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A Day At Killarney National Park

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Watch Tower | Lord Brandon Cottage | A Day at Killarney National Park
Watch Tower | Lord Brandon Cottage

Killarney National Park is an outdoor treasure in the heart of Kerry County. Onsite there is a castle, abbey, and manor house to explore as well as miles of paved walkways through lush and biodiverse ecosystems. A day trip to the park is one of the best things to do in Killarney Ireland.

Three Lakes of Killarney | County Kerry | Killarney Ireland
Three Lakes of Killarney

Sitting at the foot of the MacGillicuddy Reeks, the park is the traditional starting point of the Ring of Kerry drive. The three Lakes of Killarney (Lough Leane, Middle, and Upper) are the centerpiece of the park. Miles of hiking trails surround the lakes and link park attractions such as Ross Castle, Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, and the Torc Waterfall.


The attractions can get busy, but the walkways are closed to motorized traffic and the park has a peaceful feeling. Wide paths wind past bogs, hillsides of flowers, red deer, and stands of vine-wrapped yew trees. Intense blues, browns, and greens intertwine under an ever-changing sky.


The park is vast and many visitors find they can cover a lot of territory in a short period of time by scheduling a guided excursion. Here is a sampling of tours that are offered:

Traditional Boats | Ross Castle | Killarney National Park Day Trip
Traditional Boats | Ross Castle

Within the Killarney National Park’s 41 square mile radius there are many amazing sites to see. Our article will cover all the highlights, and help you organize your day. If you are fortunate enough to stay overnight, check out these hotels near Killarney National Park.

Killarney National Park At A Glance | County Kerry Ireland

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KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK ENTRY AND HOURS

Entry into Killarney National Park is free. There is pedestrian access 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.


Some attractions within the park charge an entrance fee (Muckross House, Traditional Farms, and Ross Castle). Hours to these sites change throughout the year. They are generally open 8am – 5pm with later hours in summer.

Muckross House and Traditional Gardens | Killarney National Park
Muckross House and Gardens

PARK POINTS OF ACCESS

The park can be accessed by foot or bike at many points. There are vehicle parking lots (free) by the Killarney National Park Visitor Center, Ross Castle, Muckross House, Dinis Cottage, Torc Waterfall, Lord Brandon’s Cottage, and at the entrance to many trailheads throughout the park. Click here to investigate car rentals.

Sheep Grazing | A day at Killarney National Park
Sheep Grazing

HOW TO GET AROUND

Walk/Hike

Walking is great way to experience the park’s historical sites and nature. The 10 km (6mile) Muckross Dinis Loop Trail is a popular hiking route. The trail is closed to motorized vehicles and takes in Muckross Abbey, Muckross House, Rosie's Beach, and the Torc Waterfall. Or, try one of the many wilderness hikes throughout the area.

Walking/Biking Trail | Best things to do in Killarney Ireland
Walking/Biking Trail

Bike

We think the best way to experience the park is by bike. Rent a bike or e-bike, and make use of the extensive network of trails throughout the park. Traveling on bicycle, most visitors will be able to take in the Ross Castle area, Killarney Town, and the Muckross Dinis Loop Trail all in one day (see the itinerary below for detail).

Bikes at Dinis Cottage | Things to do in Killarney National Park
Bikes at Dinis Cottage

Traditional Jaunting Car

Pony-pulled carts are stationed throughout the park at different locations. For a fee (usually cash), a traditional jaunting car can be hired to tour park attractions. Popular routes include rides around Ross Castle, Muckross House, Muckross Abby, Torc Waterfall, and the Gap of Dunloe.

Jaunting Car | Killarney National Park | County Kerry
Jaunting Car

Private Vehicle

Visitors can use a private vehicle to shuttle between the free parking lots at points around the park to see all the major park highlights.


Killarney National Parks Tours

Tour operators offer excursions into the park by bus, minivan, car, boat, and jaunting car. Here are two GetYourGuide tours to consider:


DINING, FACILITIES AND RESTROOMS

There are dining venues at Muckross House, Dinis Cottage, and Lord Brandon’s Cottage. There are restroom facilities at Ross Castle, Muckross House, Dinis Cottage, Lord Brandon’s Cottage, and Torc Waterfall.

Muckross Abbey | Day Trip to Killarney National Park
Muckross Abbey

TERRAIN AND ASSISTIVE DEVICES

Much of park terrain consists of gently rolling hills appropriate for walking and biking. Paths around major attractions are wide and paved suitable for walking, biking, wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. As visitors travel away from the major attractions, the walkways (and hiking trails) get narrower and turn to gravel/dirt/grass. They are much less suitable for visitors with mobility impairments.

