We had all kinds of transportation forms today. We started the day on a jaunt car (horse drawn buggy) with Maggie, a 6 year old Irish draft horse. Our ride took us through Killarney National Park, Ireland’s first national park(more about that later). We were very happy to learn that they take good care of the horses. No more than 4 hours a day and 2 days on, then 2 days off.
We were dropped off at Ross Castle (5th picture) which was built in the late 15th century by the local ruling clan the O’Donoghues. The castle was amongst the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars, and was only taken when artillery was brought by boat via the River Laune.
We then climbed aboard a boat called “The Otter” (Leslie was thrilled) that had Bella the dog as a co-captain. Thank goodness we had a beautiful day for the boat ride on the lake to Mucross House. Mucross House is a Tudor style mansion with 65 rooms, built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolourist Mary Balfour Herbert. Extensive improvements were made 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. He did not live in the house himself, but rented it out to wealthy groups as a hunting lodge.
In August 1911, Mucross House and its land were sold to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian mining magnate. He and his wife passed it to their daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent as a wedding present. The couple lived there until Maud’s death from pneumonia in 1929. In 1932 her parents, Mr and Mrs Bournes, and their son-in-law Arthur Vincent decided to present Mucross House and its 11,000 acre estate to the Irish nation. Being called the ″Bourne-Vincent Memorial Park″, it thus became the first National Park in the Republic of Ireland and formed the basis of present-day Killarney National Park. In later years the park was substantially expanded by the acquisition of land from the former Earl of Kenmare’s estate.
We toured the mansion with a guide. Most of the furniture was authentic, including what is in the rooms where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed during their 3 day visit here. They have done extensive renovations on the decorations (i.e. reproducing hand painted silk wall paper in Queen Victoria’s dressing room) so it looks like it would have when she was there.
We ended the evening by attending Celtic Steps. A show similar to Riverdance, but with performers from around this area. They were amazing. Several of them are World Champions of different types of Irish dancing — one of the guys has been the champion seven times.