Tour of the Gardens
Most of the old demesne of Derrynane is now included in Derrynane Historic Park, 120 hectares in area. Winters are mild, enabling frost-sensitive trees and shrubs to flourish. The gardens have a plant collection of great significance and endangered plants from South America have been established as part of the National Botanical Collection. The National Historic Park has almost 1.5km of shoreline. The dunes and coastal area are of great ecological value and form part of two Natura designations of international significance – the Kenmare River Special Area for Conservation (SAC) and the Iveragh Peninsula Special Protection Area (SPA). The dunes contain rare animal and plant species including Natterjack Toads and the Kerry Lily, as well as a suite of native orchid species. The surrounding area is particularly rich in archaeological sites, and the park contains an ogham stone, a small ring fort, a souterrain, a Mass rock, and the ruins of Ahamore Abbey, on Abbey Island (dating to the tenth century). Please respect other visitors, wildlife habitats, and amenities.
The original house here was built in 1702. Fifty years later, it was enlarged into a three-storey farmhouse, and was counted as one of the biggest houses in the area. In the 1820s, the south and east wings were added, and the entrance changed so that it now faced the bay. The old house, in this arrangement, became the north wing – this building was demolished in the 1960s.
There are many prehistoric features along the whole Iveragh peninsula. Within Derrynane demesne, the cashel is located to the west of the main house. It is a small ring fort. The dry stone wall is circular and measures eighteen metres in diameter. There is an entrance on the southern side. This is a relatively small cashel, and was probably inhabited in the fifth or sixth century.
The Ogham Stone
This ogham stone did not always stand in this position. It was found some years ago lying in the tidal flats behind the sand dunes nearby. The inscription is in bad condition, but some letters can be deciphered. What is clearly visible reads ‘AM LLATIGNI MAQ M … N … RC M … Q … CI’. It was possible to compare this stone with others in the region, and deduce a plausible translation, which is ‘the name of Llatign son of Minerc descendent of Q…C’.
Abbey Island, just over thirty hectares in size, can be reached on foot across the sand except at high tide. The island offers fine views of the mountains, coast and offshore islands, including the Skellig Rocks. Important wildlife habitats include sea cliffs, heath, bog, grassland, and Old Red Sandstone outcrops. For ecological reasons, Abbey Island has been grazed by cattle since the early 1990s, initially by Kerry Cattle and latterly by local cattle. Abbey Island is one of the very few locations in Ireland where the rare Kerry Lily (Simethis planifolia) has been found. The Kerry Lily is legally protected under the Flora Protection order (1999).
The ruins of Ahamore Abbey date from the tenth century but the monastic settlement here is thought to have been founded several centuries earlier by St Fionan Cam. The chapel constructed in 1844 by Daniel O’Connell at Derrynane House was influenced by the architecture of Ahamore Abbey.
The graveyard on Abbey Island was used as the O’Connell estate graveyard for at least three centuries and is the resting place of the remains of Daniel O’Connell’s wife Mary, his uncle Hunting-Cap, and his grandparents.