View from Muckross House - Muckross Lake (?)
We awoke late again this morning. We ate a late breakfast of eggs, potatoes, beans and toast. Then drove to Killarney National Park. I wanted to see the yew forest. I’d asked about the yew forest earlier in the week, but the woman at the tourist office desk was vague about its location, but suggested that if we went to Muckross House we’d be fairly close. I also mentioned it to Áine, and she didn’t offer suggestions on its location, probably because she didn’t know exactly where it was either.
Muckross House Through the Roses
We drove to the park and toured Muckross House, a huge mansion built in the Tudor style and decorated in the Victorian style because the queen herself once stayed there. The folks who owned Muckross when Victoria and Albert and some of their children visited did so, in part, because they hoped they would be given more land or a title after the visit. Unfortunately, however, a few months after the visit Albert died and Victoria went into mourning. She forgot about her visit to Muckross House and the owners, who had sunk a small fortune into the preparations for the visit, ended up in poor financial state.
Muckross Traditional Farms -- farm house
We also toured the tradional farm, which is like a small Williamsburg, near Muckross House, then headed along the Muckross Peninsula to the Yew Forest.
I’d seen photographs Reenadinna Yew Wood online and really wanted to experience it for myself. I felt a little guilty, because tourism is actually killing this magical place, and it is one of only three existing yew woods in Europe. I kept on reminding Dean and the kids to be careful and not step on the fragile roots of the trees.
As we walked along the Muckross Peninsula I saw what looked like the photos I’d seen, and every so often I’d exclaim, “I think this is it!” Then we’d walk on some more and I’d proclaim we’d found it again. Finally we saw a grove of evergreen trees upon a mossy hill and I knew we’d found the yews. Someone noticed a cave within the grove of trees, and despite my warnings about killing the trees by stepping the roots, Dean, Clare and Andrew all headed towards the cave. After some cajolling, they enticed me to the mouth of the cave, but I refused to go in. Soon my family disappeared into the cave and I fancied the fairyfolk might take them away to fairyland to be slaves.
No such luck.
Mouth of Cave in Yew Wood
Soon I heard excited voices on the other side of the hill and was distressed to see them STANDING ON THE ROOTS OF THE YEWS in this ancient yew grove. Their excitement got to me, so I tried to go through the cave once again, but before I could get into complete darkness, my claustrophobia forced me to run back out the way I came in.
After a few more times in and out of the cave, my reckless family stomped on even more yew roots and wandered deep into the yew forest while I wrung my hands and apologized to fairy folk under my breath.
Eventually they returned and we continued our walk along the peninsula. Farther down the yew wood was even denser and mossier, and thankfully fenced off so the roots were protected from wandering American feet.
On the walk back to the car we found a detour with steps leading into the forest. I was tired, but the kids ran on and came back with tales of water, more steps and cliffs overlooking the lake.
We drove home and thought we’d eat dinner at a pub — but the pub in town didn’t serve food and even though the publican told us how to find a place that served food, we chose to go home and cook a chicken we had in the fridge. We made coq au vin.
Dean and I drove to the pub while the chicken was cooking and spoke to a local who old us the weather might improve tomorrow and that the houses in town were all owned by folks who couldn’t afford them and never went to the pub because they couldn’t afford the cost of a pint.
Back home we had dinner — not bad — and then played cards.
More Day 4 photos on Flickr.