Preserving Irish History at Muckross House
“The Wood of the Pig”
The Muckross estate dates to the 17th Century when the first member of the Herbert family came from Wales to settle in Killarney. The name “muckross” means “the wood of the pig” and refers to the early practice of pasturing hogs in the woods. The meat of pigs fattened on acorns, hazelnuts, fungi, roots, grubs and earthworms had a wonderful, mellow flavor. The Muckross House you visit today was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his family and was completed in 1843. Most of the house has been preserved as a late 19th century mansion, with furniture and artefacts from that period.
Muckross Gardens adjoin Muckross House dating back to the mid-19th century when extensive landscaping was carried out by the Herbert family in preparation for the visit of Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1861. In fact, great pains were taken (and extravagant monies were spent) remodeling the home to provide the queen with a private apartments on ground level, and a covered entrance to the house. Planning began as early as 1853. Her visit to the estate lasted about 42 hours.
Sadly, the Herbert family fortunes declined following the royal visit. They had hoped for a Knighthood for Henry Herbert, but Prince Albert died about four months later and the Queen retired into mourning. In 1899, the estate of 13,000 acres was sold and eventually presented to the Free State of Ireland in 1932, becoming Ireland’s first National Park. The house sat empty for nearly three decades, but remarkably, did not suffer any damage. This is a testament to the high esteem to which their neighbors held the families of Muckross.
Locals volunteered as Trustees and proposed that the house be opened to the public. Among the many treasures contained here is a copper mine dating from 2000 BC, a Millennium Forest containing the rarest of Irish tress – the yew, and the last remaining native herd of red deer. Cultural preservation at Muckross includes demonstrations by the Mucros Weavers. You can watch the 200-year-old Hattersly hand looms in action today! John Cahill, master weaver, has been with Mucros Weavers since the 1970’s. Under his direction, artisans combine tradition and fashion to create hats, scarves, and fabrics whose quality and beauty are now a staple in shops specializing in Irish goods all over the world (including your very own – Celtic Ranch!) They use soft alpaca and mohair yarns, alongside slick viscose yarns, and nubby woolen boucle yarns in the colors of the mountains, forests, and skies of Kerry.
YOU Keep it Going!
When you purchase an item crafted by Mucros Weavers, you not only receive a timeless product of Ireland, but you’ve contributed to the care and upkeep of Muckross House and Gardens. It’s connections like this one that make shopping at The Celtic Ranch in Weston a gratifying, international experience. And remember, making a purchase at the Celtic Ranch makes a big difference to a small shop! We’re grateful for your business. Slainte!
Wrangler of Cultural Affairs
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