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Nature & National Parks - Kerry

Kerry is blessed with an abundance of parks and areas devoted to the preservation of our natural heritage and available for all to enjoy.

Killarney, with its majestic mountains, lakes, rivers and relatively unspoilt natural world, is home to Ireland’s largest National Park, old oak woodlands, expansive moors and last remaining native red deer population, along with a wealth of other wildlife. Its beauty has been celebrated for generations.

Killarney National Park, near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. The park was designated a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1982. The Lakes of Killarney and the Mangerton, Torc, Shehy and Purple Mountains are in the park

Sprawling over 10,236 hectares, this beautiful park is an idyllic place to explore. Ross Castle and Muckross House draw big crowds, but it's possible to escape amid Ireland's largest area of ancient oak woods, with panoramic views of its highest mountains and the country's only wild herd of native red deer.

The mountains, moors, lakes and forests support a variety of native flora and fauna including Sea Eagles, Red Squirrel, Pine Marten and the only pure herd of native Red Deer in Ireland.

The area is also steeped in history; with features such as bronze age copper mines on Ross Island, Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle and Muckross House.

The lakes of Killarney are all situated within Killarney National Park, County Kerry. Nearest the town is the Lower Lake (Lough Leane) studded with islands and having on its eastern shore the historic Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle. The wooded peninsula of Muckross separates the Lower from the Middle Lake sometimes called Muckross Lake. At the tip of the Muckross Peninsula is the quaint Brickeen Bridge and Dinis Island further on with its sub-tropical vegetation and views of the 'Meeting of the Waters’. A narrow straight called the Long Range leads to the island-studded Upper Lake. Around these islands are luxuriant woods of oak, arbutus, holly and mountain ash, while beneath grows a profusion of fern and other plants. The Killarney Lakes – Lough Leane (the Lower Lake, or 'Lake of Learning'), Muckross (or Middle) Lake and the Upper Lake – make up about a quarter of the park, and are surrounded by natural oak and yew woodland, and overlooked by the high crags and moors of Purple Mountain (832m) to the west and Knockrower (552m) to the south.

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The National Park is a bird watchers heaven. Extensive broadleaved and mixed forest set among beautiful lakes and the highest mountains in Ireland. Birdwatching in Killarney is especially good in spring, with a wide range of typical Irish woodland and upland species, wildfowl in winter, and White-tailed Sea Eagles. Torc Waterfall and Brickeen Bridge are good areas for general woodland birds, including Long-tailed Tit, Jay, Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher.

The Dingle Peninsula, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean has some of the most spectacular coastal and mountain scenery in Ireland.

The peninsula affords the walker the chance to experience nature in a range of habitats. Peregrine Falcon, Chough, Raven and a variety of sea birds can be seen along the coastal cliffs. Headlands provide the perfect vantage point for Dolphin and Whale watching while coastal grasslands farmed in a traditional manner, support spectacular wildflower meadows full of the sounds of pollinating bees.

The peninsula is dotted with ancient monuments including ring-forts, standing stones, ogham stones and early Christian churches. It is also one of the last remaining regions in Ireland where Gaelic; the native Irish language is still spoken. Ancient field systems bounded by stone walls will make you feel like you have stepped back in time to a period when life was simpler and less complicated.

Reenagross Park is a little park on the banks of the Roughty river in Kenmare and is well worth a visit. It has walkways that lead you past the shores of Kenmare Bay and is the kind of place you would expect to find a fine old Victorian house called Kenmare House or Kenmare Lodge. Not so, however within this small forest you will come across many fine views that will take your breath away. The main entrance to the park is on the Kenmare side of the suspension bridge across from the Pier Road. As you walk towards the park there is a high wall on your right and on the left the beautiful Kenmare Park hotel.

Reenagross Park dervies its name from it's Irish name whcih translates as "The Headland of The Crosses" or "The Muddy Point". It is a park that was developed by the Marquis of Landsdowne from a sandbank and a waterlogged piece of his estate, almost 200 years ago. Today the park is a testement to his foresight.

