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A dramatic lakeland landscape that claims Ireland's highest peaks, rarest wildlife and most beautiful views, Killarney National Park is the country's oldest and most popular park. Ancient yew and oak forest and mountains frame three steely gray lakes pitted with islands home to Bronze Age copper mines and early monastic sites.

The park surrounds stately Muckross House and is best explored by horse and trap, by bicycle or on foot, getting you away from the busy roads and out into the countryside, where you might see herds of deer swimming to the islands.

At first, Killarney looks like a Disneyesque Ireland. But get talking to anyone — from hotel workers to the town storyteller — and you see they’re gregariously welcoming to visitors as well as deeply in touch with their traditions.

UK & Ireland specialist Elizabeth

Things to see and do in Killarney

Killarney National Park

A wild expanse of ancient woodland and mountain peaks, Killarney National Park’s deep russet hills are swathed in gorse and heather sweeping down to three inky lakes. Behind them lie the Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Ireland's highest mountains, and all around a thick carpet of moss covers tree trunks, walls and ancient ruins in a blanket of green.

Romantic tower houses and monastic ruins, such as Ross Castle and Inisfallen, tell tales of times long past. Elaborate mansions, such as Muckross House, speak of the region's long-standing popularity. Cycling and walking trails offer the chance to discover beautiful, untouched glens offering sweeping views over the lakes.

Jaunting cars

The quintessential way to get around the national park is by traditional jaunting car, a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a single horse. Beyond the romance of riding through the woods and glens on such a novel conveyance, a trip on a jaunting car brings you into contact with some of Killarney's most garrulous and witty of guides.

Some families have been driving visitors around the park for generations and can share a wealth of local knowledge and lore with their passengers. Along with regional history, folklore and legend, their wit and storytelling is renowned.

Killarney town

Killarney has been welcoming visitors for centuries, and the town is packed with brightly painted shops and cafes, art and craft galleries and interesting souvenirs. Although the main attraction in the area is the scenery, it's also worth visiting the town's 19th-century neo-Gothic cathedral and the Franciscan friary from the same period, which has stained glass by Harry Clarke, Ireland's leading glass artist. Thanks to a steady stream of visitors and healthy competition, Killarney is home to plenty of good restaurants and has some recommended pubs, many of which host live music in the evenings.

Killarney’s wildlife

Puffins in IrelandThe ancient oak and yew woods, blanket bogs and windswept upper slopes of the mountains of Killarney National Park form a wide range of habitats for wildlife. The park is home to Ireland's last surviving herd of wild red deer, the largest species in the country.

The males grow magnificent antlers, which are put to good use during the annual autumn rut in September. With luck, you may even see the deer swimming to the islands to graze. You'll also see smaller sika deer all over the park, as well as birdlife including reintroduced white-tailed eagles. Pine martens, stoats, foxes and badgers are also present, but harder to spot.

Muckross House and Abbey

The core of Killarney National Park is Muckross House, an elaborate Tudor-style mansion that played host to Queen Victoria in 1861. You can tour the lavish rooms, which are furnished in period style, or stroll through the immaculately kept gardens, which frame views of the lakes and mountains.

The outbuildings house art and craft studios, while the farm buildings depict life on a Kerry farm as it would have been in the 1930s. You can also take a jaunting car through the deer park and woodland to the twisting Torc Waterfall, where the trees drip with moss, or to 15th-century Muckross Abbey, a ruin of a Franciscan abbey razed by Oliver Cromwell's troops in 1652.

Ross Castle

Set on a rocky promontory overlooking Lough Leane, Ross Castle is an undeniably romantic place. The fortified tower house dates back to the 15th century and was the prime residence of the O'Donoghue Ross chieftains and the last place in Munster to fall to Cromwellian forces.

A guided tour offers a good insight into clan relationships and living conditions in medieval times, the threat of attack and the many legends that surround the castle. From here you can take a cruise around the national park's three lakes or kayak across one of them, Lough Leane, for superb views of the castle silhouetted against the evening sky.