Hike and Bike Trail | Things to do in Killarney National Park | Ireland
Hike and Bike Trail

SUGGESTED ROUTE, ITINERARY, AND POINTS OF INTEREST

Our Killarney National Park itinerary outlines a route around the park that take in all of the major points of interest in one day. Other than Ross Castle, most of the historical sites are on the 10-km (6-mile) Muckross Dinis Loop Trail.

MacGillicuddy Reeks | Killarney National Park | Kerry County
MacGillicuddy Reeks

The route is designed to be seen by bike, but it can also be walked. A big part of the magic of this park is the stunning nature you will experienced between attractions. If it is not possible to bike or hike, you can travel by vehicle between Ross Castle, Muckross House, Dinis Cottage, and the Torc Waterfall. Or, take a tour.


The itinerary begins at Ross Castle. The castle is about 2.5 km from town and is near a number of bike hire shops. Once on Killarney National Park grounds you can ride nearly the entire route on walking/biking trails.

Stone Bridges and Hiking Trails | Killarney National Park
Stone Bridges and Hiking Trails

Ross Castle

Begin your exploration of Killarney National Park at the ruins of the 15th century O’Donoghue family castle. The fortress sits at the edge of Lough Leane. For a small fee you can tour inside of the castle. There are many short hikes around the castle and lake. From this site you can take a jaunting car ride or a boat ride to Innisfallen Island where the remains of a 12th century monastery can be viewed. For a fun twist, combine a tour or Ross Castle with a brewery tour.

Ross Castle | Things to do at Killarney National Park
Ross Castle

Muckross Abbey

Next, ride 7 km to Muckross Abbey (Friary). The well-preserved Franciscan friary has three floors of ruins to discover. The free site sits is surrounded by a cemetery and woodlands. Monks worshipped at this 15th century friary until driven out in 1652 by Oliver Cromwell’s army. Visitors can wander through the Abbey’s kitchen, living quarters, refectory, and roofless cloisters. The Abbey is one of our favorite spots in the park.

Muckross Abbey | A Day At Killarney National Park
Muckross Abbey

Muckross House and Gardens

A short distance from the Abbey, a number of trails lead to Muckross House and Gardens. The 19th century Elizabethan-style manor house is a major park draw. Visitors can walk the house’s landscaped grounds (overlooking the lake). For a fee, the house and gardens can be toured to learn about how gentry in 1800’s would have lived.

Muckross House and Traditional Gardens | Killarney National Park
Muckross House and Traditional Gardens

Rosie's Beach

Leaving Muckross House follow the signs toward Dinis Cottage. After about 1.5 km keep an eye out for a narrow foot path in the tall grass. The path leads to Rosie’s Beach on Muckross (Middle) Lake. This serene little beach goes also by the names “Secret” and “Hidden” beach.

Rosie's Beach | Secret Beach Killarney National Park
Rosie's Beach

Brickeen Bridge

Follow the paved hiking path toward Brickeen Bridge/Dinis Cottage. The arched bridge sits at the intersection of Lough Leane (Lower Lake) and Muckross Lake (Middle Lake). If you linger on the bridge you are apt to see traditional wooden boats filled with hikers and bikers motoring toward Dinis Cottage.

Brickeen Bridge | Gap of Dunloe Bike-on-Boat Tour | Killarney Ireland
Brickeen Bridge | Bike-on-Boat Tour

Dinis Cottage

The next stop on your route will be a 1700’s era Victorian hunting lodge. The lodge is a short hike or bike ride from the Weir Bridge and the Meeting of the Waters (where three lakes meet). Stop at the cottage’s tea room for tea, scones, and bathrooms.

Dinis Cottage - Tea and Scones | Killarney National Park | County Kerry Ireland
Dinis Cottage - Tea and Scones

Torc Waterfall

Travel on to the Torc Waterfall parking lot. From here, a footpath of gravel and stones steps follows a gorge grown thick with brilliant green mosses, ferns, vines, and trees. After a ten-minute walk uphill visitors are treated to a photo-worthy cascading waterfall.

Torc Waterfall | Killarney National Park | County Kerry Ireland
Torc Waterfall

Muckross Traditional Farms

If you love gardening, make the traditional farms your last stop of the day. The living museum includes reconstructed barns and outbuildings. There are farm animals onsite, a blacksmith’s forge, and carpentry workshop.


May the road rise up to meet you, Laura and Randy


For more information on Ireland travel read our articles on:

Cemetery Muckross Abbey | Killarney National Park
Cemetery Muckross Abbey


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