Cummeragh River Bog Nature Reserve. This bog is the most southerly intact lowland blanket bog in Ireland and is of international importance. It is almost completely encircled by the Cummeragh River and tributary. It is in excellent condition and actively growing, has a well developed pattern of hummocks and pools and has a mature and luxuriant vegetation cover. The bog, which is now owned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, was originally purchased with donations from the Dutch Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs.

Curlews nest on the bog. Their long bills are adapted to probing for worms deep in the soft soil of surrounding farmland. The two rivers that border the Nature Reserve contain spawning beds for Sea Trout. There is insufficient lime in bogs for snails to form shells but you can find slugs here, including the spectacular Black Slug.

Derrycunnihy Wood Nature Reserve. Owned by Coillte Teo, this Nature Reserve consists of old native oak woodlands with some patches of bog and lakeshore. It is the best example of a damp-climate oceanic wood with luxuriant growth of mosses and ferns high up in the trees.

The wood is grazed by two kinds of deer; all year round by the Japanese Sika Deer introduced in the 19th century and in winter by the native Red Deer from the open hills. This results in a slight Brown line under which many of the palatable leaves and twigs have been eaten, and in lawn-like patches on the ground.

Great Skellig and Little Skellig Nature Reserves, Sceilig Mhichil, Co. Kerry. A small precipitous rocky pinnacle rising from the Atlantic Ocean off the Iveragh Peninsula. It is rated as of international importance for certain seabird species - Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and Puffins. It also provides a good example of typical plant communities of a small and remote marine island.

Mount Brandon Nature Reserve. Situated on the north-east side of the Dingle Peninsula, consists of part of the Mount Brandon range of mountains and the foothills. The sides of Mount Brandon are covered in upland blanket bog which has built up over thousands of years. Upland blanket bogs develop in damp climates where soil becomes waterlogged and the remains of plants, which have died down each winter, are preserved and accumulate in waterlogged, acid conditions. Choughs feed on ants and other soil invertebrates in short grassland. Ravens often feed on dead sheep and have increased in numbers with overstocking. A variety of grasses, sedges and heathers grow here and these have been used for centuries as pasture for cattle and sheep. In recent years cattle numbers have declined while those of sheep have increased. It was acquired to conserve the mountain blanket bog/heath complex and its famed alpine flora. A herd of small cattle have been bred by crossing Kerry cattle with Scottish Highland cattle in the hope that they will break up many of the Purple Moor Grass clumps and allow heathers and other blanket bog plants to grow again when sheep numbers have been reduced.

Puffin Island Nature Reserve. Puffin Island is situated off the Iveragh Peninsula. Well known for its large colonies of breeding seabirds, it is owned by the State and the Irish Wildbird Conservancy. A marine reserve has been established on the surrounding area of sea and sea shore to ensure the protection of the birds and control activities which might cause disturbance.

Puffin Island Nature Reserve comprises 86.5 hectares, of which 32.73 are State-owned and 53.77 are privately owned.

Tearaght Island Nature Reserve. One of the Blasket group of islands. Of international importance because of the large colonies of seabirds it supports. A marine reserve has been established on the surrounding area of sea and seashore to ensure the protection of the birds and control activities that might cause disturbance.

Tearaght Island Nature Reserve is comprised of 46.6 hectares, of which 19.1 are State-owned and 27.5 are privately owned.

Tralee Bay Nature Reserve. Situated on the north side of the Dingle Peninsula west of the town of Tralee. Of international importance for waterfowl especially the wintering populations of Brent geese that it supports.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese spend form October to April in Ireland feeding on the Eelgrass and green seaweeds on the mudflats, and grazing in nearby fields and saltmarshes when this food is scarce. Birds of the bay include Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Curlew.

Uragh Wood Nature Reserve, On the south-west shore of Lough Inchiquin, west of Kenmare. On the shore of Inchquin Lough, lies this small remnant of ancient oakwood. This habitat is now rare in Ireland as most of the woodland has been cleared away. The wood is largely Sessile Oak with some Birch, Willow and Aspen. Unusual plants include Arbutus unedo known as the Strawberry Tree, Birds Nest Orchid, St. Patrick's Cabbage and some rare lichens. The reserve is also home to Badgers, Foxes, Red Squirrels and birds such as the Jay and Long-eared Owl.

Killarney National Park

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