Howaya! In the guide below, you’ll find a shed-load of the top things to do in Killarney.
If you keep on readin’ you’ll find everything from scenic spots that’ll knock you sideways to man-made attractions that are rich with history.
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Killarney, Ireland
To make this guide a little easier to skim through, I’ve broken it up into a number of sections: the first tackles the best things to do in Killarney National Park.
The second looks at what to do in Killarney if you’re looking to explore by foot. The final section offers an insight into things to do in Killarney town at night.
Things to do in Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park is the oldest national park on the island of Ireland and it’s home to an almost endless number of things to see and do.
For those of you that fancy exploring by foot, you’ll find a number of mighty trails to head off on here along with a clatter of points of interest.
The park is home to a number of the best things to do in Kerry and it has a little bit of something to suit every type of explorer.
1. Have a ramble around Killarney national park
If you are wondering what to do in Killarney, first on your list should be a trip to Killarney National Park, where 26,000 acres of Irish lush landscape awaits.
The park is made up of a spectacular mountain range which sweeps down to reveal crystal clear lakes.
Woods and waterfalls speckle the landscape to create an oasis of scenic beauty waiting to be explored.
Now, there’s a tonne of different things to do in Killarney National Park, which we’ll hop into below.
2. Nip inside Muckross House
The now-iconic Muckross House is arguably the centre-piece of Killarney National Park.
Dating back to the 19th century, this historic building was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, Mary Balfour Herbert, who was a watercolour artist.
There’s no mystery around where she nabbed her inspiration!
The house, which is now a museum, can be accessed via a Guided Tour – there are also several other attractions here, like the walled garden and the traditional farm.
Related read: Looking for a place to stay? Hop into our Killarney accommodation guide to discover hotels and Airbnbs for every budget.
3. Then visit Muckross Abbey
You’ll find Muckross Abbey a handy 5-minute stroll from Muckross House. This section of the national park predates Muckross House, and historians have estimated that the first monastery was built as far back as the 6th century.
The Abbey ruins which still stand today date from the 15th century and have not been in use since the 1650s, when the monks were driven away during the Cromwellian war.
People that visit Muckross House often miss the Abbey, which is a shame! Make sure to pop into onto your Kerry itinerary.
4. Step back in time at Ross Castle (Killarney Castle)
You’ll often hear people (incorrectly) refer to Ross Castle as ‘Killarney Castle’. You’ll find Ross Castle, another fine 15th-century structure, perched on the edge of the lake, a short distance from Muckross Abbey.
Ross Castle was built by O’Donoghue Mór. According to legend, O’Donoghue’s spirit lies in a deep slumber beneath the waters of the nearby lake.
It’s said that on the first morning of May every 7 years, O’Donoghue arises on a white horse and circles the lake.
Apparently those that catch a glimpse of him will receive good luck for the rest of their life. Not bad for a little holiday souvenir!
If you or one of your party has limited mobility and you’re looking for things to do in Killarney that won’t be overly strenuous, then pencil in a visit to Ross Castle.
There’s a car park a stone’s throw from the castle, so you won’t have far to walk. If you’re looking for the finest castles in Ireland, you’ll love exploring this place.
5. Try your hand (literally) at Falconry in Killarney National Park
I’ve never been overly keen on Falconry, but I’ve heard rave reviews from a lot of people that have tried Falconry in Killarney National Park.
Imagine standing in the middle of the National Park with a hawk swooping down from a tree towards you.
Personally, I’d sh*t bricks. It’s said that you need to stand your ground and provide a steady landing place for the bird.
This is a great experience for the family and if you’re looking for things to do in Killarney as a group, you can get discounted rates.
What to do in Killarney if you’re looking to get active
There’s a tonne of things to do in Killarney, Ireland for those of you that want to get your heart rate up.
In this section of the guide, you’ll find everything from hikes (from handy to hard) to kayaking. Dive on in.
1. Climb Torc Mountain
You rarely see Torc Mountain spring up on guides to things to do in Killarney. The reason for this is that many people planning a visit to Killarney tend to opt for the tourist favourites.
This makes Torc Mountain a hidden gem, of sorts. A favourite with locals, the walk to the summit of Torc, which is reasonably moderate, takes between 2 to 2.5 hours.
Expect a panoramic view that takes in Killarney town, the National Park’s lakes, Muckross House, and more.
There’s clear paths to follow and sleepers (the wooden boardwalk seen above) that make the journey to the top all the easier.
2. Walk the Gap of Dunloe
One of my favourite walks in Kerry is the one that takes you through the magnificent Gap of Dunloe.
Now, the last time that I did it it was pi*sing rain, but it was still brilliant! You can kick-start your walk at the Gap of Dunloe at Kate Kearney’s Cottage (there’s a car park next to it).
The walk takes between 2 and 3 hours, depending on pace. Expect beautiful lakes and the magnificent Kerry Mountains as a dramatic backdrop throughout the walk.
3. Take a kayak over to Innisfallen Island
For the more adventurous, a Kayak tour is well worth considering. This is a fantastic way to spend half a day outdoors experiencing the best that Killarney has to offer (scenery by the boatload!).
There are a couple of tour providers offering Kayaking tours in Killarney. The tours take Kayakers over to Innisfallen Island, where they’ll explore the Abbey and discover some folklore along with the secrets of the lakes.
