Ross Castle

Situated 2.5km from the town centre off the main Killarney to Kenmare Road, built in the 15th century. Ross castle in tradition and legend is connected with the race of O’Donoghue Mor. After the battle of Clontarf in 1014 the O’Donoghue’s were forced westward by their kinsmen the O’Mahonys and they in turn dispossessed the Moriartys, O’Carrolls and other families of the same Eoghanacht race from the territories around the Lower Lake of Killarney.
A fortress, which stood on the bridge of Castlemaine, marked the dividing line between the Earl of Desmond’s territory and the McCarthy Mor’s lands of South Kerry and the O’Donoghues of Ross castle. When the Earl of Desmond unfurled his standard at Ballyhoura in 1579 the O’Donoghues sided with him. After the Earls defeat the McCarthy Mor claimed Ross Castle and mortgaged it to the Brownes. In 1588 a royal grant was made to Sir Valentine Browne and his son Nicholas for Ross Castle with its demesne lands, and a town called Killarney, with small islands called Loughlene, Innisfallen and Muckross, the whole containing 6,560 acres. Rory O’Donoghue alias O’Donoghue Mor the former owner was slain in a rebellion near the country of Carberry on August 20th 1583.
Legend maintains that the uneasy spirit of its founding Chieftain rises from the lower lake on a white horse every 1st of May. The Brownes who were catholic intermarried with the O’Sullivans and the McCarthys of Muskerry. They fought with the Catholics in the great struggle, which lasted from 1641 to 1652. When the Munster forces under Donogh McCarthy, chief of Muskerry was defeated by Cromwellian forces at Knocknaclashy near Banteer in July 1652 he retired to Ross castle. The Parliamentarian General Ludlow followed with an army of 4,000-foot soldiers and 2,000 horse soldiers and laid siege to the castle. Being well defended on the landward side Ludlow got Thomas Chudleigh of Kinsale County Cork to assemble a number of ships, sail them to the mouth of the River Laune, haul them to Lough Lein and attack the castle from the lake. Ross Castle surrendered on honourable terms.
After the restoration of Charles 2nd in England, the lands and castle were restored to the Brownes. A mansion house was erected near the castle in 1688. In 1689 James 2nd of England conferred the title Earl of Kenmare on Sir Valentine Browne. Again Sir Valentine stood with James 2nd against William 3rd (William of Orange of the Battle of the Boyne fame) and again lost his lands.
John Argill bought them for £3,000 in 1703. He was a relation of the Brownes and sold them back to the family. A military barracks was built adjacent to the castle and a military garrison occupied both. An English officer called Captain Hall re-opened the old copper mines in 1804 and it was worked profitably for a number of years.
In 1721 the Brownes built the “Old Killarney House”. It was demolished in 1870, when the new Killarney House was built. A beautiful mansion artistically furnished and a source of delight to tourists. It was accidentally burnt down in 1913 and only a shell remains but it is worth a visit because of the beautiful views from its terraces. The stables that were attached to the house were converted into a residence under the supervision of the famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. This is now known as Killarney House and was sold to Mr John McShain in 1958 after the death of the last Earl of Kenmare.
Ross Castle’s four floors including great hall, parlour and bedchamber, have been restored, employing traditional mediaeval construction methods. The tower house is surrounded by a fortified enclosure or bawn. The castle is open to the public

Leave a Reply