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The picturesque ruins of a Franciscan friary, Muckross Abbey, are a short walk from Muckross House, in Killarney National Park. Admission is free.

Visitors enter Muckross Abbey.
Visitors enter Muckross Abbey.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Donal McCarthy Mor built Muckross Abbey from local limestone in 1448. The ruins are well-preserved, even though the abbey was damaged and restored many times.

Walking trail

It took us 10 minutes to walk to Muckross Abbey, along a trail that runs northeast from Muckross House. A cemetery surrounds the roofless ruins.

Inside the central courtyard, is a huge yew tree. Claimed to be over 500 years old, it grew from a yew tree sapling brought from Innisfallen Abbey.

We could almost hear the Franciscan monks saying their prayers, as they walked around the cloister surrounding the courtyard. The abbey's tower, constructed after the church was built, is as wide as the church.

Celtic cross
Celtic cross
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

We wandered through the Abbot's house, the kitchen and refectory, where the monks ate. Light from a slot window illuminated a curved stone staircase.

Celtic crosses

Inside and outside the abbey, stone Celtic crosses (Christian crosses with sun or wreath symbols behind) marked graves. Inscriptions are in English and Irish/Gaelic.

Although Muckross Abbey contains tombs of 15th-century Gaelic chieftains, and 17th-century Kerry poets (O'Suillebhain, O'Donoghue and O'Rathaille), it is still an active cemetery for local people.

Oliver Cromwell's troops drove the Franciscan friars from Muckross Abbey when they looted and burned it in 1652. Today, it is a beautiful monument to Irish history, religion and architecture.

Driving directions to Muckross Abbey

Follow N71 (Muckross Road) 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Killarney, Co. Kerry. A parking lot is nearby.


Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Gap of Dunloe Tours - Hike, Bike or Jaunting Car?

Muckross Traditional Farms Tour - Killarney Ireland

Ross Castle - Killarney National Park Ireland

Kerry Way or Ring of Kerry Ireland Tours?

Torc Waterfall to Ladies View - Killarney National Park Ireland