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A tour of Muckross Traditional Farms transports you back to three 1930s farms in Co. Kerry, Ireland. Located on a hill above Muckross House, in Killarney National Park, the replica working farms are open between mid-March and October.

Medium-sized farmhouse with thatched roof and laborer's cottage
Medium-sized farmhouse with thatched roof and laborer's cottage
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

When you buy admission tickets, you get a Muckross Farms map for a self-guided one-hour tour. Frank Walsh, our Ring of Kerry guide, added a local's perspective to our tour.

Things to do

Activities, listed on a blackboard sign at the entrance, change seasonally.

Summer activities, on the day we visited, included hand-milking, separating milk and cream, bread-baking and butter-making. There were lots of things for kids to see and do at Muckross Farms, including petting Irish wolfhound pups.

Peat cutting

We first visited a small Co. Kerry farm, about 20 acres (eight ha) in size. Inside, the lady of the house (bean an ti in Irish/Gaelic) placed bricks of peat in the fireplace.

Wheelbarrow with peat blocks
Wheelbarrow with peat blocks
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Outside the whitewashed building, we saw a wheelbarrow filled with blocks of peat. Frank Walsh picked up a brick of the compacted, partially decomposed organic turf and explained the differences between cutting peat in the old days and today.

"Traditionally, peat-cutters carefully hand-cut the turf into precise shapes with a spade, called a slane. Modern peat diggers use a track digger to scoop up the peat and squeeze it out from the hopper into sausage-like briquettes."

Farm houses and cottages

We walked past gardens, planted with onions, greens and potatoes, to a small white cottage. Farm workers occupied cottages. Frank Walsh explained that it was an insult to call a farm house a cottage, because "cottage" implied no land.

At the medium-sized, 50 acre (20 ha)-Muckross farm, we noticed that the whitewashed stone buildings had different roofs. "When corrugated iron became available, farmers used it to replace thatched roofs," said Walsh.

Irish griddle bread

Inside, the woman of the house (bean an ti) placed wedges of griddle bread dough on a cast iron griddle, suspended over a fire in the kitchen fireplace. "I have seven kids," she said. "So I cut the dough into seven even pieces."

Woman places griddle bread over fire in farmhouse.
Woman places griddle bread over fire in farmhouse.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

She gave us the recipe for Irish griddle bread: white flour, fresh milk, a half-teaspoon of baking soda and a half-teaspoon of salt, mixed into a dough. "After it has baked, I serve it for dinner with bacon and cabbage."

We walked to the large Muckross farm, about 120 acres (49 ha) in size. Chickens cackled outside in the courtyard. Three children reached into a pigpen to pet piglets, nursing on a sow.

Flailing sticks hung from the rafters, inside the dwelling. A wicker knitting basket, containing a ball of wool and knitting needles, rested on the sill next to a window draped with a white lace curtain.

Blacksmith heats iron in fire.
Blacksmith heats iron in fire.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Photos on our Muckross Farms map helped us identify antique farm equipment, including a swath turner (which flipped over mown hay) and a turnip and mangel seeder. Mangels (sour, turnip-like vegetables) were used as pig feed.

Our Muckross Traditional Farms tour continued to the saddler's workshop. Harnesses, horse collars and bridles filled the shed.

The sound of clanking metal drew us into the dark, smoky blacksmith's workshop. We watched the blacksmith heat a piece of iron in the fire and hammer a hole in it.

After leaving the blacksmith's shop, we passed a lime kiln, which was used to burn lime to make fertilizer. In the field behind it, a farmer raked a field with a team of horses.

Our Muckross Farms walk was a worthwhile time-trip back to the 1930s, before electricity and mechanization replaced traditional farm equipment and methods in Killarney, Ireland.


Muckross Traditional Farms: www.muckross-house.ie/farms/intro.htm

Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

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

Lakes of Killarney National Park Boat Tours

Muckross Abbey - Killarney National Park Ireland

Ross Castle - Killarney National Park Ireland

Torc Waterfall to Ladies View - Killarney National Park Ireland