If you are lucky enough to rent a car, or have access to a car in Ireland, one of the first things you will realize while driving around is that for the most part, there are not any non-scenic portions of the island. Having said that, there are many scenic drives in Ireland, and out of all of them, the Ring of Kerry is the most well-known, and one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful. In case you’ve never heard of it, the Ring of Kerry is a 180 kilometer long (111 mile) loop drive that covers most of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. In addition to passing through many seaside villages, the loop also passes through portions of Killarney National Park, and also has innumerable scenic views, both in and out of the park.
The Ring of Kerry also has a number of historic locations that can be accessed with minimal effort, from pristine lakes to ancient hillforts, and in the case of the Mulgrave Barracks, picturesque ruins. While each traveler must pick and choose which of the many items they want to experience along the Ring of Kerry, the Mulgrave Barracks, and the nearby Derrycunihy Church are a great spot to explore along the drive as there is ample parking, which is sometimes not present along the narrow sections of the N71 which is the main road of the Ring of Kerry. The Mulgrave Barracks are also an interesting spot to stop and visit because it is not clear first, how old it is, and second, what it was used for. From the road, and even on foot, the Mulgrave Barracks look like the ruins of a small castle, with four imposing towers and broken down walls that are now slowly being reclaimed by persistent plant growth. With these features, one assumes – and imagines that the barracks were an ancient medieval fortress.
However, the Mulgrave Barracks were something less exciting – not a castle, but a home for the Royal Irish Constabulary (“RIC”), the police of Ireland in the nineteenth century. The Mulgrave Barracks, in particular, were established by a local landowner – the Earl of Kenmare to protect his deer from being poached. From 1836 to 1920, the Mulgrave Barracks housed around eight members of the RIC. However, in 1920, the Irish Republican Army (“IRA”) began to target remote, vulnerable barracks such as the Mulgrave Barracks. In order to protect the men, the RIC closed – and destroyed the Mulgrave Barracks – leaving a ruined mini-castle, and not much else. Today, the Barracks are a short walk from the Derrycunihy Church and a historic curiosity in the midst of wide empty scenery.
Directions: From the Ladies View, a prominent viewpoint along the Ring of Kerry, both the church and the barracks are 1.1 kilometers to the Southeast. The church is also located 15.5 kilometers to the Southwest along the N71. From either direction, both sets of ruins are readily visible, and as mentioned above, there is a small parking area for cars near the church.
Tips: In addition to the church and the barracks, there is a waterfall that can be explored, as there is a walking track on the north side of the N71. This is also a great stop after Torc Waterfall along the Ring of Kerry. Separately, visitors to the area should first treat the ruins with care; and second, be aware that during the summer months, traffic on the Ring of Kerry can be quite heavy, so while distances involved in visiting locations may seem short, they may take a great deal of time to arrive at, due to narrow roads and a high volume of busses and cars.