Known as Ireland’s adventure capital, Killarney is the place to experience the Ireland of your dreams. A typically charming Irish town that happens to surrounded by some of the most spectacular nature, Killarney is only second to Dublin in terms of visitors. Explore the gateway to County Kerry with this helpful guide.
What to Know
Nestled on the shores of Lough Leane in County Kerry, Killarney is a small town of less than 15,000 residents. However, due to it popularity as a tourist destination, the town can seem much larger. While there’s plenty to see and do in town, the real draw here is Killarney National Park. Its 24,000 acres of lakes and mountains attract countless visitors seeking endless opportunities for adventure, from hiking to horseback riding. History buffs will be plenty satisfied too, as the park is home to a number of historic sites.
When to Go
The best time to visit Killarney is in late spring and early autumn, when the weather is still favorable but you won’t be fighting the peak summer crowds. Come prepared with a raincoat and waterproof shoes, as rainfall is frequent in every season including the cool winter months.
How to Get Around
Walking is the best way to get around Killarney town because like most Irish cities, the town itself is very compact. Wander through the charming streets and make note of all the restaurants, shops and pubs you want to visit. If walking isn’t an option, the Killarney Shuttle Bus will take you to all the major attractions in Killarney and operates seven days a week.
For a truly unique experience, hire a jaunting car from the town center to Killarney National Park. Tours on these horse-drawn carriages cover the most scenic spots and are led by a knowledge guide.
Where to Eat
Being a major tourist hub, Killarney is filled with restaurants, cafes and bars for every taste. A night out on the town isn’t complete without a visit to one of its pubs, where live music is a nightly occurrence. Below are some of our top picks for eating and drinking in Killarney.
Lakes of KillarneyThe heart and soul of Killarney National Park has to be its three lakes: Lough Leane, Muckross Lake (Middle Lake), and Upper Lake. Whether you choose to walk, hike, bike or take a boat tour, experiencing these lakes is a must. For incredible views over the Upper Lake and Purple Mountains, head to the viewing point known as Ladies View, which was named after Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting.
Muckross House & Gardens
An elegant 19th century Victorian mansion on the shores of Muckross Lake, the 65-room Muckross House is one of the highlights during a visit to Killarney National Park. Completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the mansion hosted Queen Victoria during her visit to Ireland. Furnished with much of its original furniture, art and books, visitors can take a one-hour guided tour of the estate, which features an “upstairs” and “downstairs” quite similar to the house portrayed in Downton Abbey.
Majestically perched on the shores of Lough Leane, Ross Castle is a 15th century castle built by O’Donoghue Mór, an Irish Chieftain. Fully restored and furnished with period oak furniture, the medieval castle is one of the last examples of a typical stronghold during the Middle Ages.
Travel tip: Ross Castle is open to visitors from April to October.
For a perfect photo op, walk up a short, winding path to Torc Waterfall. Nestled at the base of Torc Mountain, the waterfall is a stunning sight and especially powerful after a heavy rainfall. Immediately to the left of the waterfall is a path leading to magnificent viewing points of Muckross Lake and Killarney National Park.
Tips and Tricks
Ring of Kerry
Beginning and ending in Killarney, the Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular day trips in Ireland. The 120-mile circular route along the Iveragh Peninsula takes you through breathtaking Atlantic Coast, charming towns and stunning mountains. Highlights include the town of Kenmare, Moll’s Gap, Valentia Island and the Kerry Cliffs. Drive the route in an anti-clockwise direction to flow with traffic.
Stretching 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, Dingle Peninsula is packed with ancient historic sites, mountain ranges, steep seaside cliffs and one seriously cool town. Highlights along the way include the Gallarus Oratory, a 9th century Christian oratory, Dingle Bay and Dingle Town, famous for its colorful main street and authentic pubs. The point known as Slea Head is Ireland’s westernmost point and the closest to America.
Straddling County Cork and County Kerry, the Beara Peninsula is the Ring of Kerry’s quieter, more relaxed neighbor. The 85-mile route can easily be seen in a day if not more to drive the scenic Healy Pass Road. Get your beara-rings in Castletownbere, the largest town on the peninsula and make time for Dursey Island, home to Ireland's only cable car.
Accountant-turned-travel planner, I share all things travel here!