There are so many things to do in Killarney, Ireland. In this Killarney travel guide, I’ll show you the best things to do in Killarney and where to find the most spectacular scenery. There is a long list of things to do below that will suit every Killarney adventurer.
Killarney is a small town with beautiful lakes, historic sites, white horses that pull historic jaunting cars and so much more. Killarney is the perfect place to relax, unwind and unplug. Killarney is so idyllic and picturesque. My recent trip left me so relaxed and in love with beautiful Ireland. Keep reading for all the top things to do in Killarney, Ireland.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park is Ireland’s first national park. The popular attraction was established in 1932 when the park was donated to the Irish State. The historic site is 26,000 acres so there is so much to do and see throughout the national park.
In 1981, Killarney National Park was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its ecological importance and cultural history. Killarney National Park has a variety of species including the only herds of native red deer in Ireland. You’ll also spot Sika deer in the park. Spot the difference between the two types of deer.
Killarney National Park is one of the best things to do in Killarney and is the perfect place to start your Killarney adventures. Within Killarney National Park you can take a guided walk, jump on a traditional jaunting car, cycle around at your leisure, hike or drive through. You can easily spend a whole day at Killarney National Park, exploring the wildlife and beautiful scenery. This is one of my favorite places in County Kerry and the ideal place for a day trip spent enjoying nature.
Horse ride through Killarney National Park
If you are looking for a unique experience while you explore Killarney National Park, you could take a horse riding tour through the National Park. There are lots of different horse riding tours of various lengths and routes that you can take. Beginners to experienced riders are welcome on the horse riding tours and all equipment is provided by the stables.
Visit Muckross House and Traditional Farms
I was about 12 when I first visited Muckross House and I always remember our family trip fondly. My trip back to Muckross this year did not disappoint. Muckross House, the gardens and traditional farms are 100% one of the best things to do in Killarney.
Muckross House is a Victorian Mansion on Muckross Lake in Killarney National Park. The interior of the house shows the beauty and lifestyle of the homes of the upper classes in the 19th Century. You will also be able to see how the servants lived and experience glimpses into their daily lives.
You’ll pay a small entry fee to visit both the house and traditional farms. There is so much to see here and it is definitely worth the admission. There are regular guided tours that will provide you with the rich history of the house. One of the guided tours will make the trip more meaningful as you’ll learn so much history, which will add to the experience.
Muckross house was built in the 17th century and completed in 1843. It was the home of the Herbert family who had come from Wales. The Gardens were built in the 19th century and were created for Queen Victoria’s visit to Killarney in 1861.
The traditional farms at Muckross House are also worth a visit as it gives a clear picture into what life was like on a traditional farm in the 1930s and 1940s. You can visit the cottages and see the animals, taste traditional Irish bread (freshly made) and smell a real turf fire. It is a live lesson in Irish history that is well worth the adventure.
Visit Ross Castle
Ross Castle is a 15th century Castle on the edge of Loch Leane. It was built by the local ruling clan, O’Donoghue Mór. It is free to walk around the outside of the castle and see the beautiful lake views by the Castle. We took a boat trip from here to cycle through the Gap of Dunloe (more on that below) so we quickly saw the castle before heading to the Gap of Dunloe.
Ross Castle was the last stronghold in Munster. It was used to fight against Cromwell and was seized by General Ludlow in 1652.
If you would like to tour inside the castle, you must book a scheduled guided tour. At the time of writing this Killarney travel guide, an adult ticket is 5 euro and a family ticket costs 13 euro. The Castle is closed for tours in the winter months.
Experience the Spectacular Gap of Dunloe
One of the most popular things to do in Kerry is to experience the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap of Dunloe was one of my favorite parts of our Killarney tour trip. Unfortunately, it was not a clear day and it was bucketing rain for a lot of it! Even through the rain, this was still a beautiful view and a reminder of how beautiful Ireland truly is. We rented bikes and took a boat (with our bikes) on the lake. We then cycled through the Gap of Dunloe and back to Killarney. This is not for the faint hearted, especially on a rainy day!
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass running north-south, that separates the MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range in the west, from the Purple Mountain Group range in the east. It is as beautiful as the pictures seem.
There are so many ways to see the Gap of Dunloe. You can adventure by car, by bus, on foot, by bike, horseback, or take a boat trip to tour the Lakes of Killarney. As you meander to the Gap of Dunloe, there will be multiple stopping points to take photos. It’s so picturesque and crazy to think that this all began to form during the ice age. You’ll also see lots of sheep, fish, birds and even Japanese Sika Deer along the way.
