In the centre of beautiful Killarney National Park sits the Muckross Estate, also known as the "Jewel of Killarney". It is also sometimes referred to as Bourn-Vincent Memorial Park. This 1843, 20-room Elizabethan style mansion, with grounds adjacent to Lake Muckross, has become a focal point for the display of County Kerry culture and craftsmanship.
The picturesque, ivy covered mansion was built by Henry Herbert and his wife Mary Balfour Herbert, a watercolourist of some renown. Both are buried in nearby Killegy Churchyard. Mary Herbert's paintings of local landscapes still adorn the walls of the manor house, which is beautifully furnished with local period pieces as well as items from afar, including Oriental rugs, Chippendale chairs, Turkish carpets and imported curtains. The room where Queen Victoria stayed when she visited here in 1861 is also on display.
The upper floors of the house have been made into a small museum, exhibiting documents, photos and maps of the area, as well as a local wildlife collection. The basement is a beehive of activity, much as it would have been in the 18th century. Craftspeople can be observed as they work in the bookbindery, dairy, weaving and carpentry shops.
Many of their wares are for sale in the estate gift shop. This area is known as the Kerry Folklife Centre, and also houses the Killarney National Park Visitor Centre. The estate gardens are well known for their azaleas and rhododendrons, laid out in preparation for Queen Victoria's visit in 1861. Afterwards, subsequent owners added rock and water gardens, adding to the natural beauty of the grounds.
The Muckross Traditional Farms adjoin the property. These three working farms have remained much the same since the 1930's and operate using traditional farm implements, such as horse drawn machinery, from the time before there was widespread electricity use.
There are renovated farm buildings, including a blacksmith's forge and farmhouses, and a variety of animals as well. The farmhouses contain some interesting, authentic period furnishings. Workers on the farm will happily stop to chat and explain their tasks. In fact the farms (there are three - small, medium, and large) are known as a widely respected educational resource. Each year, they host the Festival of Kerry Culture, and have received the Sandford Educational Award for providing excellent educational workshops for school children.