An ancient monastic settlement, leper colony and respected seat of learning said to have educated some of Ireland's greatest heroes, Innisfallen Island is the largest and most interesting of Killarney National Park's 26 islands. It's an incredibly romantic spot, heavily wooded, littered with age-old ruins and home to a herd of sika deer.
Getting here by kayak makes it even more enchanting. Silently gliding though the inky waters of Lough Leane you'll get panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, spot wildlife undisturbed by your presence and discover local history in an utterly tranquil setting.
Your tour begins at medieval Ross Castle, an imposing fortified tower house overlooking Lough Leane, the largest of Killarney's three lakes. Here you'll meet your guide and the rest of your small group and get kitted out for your kayaking trip. Following some instructions on techniques and a short safety briefing, you'll set off on double sit-on-top kayaks toward the island of Innisfallen.
This three-hour kayaking experience is a gentle but exhilarating way to immerse yourself in the beauty of Killarney National Park. About a quarter of the park is covered by water and getting out on the lakes offers a totally different perspective on the surrounding landscape. With sweeping views of the russet hills and heather-clad mountains and an air of utter tranquillity, it's a delightful way to explore.
En route to the island you may see brown trout leaping from the water and white-tailed eagles soaring overhead or catch glimpses of the island's herd of wild Japanese sika deer.
When you arrive at the island you'll set out on foot to explore. In the 7th century Saint Finian the Leper founded a monastic settlement here which was lived in by monks for nearly 1,000 years. According to local legend it is here that Irish hero and High King Brian Ború was educated.
The archaeological remains on the island are the most significant in the park with parts of the church dating back to the 10th century. You'll also find an oratory with a Hiberno-Romanesque doorway with intricate carvings dating from the 12th century and the main abbey buildings which date from the 13th century.
The monastery was a significant theological and educational hub and the monks here are credited with compiling the Annals of Innisfallen, a comprehensive manuscript chronicling the medieval history of Ireland from significant political and historic events to day-to-day living and weather reports. As you walk your guide will explain about the history of the island, the monks and the scholars and their importance in the broader context of Irish history.
Once you've thoroughly explored the island you'll return to the kayaks for the paddle back to Ross Castle.