Killarney, Ireland 3 Day Itinerary
For almost 300 years, visitors have been using Killarney, Ireland as a vacation refuge. Writers and painters have celebrated the town's amazing natural beauty since the early 18th century. Our Killarney 3 Day Itinerary will help you explore the legendary landscapes of Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry, and Killarney Town.
When you stay in Killarney the breathtaking mountain tops, waterfalls, glacial lakes, and ancient forests of Killarney National Park are at your doorstep. In a matter of minutes, you can be out of town exploring the McGillicuddy Reeks mountains and Lakes of Killarney.
Killarney is also the traditional starting point of the 111-mile Ring of Kerry. It takes a full day to fully enjoy the majestic cliffs, bronze-age forts, and beaches that the coastal drive has to offer. Then, what better way to end the day than with a pint and some banter in one of Killarney’s famously friendly pubs.
There are so many things to do in Killarney that it can be difficult to narrow the choices. This Killarney itinerary is one we recently used. We think it hits all the area highlights at an enjoyable pace. Read our Killarney Travel Guide for an overview of town and more information on Killarney hotels, weather, attractions, and how to avoid the crowds. Refer to our Killarney Things to Do post for a list of area attractions and activities.
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KILLARNEY ITINERARY DAY 1: Ross Castle. Gap of Dunloe bike on boat tour. St. Mary’s Cathedral. Evening: Killarney Pub Crawl.
The highlight of the day will be a bike on boat tour. The tour begins with a cruise in an open-topped boat through the beautiful Lakes of Killarney. It concludes with a bike ride through the spectacular Gap of Dunloe.
TIP 1: For this outing we used Gap of Dunloe Tours for the 'Bike on Boat' outing, and O’Sullivan’s Cycle for the bike rental (helmets, locks, and maps included).
TIP 2: You can also do this trip on foot, by jaunting car, or by regular bike.
Have a big breakfast. Pack protein snacks, water, rain gear, and sunglasses before heading to your bike rental company. Plan to arrive about 9:15 am (to be on the road by 9:30am). After picking up your bike, ride to Ross Castle. (Restrooms on site.)
Try to arrive at Ross Castle by 9:45 am. Locate Reen Pier where the bike on boat tour will launch. Then, ride to Ross Castle, pay a small admission fee, and tour it. The 15th century castle sits on the shores of Lough Leane. After seeing the castle, explore the trails around the castle. While we were there, we saw a herd of red deer grazing on a side lawn.
Make your way back to the pier for the cruise (usually at 11am). For the next hour and a half, enjoy an unforgettable ride across the Lakes of Killarney: Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake. Surrounded by mountains, islands, and crystal-clear water, you will pass from lake to lake through a series of connecting streams.
The trip will take you under stone bridges and past rustic cottages. At certain times of the year, you may need to get out of the boat and hike a bit while the boats are pulled into deeper water. On the ride, the boat driver will likely regale you with bits of local history and tall tales.
Passengers and bikes are unloaded at a dock by Lord Brandon’s House (bathrooms and café onsite). Snap a shot of the stone tower and get pedaling. The Gap of Dunloe portion of the ride is self-guided. After a short ride past a bit of farmland, turn north onto the Gap of Dunloe Road. Follow this road to Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
The route is about 7 miles (12km) in length. Stopping to enjoy the views, allow about 2 hours to complete on the course on e-bike. The first half of the ride slopes uphill with glorious views of heaths, bogs, lakes, and pastures.
The highest point of the ride is the Head of Gap. From this point on, it is a windy downhill ride over stone bridges and streams.
Along the route you will be joined by walkers, jaunting cars, sheep, and some motor vehicle traffic. On our bike on boat trip, we experienced fleeting sun, heavy wind, and an ever-changing cloud pattern. All of it was gorgeous!
At the juncture of Kate Kearney’s Cottage there are several restaurants, a gift shop, a jaunting car stand, a (free) parking lot, and bathrooms. The roads on the ride from Kate Kearney’s to Killarney Town are heavily trafficked (about another 7-miles). After you pass the golf course, start looking for an entrance into the National Park.
