Ross Castle in Killarney National Park
Ross Castle is a 15th century stronghold situated in County Kerry. If you’re not quite sure where or what County Kerry is, just think of Kerry Gold butter, one of the loveliest butters you can get at a supermarket anywhere in the world, made from milk farmed from cows that feed on the county’s verdant green pastureland.
Ross Castle is a place of military significance for Ireland, being amongst the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell during the Irish Confederate Wars. Because of this, Ross Castle is a symbol of resistance against the English crown and is of great significance to the people of Ireland.
The castle sits on the edge of Lough Leane, the largest of Killarney’s three lakes. During the war, there was a prophecy that the castle would never be taken until ships could sail on Lough Leane. The prophercy ended up being self fulfilling when the English, who knew of it, used oxen to drag a number of ships across the land towards the castle. This greatly unnerved the population seeking protection in the fortress and caused them to surrender.
Today the castle and the surrounding land is peaceful, the perfect picture of tranquillity. You couldn’t imagine that this place was once a seat of great conflict. From the castle, you can look down over the rolling hills of Kerry, dotted with many cows.
We took a tour of the castle, which I enjoyed greatly. There were many architectural details, selectively restored, that told the story of the castle during the war and the years that came after. The narrative was captivating, and I could imagined myself as one of the many characters who lived in Ross Castle during this difficult time.
Besides the castle, the grounds surrounding it are also a delight to stroll around. Dominated by rich green grass and the glistering waters of the lake, we had a great time soaking in some sun after our tour. I know Ireland isn’t exactly known for the amount of sunshine it receives, but when we were there, it was so hot – and there wasn’t much shade by the way of trees on the grounds – I felt slightly sun burned after our trip!
Apart from the stunning landscape, there’s also quite a bit of fauna to be observed. We spotted some beautiful speckled deer and a mother swan with her cygnets.
The animals here are used to tourist and aren’t shy at all, so we could get fairly close to them. But it’s important to know that they are still wild – or feral – and we kept at a safe distance.
When we were leaving, I couldn’t help but continually turn back to take another last glimpse of Ross Castle. For centuries, it has stood, strong and proud by Lough Leane, a fortress providing safety for its inhabitants and the population that lived around it. Today, it is an empty shell, a reminder of more violent times, and a testament to how much we have achieved in terms of peace and harmony in this part of the world.