Killarney Historical Sites
People generally visit Killarney for its stunning natural beauty and world famous lakes but there’s much more to the town than just its aesthetic qualities. Killarney is a town that is steeped in history and has been the site of many famous battles, sieges and excavations. The area now known as Killarney National Park has enthralled and fascinated centuries of scholars and soldiers and has been a home for both too. If you’re a history buff and want some primary sources then take a look at these three places which are help tell the long and winding story of Killarney.
1.) Inisfallen Island and monastery
Inisfallen Island lies in the middle of Killarney’s largest lake, Lough Leane, and between the 7th century and 17th centuries it was home to a renowned monastery which attracted scholars from all over Europe. Today only its ruins are left but these churches and priories are fascinating remnants of time long since past.
Inisfallen Monastery is considered to be one of Europe’s first universities and educated many famous and important figures. Brian Boru, the man who proclaimed himself High King of Ireland and was eventually killed in the legendary Battle of Clontarf in 1014 (A battle his forces won), was educated in the monastery. It also produced the great Annals of Inisfallen, written between the 12th and 15th century, which was a book detailing the medieval history of Munster. The Annals are today stored in Oxford College, England though they can also be viewed online. The Island is only a short boat trip away from Ross Castle and if you would like to book one you can find more information here.
2.) The Copper Mines, near Ross Castle
Criminally overlooked and underrated in my view, the Copper Mines in Killarney is one of the most interesting historical sites in Kerry. These mines are the earliest known copper mines in Britain and Ireland and work on extracting copper from them began around 2400BC. There was quite an extensive work area there with an excavation between 1992 and 1996 uncovering ancient mines, hammers used on them and evidence of 25 houses nearby. Mining stopped in the area at around 1900 BC but it was resumed for a few decades in the early 19th century to cater for the copper demands of the industrial revolution in Britain. Incessant flooding of the mines and other safety issues meant they had to be closed however.
The area where the mines are located is, for my money, one of the most scenic in Killarney National Park with breathtaking views of the lakes and mountains. There’s information and signs down there telling you more about the history of the mines and you can even see a couple of them by the pools of water which now cover them. The mines are only a short walk from Ross Castle. Ask any of the jarvees or workers at the castle and they’ll easily be able to point you in the direction of them.
3.) Muckross Abbey
You have no excuse if you don’t visit this place as it is just a short walk from Killarney Holiday Village. It is one of the most well-preserved medieval ruins in Kerry and its bloody history is well known. It was founded in 1448 by local chieftain Daniel McCarthy Mor for Observatine Franciscans. The friars studied and prayed in the monastery for over 200 years before it was attacked and ransacked by Crowellian forces under the command of General Ludlow in the 1650s. It is in remarkably good shape however and its towers, arches, windows and courtyard remain intact. Many prominent locals have been buried there including the famous Gaelic poets Owen Roe O’Sullivan, Geoffrey O’Donoghue and Aodghán Ó’Rathaille, three of the Four Poets of Kerry.