Yesterday we visited Killarney for a walk. This time we choose the Fossa Way which starts just inside the gate of Killarney National Park (Knockreer Estate entrance). A notice at the gate alerted us to the Deer Rut which happens in the Park at this time every year. This walk is a loop walk with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, through beautiful wooded groves, skirts the Golf Club and through open fields and more woodland. Keeping to the ‘designated walking routes’ is not a problem and the deer, in groups underneath the trees generally seemed more interested in eating than any other activity.
The notice regarding the stags reminded me of the visit of Queen Victoria, her husband Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales and a large entourage to Killarney in 1861. This visit and the subsequent Press coverage in England is believed to have firmly placed Killarney and Kerry on the tourist map. The Queen’s hosts – Lord Castlerosse at Killarney House, and Colonel Herbert at Muckross House competed with each other to provide the most impressive hospitality and entertainment. Nothing was too much trouble, both almost bankrupted their families in their efforts to impress. Elaborate preparations had been carried out at Muckross for the Royal visit. Tapestries, mirrors, Persian carpets, silverware, musical instruments, linen, china and servants’ uniforms, are all said to have been specially commissioned for the occasion. The curtains, which still hang in the Dining Room of Muckross House, were specially woven, probably in Paris, for the occasion
A full programme of entertainment, diversions and outdoor pursuits were planned. As this was August and too early to observe the Rut, on Wednesday the ‘entertainment’ was to be a Stag Hunt. The Kerry Evening Post of 31 August 1861 reports:
‘a noble stag having been previously placed there in cover. Along the summits of the mountains were stationed some hundreds of men, to prevent if possible, the stag from passing over them and to drive him down to the water. The animal, having broken cover, a splendid pack of hounds, the property of Mr. Maurice James O’Connell … set out in full chase after him’.
You will be pleased to know that the stag outwitted them. After half an hour of hounds barking, beaters shouting, running to and fro, the stag made his escape over the top of Tomies and the Royal party had to settle for a boat journey back to Muckross.
Page 2 of the Kerry Evening Post gives us a full description of the entire visit, large sections of the report are copied from the Cork Examiner and the Daily Express. But the paragraph giving a report of Killarney Town Commissioners is just astonishing to read in 2018.