Killarney was developed in the 18th century as the Irish version of England’s Lake District. The area has in fact been inhabited since the Bronze Age. The region became a focus for Christianity after a monastery was built on Inisfallen Island in the 7th century. The town gets packed in the summer months because of its surrounding lakes and mountains. We stayed at the Killarney Royal Hotel in the main part of town for our visit.
Just outside the town of Killarney is Ross Castle, built in the late 15th century. It was orignally the home of an Irish Chieftain O’Donoghue Ross. The castle is an excellent example of the strongholds of Irish chieftains during the Middle Ages. They are actually more tower houses than castles. Ross Castle sits right on the edge of the lake where legend has it that on the first morning of May every seven years, O’Donoghue will rise from the lake on his white horse and circle the lake. For those lucky enough to catch a glimpse will have good fortune for the rest of their lives. But most probably people were having one too many pints in celebration of spring :) Ross Castle can only be visited by guided tour. The tour gives you a lot of information on the history of medieval tower houses and their defensive features such as small sliver windows, staircases with uneven steps to trip intruders, murder and gun holes etc.
Another interesting place to visit not far from Killarney is Blarney Castle about 75 mins away. The closest town to Blarney Castle is Cork. Cork is often referred to as the “real capital of Ireland” by the locals. It is a young and cosmopolitan city set on an island on the River Lee. There is an ongoing rivalry between Cork and Dublin, similar to that between Sydney and Melbourne or Madrid and Barcelona. We had lunch in Cork at Market Lane before heading to Blarney Castle.
Blarney Castle is famous for the Blarney Stone where upon kissing it, one will never again be lost for words. In order to kiss the stone, one must hang upside down over a sheer drop. But Blarney Castle is much more that this Stone of Eloquence, there are extensive gardens surrounding the castle which is now in partial ruins. It is believed that the garden is of druidic origin and was once a center of worship led by priests and prietesses of the Celtic people in the pre-Christian time.
Driving through scenic Dingle Peninsula will be next. Stay tuned!
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