If you’re looking to experience nature up close and personal, get this on your to-conquer list. Just don’t fall in, because the water in Ireland is pretty damn cold!
4. Climb Carrauntoohil Mountain
The next stop on our list is for experienced hikers and hillwalkers only (unless you’re taking a guided climb with an experienced hiker/hiking group).
Standing at an impressive 1,038.6 metres, Carrauntoohill is the highest mountain in Ireland. One of the best starting points for the climb is Cronin’s Yard (there’s a great little cafe here).
One of the most popular climbing routes is the Devil’s Ladder Trail. Said to be the more accessible of the routes, this is a 12km hike which involves some climbing and scrambling so you need to be relatively fit if you’re looking to attempt it.
Hop into our guide to the Carrauntoohil hike if you’d like a full breakdown of the most popular route up Ireland’s highest mountain.
5. Listen to the water crash at Torc Waterfall (and then attempt Cardiac Hill)
One of the best things to do in Killarney, especially if you’re fond of the outdoors, is to visit Torc Waterfall.
The best time to plan this short walk into your trip is just after heavy rainfall because the 70 foot waterfall will be more dramatic.
Start at the Torc Waterfall Parking lot and follow the short (3 minutes max) trail to the waterfall.
Breathe in the clean, fresh air and listen to the immense power of the water tumbling down.
Then it’s time for Cardiac Hill
The aptly named ‘Cardiac Hill’ is a steep and tough ascent that’ll take you up hundreds of steps along the slopes of Torc Mountain.
When you reach the top, you’ll be treated to unbeatable panoramic views of the McGillycuddy Reeks, Lakes of Killarney and Killarney National Park.
This entire climb should take between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on pace.
6. Rent a bike and take a spin out to Moll’s Gap
If you don’t have a bike, or if you don’t fancy cycling, you can always take the handy drive from Killarney Town out as far as Moll’s Gap.
Moll’s Gap is a mountain pass on the N71 road from Killarney to Kenmare that offers stunning views as far as the eye can see.
If you’re cycling the Ring of Kerry and looking for a stop-off point, there’s a cafe right next to Moll’s where you can grab some chill time.
7. Take a spin out to ‘Ladies View’
If you do take the bike, Ladies View is a natural next stop after Moll’s (if you’re travelling from Killarney, you’ll reach it before Moll’s).
This is another magnificent stop-off point on the Ring Of Kerry. From the viewing point you’ll be treated to a view that will quite literally knock you sideways.
A couple of things to note if you visit Ladies View:
- The parking here can be nuts: there’s a tight area to pull in on the right of the road, if you drive from Killarney
- If you park here, BE CAREFUL reversing – visibility can be limited and there’s a bend in the road not far from the parking area
- There’s a cafe right next to Ladies View that has an elevated seating area that offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside
8. In need of a rest? Take a Jaunting Car Tour
If you’re wrecked after all the kayaking and hiking, and you’re looking for things to do in Killarney which are slower paced, hop aboard a Jaunting Car / Jaunty.
You’ll find these horse and carriages in Killarney Town, in the National Park, and out at the Gap of Dunloe.
Kick-back and soak up the scenery while you listen to tales and stories from the area. A tourist favourite.
Post-Adventure Things to do in Killarney Town
So, you’ve had your fill of adventure and you’re looking for food, music, pints, and some places to kick-back and relax.
In this section, we’ll show you everything from pubs with live music in Killarney to a place where you can chill in a jacuzzi and admire the mountains.
1. Catch some trad music in one of Killarney’s buzzy pubs
If you’re looking to round off a day in style (or if you’re after things to do in Killarney in the rain), get yourself to a pub (here’s a guide to Killarney’s best pubs).
Now, let’s make one thing clear – you don’t need to be a drinker to enjoy Killarney’s pubs (although it would help!).
There are plenty of pubs in Killarney that play live traditional music, so you can chill with a pint or a Coke and listen to tunes.
Murphys Bar and O’Connor’s are two solid options if you’re looking for pubs in Killarney that bang out trad music.
2. Chill in a jacuzzi by the mountains
I’ve wanted to visit the Lake Hotel in Killarney for a stupid amount of time. This place just looks beyond class (slang for ‘great’, for our non-Irish readers!).
The view from the jacuzzi is just beyond ridiculous. Imagine kicking back here and gazing out at the mountains on the horizon. Magic!
You can find more places like this in our guide to the best hotels in Killarney (there’s something from every budget!).
3. Or spend the night somewhere funky
There’s a clatter of very unique Airbnbs in Killarney that’ll treat you to a fine bit of alternative accommodation.
From pods (there’s some great places to go glamping in Killarney!) and cabins to luxury houses and more, there’s a bit of something that’ll tickle every fancy.
4. Grab a bite to eat in Bricin (one of the best places to eat in Killarney)
Finally, we couldn’t write a guide on things to do in Killarney guide without mentioning a place to grab a solid feed.
The last time that I visited Killarney, we had a bite to eat in Bricin. It was insanely good. If you fancy trying a traditional Irish meal, go for the Boxty – it’s a tasty potato cake.
Fine Bricin and plenty more tasty spots in our guide to the best restaurants in Killarney in 2020.
Activities in Killarney: What have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of other worthwhile things to do in Killarney that we’ve unintentionally left out of the guide above.
If you have a place to visit that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments section below!