Železná Ruda was established as a small settlement with an iron works on the confluence of the Řezná river and Železný stream in the early 16th century, on the route of the trading path called Výšinná (In the Heights) in the direction from Danube to the Řezná valley past today's Hofmanky, along the slope of Pancíř and further on towards Klatovy. The history of the settlement started to be written in 1569 when the Prince Jiří of Gufštejn assigned a works and mine of iron ore into the lease of Conrad Geisler and Melichar Fiedler of Passau. In the second half of the 17th century the village belonged to Jindřich Nothaft, who established here the first glass-works. The territory was a subject of frequent disputes. The frontier between the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Kingdom of Bavaria was not resolved until 1764, when it was contractually set and agreed on under the reign of Maria Theresa. The borderline delimited a year later has been respected ever since to the present day. So-called "Rudský" estate changed its owner several times. Also the natural conditions and resources were changing over the centuries, which was naturally reflected by many changes in the character of human activity in the place.
Ore mining and processing was gradually reducing and, on the other hand, glass production was developing. In connection therewith started the second and more famous phase of development of the whole region of Železná Ruda - building of glass-works initiated by the new owner of the estates, the Prince Nothaft, in 1676. There were sufficient reserves of both wood and raw materials for glass production in the surroundings. Local glass-works were manufacturing especially plate glass, window glass and mirrors. The glassware was exported worldwide. And local glass-works owners, as for instance Abele, Hafenbrädl, Loetz, Gerl, Ziegler, Poschinger, Bloch, Gattermayer and many others, influenced not only the Šumava glass-making but also the other areas of life. With the end of the 19th century the boom and fame of local glass-works nevertheless comes to its end. In the North Bohemia and other locations the furnaces are heated with lignite or gas and the glass production in local conditions becomes unprofitable.
In this period, the Šumava is still abundant with forests, has a unique relief and healthy environment and gradually gets more and more accessible thanks to the new roads and railway. The railway connecting Železná Ruda with Pilsen and continuing further to Bavaria was built in 1874-1877. The final obstacle preventing opening of the railway was building of three tunnels on the track, of which the longest one (beneath Špičák mountain) - was the longest in the Austira-Hungary of the period and remained the longest tunnel in Bohemia until 2008. The railway was important for the neighbouring countries not only thanks to the transport of material, raw materials and products but also thanks to the passenger transport into this still rather unknown and remote region.
Opening of the railway initiated the third phase of the region development, the stage of tourism and recreation, which has been developing ever since to the present day. The first person who had the right intuition about tourist and recreational possibilities of the region, was the innkeeper from Volyně named Prokop, serving as a food supplier during construction of the tunnel beneath Špičák mountain. Once the tunnel building was completed, he remained in the area and provided hospitality services to the first curious tourists from Pilsen and Prague, coming here by the new train lines. Even the giants of the Czech history, as for instance Jan Neruda, Jaroslav Vrchlický, Eliška Krásnohorská and others, enjoyed coming here repeatedly. In connection with the new-born tourism, the upper part of the village of Špičák was founded. After the first hotel Prokop another one followed soon. It was a luxury hotel Rixi built in 1890 by the Prague architect Jan Rixi. The number of further hotels and pensions quickly grew and Špičák became a popular recreational resort. The whole area joined significant ski resorts in 1971, when the ski slopes were opened on the top of Špičák mountain.

Hojsova Stráž was founded in the 16th century at the foot of Můstek mountain as a seat of one of eight magistrates of Royal Forest (Královský hvozd). The dominant of the village is a Classicist Church of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary. Amongst the tourist attractions we should name metal crosses forged in local iron-mill placed at the cemetery and the Baroque rectory listed as protected heritage. There also used to be a popular brewery in the village, later turned into the recreational centre, which is nowadays out of operation. Beyond the brewery there is so-called mansion, serving as a boarding house in the pre-war period and today the seat of the ski club Škoda Plzeň.
In vicinity, beyond the Úhlava valley, there is a cottager village Brčálník (840 m) with the recreational centre of the same name, with a chapel and an ecological farm. The village is situated amidst picturesque landscape underneath the ridges of Pancíř and Špičák mountains and offers beautiful view of the Royal Forest with Ostrý mountain. The first written record of the place dates back to 1569. The place has been justly called Airy Spa for its uniqueness owed to particular air streams and to the local climate, which is the most stable one in the whole of the Šumava. Brčálník has a railway station and is connected with the saddle of Špičák mountain by the yellow-marked tourist path and with Pancíř ridge by the green-marked tourist path.

The other villages falling under authority of Železná Ruda - Debrník and Alžbětín - are closely connected with the history of glass production. They were originally founded in neighbourhoods of glass-works. After the World War II, they were accessible only upon special permission. A manor house used to be in Debrník, founded in 1779 by Marie Alžběta Hafenbrädlová (whose name reflected in the name of the village of Alžbětín), as was documented by the sigh above the entrance to the chapel. After 1945 the manor served to various purposes but its usage was limited due to its location in the borderline zone. This was eventually fatal for the building. Not even the intercessions by aesthetes and historians could save it, in spite of their opinion that the building was one amongst few well-preserved, reminding of the world-famous glass-making carried out in the area of the Royal Forest from the late 15th to the early 20th century. Even though its condition was relatively good, the Border Guards demolished it in autumn 1989 with no mercy.