Killarney Ireland Things To Do
So many of the best things to do in Killarney, Ireland are outdoors. The town borders Killarney National Park which is a playground of verdant woodlands, lakes, and mountains. Whether you are an expert rock climber, an electric biker, or more comfortable traveling by bus or jaunting car, in Killarney you are never far from the spectacular Irish countryside.
And, did we mention the historical attractions? Using Killarney as a base, you can explore the ruins of ancient castles, forts, and abbeys in Killarney National Park and along the Ring of Kerry. A trip to this region of Kerry County will excite your senses, calm your soul, and repeatedly call you back again.
Use our list of things to do in Killarney to begin your planning process. For an area overview and more information on Killarney hotels, weather, attractions, and how to avoid the crowds read our Killarney Travel Guide.
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THINGS TO DO IN KILLARNEY, IRELAND
Cross the Gap of Dunloe
Two million years ago, the Gap of Dunloe was formed when a glacier pushed between two mountains. This gorgeous mountain pass now cuts between the Purple Mountains and the McGillcuddy Reeks. Just outside of Killarney, a 7-mile (11km) one-lane road winds up and down through the wild and spectacular landscapes of the Gap of Dunloe.
Walking, bicycling, or traveling the road in a jaunting car (pony pulled cart) are hugely popular ways of enjoying the area’s scenery. Visitors who make it to the “head of gap” (highest point) are rewarded with phenomenal mountains, lake, and valley views. Read our Gap of Dunloe article for more information about how to organized your trip (or tour) to this area.
Wander Muckross Abbey and Graveyard
Muckross Abbey is a medieval Franciscan friary on the grounds of Killarney National Park. The friary is now deserted, but in its long and dramatic history the monks of the friary endured pillaging and persecution. Finally, in 1652, they were driven off the grounds by Cromwell’s army.
The well-preserved ruins of Muckross Abbey are free to tour. They can be accessed by bike or foot (use the Muckross House parking lot). Visitors can explore three floors of the abbey including its kitchen, refectory, roofless cloisters, and a courtyard with a yew tree that is thought to be over 550-years old. The abbey is surrounded by an active graveyard.
Tour Muckross House and Gardens
Muckross House and Gardens are a short distance from Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park. The rambling Victorian manor overlooks Lake Muckross. Now a museum, Muckross House is furnished to reflect the life-style of a 19th-century wealthy family. The 'Herbert’s' were landowners who once entertained Queen Victoria on the estate.
There are extensive gardens surrounding the house including the Sunken Garden, Rock Garden, and Stream Garden. For a fee, visitors can tour Muckross House and Gardens. There is a cafeteria, giftshop, and bathrooms on site. Parking is free. The location is one where jaunting cars gather to give tourists rides around the lovely countryside (for a fee).
Explore Ross Castle
Ross Castle is located just outside of Killarney Town in Killarney National Park. The remains of the 15th century castle sit on shore of Lough Leane. For a small admission fee, the inside of the castle can be toured. The trails around the Ross Castle are popular with hikers and bikers. During the day, jaunting cars gather in the parking lot waiting for clients. There are several piers on the grounds of Ross Castle where boats launch for cruises on Lough Leane. Bike on boat tours to the Gap of Dunloe and kayak trips to Innisfallen Island also leave from here.
Hike the Torc Waterfall Trail
Torc Waterfall is located on Killarney's Torc Mountain. The attraction is a short 5-minute walk up a wooded trail from the base of the mountain. After a rainfall, the Owengarriff River cascades down a series of rocks with dazzling force. Torc Waterfall is about 70 feet high. The attraction is free. There is car park and bathrooms at the base of the mountain. If you have an extra 30 minutes, climb further to the viewpoint at the summit of Torc Mountain. At this elevation you will have fantastic views of the Lakes of Killarney. From here, you can loop back down to the car park.
Drive the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a 111-mile scenic drive along the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula. The route winds through a string of Irish villages on the Kerry County shoreline. In between towns there are medieval ruins, historic homes, dramatic cliffs, and white sand beaches. The stark and beautiful landscapes of the Ring of Kerry make it one of the most well-loved sections of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Many visitors chose to drive the route. Others opt for guided tours that leave from Killarney (most offering hotel pick-up).
Cruise the Lakes of Killarney
Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake are the three Lakes of Killarney. The celebrated bodies of water are connected by streams that wind through the mountains of Killarney National Park. The lakes support a wide variety of wildlife including swans, eagles, brown trout, salmon, and red deer. Part of the magic of Killarney is experiencing the rugged scenery from the serenity of the water. Visitors have many options. There are kayak rentals, boat cruises, and guided fishing tours. The Ross Castle docks are the starting point of many of these tours.
Light a Candle in St. Mary’s Cathedral
The Gothic-style St. Mary’s Cathedral (aka the Church of the Sloes) is located in Killarney. The town of Killarney takes its name from the church. The Irish ‘Cill Airne’ (meaning Church of the Sloes) translates to the English ‘Killarney.’ Inside the cathedral there are intricate stained-glass windows and soaring Gothic columns. During the day, the church is usually open to visitors. St. Mary’s is said to have excellent acoustics and hosts many choir and orchestral concerts.
