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Ross Castle In Killarney: History, Tours + Map

Ross Castle In Killarney: History, Tours + Map

Ross Castle in Killarney has stood proudly over the waters of Lough Leane for over 500 years.

Built in what is now Killarney National Park during the 15th century, it was once home to the head honchos of the fierce O’Donoghue Clan.

A key stop along the Ring of Kerry route, it can be admired from the outside, within the grounds and on the popular Ross Castle tour.

I’ve been to Ross Castle many times over the years – this guide contains everything from where to park to its history.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Ross Castle

A visit to Ross Castle in Killarney requires a little bit of prior planning. I’ll sum it up for you below:

1. Location

You’ll find Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. If you’re leaving from Killarney Town, it’ll take you 40 minutes to walk (via this route), 10 minutes to cycle (via this route) and 5 minutes to drive (via this route).

2. Parking

There are two places for parking at Ross Castle and I’ve outlined both on the map above. Please do note that, as this is one of the more popular things to do in Killarney, the car parks get busy at peak times in summer.

3. The tour/tickets

You can only get inside the structure on the Ross Castle tour which runs from February 29th – November 3rd between 09:30 – 17:45 (last admission is 17:00). You can buy Ross Castle tickets from the reception in the castle (can’t be pre-booked) and they cost:

  • Adult: €5
  • Group/Senior: €4
  • Child/Student: €3
  • Family: €13

4. See it on a walk

If you don’t fancy the tour, you can see the castle on many of the Killarney National park walks. Arguably the best for seeing Ross Castle is the 5km Library Point Trail.

Ross Castle history

Ross Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

A typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages, it’s estimated Ross Castle in Killarney was built towards the end of the 15th century.

The former fortress of the Clan O’Donoghues Mor (Ross), it is surrounded by a defensive wall with flanking towers – two of which still remain intact today.

The battle with Oliver Cromwell

One of the more interesting tales from the history of Ross Castle is when its inhabitants came up against Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads (supporters of the Parliament of England).

It took place during the Irish Confederate Wars and the castle was one of the last to surrender to Cromwell’s forces. 4,000 foot-soldiers and 200 soldiers on horse back made their way to the castle.

However, despite these large numbers, Ross Castle was only taken when it was hit with artillery that had been moved via boat along the nearby river.

The Ross Castle legend

According to local legend, one of the chiefs of the O’Donoghue clan jumped from the window at the top of the castle and became submerged in the waters below, followed shortly by his horse.

The story goes that O’Donoghue now resides in a grand palace in the lake below the castle, where he watches over the park and its inhabitants.

Things to look out for when visiting Ross Castle in Kerry

Ross Castle

If you’re heading off on the Ross Castle Tour, you’ll have plenty of things to keep you occupied as you wander around. 

Below, you’ll find some of the most notable things to look out for at Ross Castle – one of the most impressive castles in Ireland!

1. The furnishings

One fascinating aspect of a visit here is the authenticity. As I mentioned earlier, the ornate furnishings and tapestries of the castle’s interior are entirely representative of its 16th and 17th century heyday. You’ll take a a trip back in time and get a window into what daily life was like.

2. The defences

As the last place in Munster to hold out against Cromwell, you can imagine how formidable Ross Castle’s defenses were. Visitors will be shown the rooftop cannons, the fortifications, the arrow slits and the parapet. 

3. The views

A fixture of Killarney National Park, the scenery around Ross Castle needs little introduction. With the majestic Lough Leane sprawling out from its shoreline, visitors are greeted with a sweeping expanse of rugged mountainous country. Enjoy glorious views of the distant McGillycuddy’s Reeks and dramatic rolling woodlands. 

Ross Castle boat tours

Killarney Lakes

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the more unique ways to see Ross Castle is on the Lakes of Killarney Boat Tour (affiliate link) which costs around €16 and lasts 1 hour.

It leaves from near the castle and it takes in the Lakes of Killarney, the castle, islands, the MacGillycuddy Reeks and parts of the park that many miss.

The reviews are outstanding and it’s a handy way of seeing a lot in a short space of time.

Things to do near Ross Castle

Things to do near Ross Castle

If the day is still young and you want to avoid the pubs in Killarney for a while, you have plenty of options, with many of the best things to do in Kerry nearby.

Walk wise, there’s Torc Mountain and Cardiac Hill. However, if you don’t fancy a long stroll I’d recommend checking out:

  1. Muckross House (11-minute drive): A tudor-style mansion that dates back to 1843
  2. Muckross Abbey (20-minute drive): Stunning ruins of a Franscian Friary founded in 1448
  3. Torc Waterfall (20-minute drive): A 20 metres high waterfall with a thunderous cascade that runs for 110 metres.
  4. Gap of Dunloe (20-minute drive): A narrow mountain pass forged between the MacGillycuddy Reeks
  5. Ladies View (25-minute drive): One of the most impressive viewpoints in Kerry
  6. The Black Valley (45-minute drive): A remote and rugged area of immense natural beauty

FAQs about visiting Ross Castle in Killarney

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where to park at Ross Castle to where to grab the best views.

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 Ross Castle worth a visit?

A visit to Ross Castle in Killarney is one of the most popular things to do in Kerry for good reason. Looking proudly over the vast expanse of Lough Leane for over 500 years, Ross Castle is a medieval gem in the heart of Killarney National Park.

How much time do you need at Ross Castle?

The tour takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour. Allowing for time to get your ticket, allow 1.5 hours. This will give you time to admire the scenery from the grounds, also.

Where do you get Ross Castle tickets?

Tickets for Ross Castle can be purchased at the castle’s reception. Please keep in mind that they can’t be pre-booked, so it’s first-come-first-served.

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