1st full day of our break time which translates to biking with no gear/packs.
Fossa, is just outside the town of Killarney with great bike access to Killarney Ntnl Park. Late start, no breakfast, snacked. Started around Killarney on a red bike lane along the main road & in <1/2 mile, a bike /walking path which wound through woods, past a meadow where we saw horseback riders & a golf course (lg bright pink blooming rhododendron which reminded me the azaleas at National Hills for The Masters in Augusta). Past the golf course we went through more fern floored woods & meadows with clumps of yellow irises, which we had seen all over Ireland.
We arrived at Ross Castle, another tower home from the 15th century. It had been set to fire by the locals when they thought Cromwell was about to attack from the water in the mid 1600's. The story goes that there had been a prophesy from the druids that the castle would only fall if besieged from the lake side. Apparently Cromwell learned of the prophecy & that's just what he did. Large boats had never come up through the lake before, so when the locals saw Cromwell barges, they gave no real fight but burned the place leaving nothing to be taken.
All of the informational displays we've seen have been so well done. This one was no exception. There was a replica of the house with cut outs to show various features. There was also a side window with a 3D replica depicting methods used to construct the house. There was a cute primitive painting showing life back then and you were to find the items that were out of place like a flip top trash can & sun glasses and you could find the myriad of cats (thought of Aunt Polly). One of the displays showed a band of barefoot Irish mercenaries & next to that was my favorite, a portrait of an English official in full royal blue regalia complete with military helmet and an Irish lance from the thighs up, but bare pale legs complete with blue veins, barefoot. This was Sir Thomas Lee from the late 1500's & it was noted that the English officials were concerned "that the servants of the crown would 'lapse into barbarism by adopting Gaelic ways"
The house had then had various owners over the years, was re-purposed with the addition of barracks at one point but with disuse, began to crumble. The area was almost developed by several Americans who probably would have torn the castle down and built homes around the lake (those Americans!); but an Irishman American bought it back. He made a deal with the government that if they fully restored the castle, he would give it to them along with surrounding lands for free. With this motivation, the castle was restored over a 20 year period to as close to the original as they were able to accomplish & using many of the same building techniques.
Our tour guide was excellent & I assume she was one of the historians or curators for the museum. She explained the various defensive features of the castle including several small rooms near the entrance where up to 2 dozen men would sleep in readiness for an attack. Just above the front entrance was access to an opening called the murder hole where rocks, hot water, or oil could be thrown onto intruders. Mark's favorite feature was the spiral staircase always revolving clockwise allowing the right handed defenders from above to have the spatial advantage. She told about the living conditions, damp, crowded & cold, but those lucky enough to be inside were protected from attack. There were furnishings from the times including some 16th century tapestries in immaculate condition, the carved back chairs with arm rests for the head of the household and a 10th century chest from Irish oak that seemed to be a prized possession for the museum. Each level up was considered more protected, so the Lord of the castle slept in the 2nd to the top floor. There was a curtained bed for the Lord & Lady & up to a dozen children & even guests would have slept on the floor there.
The top floor with a high ceiling was the meeting area/judgment hall (where the Lord would preside over disputes)/dining room. This area had a side room for cooking & a balcony for the musicians and barbs of the day to provide entertainment. Those in the balcony were hidden behind the balcony wall. They were considered lower on the totem pole than the servants but are highly appreciated today for having passed down & developed the history, poetry, plays, music of the day.
They ate off pewter since it was less expensive than silver but unfortunately this resulted in lead poisoning. Near the end of the tour, our guide asked for "the question" which Mark correctly asked - "where was the toilet". We were wound through an area with metal grates where material would fall the 5 stories down & that was then managed by a "farmer" who generated compost. The servants slept near this area & one could only hope for olfactory fatigue.
After our tour we then had a late lunch back in Killarney at Murphys pub, scored some groceries, snacked at the Hostel & enjoyed our shut eye. The day was partly cloudy, mostly sunny.