Visit Killarney, Ireland
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.
UK & Ireland specialist Elizabeth
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.
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.
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 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.
The 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.
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.
Map of Killarney
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Killarney
- Kenmare 13 miles away
- Dingle Peninsula 33 miles away
- Cork 45 miles away
- Kinsale 49 miles away
- Cobh 54 miles away
- Limerick 57 miles away
- The Burren 70 miles away
- Inis Mor 74 miles away
- Galway 86 miles away
- Connemara 102 miles away
- Waterford 103 miles away
- Kilkenny 104 miles away
- County Wexford 131 miles away
- Sligo 159 miles away
- Dublin 162 miles away
- Newgrange and the Boyne Valley 170 miles away
- Enniskillen 176 miles away
- County Donegal 189 miles away
- Northern Ireland 217 miles away
- Derry Londonderry 223 miles away
- Belfast 230 miles away
- Giants Causeway 252 miles away
Photos of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.