Ireland – Day 8: Part I

Posted: August 3, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Day 8: Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, Jaunting Car, Killarney National Park

I’ve been dragging my feet blogging about our last day, because I’m not ready for the reminiscing to be over! However, as anyone who follows me on Facebook may know already, I’m plotting a new book set in Ireland (historical, which is something new for me!) and so will just have to make another trip again soon. The new trip will be a lot less touristy, but a lot more intensive and will, I hope, steep me in the history and heart of the country. Can’t wait!

In the meantime…our last day in Ireland started with fairy flowers right outside our B&B.

Don’t they look like little fairies? Aren’t they amazing? I don’t know how I’ve hit my ripe old age without ever seeing fuschia (which is what I learned they were), but through the magic of Ireland (and Facebook friends), we are strangers no more.

Next we were off to Muckross House and a walk around the grounds. Again, we weren’t sure that we’d have time for the full tour, not with so much else on our agenda for the day, but… Well, where a mansion tour didn’t convince us to slow our pace, the idea of taking a jaunting car to see Muckross Abbey and the scenic Killarney National Park and Torc Waterfall did. The driver (coming up in a moment) called Muckross a “year house” — a window for every day, a chimney for every week.

A jaunting car is a horse and carriage. I missed our guide’s name, but he told us that our horse was named Pascal and that he was part Clydesdale. When I asked him about the other half, he told me he was “Irish draft” and that Pascal was a “typical Irish horse—works one day, drinks Guinness the next.” Our first stop was Muckross Abbey, which the “Kerry Gems” guidebook we’d picked up at our B&B called “Holy but haunted”. I don’t know about that. For me it was amazing and maybe even a little spiritual. I felt like we’d saved the best for last, at least in terms of abbeys. So much of this was still standing, and the peace and serenity could still be felt. According to the guide, it was built in 1448 as a friary for the Observantine Franciscans and contains the tombs of Gaelic chieftans. And where I felt tranquility, the writer of this blurb found “eerie chambers, gloomy staircases and a yew shaded cloister”. The yew tree, which grows right up through the center of the courtyard is said to be as old as the abbey. The story is that it was grown from a clipping taken from a yew at Innisfallen Abbey. Ciaran McHugh Photography has a great picture of the tree, and a note that Bram Stoker himself was a regular visitor to the area and was likely inspired by the abbey. The write-up there says, “An old local ghost story called ‘The Brown Man’ tells of a mysterious stranger who is found by his newlywed wife alongside a freshly dug grave at Muckross Abbey feeding on the corpse within – a story which bares some ghoulish similarities to Bram Stoker’s own epic vampire horror novel.” So, literary and historical and entirely worth seeing. Unfortunately, Cromwell’s soldiers did their best to destroy the friary in 1652, killing monks, looting and burning.

There are so many amazing stories centering around Muckross Abbey, like the secret wedding of Florence McCarthy and his cousin Lady Eileen McCarthy, and this Rip-van-Winkle-esque tale of a monk who never returned to his home monastery at Innisfallen after going to Muckross for an emergency supply of wine! When I come back, I’d love to spend more time in the Killarney area, which has SO much to see, and to go out to the ruins of Inisfallen.

We didn’t realized that we’d picked marathon day for our jaunt, and Pascal was a little disconcerted by the runners coming for him head on, especially the ones so in the zone they didn’t see our horse and carriage until we were practically on top of them, despite our driver’s shouted warning! We weren’t going quickly enough that anyone was likely to be hurt, but still…   One of the best moments of the jaunt came when we hit one of the checkpoints for the marathon and our driver called out to those picking up discarded water bottles, “Got any Guinness for me horse?” One of the men cocked an eyebrow and offered, “Whiskey?” to which our driver responded, “Nah, me horse is a Guinness drinker” and we moved on. Poor horse never did get his tipple!

Torc Waterfall was next and was seriously, seriously beautiful, as you can see from the pictures. We were saddened as our driver, who’d told us all about various trees and sites along our jaunt, pulled back into the lot in front of Muckross Abbey, but then, at least we had Blarney Castle to console us!

Ah ha, there’s so much here already, I can draw things out just a touch more by posting that part of our trip later today.

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