Killarney Lakes

Killarney Lakes

Killarney's verdant and magnificent setting is a blend of geology, geography and climate. Fold ranges of Old Red Sandstone, forming Ireland's highest mountains, reach 3,414 feet in Carrantuohill nearby. The low ground is Carboniferous Limestone. The region has the highest rainfall, and the Atlantic Gulf Stream warms it, producing mild conditions the year round. Muckross Lake, like Lough Leane, is essentially a solution depression in the limestone of which ragged skerries are relics. Immediately in view, the Colleen Bawn Rock was so named in recent times for the tragic beauty whose fate inspired Benedict's opera The Lily of Killarney. Underfoot, the path is made from waste of the old Muckross mines. They were worked in prehistoric times (sandstone mauls can still be picked out of the debris) and more recently by the Herbert family to whom the notorious Raspe was advisor. He died in 1794 and his remains lie in the hill-top cemetery a few miles to the east.

Its natural circumstances ensure that Killarney holds much interesting natural history. Ireland's oldest National Park here embraces the largest of its native oak woods. Evergreen arbutus and holly are lower canopy members of this forest whose ground flora abounds in ferns, liverworts and mosses. In fact, three fourths of all the moss species in the country are recorded here. The little Killarney fern (Trichomanes) is at home in the spray of its waterfalls, and royal fern flourishes as nowhere else. Ireland's sole native herd of red deer inhabits the woods and uplands. Even the lakes have their distinctive inhabitants. The Killarney shad is a unique form (Killarniensis) of one of the marine herring family which migrates into estuaries to breed. It seems to have been cut off in a former marine extension here and has since developed into a purely freshwater creature with its own characteristics.