Derrynane National Historic Park

Top choice in Ring of Kerry

Derrynane House was the home of Maurice 'Hunting Cap' O'Connell, a notorious local smuggler who grew rich on trade with France and Spain. He was the uncle of Daniel O'Connell, the 19th-century campaigner for Catholic emancipation, who grew up here in his uncle's care and inherited the property in 1825, when it became his private retreat. The house is furnished with O'Connell memorabilia, including the impressive triumphal chariot in which he lapped Dublin after his release from prison in 1844.

Other items on display include O'Connell's ornately sculpted oak chair from his time as Lord Mayor of Dublin (look for the gold collars and ruby eyes of the carved Irish wolfhounds), the duelling pistols with which he killed a man in 1815, and the iron bed in which he died during a pilgrimage to Rome in 1847.

The gardens, warmed by the Gulf Stream, nurture subtropical species including 4m-high tree ferns, gunnera ('giant rhubarb') and other South American plants. A network of walking trails leads through the woods towards the beach; kids can pick up a copy of the Derrynane Fairy Trail ( at the cafe and track down two dozen 'fairy houses' hidden among the trees.

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