The stunning Killarney National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Kerry.
Home to Ireland’s highest mountain range, gorgeous lakes, cascading waterfalls, medieval castles, ornate mansions and an abundance of wildlife, Killarney National Park is both epic and idyllic.
But where to start? How do you navigate such majesty? Especially when there’s so much to see and do in the park and nearby.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from the best Killarney National Park walks to where the story of the park all began.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Killarney National Park in Kerry
A visit to Killarney National Park is one of the most popular of the many things to do in Killarney, but there’s a few ‘need-to-knows’ that’ll make your trip all the more enjoyable.
Below, you’ll find info on everything from how to best explore the park to the unique ways you can get around it.
You’ll find Killarney National Park right next to the town. Depending on which entrance you use. If you enter at Ross Castle, it’s a 35-minute walk or a 10-minute cycle.
2. Getting around on bike
Hands-down the best way to get around the park is by renting a bike. There’s several bike rental spots in the town (info below).
3. Killarney Jaunting Cars
The Killarney National Park Killarney Jaunting Cars are one of the more unique ways to get around. The Jaunting Cars can either be booked online in advance, or you can pick one up in the park our at some of the entrances.
3. Walks, hikes and boat tours
There’s many great walks in Killarney National Park, ranging from short and sweet to long and a little bit tricky. Later in this guide, you’ll find a breakdown of the best rambles on offer.
Killarney National Park map
The Killarney National Park map above has all of the places that we’ll be mentioning below plotted out on it, from the lakes to Muckross.
Take a minute to have a look at it – as you can see, the park is very spread out, and there’s a good bit of distance between many of the points of interest.
This is why renting a bike is advised, unless you fancy walking for the day (which is fine if you do, of course!).
History of Killarney National Park
Designated as the very first National Park in Ireland in 1932, the history of Killarney National Park goes way further back than that particular milestone!
With humans living in the area since at least the Bronze Age (4000 years ago), it’s fair to say there’s been plenty of activity here over the years.
By the medieval period the area had become noted for its beauty and was populated by a number of monks and chieftains, evidence of which still remains in the stony ruins of Innisfallen Abbey, Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle.
Following the invasion of Cromwellian forces, the park grounds then fell into the hands of well-known families like the Herberts of Muckross, the Brownes of Kenmare and even Arthur Guinness!
After the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish state in 1932 following the death of then-owner Maud Vincent, it became a National Park ‘for the purpose of the recreation and enjoyment of the public’.
Things to do in Killarney National Park
There’s plenty of things to do in Killarney National Park to keep you busy, from hikes and walks to cycle trails and much more.
While the more popular activities in the park are a tad adventurous, there’s still lots to do for those that fancy exploring the park at a slower pace.
1. Try one of the many Killarney National Park walks
Since you’re in one of the most spectacular areas of country, it would be somewhat foolish to not explore this epic landscape!
Thankfully, there are a number of designated walks and trails taking in lakes, woodlands and beaches, all with wonderful sight of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in the distance.
We’ve created a guide to the best Killarney National Park walks, as there’s quite a few (you’ll find an overview of each walk along with maps here).
2. Or rent a bike and head off on one of the many trails
If you’d prefer two wheels to two legs, then there’s plenty of cycling options too. Head over the river just south of Killarney Town on Muckross road and you’ll soon come to a bike rental on the left-hand side.
Located in-between Ross Castle and Muckross House and Gardens, it’s in a perfect spot for seeing the sights as well as getting out onto one of the many trails.
Choose from 6 different styles of bike before heading out onto trails of various length, with some taking in sections of the Ring of Kerry.
3. Visit Ross Castle
Handsomely looking over the vast expanse of Lough Leane for over 500 years, Ross Castle is a medieval gem in the heart of Killarney National Park.
A typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages, it’s estimated Ross Castle was built towards the end of the 15th century.
Ross Castle was one of the last the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars.
