Knockreer to Mission Road
Returning towards the Cathedral grounds, head over the King’s Bridge that crosses the Deenagh River. Looking back from here you can enjoy a lovely view of the fine group of ecclesiastical buildings of St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Old Presentation Convent and Monastery and St Brendan’s Seminary. These beautiful buildings stand as a testament to the vision of A.W. Pugin and to the skill and dedication of the people of Killarney who worked tirelessly to raise the funds and who worked on the construction.
The entrance located here provides access to a wonderful part of Killarney National Park, with its picnic area, enchanting Deenagh Lodge tearoom and spectacular walks along the river, right down to Ross Castle on the banks of Lough Leane. Also found at the top of a nearby hill is Knockreer House, which was built as a summer retreat on the site of the original Killarney House by the niece of the last Earl of Kenmare in 1955. The house is now used as an education centre. In 1969, the former President of France, Charles de Gaulle spent a quiet holiday in the picturesque dairy cottage located nearby.
Continue back out of the Demesne over Kingsbridge and turn tight up Mission Road. The O’Donoghue Legend Monument is located further along Mission Road. In medieval times, the O’Donoghue’s were a prominent Gaelic clan from the area who’s stronghold was at Ross Castle. According to local mythology, Dónall O’Donoghue was the clan’s great Chieftain who had a spectacular palace located at the bottom of the lower lake. Also known as ‘O’Donoghue of the Glen’, he was renowned for his magical powers, military prowess and acts of generosity. Legend has it that on the First of May you can catch a glimpse of the ghost of O’Donoghue as he gallops across the surface of the lake on his white horse, before he disappears into the mist. A limestone island on Lough Leane was called after this horse and other local landmarks have been given names associated with O’Donoghue. The sculpture depicts O’Donoghue on his white horse riding across the lakes of Killarney, with the majestic mountain range rising up behind him. The sculpture was skilfully made by French artist, Leticia Mangan.
The Commemorative Fern Garden on the left provides a peaceful place of reflection and remembrance beside the national park. The garden was created in memory of all the Christian missionaries from Killarney who travelled the world sharing their Christian beliefs and assisting those in need. Those remembered include, Fr. Donal O’Sullivan, who died at the Battle of the Somme in World War I and Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who saved thousands from Nazi persecution during World War II.
The garden includes a selection of ferns from all over the world, the most interesting of which is perhaps the Killarney Fern. This dark green plant grows in sheltered places throughout western Europe and is distinct for its translucent leaves. The plant is considered vulnerable and is a protected species under the EU Habitats Directive. A wonderful sculpture at the centre of the garden was made by John Crowley, composed of slate stones in a circular design, it represents the individual steps taken by each person along their missionary journey.