30 September 2009

Killarney National Park by Bike

Yesterday I did a great cycle trip through part of Killarney National Park and Muckross Estate.

We collected bikes from Mary @ O Sullivan's Bike Hire and cycled past St. Mary's Cathedral into Knockreer Estate. Gentle bike tracks led us through open parkland down to the impressive restored ruins of 15th century Ross Castle.

Ross Castle was built by the O Donoghue Ross family and was one of Ireland's last strongholds to fall to Cromwell, eventually being taken from the water by barges and cannon...
The guided tour of Ross Castle is excellent and full of interesting gems, like the murder flap and the communal toilet!
Out on Lough Leane, Prisoner Island stands alone, once used by the infamous O Donoghue Ross to chain his captives, until they perished from exposure and hunger.

From Ross Castle we biked up Ross Road, took a right out past the Gleneagle Hotel and entered into Killarney National Park again shortly afterwards.
Autumn was in the air as we biked under huge oak and chestnut trees, their golden brown leaves beginning to carpet the ground. September is a great time to visit Killarney as the town and area is that little quieter and fabulous colours flourish throughout the National Park.
The quiet trail led us past Muckross Abbey, nestled in the oaks and yews. This is well worth a visit. It was built by pagan chieftain Donal McCarthy Mor in 1448, to guarantee himself a place in heaven; and it was here he was buried.

Within the shadows of the central cloisters stands an ancient yew tree. Legend has it that the abbey was built around this yew tree and when the abbey was razed by Cromwell the yew withstood the blazing fire and stood untouched, to this very day...
Coffee and cake were calling once we had explored the abbey and peaceful graveyard, so we pedaled up the long straight avenue to 18th century Muckross House and bypassing the magnificent roofs and chimneys went straight into Muckross coffee shop.
I'm always surprised at how great the food and cakes are here and it's usually the high point of my day!

Muckross House was built by the English Herbert family and later sold when they became bankrupt due to excessive spending, preparing for Queen Victoria's visit.
There's now an interesting one hour guided tour of the house; a good rainy day option. The magnificent gardens are also worth spending an afternoon strolling through...
A further quick bike detour led us to the base of Torc Waterfall, gushing down the side of Torc Mountain. You can walk easily to the base of the waterfall and steep steps also led upwards where you'll be rewarded with great views over Killarney National Park and the Lakes of Killarney.
The trip was approx 20km and including several stops took us four and a half hours.
Nathan Kingerlee

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