As you ride into town on the cycling path, be on the lookout for St. Mary’s Cathedral. When you see it, lock the bikes to a rack in the park and walk across the street to this beautiful church. After viewing it, take cycling paths back to O’Sullivans.
After a nap and a shower, make your way into Killarney Town. Concentrate your time in the blocks surrounding High, Chapel, New, and Main Streets. In this neighborhood there is a lively vibe with lots of souvenir shops and pubs. There are a few pedestrian-only streets that come alive in the evening.
Shop for a bit, have dinner, and wander amongst the pubs listening to music and sampling the local brew. Look for these established fan-favorites: Courtney’s, Reidy’s, Murphy’s, O’Connor’s, the Laurels, and Tatler Jacks.
KILLARNEY ITINERARY DAY 2: Explore Muckross Abbey, Muckross House, and Torc Waterfall. Evening in Kenmare Village.
The Day 2 Killarney Itinerary calls for another day of biking. Today, we will explore the cultural attractions in Killarney National Park.
TIP 1: We did this day on regular bikes. However, if we did it again, we would rent e-bikes. The cycling paths were hillier than we expected.
TIP 2: This itinerary can also be done by walking or jaunting car.
Make your way from the bike rental shop to the closest cycling path, and head to Muckross Abby. Lock up your bikes, and explore the 5th century Franciscan Friary and cemetery. The abbey has three haunting floors to explore. Informational plaques inform visitors about where the kitchen, refectory, cloisters, and other rooms once existed. A walk through the (active) graveyard to read the tombs makes the experience feel intimate.
From the Abbey, cycle a short distance to Muckkross House and Gardens. The 65-room Victorian Manor has spectacular views of Lake Muckross. Tour the house to see the bedroom that Queen Victoria once slept. Then, enjoy the expansive gardens. There is a café, giftshop, and bathrooms on site.
Retrieve your bikes and hit the trail that takes you by Dinis Cottage. The cottage has a café, picnic grounds, restrooms, and lovely views of the lake. After a pause, pedal on to Torc Waterfall.
Lock your bikes in the parking lot at the base of Torc Mountain, and look for the hiking trail. After a 5-minute walk through an oak forest, Torc Waterfall will come into view. The waterfall tumbles 70 meters over a series of rocks. The cascade is even more dramatic after a rainfall. Take some photographs before cycling back to the rental shop.
In the early evening take a drive on N71-S towards Kenmare. About halfway along the mountainous road you will pass two famous lookouts, Ladies’ View and Moll’s Gap. Take some photos before continuing to the charming coastal town of Kenmare.
In Kenmare you will find streets lined with neat, brightly colored houses. The town is full of quality woolen and craft stores. Shop for gifts, have a traditional Irish meal, and listen to a trad music session.
KILLARNEY ITINERARY DAY 3: Drive the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a spectacular 111-mile scenic drive around Kerry County’s Iveragh Peninsula. Part of the Wild Atlantic way, the route is characterized by tiny Irish villages, stunning scenery, and archeological ruins dating back to the Bronze age. Many visitors embark upon the route on guided tours.
If you chose to drive the route (we did), be sure to get and early start to get ahead of the tour buses. If you have followed this itinerary, you can skip the first few stops on the route (Killarney National Park, Gap of Dunloe, Ladies’ View, Moll’s Gap, and Kenmare) and drive straight to Sneem to begin your loop.
There are many places to explore along this magnificent route. Depending upon your interests there are bronze age tombs, deserted castles, and ring forts. A few of the highlights for Randy and I were the Staigue Fort, Derrynane House and Beach, and Portmagee. More than any one stop, the best thing about this drive was experiencing the authentic countryside and the breathtaking scenery. We did this route on a weekday in May and did not encounter significant traffic at any point along the route.
May the wind be always at your back, Laura and Randy
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