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Muckross Abbey and the Muckross House Way

Killarney National Park, Ireland

     Sparkling Lakes, waterfalls, ancient yew forests, shy sika deer, the roofless ruins of Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle and the stately Victorian manor known as the Muckross House await the hiker who walks the trails within Killarney National Park—a paradise of glacially carved glens, mountains, and lakes.

     The park, encompassing an area of 96 square kilometers, showcases the natural beauty and the history of Ireland’s County Kerry—strings of lakes bordered by forested mountains hide the ruins and manor house found along the path we describe. Three lakes or loughs, Leane (or Lower), Muckross (or Middle), and Upper make up the world famous Lakes of Killarney—along with the surrounding woodlands, the area is part of an environment so pure and unique that it was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

     To explore the park on foot, simply park at one of the car parks found along N71—we parked at the lot located on the east side of N71 just north of the Muckross House. From the car park, cross the road and follow the signed path, a wide dirt trail that leads downhill towards the shores of Lough Leane—continue skirting the edge of the water, taking in the views of the small islands that dot the lake. The path soon crosses a small stream via a footbridge before reaching the road that leads to the impressive ruins of Muckross Abbey—a well-preserved fifteenth century Franciscan friary with an intact two-story cloister with a gnarled old yew tree at its center—approximately one kilometer from the car park.

     Once you reach the abbey, take your time and explore the ancient ruins—the haunting grounds, which contain a graveyard, a vaulted bell tower, the cloister, a refectory and a sacristy are both serene and exhilarating.

     From Muckross Abbey, take a short detour down the nearby bucolic pathway where you might glimpse sika deer, Irish hares, ravens, and huge bulls complete with nose rings. After the diversion down the leaf strewn path, return to the signed intersection and continue hiking another kilometer to the Muckross House—a nineteenth century Neo-Elizabethan estate.

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