The Ring of Kerry

Yesterday we traveled through the Ring of Kerry. This route takes us around the peninsula and is one of the most famous and panoramic routes in Ireland.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Muckross House and Gardens. Muckross House is a mansion designed by the Scottish architect, William Burn, built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolourist Mary Balfour Herbert. With sixty-five rooms, it was built in the Tudor style. Extensive improvements were undertaken in the 1850s in preparation for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. It is said that these improvements for the Queen’s visit were a contributory factor in the financial difficulties suffered by the Herbert family which resulted in the sale of the estate. In 1899 it was bought by Arthur Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun who wanted to preserve the dramatic landscape.

     It was bought by a wealthy Californian mining magnate William Bowers Bourn, as a wedding gift for his daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent.

   Killarney National Park was formed principally from a donation of Muckross Estate, which was presented to the state in 1932 by Senator Arthur Vincent and his parents-in-law Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II, in memory of Senator Vincent’s late wife, Maud. The park was substantially expanded by acquisition of land from the former Earl of Kenmare‘s estate. (from Wikipedia)

Most of the people in my group thought the lifestyle of the residents of the Muckross house was way over the top and how easily people who enjoy that lifestyle could lose touch with the common folk who are struggling to feed their families and survive.

Our next stop was to Ross Castle. It was an old castle from the  late 15th century. Most of the building is in ruins but you can get an idea of how large the structure was by walking through the doorway and looking at the structures that are still standing.

We stopped along the way at the Red Fox Inn which is part of the Kerry Bog Museum. We raised a glass of Irish coffee and had a short visit.

We stopped along the way back to Dingle in a few spots for photos. Our last official stop was to the St. Mary’s Killarney Cathedral. St. Mary’s Cathedral (1842-1855) was designed by the renowned English Architect Augustus Welby Pugin and is considered to be one of the most important and best Gothic Revival churches of the nineteenth century in Ireland. The spire and nave were completed by the Irish Architects Ashlin and Coleman of Dublin. The interior decorations were designed by J.J. McCarthy.

The interior was severely damaged when the interior plaster was removed in the 1973 renovation by D.J. Kennedy.

Some people find the nave to be too narrow, but the width of the nave was based on the medieval models to be found throughout Ireland and England. The spire is tall and elegant. The west end is very Irish in character, with three tall lancet windows and a very low entrance door beneath.

The stonework used is an attractive mixture of brown and grey stone. The siting of the church is more like the siting of a priory than the siting of a cathedral, as the cathedral stands in a huge field instead of in the middle of the original settlement of Killarney.

One feature that fascinated me and is typical of the gothic age was seeing gargoyles on the four corners of the base of the spire. I just bought a new camera with a 20x zoom and was able to get a pretty good picture of one of the gargoyles. The use of gargoyles was a bit controversial and the quote below from St. Bernard of Clairvaux obviously shows his objection to their use.

What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent’s head, there a fish with a quadruped’s head, then again an animal half horse, half goat… Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them.

We arrived back at the hotel a few minutes before dinner.

It is hard to believe we only have one more day left before we begin the journey home. As I mentioned yesterday the trip has been very enjoyable and the rest of the pilgrims seem to be enjoying themselves and no one has gotten sick.

Thanks for stopping by.