Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry is the first national park in Ireland to join the United States’ Sister Parks Program, having been partnered recently with Glacier National Park in Montana.
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The American park is located in the northwestern part of Montana on the border with Canada and the United States.
The pairing initiative allows for the exchange of ideas on how to best manage amenities in all national parks around the world, including controlling visitor numbers, managing exotic and invasive species in the parks, and general ecological monitoring.
The world’s national parks are also connected because all of them, at some point, serve as the home for migratory birds and other species.
In addition, air pollution in one country’s park can ultimately cause environmental damage in a park thousands of miles away.
Killarney National Park is one of six national parks in Ireland.
The other five include Glenveigh National Park in Co. Donegal, Connemara National Park in Co. Galway, Ballycroy National Park in Co. Mayo, the Burren National Park in Co. Clare, and Wicklow National Park.
The Co. Kerry park was the first of the six to be designated a national park.
It happened when the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932.
Since then, the park has been greatly expanded.
It now covers over 25,000 acres that include a diverse ecology, some of which contain rare species, as well as notable tourist attractions like the Lakes of Killarney.
Together with native oak trees and yew woodlands, as well as the magnificent McGillycuddy’s Reeks – Ireland’s highest mountain range – the park is the only one in Ireland that is home to a herd of red deer.
Existence of Early Life in Killarney National Park
Archaeologists believe that humans began living in the area around the Bronze Age, which is about 4,000 years ago.
That was determined based on evidence of copper mining on Ross Island, a claw-shaped peninsula in the park that contains the site of an abandoned copper mine.
In fact, this particular site is hugely important given that is believed to be the source of metalwork used in the making of copper ax heads, knives, and daggers in the lead-up to the Bronze Age period.
Abbeys, Castles to be Seen in the Park
The park has many archaeological features, including a well-preserved stone circle at Lissivigeen, but there are other places of interest there, too.
They include Inisfallen Abbey, part of the ruins of a monastic settlement on Inisfallen Island, which is located on Lough Leane (known locally as the “Lake of Learning).
The monastery was founded in the 7th century by St. Finian the Leper and was occupied until the 14th century.
It was there that the monks wrote the Annals of Inisfallen containing an early history of Ireland.
Muckross Abbey is another important historical site in the park.
It was founded in 1448 by the Observantine Franciscans. Despite being damaged and reconstructed several times, it is still worth seeing.
The abbey is said to be the burial place of several local chieftains, as well as notable Kerry poets from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Another popular tourist attraction in Killarney National Park is Ross Castle located on the shores of Lough Leane.
The 15th-century tower house was once the residence of Chieftain O’Donoghue Mór. The castle has been restored and is open to the public.
The legend associated with the castle is that on May 1st each year, O’Donoghue rises from the waters of the lake on a white horse.
If you catch a glimpse of him, you will enjoy good fortune for the rest of your life.
The Lakes of Killarney
Perhaps the park’s most beautiful attribute is the three lakes that make up the infamous Lakes of Killarney heavily promoted in tourist brochures.
They include Lough Leane, mentioned above and known as the Lower Lake; Muckross Lake, known as the Middle Lake, as well as the Upper Lake.
The lakes are interlinked and together they contain close to a quarter of the park’s area.
They join at the Meeting of the Waters, a popular tourist spot.
The Muckross Estate
The Herbert family once owned land on the Muckross Peninsula, eventually building the Victorian-styled Muckross House in 1843.
However, it wasn’t until 1910 that the estate was vastly improved.
American entrepreneur William Bowers Bourn, who bought the estate for his daughter as a wedding present, spent approximately £110,000 on the installation of the Sunken Garden, the Stream Garden, as well as a rock garden.
His daughter died of pneumonia in 1929 and her husband, Arthur Vincent, along with Bourn and his wife, donated the estate, including the house, to the Irish government in 1932.
The estate, which attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year, also includes the Muckross Traditional Farms, a working farm that recreates what rural Irish farm life was like in the 1930s before electricity.
Other Attractions in Killarney National Park
Be sure to visit these other attractions in Killarney National Park.
They include the Dinis Cottage, which was built by the Herbert family and overlooks the Middle Lake; the Knockreer House & Gardens, once part of the Kenmare Estate; Ladies View, a scenic viewpoint on the Ring of Kerry drive, as well as two beautiful waterfalls, O’Sullivan’s Cascade and Torc Waterfall.