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Ireland’s first National Park lies to the south and west of Killarney town at the foot of Ireland’s highest mountain range, The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. Killarney National Park contains the most extensive areas of natural woodland remaining in Ireland. The park today covers an area of over 26,000 acres with numerous walking trails. The park also boasts the three world famous Lakes of Killarney. The Country’s oldest National Park sits on what was the Muckross Estate, which was donated to the nation in 1932. The house and gardens are now a major tourist attraction in their own right. The park has been wooded for around 10,000 years and contains some unique plants and animals. Our homes are located literally across from this national treasure and you can enter the park on foot or on bicycle which is even better in less than five minutes by following the wooded path into Muckross and emerge by the stunning Lakes of Killarney.
A traditional feature of Killarney is its jaunting cars which are available for hire in the town or in National Park itself near Muckross House and at other locations adjoining the National Park. During your stay in Killarney you can enjoy the many walking trails in the National Park and don’t forget your camera as you might get the opportunity to photograph some rare red deer. We were delighted to accommodate the film crew of CTL Film Productions in our home recently last October who were filming the Red Deer for an upcoming documentary appearing next spring.The park is excellent for cycling also with its numerous trails and woodland/lake side paths. A trip to Dinis cottage for the more energetic is highly recommended for cyclists as you will pass through beautiful woodlands and lakes en-route to the cottage where a refreshing drink and homemade baking await. Due to the vast expanse of the park, it is possible to travel many different routes on different days to explore this magnificent natural treasure.
Animals, Wildlife & Woodlands of the park:
In the upland areas of the National Park, especially on the slopes of Torc and Mangerton, roam the only native herd of Red Deer remaining in the country. Now numbering over 650, this herd has had a continuous existence since the return of Red Deer to Ireland, possibly with human assistance, some 4,000 years ago. Japanese Sika Deer, introduced to Killarney in 1865, are found not only on the open mountain but also throughout the woodlands. Most of the other native mammals, as well as the long established introduced species, occur in the Park. Worthy of note is the Bank Vole, a species first identified in 1964 in north west Kerry from where its range has expanded and now includes the National Park.
With the varied habitats of mountain moorland, woodland and lake, the Park is rich in bird life. On the uplands, the most common birds are the Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Raven. Peregrine Falcons and Merlins are occasionally seen. The woodlands support characteristic bird communities with the Chaffinch and Robin as the most common breeders. The aquatic habitats are home for Heron, Mallard, Little Grebe and Water Rail which all breed around the Lakes, while the Kingfisher and the Dipper are frequently seen on the rivers and streams. In both winter and summer, native bird populations are augmented by migrant species. In winter, for example, a small flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese from the world population of around 12,000 feed in the Killarney Valley. Natural stocks of Brown Trout and Salmon inhabit the lakes and fishing for these is free, subject only to the usual Salmon licence regulations. The lakes also contain populations of Char, usually a fish of Sub- Arctic lakes, and of Killarney Shad, a small lake-dwelling form of Twaite Shad.
Within the National Park are the most extensive areas of natural woodland remaining in the country. On the Old Red Sandstone of which the mountains are composed, are the native oakwoods, dominated by Sessile Oak with Holly and other evergreens as the under-storey. On the low-lying Carboniferous Limestone on the lake edges, swamp forest is dominated by Alder, while on the limestone reefs of the Muckross Peninsula is a unique Yew Wood. The mild oceanic climate permits a luxuriant growth of mosses and filmy ferns, many of them growing as epiphytes on the branches and trunks of the trees. In the uplands, the Park contains interesting areas of bog and moorland vegetation. Quite a number of plant species found within the Park have interesting or unusual geographic distributions and are of localised occurrence within Ireland. These fall into four main categories;- Atlantic species, the North American element, Arctic-Alpine plants and very rare plants. The Atlantic species are those found otherwise mainly in Southern and South-Western Europe. Examples of these are the Arbutus, St. Patrick’s Cabbage and Greater Butterwort. The North American element includes the Blue-eyed Grass and Pipewort.
The Killarney National Park Visitor Centre at Muckross House is the main Information Office and is open on a year round basis. It includes an audiovisual introduction to the Park and exhibition area showing features of the ecology of the Park. Publications on sale include booklets for the self-guiding nature trails, illustrated guide books and a large scale Ordnance Survey map of the Park.