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A Guide To Ross Castle In Killarney (Parking, Boat Tours, History + More)

A Guide To Ross Castle In Killarney (Parking, Boat Tours, History + More)

A visit to Ross Castle in Killarney is one of the most popular things to do in Kerry.

In the guide below, you’ll discover why!

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.

Now fully restored, it’s a picturesque spot on the fringes of Killarney that’s full of character and tales of bloody wars. 

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from the history of Ross Castle to where to go if you fancy trying one of the boat trips.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Ross Castle

Photo by Hugh O’Connor on Shutterstock

A visit to Ross Castle in Kerry 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.

From the tour and where to park when visiting, to how to see it on many of the different Killarney National park walks, you’ll find some handy info below.

1. Location

You’ll find Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, a short drive and a handy cycle from Killarney Town Centre.

2. Parking

If you have the car with you, you’re in luck – there’s parking right next to Ross Castle. Just stick ‘Outdoors Ireland’ into Google Maps and you’ll find it (there’s plenty of spaces here but do note that it gets busy at peak times, like at the weekend).

3. The tour

Speaking of O’Donoghue, if you want to hear more of his story and plenty more about life in 15th century Kerry then jump on one of the castle’s guided tours.

You’ll also be able to admire the grand furniture and tapestries and learn how the defensive features of Ross Castle enabled it to hold out for so long against Cromwell’s advancing army.

4. Opening Hours

Open between mid-March and the end of October, opening hours are from 9:30am to 5:45pm with the last admission 45 minutes before closing.

5. Prices

It’s €5.00 for adults, €4.00 for group/seniors, €3.00 for children/students and €13.00 for a family to enter (prices may change, so make sure to check in advance).

Ross Castle History (a speedy overview)

Photo by Stefano_Valeri on 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) and was one of the last the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars. 

One of the many great stories of Ross Castle is that O’Donoghue jumped from the window of the great hall at the top of the castle and vanished into the lake below, disappearing with his horse, his table and his library and never to be seen again.

Whether that’s true or not, it does add to the mystique of one of the most scenic castles in Ireland – there’s a good reason why it now attracts so many intrigued visitors!

Things to look out for when visiting Ross Castle in Kerry

Photo by Andrea Bernhardt on Shutterstock

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 (the views are outstanding here!).

1. The furnishings

One fascinating aspect of a trip 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. Take a trip through time and get a window into daily life with the legendary O’Donoghues!

2. The defences

As the last place in Munster to hold out against Cromwell, you can imagine how formidable Ross Castle’s defenses were. Well, on a trip to the castle itself you don’t need to imagine as the rooftop cannons give a wonderful idea of those famous fortifications. Don’t forget to check out the arrow slits and the parapet too. 

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 deadly views of the distant McGillycuddy’s Reeks and dramatic rolling woodlands. 

Ross Castle Boat Tours

Photo left: Hugh O’Connor. Photo right: Andrea Bernhardt (Shutterstock)

If you want to get up close with this gorgeous landscape and see a bit of more of Killarney National Park, then look no further than one of Ross Castle Boat Tours’ daily tours.

There are three different tours to choose from where you’ll be able to take in picturesque locations such as Dinnis Cottage, Innisfallen Island and the mighty Gap of Dunloe

The Lord Brandon’s Cottage – Gap of Dunloe tour is 1 hour and 30 minutes each way, while the Dinis Cottage – Meeting of the Waters jaunt is a flat 1 hour and 30 minutes journey. 

Things to do near Ross Castle

Muckross house and gardens killarney

Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

One of the beauties of visiting Ross Castle in Killarney is that it’s a short spin away from many of the Ring of Kerry highlights.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Ross Castle (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. See the lakes of Killarney

lakes of killarney

Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Consisting of Lough Leane, Muckross Lake and Upper Lake, these scenic waters make up part of an enchanting landscape in Killarney National Park.

Approx. 19 square kilometres in size, Lough Leane is the largest of the lakes and is pockmarked with small wooded islands including prominent Innisfallen Island.

It’s here where you can find the stony remains of the ruined Innisfallen Abbey. The Upper Lake is the smallest, but its isolation makes it all the more alluring. 

2. Visit Muckross House

Muckross house and gardens killarney

Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

An elegant mansion dating back to 1843, Muckross House has cast an eye over the breath-taking 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.

Framed against the beautiful lakes and mountains of Kerry, it’s perhaps no surprise that Queen Victoria chose to visit Muckross House in 1861. I’d say she’d have been impressed alright!

3. Then drop into Muckross Abbey

Photo by gabriel12 on Shutterstock

Just a stone’s throw from Muckross House, head over to the peaceful grounds of Muckross Abbey. But although it might be serene now, you’d be perhaps surprised to learn that it’s 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. 

Don’t miss the curious central courtyard that’s dominated by a large yew tree expanding out above the walls!

4. Listen to the water crash at Torc Waterfall

torc waterfall killarney

Photo left: Luis Santos. Photo right: gabriel12 (Shutterstock)

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 animals like boars.

A popular stop on the Ring of Kerry drive, it’s an impressive natural wonder and one that’s well worth your time. The nearby Torc Mountain Walk and Cardiac Hill walk are both also worth doing.

5. Walk the Gap of Dunloe

walking the gap of dunloe

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

One of the absolute mightiest views in Kerry (and perhaps the entire country), the Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass forged between the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain by glacial flows.

Just a 15-minute drive from Killarney Town, it’s one of those special places that you can really turn into your own adventure as there are loads of ways to explore. 

In particular, check out the deadly vistas looking northwards from the stone bridge above Augher Lake below! You can also approach this from the Black Valley side, if you like!

6. Food in Killarney Town

The Laurels

Photos via The Laurels on FB

If you’re feeling peckish, there’s plenty of great restaurants in Killarney to drop into. Or, if you fancy a feed before you visit, see our guide to the best breakfast in Killarney.

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 it easy to get parking at Ross Castle?

Yes! There’s parking right next to the castle. If you stick ‘Outdoors Ireland’ into Google Maps you’ll find it easily.

Are the Ross Castle boat tours worth doing?

The reviews for the different Ross Castle boat tours are pretty good. You’re taken out onto the lake, so you’re treated to magnificent views and you’ll see the scenery of the park from a unique angle.

Is there much to see nearby?

Yes. There are tonnes of things to see near Ross Castle in Kerry. From Ladies View and the Gap of Dunloe to the Black Valley and much more, there’s endless places to visit. 

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