NavBarWide2015 Linda Clifford Home Page Scottish & Irish Kilt Info Information on Scottish & Irish Tartans Irish Pottery & Crystal Celtic Jewelry About Linda Clifford Celtic Resources Celtic Culture

Muckross House County Kerry Ireland

Muckross House

by Chris Pauls

If you find yourself in County Kerry Ireland, a special place to visit is Killarney National Park - the first national park in the country. Home to native oaks and Ireland’s scarcest native tree, the yew, the park has been designated as a Natural Heritage Area.

Located within the park is Muckross House, set on a Peninsula in Muckross Lake.  The word Muckross means “the wood of the pig.” It is believed that this refers to pigs using the woods as a pasture. Despite its dubious name, Muckross House and its surrounding property is spectacular, with incredible views of both Lake Muckross and McGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range.

History

Muckross House was built in 1843 for politician Henry Arthur Hebert and his wife, water-colorist Mary Balfour Hebert.  The house was designed by Scottish architect William Burn, who also built Inverness Castle and Dumferline Abbey. Muckross House boasts sixty-five rooms, but it was originally intended to be larger and ornate. It is believed Mary had a hand in reducing the size and splendor of it. Today, visitors can tour the home and see the style and day-to-day living of both the family and the servants during the mid-eighteen hundreds.

In the late 1850’s the Hebert family was told that Queen Victoria was planning a visit to Ireland and wanted to spend some time at Muckross House. Many intricate and expensive preparations were made for this important visit. Items were specially purchased for the occasion, including tapestries, carpets, silverware, linen, crystal, servant’s uniforms and more. Incidentally, the dining room curtains currently hanging in Muckross House are those that the family commissioned for the Queen’s visit. In addition, extensive work was done in the House’s garden. In 1861, the Queen, Albert, the Prince Consort, Prince Alfred and Princesses Alice and Helena visited for two nights during her trip through Ireland. 

Unfortunately the family’s finances deteriorated; perhaps in part to the Queen’s visit and, coupled with declining rents, in 1897 the Hebert’s were refused any further loans. In 1899 the Estate was forfeited to Standard Life Assurance Company who placed the House and Estate up for auction. Arthur Guinness, founder of Guinness Brewery, who was related through marriage to the Hebert family, purchased the Estate because he wanted to preserve its dramatic landscape.

The family spent very little time at the property so Muckross House was rented as a shooting and fishing lodge.  In 1910, wealthy American, William Bowers Bourn rented the Estate. His only child Maud was to marry Arthur Rose Vincent, and William purchased the Muckross property as a wedding gift.  Maud and Arthur traveled rather extensively, but considered the Estate their home.

Between 1911 and 1932 the family made lavish improvements to the Estate and it was during this time that Muckross’s Sunken Garden was designed and planted.

The Rock Garden was created on a natural outcrop of limestone and the Stream Garden was landscaped.  Maud died of pneumonia in 1929 and while Arthur and their children continued to live at Muckross House for an additional three years, in 1932, Arthur, in concert with his parents-in-law, presented Muckross and its property to the Irish Nation. The Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Bill went before the Irish Parliament in 1932. It stated that the Commissioners of Public Works were required to “maintain and manage the Park as a National Park for the purpose of the recreation and enjoyment of the public.”

Muckross Gardens

What to See

Muckross House:  You will not want to miss the fifty-five minute escorted tour. Experience the grandeur of how the gentry lived and where the servants lived and worked.

The Gardens:  A must see are the three Muckross Gardens, known worldwide for their beauty.  The Sunken Garden is full of magnificent azaleas and rhododendrons; the Rock Garden has been hewn out of natural limestone, and the Stream Garden has an extensive water garden. Each is uniquely beautiful.

Muckross Traditional Farms: A trip to the Farms will take you back in time to the 1930s and 40s. See for yourself how life was then: no electricity or running water!  There are three different farms to visit each with its own distinctive style.  For the younger set, there is a small Farm Animal Petting area complete with a sheltered picnic and play area.

Mucros Craft Centre: In addition to the House, Gardens, and Farms, be sure to visit the Mucros Craft Centre. (Mucros is the Irish name for Muckross).  The Centre offers a wide variety of quality weaving, pottery, bookbinding, craft and souvenir items.

  • Mucros Weavers, where spinning and weaving is still performed the traditional way and the weavers make colorful scarves, tweed vests, caps, rugs as well as bags. Beautiful, handmade items have been crafted here and will be treasured for years to come.
  • Mucros Pottery is also on-site and a visitor can see and purchase a wide-range of hand-thrown pottery. Potter Margaret Phelan uses unique glazes that distinguish her designs by using honey and blue colored glazes. These pieces will be cherished for sure!
  • The Mucros Craft Shop has both traditional and contemporary clothing and knitwear. The giftware section has a wide range of traditional Irish gifts, including jewelry and books, handbags to name a few.
  • Mucros Bindery is found adjacent to the Craft Centre where old-style bookbinding skills are used to repair rare books, maps, manuscripts or anything on paper that needs work damaged by age, water or fire.

And don’t miss The Garden Restaurant. The picturesque setting on the grounds at Muckross in Killarney National Park is a perfect way to enjoy the majestic views of the Torc and Mangerton Mountains and the lovely views of the Walled Garden area.

The Muckross House has a wide-range of events on their calendar. A sample of August and September 2013 included activities such as: a Hurling Tournament, Butter Making, Demonstrations on how to make Biddy Hats and Sugán  Chairs, Basket Making, Intro to Hand Thrown Pottery and Introduction to Irish Harp, just to name a few.

What better way than to spend the day in this spectacular historic mansion and grounds. A must see for those travelers headed for Ireland.