Killarney National Park is technically part of the famous Ring of Kerry in Ireland, 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 would expect at a national park. In addition, there are also historic sites that you should not miss.
In this post, I will give you a little of the history and tell you about the top five things to do in Killarney National Park. Hopefully, you can fit them all in your visit.
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Killarney National Park is located just to the south and west of the town of Killarney, so I would recommend basing yourself there for at least a night. The town caters to tourists and has some quality restaurants and bars. If you like gin, you will have to check out this Killarney Gin Guide.
The Killarney park is huge so it’s probably wise to drive there. You can find parking lots at the major attractions that are free. If you would like to try a more traditional form of transportation they have Killarney jaunting cars, a type of horse-drawn carriage, that you can hire to take you around.
Where to Stay Close to Killarney National Park
We stayed at the Carrilgea House, which is a charming bed and breakfast conveniently located right across the street from the park. One morning before breakfast, we walked over to one of the Killarney lakes and enjoyed the sunrise. It was definitely worth getting up early for! Our breakfast was lovely too. The first course was oatmeal and the second course was a full Irish breakfast. It’s a delicious introduction to traditional Irish food!
Click here for more information about the Carrilgea House as they do sell out especially during peak season. Check out this list of for more places to stay near Killarney National Park.
If you are traveling as a couple, you might also like these romantic getaways in Ireland.
Things to Do in Killarney National Park
Ireland’s Killarney National Park is perfect for both nature and history lovers. Nature lovers will enjoy the mountains, lakes, trails, and even a waterfall. For those interested in history, there is Muckross House, Ross Castle, and the ruins of Muckross Abbey.
Muckross House Killarney
The main attraction in the Killarney National 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 inside 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. The inside is decorated like it would have been in Victorian time. Plus, from inside the house, there are great views of the Muckross lake and the gardens. No pictures are allowed inside the house.
It was interesting to learn that Queen Victoria along with her husband Prince Albert stayed at Muckross House in 1861 during their trip to Ireland. They celebrated Prince Albert’s 42nd birthday there and then sadly he died a few months later. 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.
After our Muckross House 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 Muckross House Gardens.
I knew Muckross Abbey was ruins but I was surprised how much of the abbey was actually intact. The first monastery on this site was thought to have been built sometime in the 6th century. The ruins that you see now are of a Franciscan friary, founded in the 15th century, but the monks were driven out in the 1650’s by the Cromwellian forces sent to conquer Ireland by the English Parliament. You can even climb the stairs to explore the second floor.
There is also a graveyard that looked interesting. 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. You can also drive to the Killarney abbey since there is a parking lot a short walk away.
After our trip to Isle of Skye, we are both obsessed with waterfalls. So when we heard there was a Killarney waterfall, 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.
I had read the falls were only a five-minute walk from the parking lot, so we weren’t going to let the weather stop us. 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 the Killarney National Park waterfall.
Ross Castle Killarney
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 in Killarney National Park. It 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, the Killarney Castle is not easily accessible for visitors with mobility issues.
You can also take a Ross Castle Boat Trip to Dinis Cottage, Innisfallen Island, Gap of Dunloe, Lord Brandon’s Cottage, Meeting of the Waters, O’Sullivan’s Cascade, and Muckross House.
Ladies View in Killarney National Park
Ladies View is a scenic lookout point that we stopped at while we were driving the Ring of Kerry (check out our video here). It gets its name because Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting liked the view here. It is a spectacular view, so I definitely recommend that you stop and take a few pictures.
Killarney National Park Tour Options
Of course, you can explore the area on your own, but there are also several Killarney Park tours that look interesting:
- Killarney Boat Tour: Spend time out on the water. There are several options for Killarney Boat Tours including this one hour tour and this private one if you want to splurge.
- Killarney Bike Tour: You can either rent a bike and explore the park or do a bike tour of Killarney National Park with Green Road Cycle Tours.
- Killarney National Park Walking Tour: A walking tour led by a local guide that can be customized. Click here to check price and availability.
- Killarney Kayaking Tour: A two-hour kayaking tour on one of the Killarney lakes that includes seeing Ross Castle. Click here to check price and availability.
So Much to See in Killarney National Park
We tried to not let the rain stop us from seeing the park, but we got soaked. I would love to go back and do some more of the walks in Killarney National Park, visit Ross Castle, and maybe even try the jaunting carts. Plus, I need to spend some more time in the city of Killarney.
Have you visited Killarney National Park? What were your favorite parts?
Expert Tips for What to See in Killarney National Park
- You can easily spend a whole day in Killarney Ireland 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 in Killarney National Park.
- If you are looking for a place to stay, we enjoyed the Carrilgea House. The location is ideal and they will pamper you. Plus breakfast was included and it was something special. Click here to check availability as they do sell out especially during peak season.
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