Muckross Abbey

Franciscan Friary

The Franciscan friary of Irrelagh was founded for the Observatine Franciscans c.1448 by Daniel McCarthy Mor. Now known as Muckross Abbey, it is missing the roof but apart from that the abbey is in a superb state of preservation. This compact abbey consists of a rectangular nave and chancel Church with an inserted central tower between them. There is a south transept adjoining the nave. On the northern side of the Church are the cloisters with an ancient yew tree in the centre of the garth. On the northside of the cloister is the refectory. To the south is the abbot's house and kitchen. On the east side of the cloister is the dormitory. A sacristy abuts the northside of the chancel.

The chancel has three windows in the south wall and a large three mullioned window in the east gable, pictured right. There is a double piscina with ogee arches, a single sedelia and a tomb recess present in the south wall of the chancel. There are two more tomb recesses present in the north wall. The ambulatories of the cloisters are not covered by the usual lean to but vaulted. The arches of the east and north sides of the cloisters are different to the other sides, suggesting they are not of the same date. The yew tree in the centre of the garth is traditionally believed to be as old as the abbey. There are further dormitories at the first floor level which can be accessed via a spiral staircase. In 1589 the monks were expelled from the abbey by Elizabeth I. The following century it was burned by cromwellian forces.

The abbey was still in residence up until 1698. It was also used as a burial place for local chieftains. Some of Kerry's leading poets were buried here in the 17th and 18th centuries. Located in Killarney national park, the abbey is a short stroll from the car park situated by the side of the N71.

Piscina with ogee arches

From the south

Situated: From Killarney head south on the N71 for 4 kilometres. There is a small car-park on your left. Park here and walk through the park gates. The abbey is about 200 metres down the pathway.

Discovery Map 78: V 9741 8705. Last visit May 2013.

Longitude: 9° 29' 41" W

Latitude: 52° 1' 34" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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