Top 8 Things to Do When You Visit Killarney National Park

Beautiful lake in Killarney National Park -What to See in Killarney National Park
by Anisa // 70 Comments

Killarney National Park is technically part of the famous Ring of Kerry, but you can easily spend a day just here.  It is a national park for a reason, the scenery is stunning.  You have gorgeous lakes and dramatic mountains like you might expect.  In addition, there are also historic sites that you should not miss.

In this post, I will share the top seven things to do in Killarney National Park and some logistical information to help plan your visit.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.  Please see disclosure for more information.

This is a sunrise worth getting up for. -
This is a sunrise worth getting up for!

About Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park is located less than five miles southwest of the town of Killarney in County Kerry in southwestern Ireland.  In 1932, Killarney National Park was created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State.  It was the first national park in Ireland.  In 1981, the park was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

It is open year around and there is a visitor’s center at the Muckross House.  The park covers over 25,000 acres, so you have plenty of areas to explore.

Top Things to Do in Killarney National Park

Within the park, you will find mountains, lakes, and even waterfalls, but Killarney National Park is more than just a place to admire the natural beauty.  The history of the park is interesting too.  There is something for everyone!

The map gives you an idea of the location of some of the points of interest.  Keep reading for more details on my suggestions for what to do in Killarney National Park.

Google Map of killarney national park

#1 Tour the Muckross House

The main attraction in the park is Muckross House, a 19th century Victorian mansion now owned by the state.  During our visit the Muckross House was undergoing renovations, so parts of the outside of the house was covered in scaffolding and some of the gardens were closed off.

The only way to see the inside of this historic house is by guided tour (€9 per adult).  The tour lasted about an hour and was fascinating. I loved the stories that our guide shared with us about the families that lived in the house.  

It was interesting to learn that Queen Victoria along with her husband Prince Albert stayed at the Muckross House in 1861 during their trip to Ireland. They celebrated Prince Albert’s 42nd birthday there and then, unfortunately, he died a few months later.

The Muckross House was impressive inside and out. - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans
The Muckross House was impressive inside and out.

The family went all out for the Queen’s visit, hoping to get something in return.  Unfortunately, with the timing of Prince Albert’s death, Victoria was distracted and the family ended up going bankrupt.

Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside the house, but I would encourage you to visit.  The inside is decorated like it would have been in Victorian time. Plus, from inside the house, there are fabulous views of the lakes and the gardens.

The Muckross House gardens are so green. - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans
The Muckross House gardens are so green.

After our tour, we went to explore the gardens.  Unfortunately, it was only a few minutes before it started raining pretty hard so we didn’t even get to see all of the garden that was open.  There is no admission charge to visit the gardens.

Check Reviews for the Muckross House on Tripadvisor here.

#2 Explore the Muckross Abbey Ruins

Muckross Abbey was founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary for the Observantine Franciscans.  It has been damaged and rebuilt several times throughout its history. 

I knew Muckross Abbey was ruins but I was surprised how much of the abbey was actually intact.  You can even climb the stairs to explore the second floor.   The courtyard is dramatic with a large tree growing inside it.  There is also a graveyard.

If it wasn't raining, I would have liked to spend more time exploring the cemetery outside Muckross Abbey. - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans
If it wasn’t raining, I would have liked to spend more time exploring the graveyard outside Muckross Abbey.

I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked because it was rainy and windy, but the abbey is definitely an impressive ruin.  Muckross Abbey is about a 20-minute walk from Muckross House or you can drive there since there is a parking lot a short walk away.

Yes that is a tree inside the abbey. Can you spot Anisa? - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans
Yes that is a tree inside the abbey. Can you spot Anisa?

Check Reviews for the Muckross Abbey on Tripadvisor here.

#3 Hike to the Torc Waterfall

After our trip to Isle of Skye, we are both obsessed with waterfalls.  So when we heard there was one in Killarney National Park, we knew we needed to see it even though it was raining!  If we would have had better weather, we would have done the 4.5 km Torc Waterfall Loop Hike.

Even though the hike was longer than expected to get to the Torc Waterfall, it was worth it. - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans
Even though the hike was longer than expected to get to the Torc Waterfall, it was worth it.

I had read the falls were only a five-minute walk from the parking lot, so we figured we could do that in spite of the weather.  Well, somehow I think we parked in the wrong spot because it was more than a 20-minute hike, which was not easy given the weather conditions. Still, it was definitely worth it, the Torc Waterfall is impressive. It is hard to convey the size in a picture, I should have braved the weather conditions to pose in front of it.

Check Reviews for the Torc Waterfall on Tripadvisor here.

#4 Take a Boat Tour

Killarney National Park is a great place to get out on the water.  There are several boat cruise options depending on your comfort level.

With this scenic one-hour boat tour  you will cruise on Lough Léin, Killarney’s largest lake, amid panoramic views of islands, castles, and wildlife. Along the way you can admire the 6th-century Innisfallen Monastery and Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, and discover the ancient forests of the area.  The boat is modern, heated, and covered by glass so you can get the best views while your captain shares information about Killarney National Park. Book your unforgettable journey here now!



If you are looking for something more active, how about a kayaking tour.  Learn more about options with Mor Active Tours here.

