Kilarney National Park
South and west of the town of Killarney in Co. Kerry is an expanse of rugged mountainous country. This includes the McGillycuddy's Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland which rise to a height of over 1000 metres. At the foot of these mountains nestle the world famous lakes of Killarney.
Here where the mountains sweep down to the lake shores, their lower slopes covered in woodlands, lies the 10,236 hectare (26,000 acres), Killarney National Park . The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls under ever changing skies gives the area a special scenic beauty.
The nucleus of the National Park is the 4,300 hectare Bourn Vincent Memorial Park which was presented to the Irish State in 1932 by Senator Arthur Vincent and his parent-in-law, Mr and Mrs William Bowers Bourn in memory of Senator Vincent's late wife Maud.
The focal point of the National Park for visitors is Muckross House and Gardens. The house which is presented as a late 19 th century mansion featuring all the necessary furnishings and artefacts of the period is a major visitor attraction is jointly managed by the Park Authorities and the Trustees of Muckross House.
The former Kenmare Desmene close to Killarney Town is also part of the National Park and features Killarney House and Gardens and Knockreer House which is the education centre of the park.
Killarney National Park contains many features of national and international importance such as the native oakwoods and yew woods together with an abundance of evergreen trees and shrubs and a profusion of bryophytes and lichens which thrive in the mild Killarney climate. The native red deer are unique in Ireland with a presence in the country since the last Ice Age.
Killarney National Park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), part of a world network of natural areas which have conservation, research, education and training as major objectives.
Human presence in the Killarney area dates back at least to the early Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago, when copper was first mined at Ross Island . In early Christian times, monastic settlements provide the main evidence of the occupation of the area. The most important of these was the monastery on Innisfallen founded by St. Finian the Leper. The "Annals of Innisfallen", written there in the 11th-13th centuries, are a major source of information on the early history of Ireland .
Following the Norman invasion of Ireland the lands around the Lakes were held by McCarthy Mór and O'Donoghues of Ross. Later the lands came into the hands of the Herberts of Muckross and the Earls of Kenmare respectively. In 1911 the Muckross Estate was purchased by Mr. W. B. Bourn as a wedding gift for his daughter, Maud, on her marriage to Arthur Vincent. Muckross Abbey, a Franciscan Friary, was founded in 1448 by Donal McCarthy Mór. These well-preserved ruins were the burial place of local Chieftains and, in the 17th and 18th centuries, of the Kerry Poets, Aodhgan O' Raithaile, Eoghan Rua O' Sullivan, Piaras Feiriteir and Seafraidh O' Donoghue.