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Killarney National Park: Map, Things To Do + Handy Info

Killarney National Park: Map, Things To Do + Handy Info

Killarney National Park is the jewel in Kerry’s crown. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to explore it in style.

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.

A major tourist attraction due to the fact that it’s home to many of the most popular places to visit in Kerry, like Ladies View and Torc Waterfall, the park is a nature lovers paradise.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from maps with the various 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

Killarney Lakes

Photos via Shutterstock

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.

1. Location

You’ll find Killarney National Park right next to the town along the Ring of Kerry route. There are many entrances to the park. If you’re starting from the town, this entrance by the visitor centre is the one to aim for.

2. The visitor centre

The Killarney National Park visitor centre is located in Killarney House and Gardens. It’s open 09:15 – 17:15. It closes from 13:00 – 14:00 for lunch.

3. Opening hours

The park is open 24/7 for pedestrian access. Naturally, you’ll want to keep your visit to daylight hours.

4. 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).

5. Killarney Jaunting Cars

The Killarney National Park 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.

6. 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 to get a lay of the land – 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

Killarney National Park

Photos via Shutterstock

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 passing 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

As it’s one one of the Ring of Kerry highlights, there are 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 mighty 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 or jaunty

killarney horse and cart

Photos via Shutterstock

If you don’t fancy walking, rent a bike (affiliate link) and take a self-guided tour of the park. There are dedicated bike lanes and it’s a quick and enjoyable way to explore.

If you’re wondering what to do in Killarney National Park for a unique experience, give one of the traditional jaunting cars a go.

Although slower than the bike, they provide an experience you’ll remember for years to come as you listen to tales from the jarveys (the ‘drivers’).

3. Visit Ross Castle

Ross Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Gazing out 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

main towns on the ring of kerry

Photos via Shutterstock

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

Muckross Abbey 

Photos via Shutterstock

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

how to get to Torc Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

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.

Pubs and restaurants near Killarney National Park

The Laurels

Photos via The Laurels on FB

If you fancy a feed (or a pint!) after your visit to the park, you’re in luck – there’s plenty of places worthy of your attention close by.

When it comes to pubs in Killarney, the pick of the bunch is Jimmy Brien’s. However, I’m fond of Courtney’s Bar and O’Connors, too.

If you fancy a feed, here are some restaurants in Killarney to consider: 

  • Bricin: Traditional Irish meals, including their signature Irish boxty
  • Treyvaud’s: Fine dining based around international cuisine
  • Quinlan’s Seafood Bar: Killarney’s freshest seafood (it even has its own fishing boats!)

Where to stay near Killarney National Park

where to stay in killarney ireland

Click to enlarge

With more hotel beds in Killarney than anywhere else in Ireland outside of Dublin, there’s plenty of choice.

If you look at the map above, you’ll get a sense of where our favourite hotels in Killarney are located.

If you’re after 5-star service, there are several luxury hotels in Killarney or, if you prefer to keep it simple, hop into one of the Killarney B&Bs.

Frequently asked questions

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.

Is Killarney National Park worth visiting?

Yes. Even if you have limited time in the area, it’s well worth making time to visit one or two of the various things to do in Killarney National Park (e.g. Muckross Abbey). They park rarely disappoints.

Is Killarney National Park free?

The park is free to visit to those that want to explore it on foot. Do note that some of the attractions in the park, like Muckross House, charge an admission fee to enter.

Can I drive through Killarney National Park?

No – driving in the park is not permitted. You can drive to one of the car parks in the park (e.g. the one at Ross Castle) but you’ll need to walk from there.

How much time do I need in Killarney National Park?

This will depend on what you want to do. If you’re looking to visit several of the attractions, like Muckross House and Abbey and Ross Castle, you’ll need 1/2 a day at minimum.

Can you do Killarney National Park in a day?

Yes. A very doable 1-day itinerary would include Muckross House, the Abbey, Ross Castle and a cycle around the park, taking in Torc Waterfall and the lower lake.

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