Killarney Pub Crawl
Killarney is known for its lively downtown and welcoming pubs. What better way to experience the local culture than sipping a pint and taking in a trad-music session. Pubs in Killarney have personality. You will find asymmetrical booths, cobblestone floors and uniquely Irish memorabilia. The food isn’t bad either. Whether you prefer a stout ale, gin bar, or malt whiskey you will find it in downtown Killarney. Courtney’s, Reidy’s, Murphy’s, O’Connor’s, the Laurels, and Tatler Jacks are solid choices to explore for your Killarney pub crawl.
Bike Killarney National Park
Cycling is a wonderful (and efficient) way to experience Killarney National Park. Traditional pedal and e-bikes can be rented by the day, and come with helmets, maps, and locks. The park maintains a network of paved cycling paths that loop past dense woodlands, the Lakes of Killarney, Ross Castle, and the Muckross cultural attractions.
After a short ride from the rental shop to the park, the only traffic bikers encounter is from walkers and jaunting cars. Out on the trail you will pass sights you can’t see with a car such as Rosie’s beach, Dinis Cottage, Brickeen Bridge, and Old Weir Bridge at the Meeting of the Waters. We highly recommend this activity.
Pet Animals at Muckross Traditional Farms
Visit Muckross Traditional Farms (admission fee) in Killarney National Park to learn how farms functioned in the Ireland of the 1930s and 1940’s. At this hands-on working farm, families can wander through three separate working farms and their outbuildings. Onsite there is a carpenter’s workshop, blacksmith forge, and schoolhouse to tour. There are farm animals to pet, and craft and farming demonstrations.
Explore the Village of Kenmare
Kenmare is a lovely coastal village about 27-miles (43km) south of Killarney on N71. In the walkable downtown there are rows of colorful houses with wide sidewalks. The storefronts are packed with butcher shop and general stores. Downtown Kenmare has businesses selling woolen-wares, jewelry, pottery, and other quality crafts. This is a great town to shop for gifts for home. After lunch at a local restaurant, go for a walk at the Renagross Woodland Park by Kenmare Bay. Kenmare is a traditional stop on the Ring of Kerry.
Watch a Sheep Dog Demonstration
The Kissane Sheep Farm is on N71 between Killarney and Kenmare. The attraction is open from mid-March until late-October (in spring visitors can watch baby lambs scrambling about). The farm offers sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstrations. This is a working farm that has been run by the same family for almost two centuries. Visiting the farm offers a chance to learn about the livestock industry from the people who live the life every day.
Take a Jaunting Car Ride
In Killarney Town, motorized vehicles make way for jaunting cars (pony pulled carts). Taking a ride on a traditional jaunting car is a favorite experience of many who visit the area. Jaunting car drivers are called jarveys. Most enjoy sharing tales of local lore. The carts typically fit 4-6 people.
You can find jaunting cars parked at tops attractions in Killarney Town and in the National Park. Muckross House, Ross Castle, Lord Brandon’s House, and Kate Kearney’s Cottage are popular starting points. Once onboard, drivers will usually head to roads in the National Forest where motorized vehicles are not allowed. Jaunting cars can be booked ahead through hotels, or in the moment (expect to pay cash if in the moment).
Enjoy the Scenery at Moll’s Gap and Ladies’ View
Drive Route N71 to get to Ladies’ View and Moll’s Gap; two of Ireland’s most photographed vistas. The lookouts offer stunning views of some of the country’s tallest peaks and most beautiful lakes. Ladies’ View takes its name from Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who were smitten with the view. Moll’s Gap is named after Moll Kissane (a local woman who made her living making poitin potato alcohol). Both spots are stops on the Ring of Kerry.
Ride Horseback in Killarney National Park
O’Sullivan’s (aka Killarney Riding Stables) is a family run farm that borders Killarney National Park. O’Sullivan’s is home to about 70 horses and ponies. The stable offers 1, 2, and 3 hours rides through the park. Hacking, trekking, and trails rides are offered for beginner and advanced riders.
Enjoy a Whiskey Tasting
The Irish Whiskey Experience is located on New Street in the heart of Killarney Town. The Whiskey Experience promises whiskey enthusiasts, “a sensory and interactive experience that guides visitors through the history of Irish Whiskey, the distilling process and a comparative tasting.” Guests can choose from introductory or cocktail making classes, and classes pairing whiskey with chocolate or cheeses.
Go on a Hawk Walk
Falconry Kerry is located about 2 miles outside of Killarney Town. The falconry offers popular “hawk walks” where guests learn about falconry and interact with the birds of prey. The walk involves strolling through the meadows of a working farm while learning about the hawks, falcons, and owls that live on the farm. No prior falconry experienced is required. The activity is suitable for all ages.
Golf on the Greenest Greens
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club offers visitors three golf clubs to choose from: Killeen 18-hole course, Mahoney’s Point 18-hole course, and Lackabane 9-hole course. The courses are blessed with fantastic mountain and woodland views of Killarney National Forest and the surrounding area. Equipment can be rented and tee times can be booked online.
Fish on the Lakes of Killarney
The lakes and streams of Killarney are known for their healthy population of brown trout and other local species. Companies in Killarney offer equipment rental and guided fishing tours (equipment included). Guests can choose from fly fishing, spinning, and angling off-shore or on a boat.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, Laura and Randy
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