The Magic of Muckross
Even the shortest Killarney visit should make time for Muckross House & Gardens. Beloved by locals and treasured by tourists, Muckross House is a fine Victorian mansion set among lush gardens right in the heart of Killarney National Park. Better still, it’s just a short spin (5.6km) from Coolclogher House, on the N71.
We may see it as a pretty impressive mansion, but the Herbert family intended Muckross House simply as a hunting and fishing lodge. It was built in 1843 and totally refurbished for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. The owners spared no expense, commissioning Persian rugs, silverware, and china for the royal visit and running up massive debts. In fact, those debts were part of the reason the Herbert family decided to donate the house and the estate to the Irish state.
Now that the estate is state property, you can tour Muckross House and enjoy a glimpse of the Victorian age, with portraits by John Singer Sargent, stags’ heads, and huge stuffed fish lining the walls. While you are there, look out for the intricately inlaid Killarney furniture, with its iconic local scenes created with timber from the local arbutus (strawberry tree).
Even if you never enter Muckross House, you can have an equally enjoyable visit strolling among the surrounding gardens and lawns. Designed in typical Victorian style, the gardens are set among rolling lawns with neatly clipped privet hedges and miles of pathways leading to delightful hidden corners. A wonderful feature is the huge rockery, built on the local limestone and planted with lush shrubbery, and another highlight is the arboretum. The gardens run down to the shores of Muckross Lake, and you can even take a boat trip across to Dinis Cottage from the Old Boathouse. There’s even a beach: Stroll along the lakeshore through the woods to the golden sand at Dundag.
Refresh yourself after your rambles with a visit to the light-filled café, where delicious hot meals and fresh baking are served daily. The visitor centre has a good gift shop and studios where you can see potters, weavers, and bookbinders at work.
Muckross Traditional Farms
For something completely different, visit the traditional farms (next to the car park), where you can step back in time to rural Ireland of the 1930s and 1940s. You can see three working farms, a traditional-style primary school, labourer’s cottage, carpenter’s workshop, and blacksmith’s forge. These are working farms, so you will watch griddle bread being made on an open fire and the work horses earning their feed.
Any younger members of the family will be delighted with the small farm animal petting area and its (non-traditional! bouncy castle. There is a picnic area in the sheltered woodland play area, which has a variety of slides and swings. A complimentary coach service runs around the site, so that you can hop on and hop off, according to your energy levels.
Have you been to Muckross House & Gardens? We’d love to hear what you think!