A Guide To Killarney In Kerry: Things To Do, Accommodation, Food + More

killarney ireland
Photo left: 4 Luftbilder. Photo right: Joao Nunes de Almeida (Shutterstock)

If you’re debating staying in Killarney in Kerry, you’ve landed in the right place.

There’s no real mystery why Killarney, a town with only 15,000 residents, attracts more than 1 million tourists every year.

Tt’s the perfect base for your Kerry road trip, if you want to base yourself in a lively Irish town (if you’d rather a more chilled vibe, try nearby Kenmare!). 

Surrounded by majestic mountains and picturesque lakes, the town of Killarney serves as a base for exploring some of the best places to visit in Kerry.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do in Killarney to where to stay and where to grab a bite to eat.  

Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Killarney in Kerry

visiting killarney in ireland
Photo by 4 Luftbilder (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Killarney in Kerry 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, where it can easily be reached by car, bus, or train. It’s also a short, 13km from Kerry Airport.

2. Name

The name ‘Killarney’ is pronounced ‘Kil-are-knee’ and it roughly translates into “Church of Sloes”. 

3. Ring of Kerry Town

A scenic route around the Iveragh Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry is one of the main reasons why travellers flock to the town of Killarney. 

Killarney is one of the traditional starting points of this world-famous 111 mile-long route, well known for its spectacular landscapes.

A very brief history of Killarney

Christmas in killarney
Photo by Brian Morrison

Steeped in history, the town of Killarney dates back to the early Bronze Age. However, the first significant historical settlement in the area was a monastery founded on Innisfallen Island in Lough Leane in the 7th century. The ruins of this monastery are still visible.

Killarney became famous in the mid-18th century when the 4th Viscount of Kenmare decided to create his own version of England’s Lake District in an attempt to attract visitors to this picturesque region in south-west Ireland.

Killarney played its part in the Irish War of Independence at the beginning of the 20th century. The whole region had strong republican ties and events like the famous Headford Ambush took place just a few miles outside the town.

Things To Do In Killarney (and nearby)

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

One of the biggest draws of Killarney is that it offers a bit of something for everyone, with everything from hikes and walks to historical sites and more on offer.

1. The Ring of Kerry drive/cycle

ring of kerry road trip
Photo by Johannes Rigg (Shutterstock)

Whether you wish to drive or cycle, the Ring of Kerry is definitely one of the best day trips you can have in this part of Ireland. From coastal landscapes and rural seaside villages blessed with natural beauty, the views on this route are simply breathtaking.

2. Ross Castle

things to do killarney
Photo by Hugh O’Connor (Shutterstock)

This 15th-century tower house is built on the edge of Lough Leane. Considering its age, Ross Castle is in good condition and definitely worth a visit. From February to November, visitors can join a guided tour of the castle and admire the beauty of its interiors. Of course, anyone can visit and explore the outside area for free.  

3. Killarney National Park

killarney national park walks
Photos via Shutterstock

The oldest national park in Ireland, Killarney National Park is a perfect place to visit for nature enthusiasts visiting the town of Killarney. The park starts just a couple of miles from the town centre and is easy to get to on foot.

Expect to see everything from vast lakes and lush green woodland to beautiful historical buildings, many of which you can see on the different Killarney National Park walks.

4. Torc Waterfall

torc waterfall killarney
Photo left: Luis Santos. Photo right: gabriel12 (Shutterstock)

Located within Killarney National Park and just a 10-minute drive from Killarney city centre, 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. The views are spectacular! There’s a couple of great walks nearby, like the Torc Mountain walk and Cardiac Hill.

5. Gap of Dunloe

The gap of Dunlore
Photo by Stefano_Valeri (Shutterstock)

Exploring the Gap of Dunloe is probably one of the best experiences to have in the area. This narrow mountain path that stretches for about 11 km takes you past 5 lakes.

The route is extremely picturesque and the views of the lakes are simply magnificent. When you’re visiting, make sure to drop out to the Black Valley and Lord Brandon’s Cottage.

6. Ladies View

Ladies view killarney
Photo by Borisb17 (Shutterstock)

For spectacular views of Killarney’s three mystical lakes, make your way to the legendary Ladies View. Located just a short drive from the town centre, this site is definitely a must-see when exploring Kerry. In addition to breathtaking views, there is a café and bar for refreshments and a gift store.

7. Moll’s Gap

Molls gap best thing to do in kerry
Photo via Failte Ireland

A lovely mountain pass located on the road from Kenmare to Killarney, Moll’s Gap is a great destination to enjoy views of the region. You can visit this place either by bike or by car. In case you opt for cycling and wish to rest, there is a nice café close to the Moll’s Gap.

8. Muckross House and Gardens

muckross house
Photo by Frank Luerweg (Shutterstock)

Located at the Killarney National Park and just a 15-minute drive from Killarney town centre, Muckross House and Gardens comprise a 19th Century Victorian Mansion and lavish gardens. You will find this eye-catching house near the shores of Muckross lakes.

Not to be missed are the traditional farms, as well as Carpenter’s Workshop, Labourer’s Cottage, and Blacksmith’s Forge. Nearby Muckross Abbey is also worth a visit.

Killarney hotels and accommodation

killarney accommodation guide
Photos via the Europe Hotel

When it comes to looking for accommodation in Killarney, travellers will find a bit of everything. From several luxury hotels to cosy airbnbs and charming guesthouses, there is something for every traveller.

We’ve several guides to help you discover the best places to stay in Killarney:

Pubs in Killarney

jimmy briens bar killarney ireland
Photo via Google Maps

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.

Stick me in the corner of a fine, traditional Irish pub with decent drop and I’m at my happiest. Now, if you like to steer clear of gastro pubs and nightclubs, you’re in luck.

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.

Killarney restaurants

jm reidy restaurant killarney
Photo via J.M. Reidy on Instagram

There’s heaps of excellent places to eat in Killarney, regardless of whether you’re after some fine dining or a casual bite.

In this guide, you’ll find 11 restaurants in Killarney that’ll make your belly very happy altogether. If you fancy an early feed, hop into our guide to the best breakfast in Killarney.

FAQs about visiting Killarney in Kerry

Since mentioning the town in a guide to Kerry that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Killarney in Kerry.

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.

Is it worth basing yourself in Killarney when visiting Kerry?

Yes – if you want to be situated in a lively, busy town where there’s plenty of pubs, restaurants and things to do. If you’d prefer somewhere a tad bit quieter, nearby Kenmare is worth looking at.

What are the best things to do in Killarney?

  • The Ring of Kerry drive/cycle
  • Ross Castle
  • Killarney National Park
  • Torc Waterfall
  • Gap of Dunloe

What are the best places to stay in Killarney?

In the guide above, you’ll find links to the best B&Bs, Airbnbs and accommodation in Killarney, with something for every budget.

Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.

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