Built in the late 15th Century by one of the O'Donoghue Ross Gaelic Chieftains, Ross Castle has had a long and distinguished history. This typical Irish keep is built on a rocky outcrop on Ross Island by the shore of Lough Leane. Although not a large fortress, its profile and location make for an imposing structure and it has proved to be a very effective defensive stronghold throughout the centuries.
Perhaps the most significant event in its 500+ year history occurred in 1652. Cromwellian General Ludlow and his army of 4000 foot and 2000 horse soldiers pursued the retreating Lord Muskerry and his Irish forces from Cork to Killarney. Ludlow laid siege to Muskerry and his remaining forces at Ross Castle. The Castle was well defended against attack from land, and fearing a protracted siege, Ludlow hastened the surrender when he brought artillery up the Laune River (on specially constructed boats) and laid siege to the Castle from the lakeside also. It is said, that an old Irish prophecy that Ross Castle would never fall "until a ship should swim upon the lake", may have been instrumental in the decision to Surrender.
Many years after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, the Castle was for the first time occupied by the Browne family. For his loyalty to King James II, Sir Valentine Browne was given the title, 1st Viscount Kenmare - predecessor to Thomas 4th Viscount Kenmare - the acknowledged founder of Killarney Town (1754) and the father of Irish Tourism.
Having served as a residence for the "Kenmare" Family and subsequently as an Army Barracks, the Castle was finally vacated in 1825. For almost the next 150 years, under various owners, it remained as a "deteriorating" but famous Killarney landmark on the shores of Lough Leane. In 1970, the Castle came into State ownership and has been beautifully restored by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and refurnished in the style of the 17th century. It is now under the management of the OPW and is open to the public - by guided tour only. A Guided Tour of Ross Castle is an experience not to be missed. Contact: 353 (0) 64 35851 - e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference Reading: Ross Castle Visitors Guide (available from Ross Castle).