Kenmare Demense and Lough Leane

KENMARE DEMESNE AND LOUGH LEANE: 1. The Game Wood and Reen Wood: These are mixed woods with a series of old paths, close to the shores of Lough Leane. These low-lying woods are wet under foot, and even the paths may flood when lake levels rise.
2. Knockreer House: A modern House with superb views over Lough Leane. It is situated west of Killarney Town in perfectly laid out gardens. The House serves as the National Park Research and Education Centre.
3. Deenagh Lodge: This thatched cottage was built in 1843 and was initially the gate lodge of the Kenmare Demesne. There were many thatched cottages on the estate and this is the only survivor. It is now open each summer as a tearoom.
4. Cloghmochuda: The stone of Cudda, originally a “bullann” used for grinding corn. It has two hollows on its surface, said to be always filled with water. Used as a Mass Rock during Penal times it is alleged to have curative properties.
5. Ross Island: This is more a peninsula than an island and can be reached via the public road to Ross Castle. The area is heavily wooded with a network of paths leading to attractive viewing places overlooking Lough Leane. Here the remains of copper mines both prehistoric and 19th century are visible.


Built on the shores of Lough Lein and giving its name to that portion known as the Bay of Castlelough. The ruins can still be seen in the grounds of The Lake Hotel. This district in early times was known as Eoghanacht Loch Lein. The ruling families there descended from Eoghan or Owen. Other branches of the same family ruled various parts of Cork, Limerick and Tipperary. Their descendants today are known by the family names of O’Sullivans, O’Donoghues, O’Mahoneys, O’Moriartys, O’Keeffes, O’Donovans and McCarthys.
In 1152 Turlogh O’Connor acting High King divided Munster between Dermot McCarthy and Donal O’Brien and they both paid homage to him.
Dermod McCarthy was King of Desmond, his lands extended from Lismore County Waterford to Mount Brandon County Kerry, this area was known as South Munster. In 1172 Henry 2nd of England arrived in Waterford and the two Kings swore allegiance to the English King.
When Henry 2nd came to Ireland many English Nobles who were land hungry came with him. Many years passed before the English Nobles invaded South Kerry. A war broke out in 1214 between two McCarthy kinsmen and soon after amid the confusion many Anglo- Norman Castles were built. The Fitzgerald’s built those of Dunloe and Killorglin, the Fitzmaurices at Molahiffe, the Carews at Ardtully near Kilgarvan and the Roches at Oirbealach. The Castle on the Lake was probably first erected by the Roches as Oirbealach extended along the shores of Loch Lein.
In 1261 and 1262 an army led by the McCarthy’s from West Cork invaded Kerry and slew Gerald Roche. Cormac McCarthy fell in battle and a cairn on Mangerton marks the spot where he died. After this the McCarthy’s ruled South Kerry from their three Castles, that of Ballycarberry near Cahirciveen and Pallas and Castlelough near Killarney. McCarthy Mor was the Chief of the McCarthy’s and he was given rents and services from, O’Sullivan Bere,O’Sullivan Mor, O’Donoghue Mor and O’Donoghue of Glenflesk and many lesser lords in Kerry and Cork.
It is recorded in the “Annals of Innisfallen” the passing of Donal Og McCarthy King of the Irish of Desmond in1390 at his Castle at Lough Lein and also that of his son Teigh in1428 in his Castle at Ballycarberry. According to the “Annals of the Four Masters” the sons of another McCarthy Chief known as Cormac Lyragh were expelled from Castlelough in 1517.
Queen Elizabeth 1st in 1565 created Donal McCarthy Mor Earl of Glencar, however in 1569 he joined the Desmond rebellion. When the rebellion was defeated in 1571 Donal surrendered and was pardoned. The Earl of Desmond was slain in 1583 and new grants were issued for the lands of the Earl of Desmond. These were good reliable English Tenants known as “undertakers”. Among them were the Browns, later to become the Earls of Kenmare and the Herbert’s, who eventually owned Muckross House. Around 1588 the Earl of Glencar mortgaged Castlelough to a kinsman Florence McCarthy, who married Lady Ellen his daughter, to the dislike of the English settlers in Kerry and Cork. Florence was detained in the Tower of London and Lady Ellen was detained in Cork. In February 1589 Lady Ellen with the help of one of her maids escaped from Cork and vanished. Sir Warham St. Ledger the Queens President of Munster urged Queen Elizabeth 1st to claim Castlelough. Florence died in the Tower in 1640.
In 1605 Lady Ellen got back a portion of her fathers lands with the remainder going to her sons. Her illegimate brother Donal McCarthy got a grant for Castlelough. He was known as “Dan the Feathers” in local tradition because of his passion for taking the feathers from the plumed helmets of Queen Elizabeth’s troops. English chivalry dubbed him “The Robin Hood of Munster”. Some time later Lady Ellen’s younger son Florence was recorded as living there.
This Florence McCarthy stood under the banner of the Confederation of Kilkenny in 1642. This war lasted until 1652 when a last stand was made at Ross castle and Castlelough. Castlelough was battered by Cromwellian troops. The Irish surrendered and the Cromwellian Wars in Ireland ended on the shores of Lough Lein.
Charles 2nd was restored to the English throne and all the lands at Muckross, Cahernane, Pallas and Castlelough were restored to Dame Sarah McCarthy- ne McDonnell, sister to the Marquis of Antrim. Her son granted Castlelough to his cousin Denis McCarthy and it remained in the family until the reign of George 2nd. It was then sold to Colonel William Crosbie.
Further dealings in Castlelough were by way of ordinary sale and purchase. Finally a mansion was built in view of the ruined castle and the Lalor family of Killarney purchased this mansion. There is a record of a Mrs. Martin Lawler in her 94th year dying at Castlelough House. John Shine Lalor her grandson was a poet and an intimate friend of Daniel O’Connell- the Liberator- he was arrested during the insurrection of 1848.
The mansion eventually became the lake Hotel and in 1852 was owned by Thomas Cotter.
Mr. Hillard of Killarney purchased it in 1897 and subsequently sold it in 1940 to Mr. And Mrs. Huggard of Waterville and it became one of their family Hotels. Anyone interested in visiting the castle ruins may ask at the Lake Hotel.

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