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Do you want to soak up Ireland’s great outdoors? Killarney is the spot for you!
Located in the southwest corner of the Emerald Isle, Killarney is one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland. It is home to the country’s first national park and makes a great starting point for exploring the spectacular views along the Ring of Kerry. Adventure seekers can climb Ireland’s highest moutain, while history buffs will enjoy the ruins of medieval castles, churches, and more.
Want to know more? Check out our list of the best things to do in Killarney below!
1) Killarney National Park
Known for the park that bears its name, visiting Kilarney National Park is naturally one of the top things to do in Killarney.
The first national park in Ireland, the park was created in 1932 when the Muckross House was donated to the Irish Free State. Over the years, the park has expanded to include over 25,000 acres of land.
Killarney National Park boasts the largest native forest still remaining in Ireland. It is also home to the only herd of red deer found on the mainland. A designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the park is home to several mountain peaks, lakes, and woodlands.
2) Ring of Kerry
Killarney is surrounded by natural beauty, and one of the best ways to experience it is to hop in a car and go for a drive. The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular drives in Ireland, and Killarney’s location makes it a perfect spot to start (and end) your journey.
This 179 km scenic loop is sure to leave you awestruck. The route circles through the Iveragh Peninsula, passing by many of County Kerry’s top sights along the way. Offering dramatic views of moutains, lakes, and coastal beaches, this magnificent drive is an amatuer photographers dream come true.
As an alternative to driving, you can also hike the “Kerry Way” or follow the posted cycling path on your bike. Private tours are also available.
3) Muckross House and Gardens
Resting gracefully on a small peninsula between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane is Muckross House. Built in 1843, Queen Victoria paid a visit to the Tudor-style mansion in 1861.
The lavish mansion boasts a whopping 65 rooms and an 11,000 acre estate. It was donated to the Free Irish State in 1932, becoming the first national park in Ireland. The park later expanded and is today known as Killarney National Park.
Visiting the house and gardens is one of the most popular things to do in Killarney. Be sure to check out the traditional farm and grab a bite at the Garden Restaurant while you’re there.
4) Muckross Abbey
Just up the road from the Muckross House and Gardens is Muckross Abbey. Also located inside Killarney National Park, this Franciscan abbey has a tumultuous history.
Completed in 1448, the abbey served as the burial place for many of the local chieftans. It was abandonded during the Cromwellian wars of the mid-1600s, and the buidlings – although well preserved – now stand in ruin.
Gaze up at the square stone tower before making your way into the central courtyard which is surrounded by a vaulted cloister. Here, you’ll also find a beautiful yew tree which is thought to be as old as the abbey itself.
5) Ross Castle
Also located inside Killarney National Park is Ross Castle. Tucked against the shores of Lough Leane, this tower and keep was completed in the 15th century and served as the ancestoral home to the O’Donoghue clan.
According to legend, O’Donoghue is believed to be in a deep slumber at the bottom of the lake, waking on the first of May every seven years and circling the lake on his white horse. Catch a glimpse of him if you can, and you’ll experience good fortune for the rest of your days!
Legends aside, Ross Castle eventually came under the control of the Brownes. In 1652, it was the last stronghold in Munster to surrender to Oliver Cromwell’s troops.
Ross Castle is open to the public. Drive, hike, or bike your way to it from Killarney.
6) Dinis Cottage
On the other side of Muckross Lake from Muckross House sits Dinis Cottage. Built by the Herberts in the 1700s, this former hunting lodge now operates as a charming Victorian tea room.
Renting a bike is one of the best things to do in Killarney National Park, and getting to the cottage from the Muckross House by bike is super simple. Just hop on your bike and pedal across the Muckross Peninsula to get there.
The cottage is also just a short walk to Old Weir Bridge and the Meeting of the Waters. Better yet, take the entire Muckross and Dinis 10 km circular trail for great views of the park, including Torc Waterfall.
7) Day Trip to Dingle
In addition to the Ring of Kerry, taking a road trip to Dingle is one of the best things to do in Killarney. The Dingle Peninsula offers some of the most stunning coastlines and beaches that Ireland has to offer.
The short trip to Dingle is easily accessible by car. The best way to see it all, however, may be a guided tour. Explore Slea Head Drive, catch a wave at Inch Beach, then head back to town and grab some of the famous ice cream at Murphy’s. A day on the Dingle Peninsula is a day you won’t soon forget!
8) Innisfallen Island
The largest island on Lough Leane, visiting Innisfallen Island is another one of the best things to do in Killarney National Park. Here, you’ll find the ruins of Innisfallen Abbey. Founded by Saint Finan in about 640 A.D., the ruins that remain were largely between the 10th and 13th centuries.
According to legend, prior to the famous Irish King Brian Boru was eduated here. What is known for sure, however, is that the Annals of Innisfallen were written here. Written over a period of about 300 years by the monks who lived here, the writings chronicle Ireland’s early medieval history. The book now resides at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
To reach the island, hop a boat from Ross Castle. Guided kayak tours are also available.
9) Gap of Dunloe
If scenic views are your thing, making your way to the Gap of Dunloe is one of the best things to do in Killarney. This narrow pass between the Purple Mountain range and the Macgillicuddy’s Reeks offers some of the most spectacular views of the area.
Be aware that the 11 km route is super tight, making it difficult (although not impossible) to navigate with a car. Hiking or cycling the pass is typically the best way to experience it, although a “jaunting car” is also an option. Either way, you’ll be treated magnificent views of the surrounding lakes, hills, and valleys as you make your way through it.
10) Carrauntoohil Mountain
For those craving even more adventure, climbing Carrauntoohill Mountain should be added to your list. At over 3,400 feet, Carrauntoohill stands as Ireland’s highest mountain.
Several different trails will bring you to the top where you’ll obviously be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views around. Of course, these hikes aren’t for beginners. Beware that this mountain should be conquered by experienced hikers only please.
11) Grab a Pint and a Bite
After all of that exploring, come back to town for a drink and something to eat!
As you might expect, The Shire is a “Lord of the Rings” themed pub that might seem kitschy but is a ton of fun. Killarney Brewing Company serves up some delicious artisan pizza with a Devil’s Helles Lager on the side, while Murphy’s Inn doubles as a lively traditional bar below.
Hit the town and soak up some live music at spots like O’Connors Traditional Pub, Courtney’s Bar, and the Killarney Grand. Everywhere you look, there are fun things to do in Killarney!
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