Killarney National Park

The Killarney National Park (in Irish: Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne), located near the town of Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland, stands out as the first natural area of its kind established in the country following the donation of Muckross House to the Irish state in 1932. Since then, the protected area has grown significantly, now covering more than 102.89 km² of varied ecology.

Among its landscapes are the lakes of Killarney and extensive oak and yew forests, considered internationally significant, as well as towering mountains. It is home to Ireland’s only herds of red deer and contains the largest remaining native forest in the country.

This park is characterized by its immense ecological value, not only due to the extent and diversity of its habitats but also because it hosts a wide variety of species, including some very rare ones. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981, recognizing its impressive natural landscape within the European protected areas. The park is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, being one of the main protected areas in the country along with the Connemara National Park.

What to See and Do in Killarney National Park

The highlight of Killarney National Park undoubtedly includes its three splendid lakes: Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake.

Killarney National Park

The most recommended option to discover the corners of this park is through walks or bike rides. There is an excellent network of paths designed for both cyclists and walkers, facilitating a complete and pleasant tour of the surroundings. Bicycles can be rented in Killarney and its surroundings. Moving at a slow pace is the ideal method to appreciate the mighty landscapes that these paths reveal only to those willing to take the time to explore: numerous panoramas remain hidden to those who quickly transit the main road and, therefore, are a secret to travelers who do not spend enough time in the place.


Located on the southwest coast, in County Kerry, Killarney is the ideal starting point for nature lovers who want to enjoy the beauty of the Irish countryside.

Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland

Surrounded by mighty hills and shimmering lakes, Killarney offers a dreamlike setting for those wishing to immerse themselves in the history and charm of Ireland.

The lively town of Killarney serves as an excellent base for exploring the region, rich in forests, lakes, and outdoor activities. With its colorful houses, cozy pubs, lively signs, and small shops, it is a truly picturesque place that will leave a lasting impression. There is a wide selection of pubs where you can enjoy traditional music, and you can hop from one to another in the same night. Although the town is very popular with tourists, it is essential to explore the surroundings of Killarney National Park, walk through the forests, and marvel at the beauty of its lakes.

Muckross House

Panoramic view of Muckross House (Teach Mhucrois), located on the Muckross Peninsula, between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, Killarney, Ireland.

Within the extensive 26,000 hectares of Killarney National Park lies Muckross House, a 19th-century Victorian mansion located on the shore of Muckross Lake and surrounded by exquisite ornamental gardens. Open to the public, this mansion houses original furniture, a museum dedicated to local traditions, and a craft center. For decades, Muckross House has welcomed visitors, showcasing a decoration that reflects the elegance and lifestyle of the nobility in contrast with the servants’ life represented in the basement kitchen. Additionally, it features a craft room where visitors can witness demonstrations of traditional crafts such as weaving, bookbinding, and pottery.

The Muckross estate also includes the Muckross Traditional Farm, where one can immerse in the rural lifestyle of 1930s and 1940s Ireland. Near Muckross House are the ruins of Muckross Abbey, burned by Cromwell’s troops in 1652. From Muckross House, there are various activities to enjoy in the area, such as renting bicycles or horse-drawn carriages to explore the estate, taking a boat ride on the lake, or walking along the surrounding trails.

For instance, you can reach Knockeer House, surrounded by beautiful gardens, or Ross Castle in about 30 minutes. There is also a 10-kilometer trail leading from the mansion to Muckross Lake, passing through ancient forests with an enchanting undergrowth of heather and ferns that inspire several Irish legends. The trail ends at Brickeen Bridge, where Muckross and Leane lakes meet, known as the Meeting of the Waters. Do not miss the chance to stop at Dinis Cottage for tea, an old 18th-century hunting lodge.

Ross Castle

Panoramic view of Ross Castle (Ross Castle en inglés y Caisleán an Rois en gaélico), located on the shores of Lough Leane in Killarney National Park, Ireland.

Rising above the shores of Lough Leane, Ross Castle was erected by O’Donoghue Mór during the 15th century and valiantly resisted Cromwell’s forces, being one of the last strongholds to fall in Ireland. In its heyday, the castle was surrounded by a fortified village, with mighty towers protecting the walls, although only two remain today. After 1688, the castle was converted into a barracks and its inner courtyard was dismantled to allow for expansions on the south side.

