Skip to Content

The Locals Killarney Guide (Attractions, Pubs + Food)

The Locals Killarney Guide (Attractions, Pubs + Food)

Although Killarney in Kerry has a population of less than 15,000, it attracts over 1 million tourists each year.

And there’s no real mystery why – Killarney Town is the traditional starting point for the mighty Ring of Kerry Drive!

But it’s much more than that – Killarney is home to the National Park, areas of immense natural beauty and some great pubs and restaurants, too!

Below, you’ll find maps of the area, which hotels we recommend, where to find the best pint and all of the various things to do in Killarney. Cheers!

Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Killarney Town

best things to do in Killarney Ireland

Although a visit to Killarney is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

The town of Killarney is located in County Kerry in the south-west Ireland. It’s easily accessible by bus, train and plane (Kerry Airport is 13km away).

2. Size

Although you’ll hear some visitors refer to it as ‘Killarney City’, it is most definitely a town. In fact, with a population of 14,412 as per the 2022 census, it’s the second largest town in Ireland.

3. Why it’s famous

Killarney is famous thanks to its tourism heritage which spans to the 18th century when Lord Kenmare started a quest to attract visitors to the town. However, many argue that Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861 really put it on the map, so to speak. It is now the most popular of the Ring of Kerry towns.

A brief history of Killarney

Killarney Lakes

Photos via Shutterstock

The history of Killarney is a long and interesting one, spanning centuries with plenty of colourful tales and legends.

And, what better place to being, than with Innisfallen Island and its ancient Abbey that was founded in 640 by Saint Finian.

Innisfallen Island

It was on Innisfallen, a tiny island in Killarney’s Lower Lake, that St. Finian established a monastery that was inhabited for a staggering 950 years.

During 300 of these years, the monks of Innisfalled penned what we now know as the Annals of Innisfallen – a manuscript that details the history of pre-Christian Ireland between the years 433 and 1450.

The Anglo-Norman invasion

After the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland during the late 12th century, the Normans constructed a castle (Parkavonear) in Aghadoe on an elevated site overlooking the Lakes of Killarney.

The cylindrical castle is thought to have been built to provide the Normans with an early warning of incoming enemies.

Other ancient sites

Two of more significant ancient sites that still stand proudly in Killarney to this day are the impressive Ross Castle and the ruins of Muckross Abbey.

Ross Castle was built in the 15th century and it was home to a fierce Killarney clan called the O’Donoghues Mor (info below).

Muckross Abbey, although now in ruin, was founded around 1448. It’s a joy to explore and its courtyard has an ancient yew growing at its centre (info below).

Things to do in Killarney

We’ve  a nice, detailed guide on the many different things to do in Killarney, however, we’ll give you a quick overview of what there is to do below.

The town makes a great base for a Kerry road trip (nearby Kenmare is another good option!) as it’s a stone’s throw from many of the best places to visit in Kerry.

1. The Ring of Kerry drive

ring of kerry route 2024

The Ring of Kerry is a 179km long (111 miles) scenic route that takes in the very best of the Iveragh Peninsula.

If you look at the map above, you’ll see the towns it passes through. You’ll need to guts of a day to explore it at a nice pace.

We have a logical 1-day Ring of Kerry itinerary that’s easy to follow and that doesn’t pack too much in.

2. Ross Castle

Ross Castle

This 15th-century tower house sits in a prime position on the edge of Lough Leane. Considering its age, Ross Castle is in excellent condition both inside and out.

There are guided tours of the interior of the castle or, if you’re stuck for time, you can walk around the grounds and admire the views from its doorstep.

3. Killarney National Park

killarney national park

The oldest national park in Ireland, Killarney National Park is an area of immense natural beauty. You can enter the park from the town centre, but keep in mind there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Personally, I think the best way to see it is by bike (there are plenty of places to rent one in the town) or on one of the jaunting cars (horse and cart).

If you fancy a stroll, however, you can try one of the Killarney National Park walks.

4. Torc Waterfall

how to get to Torc Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

Located within Killarney National Park and just a 10-minute drive from Killarney Town, Torc Waterfall is a stunning 20 metres high waterfall.

