Ross Island and Castle, Killarney

ROSS ISLAND is usually the first place visited by strangers at Killarney; the CASTLE, a highly picturesque building formerly the residence of O'Donaghoe, Prince of the Lakes, stands on the largest island in the Lower Lake, separated from the shore by a narrow channel, across which a bridge of a single arch connects it with the mainland. The neighbouring ground has been improved and made the site of a cottage ornée, by Lord Kenmare; and the walks, young woods, and lawns give a delightful air of refinement to the vicinity. The sun was near setting when I reached Ross Castle, and a soft and golden flood of light covered the bosom of the lake, and the background of mountains and islands, with a glory inexpressibly beautiful. The side of the ruined castle towards me lay in deep shade, and its one square and tall tower cut the glowing sky with an effect which made me wish I had been an artist. The scene altogether, for softness of atmosphere, richness of light, singular beauty of outline, and combination of island, mountain, and water, seemed to me quite incomparable. I ascended the top of the ruin, and sat watching the fading light on the lake till the colour was dissolved in twilight: it was a rare moment of natural beauty, sufficient of itself, without legendary or other interest. I enjoyed it to the depths of my heart.

Ross Castle, Killarney

Ross Castle, Killarney

The next morning I returned to this same spot, which is the usual place of embarkation for persons desirous of visiting the Lower Lake. The day was fine, but it looked cold after the glowing light in which I had seen it the evening before. The castle is built on a limestone rock, and must at one time have been a place of considerable strength; but, except the large quadrangle which I ascended the night before, and two flanks in a ruined state, nothing remains of this once important fortress. In the great rebellion, Ross Castle was garrisoned by the Irish, and, in 1652, it resisted for some time the attacks of Ludlow, one of Cromwell's generals. But the Parliamentary commander, having launched a number of boats on the lake, attacked the castle by land and water, and forced the besieged to capitulate. Ware records the event in his Chronological Table in the following words: "Ross, in the county of Kerry, a castle in an island, is yielded up to Ludlow, after he had caused a small ship to be carried over the mountains and set afloat on the lough, which terrified the enemy."