St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrate Ireland’s heritage in Parknasilla Resort, Co. Kerry

Last year for St. Patrick’s Day I suggested the ancient history of Longford and the various saints who gave Ireland the name of the ‘Island of Saints and Scholars’.   This year because our National Holiday falls on a Friday you have no excuse not to wander a little further away; to the Kingdom of Kerry and the outstanding Parknasilla Resort, Sneem, Co. Kerry . However, if you think I am going to promote a lazy indoor holiday (unless it is raining cats and dogs) you are mistaken.  You need to give yourself a big push and embrace the local heritage and culture.

First on the Menu on St. Patrick’s Day (after breakfast of course) is a short meander around the grounds of Parknasilla to see the original site of Derryquin Castle, home to the Bland family, in the 18th century and the original owners of  the Parknasilla Estate.  Then head towards the village of Sneem.  Here you will enjoy a very traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade but with a twist.  The Parade begins just after noon and it is combined with the Annual Fair Day so lots of stalls with all kinds of bric and brac and great characters manning them.

After the Parade visit the nearby Staigue Stone Fort, which is a partly ruined fort near Sneem, thought to have been built around 400 to 600 BC as a defensive Citadel.  It represents a considerable feat in engineering and building with lintelled doorways and corbelled roofs.

After dinner that evening – if it is a clear night – take a stroll outdoors.  The skies over south west Kerry have been designated a gold tier dark sky reserve – the only one in the northern hemisphere.  This means it is one of the best places in the world for star gazing at constellations such as the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, which can be seen without a telescope.

The next day go a little further along the Ring of Kerry for a visit to Derrynane, the Oakwood of St. Fionan, and a perfect fit for heritage seekers.  Derrynane House is the ancestral home of the great Irish statesman and politician, Daniel O’Connell.  The House is open to the public and is a ‘must see’ if you are interested in slightly more recent Irish history.   Nearby in Caherdaniel is an Ogham Stone and a fine example of ancient Celtic Ogham text.  This is a form of writing that comprises combinations of parallel and angled lines carved along the edge of a standing stone; supposedly inspired by Ogma, ‘The God of Eloquence’.

Of course no visit to Kerry is complete without at least going as close as you can to see the iconic Skellig Michael with its 7th century monastic remains making it one of the Wonders of the World and acknowledged by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Even a boat trip around the island, without having to land, will certainly give you a feeling for this ancient historic site.  It is considered to be the jewel in Kerry’s crown.

Having immersed yourself in the heritage of Kerry you could be tempted to drop by another heritage site as you head home.  A short detour from Kilgarvan will bring you to a little gem called the Gurteen Stone Circle, where there are 11 standing stones and the central axial stone with a bevelled edge.

Wherever you are in Ireland this St. Patrick’s Day just throw a stone and you will find dozens of interesting heritage sites and the Kingdom of Kerry is no different.  A good website to look at is Heritage Island.   This is so much more to dig out so feel free to locate further heritage treasures as you travel.