#5 See Ross Castle

Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit Ross Castle, so it is another item on the list for next time.  This Castle was estimated to be built in the late 15th century by one of the O’Donoghue Ross chieftains and it is located on the Lower Lake (Lough Leane) in Killarney National Park.

According to a local legend, O’Donoghue still sleeps deep under the waters of Lough Leane. On the morning of May 1st, every seven years he rises from the lake on a white horse and circles the lake. If you can catch a glimpse of him, you will be assured of good fortune for the rest of your life.

Ross Castle
Ross Castle is in ruins, but still worth exploring if you have time at Killarney National Park.

The castle is furnished in the style of the 16th and 17th century and guided tours (5 € per adult) are available from March to November. Unfortunately, due to steep inclines, it is not easily accessible for visitors with mobility issues.

To get to Ross Castle take a boat across the serene lake or it is possible to  drive.  From Killarney town, there will be a sign on N71 marking the right turn.  If you prefer, it’s also a leisurely 2.6km walk or bike ride southwest of the St Mary’s Cathedral pedestrian park entrance.

Check Reviews for Ross Castle on Tripadvisor here.

#6 Take in the Ladies View

Whether you are just spending a day at Killarney National Park or driving the Ring of Kerry, you won’t want to miss stopping at Ladies View, a stunning lookout point with a fascinating history.

Legend has it that Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting were so enamored with the view here that it was named in their honor. The story is reminiscent of another famous viewpoint, Queen’s View in Perthshire, Scotland. The scenery from Ladies View is truly breathtaking, and I highly recommend stopping to snap a few photos and take in the beauty.

You can see why Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting liked this view! - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans

You can see why Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting liked this view!Check Reviews for Ladies View on Tripadvisor here.

#7 Explore the Park by Bike

Some of the hiking trails in Killarney National Park are also ideal for biking.  It’s a great option because you will be able to cover more ground than by walking.  You can rent a bike from Killarney and ride to the park. 

Then, you can follow the Muckross Dinis Loop, which is mostly flat and paved.  It takes you by some of the popular attractions in  Killarney National Park like Muckross Abbey, Muckross House, and Torc Waterfall.

You could do this half-day self-guided bike tour or just rent your own bike from O’ Sullivan Cycles.

#8 Go Horseback Riding

You can explore some of the scenic areas of Killarney National Park on horseback.  This guided horseback ride takes you past Lough Lein, the largest of the three lakes in Killarney with views of the mountains.  All experience levels can be catered to and you can choose whether you want a 1 hour, 2 hour, or 3 hour tour.

Get more information here.


Is it Free to Visit Killarney National Park?

It depends on what you want to do.  There is no admission fee to enter the park, but some attractions (as mentioned above) only allow you inside on a guided tour which they do charge a nominal fee for.

Is Killarney National Park good for kids?

Yes, kids will enjoy visiting Killarney National Park.  Most of the attractions are outdoors so they can run around and have fun.  Depending on their interests, they may also like to go hiking or biking.   While young children may get bored during the tour of the Muckross House, there are plenty of other things for them to do in the park.

lake in killarney national park
The natural scenery in Killarney National Park is beautiful.

How Long to Spend in Killarney National Park

It depends on what you would like to do inside Killarney National Park. It is big, so you won’t be able to see it all in one day.  You will need to prioritize.  Since we were staying close to the Killarney National Park, we visited a few times during our trip to Kerry because we enjoyed it so much.  

How to Get to Killarney National Park

The park is huge so it’s probably wise to drive there.  The parking lots at the major attractions are free.

For those without a car, the best option is to do the hop-on-hop-off bus from Killarney Shuttle Bus.  It takes you from Killarney to all the main attractions in Killarney National Park.  Get more information and book your hop-on-hop-off bus here.

A jaunting cart, which is a type of horse-drawn carriage, may look like a nice traditional way to experience the park, but I am not sure I would try it after reading about what happened to fellow blogger Angie Away.

You can see Muckross Abbey in the distance through the trees. - "What to See When You Visit Killarney National Park" - Two Traveling Texans
You can see Muckross Abbey in the distance through the trees.

If your lodging is close enough, you could walk but it will be hard to get around to all the different attractions.  We stayed at the Carrilgea House, which is a charming bed and breakfast right across the street from the park.  One morning before breakfast, we walked over to one of the lakes and enjoyed the sunrise. It was definitely worth getting up early for!

*If you are looking for accommodations, here are some more recommendations for places to stay along the Ring of Kerry.

Is Killarney National Park Worth Visiting?

Yes, there is plenty to see and do.  We didn’t let the rain stop us from seeing the park, and had a lovely time even if we did get soaked.  I would love to go back and do some more hiking, visit Ross Castle, and maybe even try the jaunting carts.

 Have you visited Killarney National Park? What were your favorite parts?


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inside Muckross Abbey with text overlay "Things to Do in Killarney National Park County Kerry Ireland"

Expert Tips for Visiting Killarney National Park

  • You can easily spend a whole day in Killarney National Park, as there is plenty to see.
  • Take the guided tour so that you can see the inside of Muckross House and learn all the history.
  • There are several different hikes that you can do to see the Torc Waterfall.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we will receive a small commission for some purchases made using links in our blog with no additional cost to you.  Please be assured we would not promote any product unless we believe that our readers will also benefit.  The commission does not influence the editorial content of this site.

Last Updated on July 21, 2023

About the Author

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.