A gem hidden within the grounds of Killarney National Park, Muckross Friary is located about a mile (on foot) from the parking lot of the sprawling mansion known as Muckross House. The monastery was once home to the strict order of the Observantine Franciscans, but had a relatively short life as a working friary. In 1541, only about a hundred years after its founding, Henry VIII ordered Muckross’s suppression. It was re-established in 1612, but Cromwellian forces finally drove out the inhabitants and burned the structure in 1652.
Today, Muckross’s most notable feature is the old yew tree that rises dramatically from the center of its cloister. Its bell tower, which was a later edition to the building, is also unique to Irish Franciscan buildings in that it spans the full width of the church.
The trails in Muckross Estate are easily managed and bountifully lined with twisting trees and fields of flowers. However, if you prefer not to walk, jaunting cars (aka, horse-drawn carriages) are available for hire at the parking area by Friar’s Glen and Torc Waterfall. Their eager drivers compete to take tourists past the sites along Muckross lake, and are willing to bargain with would-be passengers. The ride should cost around 5 Euro.