Mossy green rolling valleys, gorgeous lakes, sparkling waterfalls and dramatic mountain landscapes – we’re not describing the set of the Lord of the Rings. That’s what it’s like to walk through Killarney National Park in Ireland.
This 25,000 acre protected natural area is the best depiction of the absolute beauty of Ireland. In fact, it was the first national park in Ireland. And if you’re planning a trip to the country, spend at least two days out of the cities visiting this wonder. You won’t regret it.
How do I get to Killarney National Park?
The closest international airports are Kerry Airport (18km) and Cork airport (88km). But if you’re not going to either of these places, you can also get off at Dublin or Shannon Airports.
Killarney itself is a town that is linked to Cork and Dublin by train. There are regular daily services in both directions.
If you’re renting a car, Killarney is easily accessible through the national roads from Cork and Limerick. You can rent a car from the airport or most major cities.
How far is Killarney from Dublin?
Killarney is actually 315 km away from Dublin. But it’s connected by regular daily trains.
What are the best things to do at Killarney National Park?
Killarney National Park is one of those places that you can visit a hundred times and still find something new. Because that’s the beauty of nature – it’s always changing. Killarney National Park brings together untouched natural landscapes and historical castles and architecture for visitors to explore.
Entrance is free. But some of the attractions require you to take a tour or pay an admission charge, so do be mindful of that.
If you’re on a short visit, here are the top 5 things to do in Killarney National Park:
1. Explore the whole park
In 1981, Killarney National Park was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which means there’s absolutely no denying the incredible ecological diversity. The park houses woodlands, amazing lakes like the Lakes of Killarney, waterfalls, hiking trails through some of the most magnificent scenery and so much more. Just walking around through the park is an experience in itself. And going without an agenda will still get you some amazing views and pictures to last a lifetime.
2. Visit the Muckross House
The Muckross House Gardens is a beautiful Victorian mansion that used to belong to Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, water colorist Mary Balfour Herbert, in the 1800s. And the only way to tour the inside of this beautiful house is to take the official guided tours at €9. The tour takes about an hour and they tell you all of the stories of the great house, and the families that lived there.
3. Hike to the Torc Waterfall
The Torc Waterfall is a picture-perfect waterfall. At 20 metres high, this 110 metres long cascade waterfall formed by the Owengarriff River looks like it’s straight out of the movies. You can find it at the base of Torc Mountain.
Torc Waterfall is actually a popular attraction in the area, and a really short walk up from the main parking lot. So it’s child friendly and great for people of all hiking levels. It’s quite close to Muckross House, so you can naturally add it to your itinerary and see both.
4. Explore Ross Castle
Ross Castle is a beautiful renovated castle, rising through the greenery on the edge of Lower Lake in Killarney National Park. It was built in 1537 by the ruling clan O’Donoghues Mór and has been the setting for many battles through the centuries.
According to a local legend, the original O’Donoghue’s spirit still sleepsunder the waters of Lough Leane, in front of the castle. Legend says that on the 1st of May, every seven years, he rises up from the lake on a white horse. But rest assured, if you do see him – it’s good news. It means you’ll have good fortune for the rest of your life.
And we think that legend alone is enough to make us want to plan our trips in May!
5. Explore the park by bike
The Nas Daily team is made up of quite a few outdoors lovers, who have been biking around in the Killarney National Park. And we love it! Some of the hiking trails in the park are also great for biking and it should definitely be one of your considerations.
You’ll definitely be able to cover more ground than by walking. Bikes can be rented from Killarney town, and you can ride to the park.
Some of the trails we loved include the Muckross Dinis Loop, which is mostly flat. This is great for beginners or any skill level. And the best part is that it takes you by some of the popular attractions in Killarney National Park like Muckross Abbey, Muckross House, and the Torc Waterfall!
Bonus: The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a natural wonder that was formed by a glacier. ‘The Gap’ itself separates the Purple Mountain Range of Killarney National Park, from the MacgillyCuddy Reeks. It’s a very popular tourist site and well worth the visit. Here, you’ll see lakes, stone bridges, painting-like scenery and even some sheep! It’s the most picturesque place, and it really took us by surprise.
While driving to the Gap of Dunloe is the most common way to see it, we highly recommend walking through! It gives you a lot more time to take in all the nooks and crannies.
You can walk from from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to the Head of the Gap of Dunloe. It’s roughly 6km and can take you around 1 to 2 hours. But if that sounds like too much walking for you, you can always rent a car and drive right up to the top.
Where to stay in Killarney?
Killarney itself is a quaint little town full of warm people. You can’t go wrong with any of the Bed and Breakfasts, but here are some of our favorite places to stay.
- Scott’s Hotel – Family friendly, great location, really comfortable
- Kinvara House – Homely, great mountain views
- Brooke Lodge Boutique Hotel – affordable luxury, great for resting after a day of hiking
Whether you’re a nature lover or not, Killarney is sure to blow you away. And no amount of pictures will do it justice. You HAVE to see this one for yourself!