The best time to see the waterfall is after heavy rainfall when the water flow is powerful.There’s a couple of great walks nearby, like the Torc Mountain walk and Cardiac Hill.

5. The Gap of Dunloe

gap of dunloe drive

Photos via Shutterstock

The famous Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass situated between the Purple Mountain and MacGillycuddy Reek.

There is a long and short walk here that both begin at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. You can also see it on a jaunting car (you can pay them on the day).

When you’re visiting, make sure to drop out to the Black Valley and Lord Brandon’s Cottage after.

6. Ladies View

Ladies View

Photos via Shutterstock

For spectacular views of Killarney’s three magical lakes, make your way to the outstanding Ladies View.

Located just a short drive from Killarney Town, it’s one of the first stops on the Ring of Kerry and it provides a view that’ll imprint itself on your mind forever more.

7. Moll’s Gap

Molls Gap

Photos via Shutterstock

A bendy mountain pass located on the road from Kenmare to Killarney, Moll’s Gap is the next stop after Ladie’s View.

You can park in the Avoca car park right next to it and watch the cars tackled the bends against the mountainous backdrop.

8. Muckross House and Gardens

main towns on the ring of kerry

Photos via Shutterstock

Located inside Killarney National Park, a 15-minute drive from Killarney Town, Muckross House and Gardens is one of the main Ring of Kerry highlights.

Here you’ll find a 19th Century Victorian Mansion and lavish garden near the shores of Muckross lakes.

Nearby Muckross Abbey is a must, too – these are ancient ruins that date to 1448. You can explore the upper and lower floor along with the graveyard.

Where to stay in Killarney Town

It’s probably no surprise that many of the most popular Ring of Kerry hotels can be found amongst the hustle and bustle of Killarney.

The map above will give you a lay of the land – as you can see, some accommodation is inside the town while others are outside of it.

Hop into our Killarney hotels guide or our Killarney B&B guide to find some great, central places to stay.

Pubs in Killarney

Jimmy Brien's

Photos via Jimmy Brien’s on FB

There are few things that I enjoy as much as kicking back with a pint in a ‘proper’ pub after a long day spent exploring.

There are plenty of great, traditional pubs in Killarney where you’ll be treated to a finely poured pint, live music and old-school decor. My favourites are:

  • Jimmy Brien’s
  • Courtney’s Bar
  • O’Connors
  • John M. Reidy

Killarney restaurants

Cronins Restaurant

Photos via Cronins Restaurant on FB

There’s a lot to like about Killarney’s food scene, with a mix of long-standing-dining-options and ‘newbies’ keeping the bellies of locals and tourists alike happy!

Cronins, Quinlans and Bricin are, in my opinion, 3 of the best places to eat in Killarney. If you fancy an early feed, hop into our guide to the best breakfast in Killarney.

Frequently asked questions

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it really worth stopping in?’ to ‘Why’s it famous?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What is special about Killarney?

The charming town of Killarney has earned world-fame mainly due to its enviable location. The town sits at the edge of Killarney National Park, with its lakes, mountains and historical sites, like Muckross Abbey.

Is Killarney worth visiting?

Killarney is a must-visit for those staying in Kerry. The town itself is nice to ramble around, but it’s proximity to the National Park with its many attractions that makes it well worth the visit.

How many days do you need in Killarney?

2 days is more than enough for Killarney. Spend the first day seeing Torc Waterfall, Muckross House and Abbey and Ross Castle. Spend the second driving the Ring of Kerry, which begins in the town.

Is Killarney a walkable town?

If you are staying in the town, yes – it is very walkable. However, do note that some accommodations state that they are in the town, but they are actually far down the Muckross Road, which is a bit of a walk.

Is there much to do in Killarney?

In Killarney, you have Ross Castle, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, the Lakes of Killarney and an abundance of walking trails that can be kicked off from the town centre.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Clare Edmonds

Wednesday 2nd of March 2022

We stay in killarney every year for short break.this year we stayed in the great southern hotel for two nights.the food and staff were absolutely fabulous.thoroughly enjoyed our stay.looking forward to the next one.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.