Hugging the edge of Killarney’s lower lake, Lough Leeane, rises the formidable remains of Irish chieftain O’Donoghue’s Irish tower-house. Built by O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century, the castle was later gifted to the Browne family, along with the coveted title, “Earl of Kenmare.” Unfortunately, this was common practice at the time – the British government confiscated lands and castles owned by Irish chieftains who did not swear fealty to the British forces, instead giving the lands to more loyal British subjects.
Interestingly, Ross Castle was actually the last holdout in the region against the invading Cromwellian forces. Cromwell and his feared troops were sent by the Crown in the 1600s to squash any hints of rebellion by the local Irish, as well as burn Catholic structures (to be replaced with protestant ones). Ross Castle was finally captured in 1652.
There is a local legend still attributed with the place: it is said that the spirit of Lord O’Donoghue sleeps at the bottom of the lake, arising once every seven years to patrol his lands on his white steed. Anyone who witnesses this act is granted good fortune by the old chieftain (so keep your eyes out if you’re visiting in May!)