With its original oak furniture, Ross Castle stands out as one of Killarney’s main attractions, offering guided tours that recount the turbulent history of the place, filled with fascinating anecdotes. The castle is accessible on foot or by bike, following beautiful wooded trails along Lough Leane. Near the entrance, before crossing the charming little bridge, horse-drawn carriages await to offer scenic tours of the area, a romantic option for couples or a fun experience for families with children and teenagers.

At the castle’s small dock, boats are available for leisurely trips on the small lakes. These can be rented to calmly navigate, exploring all the interconnected lakes. This offers a magnificent opportunity to be surrounded by nature. Additionally, you can opt for a boat ride to Inisfallen Island, where the ruins of a monastery founded by Saint Finian in the 7th century and a 12th-century oratory can be found, or visit Lord Brandon’s cottage.

Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey is a Franciscan friary founded in 1448, known in English as Muckross Abbey and in Irish as Mainistir Locha Léin and Mainistir Mhucrois, an ecclesiastical site within Killarney National Park, in County Kerry, Ireland

A short distance from Muckross House, you can delve into the peaceful ruins of Muckross Abbey, a 15th-century convent located on the idyllic shores of Lough Leane and within Killarney National Park.

Notable for its uniqueness, this abbey houses the only Franciscan tower in all of Ireland, while a mighty ancient yew tree stands at the center of the vaulted cloisters. Muckross Abbey is well-preserved, allowing visitors to explore some of the upper apartments that once served as the monks’ residence.

Ladies View

View from the Ladies View panoramic viewpoint, Ireland

The Ladies View lookout, located at the top of the winding mountain road connecting Killarney and Kenmare, is a stop that will take your breath away. From here, your gaze loses itself in a valley adorned with an uninterrupted succession of mountains covered in blooming heather, blue lakes glistening under the sun, and a mighty blue sky embracing this natural spectacle.

Leaving the car and walking to the tip of the large rock formation, you will truly feel like you are floating above the landscape. Despite having become a tourist destination, Ladies View remains fascinating and stunningly beautiful, a harmonious fusion between the wild nature and the serenity of the fairy valley. The best route to reach Ladies View would be from Kenmare, descending then towards Killarney.

Along the way, you will be greeted with wonderful views and can easily stop at different access points to the lake, where small beaches of white pebbles border the crystal-clear waters.

Innisfallen Island

Aerial view of Innisfallen Island, Ireland

Innisfallen Island is located geographically in the waters of Lough Leane, 1.5 km from the shore of Ross Castle. Covering an area of 21 acres, it is the largest of the 32 islands dotting the lake.

At the center of the island lies a testimony to a glorious past: the ruins of Innisfallen Abbey, representing one of the most outstanding archaeological remnants of the early Christian period within Killarney National Park. Founded in 640, this abbey was inhabited for 850 years, being the origin of a true historical treasure: the Annals of Innisfallen. For approximately three centuries, the monks kept a detailed record of their lives, thus creating an invaluable document that narrates the early history of Ireland.

From March to October, it is possible to explore the island through boat excursions, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history and natural beauty of this unique place.

Gap of Dunloe

Hiking through the Gap of Dunloe, traversing the narrow mountain pass between the north and south of County Kerry, Ireland

The "Gap of Dunloe" is a narrow mountain pass in County Kerry, in southwestern Ireland. This pass is famous for its stunning landscape, featuring steep hills, deep valleys, and serene lakes. The term "Gap" refers to the breach or opening between the mountains, while "Dunloe" is the name of a nearby locality. The Gap of Dunloe is a popular tourist attraction in the Killarney region, and many people explore it on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback to enjoy the impressive views and natural beauty of the area.

It is important to note that during peak traffic hours in the summer months, cars are prohibited in the area. On foot, it takes approximately two and a half hours to reach the Head of the Gap, covering a distance of about 10 kilometers from Kate Kearney’s Cottage. The path offers a magnificent experience among meadows, intensely purple rocks, waterfalls, and ponds.

From the cottage, you can also ride a bicycle, horse, or jaunting car, with organized excursions that combine various means of transport, including a stretch by boat. From the summit, you can descend into the Black Valley and to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, further exploring the natural beauty of the region.