These days you can discover its impressive defenses, explore its lovingly restored interiors and get out onto a boat tour of Lough Leane and beyond.
4. Step back in time at Muckross House
A stylish mansion dating back to 1843, Muckross House has cast an eye over the sweeping Killarney landscape for over 175 years. Containing 65 rooms in a Tudor style, its grandeur inside is almost as ornate as the stunning gardens that surround it.
If you’re visiting in the summer then it’s a perfect time to take in the beauty and tranquillity of the Sunken Garden, Rock Garden and the Stream Garden.
Framed against the picturesque lakes and mountains of County Kerry, it’s perhaps no surprise that Queen Victoria chose to visit Muckross House in 1861!
5. Visit the ancient ruins of Muckross Abbey
Just short serene walk from Muckross House, head over to the peaceful grounds of Muckross Abbey. But although it might be a quiet spot now, you’d be perhaps surprised to learn that it’s actually had quite a violent history.
Founded in 1448 as a Franciscan Friary, the friars were often subjected to raids by marauding groups and were persecuted by Cromwellian forces under Lord Ludlow.
Later into the 17th and 18th centuries, it became the burial place for prominent Kerry poets O’Donoghue, Ó Rathaille and Ó Súilleabháin. Also, don’t miss the curious central courtyard with the large yew tree now soaring over its walls.
6. Take a ramble up to Torc Waterfall
One of the many trails here takes in a unique natural wonder. Just a 20-minute drive from Killarney Town, Torc Waterfall is 20 metres high with a thunderous cascade that runs for 110 metres.
The interesting name comes from the Irish translation of a ‘wild boar’, since the area is ripe with old tales and legends involving wild boars.
A popular stop on the wider Ring of Kerry tour, it’s an impressive sight and is an easy 2.5km ramble from the motor entrance to Muckross House.
There are two other popular walks near the waterfall: the Torc Mountain Walk and the strenuous Cardiac Hill.
Where to eat near Killarney National Park
All that exploring is going to make you ready for a mighty feed later and thankfully Killarney Town isn’t short on bites to eat.
Get a more extensive look at what’s on offer in our full guide the best restaurants in Killarney, or our guide to the best breakfast in Killarney. In the meantime here’s a few to consider:
- Bricin: Awesome traditional Irish meals, including their signature Irish boxty
- Treyvaud’s: Fine dining based around international cuisine (though they also do a deadly Guinness pie with mash!)
- Khao Asian Street Food: Need to spice things up? This cracking little joint does everything from green fish curry to Pad Thai
- Quinlan’s Seafood Bar: Killarney’s freshest seafood (it actually has its own fishing boats!)
Where to stay near Killarney National Park
With more hotel beds in Killarney than anywhere else in Ireland outside of Dublin, there’s plenty of choice but where to start looking? The guides below should come in handy:
- The Killarney Accommodation Guide (11 Gorgeous Places To Stay In Killarney)
- 15 Best Hotels In Killarney (From Luxury To Pocket-Friendly)
- Airbnb Killarney: 8 Unique (And Funky!) Airbnbs In Killarney
- Killarney Bed And Breakfast Guide
- 5 Of The Fanciest 5 Star Hotels In Killarney Where A Night Costs A Pretty Penny
Some FAQs about visiting Killarney National Park
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Killarney National Park to where to rent a bike.
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.
Are there many things to do in Killarney National Park?
Yes. There’s plenty. If you look at our Killarney National Park map in the guide above, you’ll find everything from a castle to a waterfall to explore.
What’s the best way to get around the park?
The best way to explore the park is by bike. There are several Killarney National Park bike rental companies operating from the town, the majority of which have great reviews.
Is there a Killarney National Park entrance fee?
No – there’s no fee for entering the park, however, some of the attractions, like Muckross House, charge admission.
Is camping allowed in Killarney National Park?
No – camping is not allowed in Killarney National Park at the time of writing, according to the official website for the park.