unfortunately, they met the same fate as many similar religious Irish sites - the visit of Cromwell’s Roundheads. The site still inspires a sense of calm and contemplation though, and is well worth a visit. Guided tours are available on request.

Lakes of Killarney and Killarney National Park

Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle lay on the eastern shore of Lough Leane, the largest of the Killarney Lakes and the closest to the town. The three lakes and the mountains that surround them are all within the Killarney National Park. This sculpted landscape is the result of glaciations. Lough Leane is separated from the smaller middle lake, Muckross Lake, by a wooded peninsula. The tip of this peninsula is called the Meeting of the Waters because this is where the waters of the upper lake meets those of Muckross Lake and Lough Leane. It is a place of scenic beauty – the abundant subtropical vegetation is nested among dark waters and dominated by the highest mountain of Ireland, the majestic Carrauntoohil.

The Remotness of Kerry

Like the coasts of Donegal and Connemara, the Kerry coastline is remote. When you are in Killarney National park, you have only entered the Kingdom. It is easy to get stuck around Killarney, particularly with such beautiful spots as the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley within close range. But this shouldn’t stop you from exploring the peninsulas.

The Iveragh peninsula can be explored quickly by a ring road that follows the coast. This famous scenic road is referred to as the Ring of Kerry. It leads to Waterville and Balliskellig bay. Legend has it that this is where Noah’s son and daughter, Bith and Cessair, landed to escape the flood. This is also the place where you can get a boat to the Skellig Islands. Skellig Michael in particular, is home to an ancient monastic site, which features a very specific type of architecture, adapted to the extremely exposed climate of the islands. But if you prefer to explore Kerry by foot, the Kerry way is the hill-walker version of the Ring of Kerry, tackling a distance of 133 miles and designed for the fittest!

The Beara and Dingle peninsula are also worth a visit. The Dingle peninsula in particular, is a place of white sandy beaches and archaeological remains. The western part of the peninsula is a Gaeltacht. Here, Irish is still widely spoken and you will even be able to take classes. The Blaskets islands nearby are a famous place of literature, having produced many Irish writers. The trip won’t be complete without a stop in Dingle, a tiny town of worldwide fame.