Professor William O’Brien conducted excavations on the lake shore from 1992 until 1996 which uncovered copper mines along with tens of thousands of stone hammers that were used to work them. Flooding of the mines was not uncommon; the main eastern mine is completely under water while the western mine at the entrance remains visible as it protrudes into 8m of limestone. They discovered that the mines were manipulated by lighting fires on the rock face whist using tools to break the rock. The rock was processed into copper ore at a work station that lay near the entrance to the mine itself. More than 11 oval/rectangle shaped houses comprised of stakes and trenches were also identified close to the work camp.
The sheer importance of the copper mines on Ross Island is that they are the earliest known copper mines to serve Ireland and Britain. A walking trail leading past many of the old copper mine sites and entrance to the mine was opened to the public in 2004. This leisurely and very enjoyable walk offers fantastic views of Lough Leane, Tomies and Shehy Mountains.
It is also believed that the monastery on Innisfallen Island is closely linked with the monastery at Aghadoe; reference is first made to their relationship in the Annals of Innisfallen while also a great scholar of Innisfallen was buried in Aghadoe in 1010 AD. The round tower began construction in 1027; with the 12th century came new rulers, Eóganacht Locha Léin, who constructed a new church in Romanesque style called the ‘Great Church’. The church was finally completed by the end of the 12th century with the addition of a chancel; this was later segregated from the rest of the church by a wall.
Two ogham stones were discovered on site; these findings suggest how important the site was dating from the mid-7th century. One stone remains cemented into the south wall of the chancel while the other went missing. Another artefact called a ‘Ballaun’ can be found outside on the north-west corner of the church; it was used to gather holy water and was also believed to have brought great healing powers.
Ross Castle was amongst the last castle in Ireland to surrender to Cromwell’s forces during the Irish Confederates War. Another legend surrounding Ross Castle said that it would only surrender if a ship were to sail on the lakes; artillery forces arrived via the River Laune where General Ludlow attacked and took ownership of the stronghold. When the wars were over, the Brownes stated that the heir was far too young to have been involved in the rebellion and so were in a position to retain the ownership of Ross Castle and lands.
Due to the Browne’s relationship with James II of England, they were exiled from the property around 1688. Thereafter, the castle was operated as a military barracks and remained so until the 19th century.
The grounds of Muckross Abbey became a burial ground during the 17th and 18th century for the infamous Kerry poets; O’Donoghue, Ó Rathaille and Ó Súilleabháin. Today the cemetery also consists of many priests and local families.
Minor additions were made in 1869 with the introduction of an organ and mirrors. However the final effort to complete the project came in 1907 when architects Ashlin and Coleman were appointed to complete Pugin’s design. The aisles and nave were extended by 8.2 metres which created two new bays, a new mortuary and sacristy were built, pinnacles added to flanking turrets at the west and east ends and most notably the spire standing at 86.8 metres high was erected; all works completed by 1912.
Due to renovations in 1973 by Ray Carroll of Dublin and Daniel J. Kennedy of Tralee, the interior was both gutted and greatly damaged; reconstruction took place from 1972 until 1973 incurring a cost of £278,500. The approach by the two architects was nothing short of radical, which resulted in none of the former interior remaining, apart from a few small areas.
Astonishingly, the Herbert’s began extensive works on the house and gardens in 1850 in preparation for Queen Victoria’s looming visit in 1961. During the following number of years, the Herbert’s experienced significant financial strain and these said works are believed to have made it unbearable, so much so that it forced the sale of the Muckross Estate. It was purchased by Arthur Guinness in 1899 who wished nothing more than to preserve the estate in its natural setting. Some years later in 1911, the Muckross Estate was again sold to a wealthy mining entrepreneur, William Bowers Bourn. As a wedding gift, William and his wife presented the Muckross Estate to their daughter Maud and son-in-law Arthur Rose Vincent. The couple resided at Muckross until Maud’s death in 1929.
In 1932, a number of years after Maud’s death, Mr & Mrs Bourn and Arthur Vincent very generously presented Muckross House and 11,000 acres of estate to the Irish State. The donation of Muckross combined with Mrs Beatrice Grosvenor gifting Knnockreer and Killarney House formed Killarney National Park; Ireland’s oldest and largest National Park.