The Ring of Kerry

West of Killarney lies the scenic, looped drive of the Ring of Kerry, which winds its way around the Iveragh Peninsula. It skirts the nation's highest peaks, the Macgillycuddy's Reeks, and offers panoramas of deserted Atlantic beaches, rocky headlands and the ever-present mountains.

You'll pass thundering waterfalls, tangled forests and gushing rivers en route, as well as a host of traditional towns, Iron Age forts, standing stones and old monasteries. The 179 km (111 mile) route starts and ends in Killarney town, and its rugged scenery lends itself to hiking, cycling, riding and fishing together with a wide selection of water sports.

Speak to someone
who's been there

Audley Travel Country Specialist Emily

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Killarney by contacting one of our Ireland specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring Killarney

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Killarney, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Killarney

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Killarney

    Accommodation choices for Killarney

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Killarney. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Cahernane House, Killarney

      Cahernane House

      First Class

      Once run by the Herbert family who owned the property for over 200 years, the now-restored Cahernane House Hotel provides luxury and comfort in a setting that recalls the grandeur of its historic past.

    • Killarney Park Hotel, Killarney

      Killarney Park Hotel

      First Class

      The charming Killarney Park Hotel is well known for its warm hospitality, delicious cuisine and stylish lounges. Situated in the heart of the town, the hotel offers stunning vistas of the Killarney mountains.

    • Killarney Royal, Killarney

      Killarney Royal

      Medium

      A convivial atmosphere, genuine welcome and classically elegant decor make the Killarney Royal a wonderful base for exploring the nearby national park. Staff go out of their way to ensure guests are comfortable, guest rooms are stylish and the food indulgent.

    • Randles Hotel, Killarney

      Randles Hotel

      Medium

      A historic property updated to luxurious modern standards, Randles Hotel balances high-class elegance with the comfort and welcome of staying in a country home.

    • Muckross Park Hotel & Spa, Killarney

      Muckross Park Hotel & Spa

      Deluxe

      The Muckross Park Hotel & Spa puts a modern twist on traditional elegance. Featuring an award-winning spa, multiple restaurants and sprawling grounds laced with hiking and cycling trails, this hotel offers a variety of relaxation options for guests.

    • Great Southern Killarney, Killarney

      Great Southern Killarney

      First Class

      Effortlessly elegant, the historic Great Southern Killarney is a lavish heritage property featuring relaxing guest rooms, inviting lounges, exquisite cuisine and a first-rate gym and spa. It is unmatched within the Killarney region.

    Ideas for experiencing Killarney

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Killarney, and which use the best local guides.

    • Gap of Dunloe jaunting car and boat trip
      Jaunting car on Gap of Dunloe

      Gap of Dunloe jaunting car and boat trip

      Gap of Dunloe jaunting car and boat trip

      Discover the stunning lakeland scenery of Killarney National Park on this leisurely looped tour up the magnificent Gap of Dunloe, an ancient glacial valley, by horse and carriage then across the inky Killarney lakes in an open boat.

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    • Kayak to Innisfallen Island
      Killarney lake

      Kayak to Innisfallen Island

      Kayak to Innisfallen Island

      Paddle across the inky depths of Lough Leane in a kayak to discover the mysterious ruins of Innisfallen Island, an incredibly romantic spot in the heart of the Killarney lakes where Irish heroes were educated and a herd of deer roam freely.

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    • Tour of the Ring of Kerry & Skellig Ring
      Skellig Michael

      Tour of the Ring of Kerry & Skellig Ring

      Tour of the Ring of Kerry & Skellig Ring

      Discover the scenery of the Ring of Kerry on this immersive full-day tour that brings you to some of Ireland's most scenic spots. Take in views of rugged cliffs, ancient monastic sites, stone forts and the legendary Killarney National Park.

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    • Irish whiskey & farmhouse cheese pairing
      Whiskey glasses

      Irish whiskey & farmhouse cheese pairing

      Irish whiskey & farmhouse cheese pairing

      Discover the secrets behind the making of Irish whiskey on this enjoyable experience that introduces key ingredients and the difference they make to a whiskey's taste and tone. You'll get a tutored tasting as well as pairings with wonderful farmhouse cheeses.

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