Torc Waterfall

Visit Torc Waterfall (Torc waterfall or Easach Toirc) along the Owengarriff River in Killarney National Park, 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland

Along the trail that borders the picturesque Muckross Lake, you will find Torc Waterfall, a natural spectacle 20 meters high in the middle of the forest. Located about 7 km from the town of Killarney and about 2.5 km from the entrance to Muckross House, Torc Waterfall is accessible from a parking area on the N71 road, on the way to Kenmare. A short walk of approximately 300 meters takes you directly to the waterfall.

From this point, a series of steps lead you to another viewpoint located at a higher elevation, where you can enjoy wonderful views of the lake and its surroundings. This route is part of the famous Kerry Way, which offers the opportunity to enjoy the region’s nature while visiting the impressive waterfall.

Killarney House and Gardens

Killarney House and Gardens, an Irish country house in County Kerry. Historic site built by Queen Victoria during her visit to Ireland in 1861.

The recently restored Killarney House and Gardens emerge as one of the freshest and most captivating tourist attractions in the town. Strategically located near the center, they are easily accessible on foot, offering a haven of tranquility amidst the urban hustle and bustle. The site where Killarney House stands was selected by Queen Victoria herself during her visit to Ireland in 1861, originally serving as the residence of the Earls of Kenmare.

Just a short walk away, the majestic St. Mary’s Cathedral awaits, a masterpiece of 19th-century neo-Gothic architecture in Ireland. Exploring its interior is to delve into the history and beauty of faith, immersing oneself in the very essence of the town of Killarney.

Recommended Excursions and Activities

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How to get to Killarney National Park

From Cork

To get from Cork to Killarney, you have several options that typically take between 1.5 and 2 hours. If you choose to drive via the N22 national road, the journey usually takes around 1.5 hours. Renting a car or using private transfers from the city center or the airport are excellent alternatives. Direct buses are also a convenient option, with regular departures from Cork’s main station, Parnell Place, and a similar travel time of approximately 1.5 hours.

Another alternative is the train. Early and late services are usually direct and take around 1.5 hours, while other schedules require a connection in Mallow, adding about 30 minutes to the journey.

Once in Killarney, it is recommended to explore Killarney National Park by car. The Ring of Kerry route (N71 road) offers some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ireland. If you do not have your own vehicle, private transfer services and tour companies can take you through the park. The Killarney tourist office can provide more information on this.

If you are interested in popular hiking routes in Ireland, County Cork offers a variety of options. An 8-day walking itinerary from Killarney to Cork includes numerous stops along the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and Beara Peninsula, allowing you to enjoy stunning landscapes and memorable hikes.

From Shannon Airport in Limerick

From Shannon Airport in Limerick, you have several options to get to Killarney, with travel times generally ranging from 1.5 to 3 hours.

The fastest way to get there is by rental car or private transfer, which will take you approximately 1.5 hours. Simply follow the N21 and N23 national roads connecting Limerick to Killarney.

If you prefer public transport, regional buses operated by Bus Éireann also offer services from Limerick to Killarney. Most trips take around 2 hours, but some departures may require a connection in Tralee, which could extend the travel time to about 3 hours.

Another option is the train, although it is not as direct as the car journey. Train services from Limerick to Killarney require two connections, one at Limerick Junction and another at Mallow, which can take up to 3 hours in total.

From Dublin

From Dublin to Killarney, you have several options with travel times ranging between 1.5 and 6.5 hours.

The fastest way to get there is by plane. Aer Lingus offers two daily flights to Kerry Airport. From there, a 20-minute taxi or private transfer will take you to Killarney. You can also rent a car at Kerry Airport for added convenience.

If you prefer driving, the main motorways connect Dublin to Killarney in approximately 3.5 hours.

Buses also offer an option, but they require a connection in Limerick, which can take between 6 and 6.5 hours.

Trains are another alternative, connecting Dublin and Killarney in approximately 3.5 hours via Mallow.

Best Time to Visit Killarney

The ideal season to visit Killarney is late spring and early autumn when the weather is still pleasant, and the summer crowds have diminished. It is advisable to bring a raincoat and waterproof footwear, as rain is common during all seasons, even in the colder months of winter. This way, you can fully enjoy the beauty of Killarney and the national park regardless of the time of year.