Munster Vales, the area encompassing the Comeragh, Knockmealdown, Galtee, Ballyhoura and Nagles mountain ranges in the south of Ireland, is steeped in history. So much so, that a visit to Munster Vales is the perfect time to see and learn about the history of the island and see some fantastic historical sites, estates and castles across the region.
We’ve put together this guide to outline some of the great places that you should visit to get a taste of the history and heritage of the region. Whether you’re interested in learning about the Earls, Dukes and Viscounts that once lived in these incredible dwellings or discovering some of the many legends linked to the region, then where better to start your journey than with a visit to these fascinating locations.
Cahir Castle, Tipperary
Dating back to the 13th century, Cahir Castle is known to be one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles. Overlooking the River Suir, the castle was built for the Butler Family.
The castle has become quite famous due to it being used as a location for television shows and films, such as Excalibur and The Tudors.
Visitors are able to learn all about the castle’s rich history at the fantastic audiovisual display making this a great place to visit whether you’re a solo traveller or for family visits.
Lismore Castle and Gardens, Waterford
The gardens of Lismore Castle are seven acres and give fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and of Lismore Castle itself. The lower garden was actually created in the 19th century for the 6th Duke of Devonshire, Sir Joseph Paxton’s patron. The walled garden was created in 1605 by Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork. The walls and terraces mostly remain the same as they did back then, although the types of plants have changed. Today, the garden has a mix of flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Lismore Castle remains a private residence meaning that there is no public access, however your garden ticket will give you access to Lismore Castle Arts – a contemporary art gallery.
While you’re there, make sure you visit the fantastic Lismore Heritage Centre. The Heritage Centre has a fantastic Lismore Castle virtual reality experience, narrated by the world famous scientist Robert Boyle, which gives you a virtual tour of the castle so that you can see inside the rooms and halls while learning all about the castle’s history. You can also see if you can solve the puzzles to try to break out of the Robert Boyle Escape Room within an hour. You definitely won’t forget your visit to Lismore Castle!
Curraghmore House, Waterford
Also located in Waterford is the historic Curraghmore House – once home of the 9th Marquis of Waterford. Stretching across 2500 acres of formal gardens, woodlands and fields makes this the largest private demesne in Ireland. Twelve miles of famine relief boundary walls and wrought iron gates surround this incredible estate.
The house opens seasonally to the public and you can also book a group tour year round. Visitors can see the main reception rooms which are considered as being some of the finest neo-classical rooms in Ireland.
Although you’d think it would be difficult to miss, keep an eye out for a Sitka Sprue, which was planted in the 1830s and is one of the tallest trees in Ireland. The tree is located just beside King John’s Bridge – which was built in 1205 and happens to be the oldest bridge in Ireland!
Black Castle at Lough Gur in Limerick
If its history mixed with legend that you’re interested in then you need to visit Lough Gur in Limerick. Legend has it that Gearoid Iarla, 3rd Earl of Desmond (who was banished to the bottom of the lake by the Goddess Aine) resurfaces every seven years and tries to break the curse that was put on him!
A Norman Castle, known as Black Castle, which is associated with the Earl of Desmond and that dates back to the 1500s is located at the far side of the lake.
Visitors to Lough Gur can learn all about its history at the Lough Gur visitor centre. Its interactive multimedia exhibition brings to life the 6000 years of history of the site. Interestingly, it is the only place in Ireland where you can see evidence of every age since Neolithic times.
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Doneraile Court, Cork
Located on one of Ireland’s most beautiful estates, Donerail Court dates back to the 1720s, when it was built for the first Viscount Doneraile Arthur St. Leger.
Interestingly, one of the most famous works of literature in the English language, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, was written while Spenser lived in Kilcoman, and the “gentle Mulla” river he writes about in the poem flows through Doneraile Estate (now known as the river Awbeg).
Doneraile Court is currently undergoing restoration work but is due to re-open in 2023, however in the meantime you can still wander around the parklands and grab a bite to eat in the tearooms which open daily.
There is over 400 acres of parklands consisting of tracks, trails and fishponds to see on your visit. Also, keep an eye out for the deer, squirrels, otters, and heron that live on the grounds.
Hopefully, this guide will help you when planning your visit to Munster Vales and we look forward to seeing you soon!
Tríona O’Mahony is the Destination & Marketing Manager of Munster Vales. Munster Vales’ main objective is to promote the geographical area as a unique brand, linking the counties of Waterford, Tipperary, Cork and Limerick and everything in between.
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