Ireland: Home, Sweet Killarney

On my mom’s side I am a descendant of the O’Donoghue Clan of Killarney. So it was nice to finally go home after all these centuries! I even managed a family reunion with Sean O’Donoghue who owns the family inn called Salmon Leap Farms BnB. It was a great place with a prime location not too far from town and situated between the beautiful mountains of the valley.

Sean was super accommodating giving us a tour of the ancient burial grounds that also happens to be archaeological site on the inn grounds. In a large grass clearing there were gravestones from the 1st century under a pile of branches and leaves. A short walk away through some thick brush, we found the infant cemetery — a place where fathers buried their deceased infants with unmarked headstones. Marking the area as sacred, there was a large stone slab in the middle of the cemetery with a Celtic cross on it. The cross was lightly etched in due to centuries of erosion, but also because Christians were persecuted at the time, so the Irishmen and women who lived then would go to worship in secret.

Sean made a call and we got onto the property to see Killaha Castle — the Tower House or family castle that was perfectly placed overlooking the valley. Apparently, this spot was so advantageous for scoping out the happenings of the valley that these O’Donoghues used to charge a pretty penny for passage through their lands. They were the mafiosos of their time in this area — pretty badass Irishmen! The O’Donoghue of the Glens even have Wiki page detailing their history.

Then, we ventured off to the main attraction of the area and another family-built attraction, Ross Castle. Built by the O’Donoghues in the 1500’s, Ross Castle is the quintessential Irish abode (give or take a century). The family spent about 150 years living there — although it’s hard to see why when you take the tour and realize that they were under siege from nearly every baddie alive at the time. Eventually through, all good things come to an end when the patriarch of the family got into a local battle losing his life and his house in one day. The Castle transitioned to the McCarthy’s and then on to the British Browne family. We toured the floors of the castle and I would have shivered to death living theway the did back then. Those good ole O’Donoghues were a hardy people. And, the castle couldn’t have been complete without a swan and ducks swimming down the river.

We definitely could have spent more time on the grounds at Muckross House & Gardens since it’s sprawling acres unrolled onto beautiful lawns, forests, and lakes. It’s a 19th century mansion set against the Macgillycuddy Reeks — the purple mountains and Ireland’s highest peaks. It was so scenic because it’s located smack in the middle of Killarney National Park, a wanderous paradise.

The Muckross Abbey was a quick visit on the premises and included a sneak peek into the mid-15th century lifestyle of Franciscan monks. And, we ended our day with dinner in the heart of the city of Killarney, which was quite large and teeming with tourists. However, we made the most of it, and then retired back to Salmon Leap Farms to begin again tomorrow.

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