The summer months are one of the best times to go as you are less likely to get rain. We went in July and still had heavy rainfall... Pack appropriately so you can enjoy this beautiful view and journey.
See the gushing waters at Torc Waterfall
Torc waterfall is another great thing to see when you are in Killarney. Torc Waterfall is in Killarney National Park and is a very short distance from Muckross House. You can easily do these two on the same day.
Torc Waterfall is about 20 meters high and the best time to visit is after lots of rain as the waterfall will be even more dramatic. Ireland gets lots of rain so regardless of which day you go, you will see lots of water and a picturesque waterfall.
There are two car parks/parking lots to see Torc Waterfall - one has a short hike and the other is a quick 5 minute walk to the waterfall. Make sure you pick the correct parking lot depending on if you want a quick hike or an easy walk. Both hikes/walks are beautiful and well worth the few steps to get to this Irish waterfall.
Hike Torc Mountain
Torc Mountain is a favorite hiking spot for those who come to Kerry to hike. The views of Killarney and the National Park from the mountain are spectacular. There are lots of different trails that you can take depending on how long you want to hike for and how intense you want the hike to be. Anytime I am hiking, I use the All Trails app as it shows you pictures of the trail, the length and elevation. I also like the rating aspect of All Trails and I always choose moderate hikes. Definitely a great hike option if you are looking to get some steps in!
Visit the Lakes of Killarney
As you drive or tour Killarney, you will see the beautiful lakes. There are three Lakes of Killarney:
Lough Leane (Lough Léin in Irish)
Muckross Lake (Middle Lake or Torc Lake)
Lough Leane is the largest lake. You can do lots of different lake tours that will have a guide telling you about the history, flora and fauna. We took a lake tour and it was so enjoyable (albeit a little rainy and windy on the day). We took a very small boat out. If you get seasick, I would not recommend going on this boat as due to the size, it is not the most stable at all times. Otherwise, we had such a great Lake tour and learnt so much about Killarney and the lakes. The local tour guide was hilarious and had such a passion for storytelling. We spotted an eagle, Red Deer AND Sika deer.
There are also options to kayak the lakes to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace. It’s best to go on a day where there is no rain as it will be much more enjoyable and picturesque. Depending on the boat tour or kayaking spot you start at, you can see historic Killarney sites such as Ross Castle and Innisfallen Monastery.
The views are incredible from the lake and it’s a great way to see a lot in a short amount of time. We passed by the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountains and Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil. Taking a boat tour is one of the best things to do in Killarney and an easy way to have a tour guide tell you a lot about the quaint area.
Stop off at Ladies View to enjoy the best views of the Lakes
Ladies View is one of the most scenic viewpoints on the Ring of Kerry. The lookout got its name because Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting loved the view during the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 1861.
The Killarney Lakes look beautiful no matter where you view them, however on a clear day, this is one of the best places to see Killarney. The views of the lakes and the mountains together are so picturesque and a must see when you are in Killarney, Ireland.
You can park right by Ladies view, stop to browse the gifts at the gift shop and refuel at the pretty cafe. There’s also a bathroom you can use there.
Spot the Old Weir Bridge at the Meeting of the Waters
The Meeting of the Waters is a picturesque spot where the area’s three lakes, the Upper Lake, Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, all meet. This spot is a little more remote than the others. As part of our Lake boat trip, we passed through this area and it was stunning. You’ll spot the Old Weir Bridge which is a famous Killarney post card.
Tour Killarney House and Gardens
The Killarney House and Gardens are different to Muckross House & Gardens mentioned above. The original building was built in the 18th century but unfortunately burnt down in 1913. What you see today from the original house is some of the gardens and the gate lodges.
Killarney house was home to the Earls of Kenmare. After the fire, the family moved to a stable block, which was later renovated and renamed to Killarney House. In 2017, the grand home opened to the public and is loved by locals and tourists. The house is in Killarney National park and is definitely a great thing to do when in Killarney, Ireland.
Stay in a beautiful Irish Castle
What is better than exploring Killarney? Exploring Killarney and going home to delight in delicious food and the hospitality at Ballyseede Castle. Ballyseede Castle is the only hotel castle in Kerry and is an amazing 4 star historic, welcoming castle. We stayed here during part of our Killarney trip and had the best time.
Everything was perfect - the beautiful gardens, delicious breakfast, luxurious lounges, wonderful staff, cute donkeys, plush bedrooms, award winning dining and more. I highly recommend adding a night or two at Ballyseede Castle. Read my full Ballyseede Castle review here and see lots of photos of this historic Irish Castle hotel.
The Castle is a 30 minute drive outside Killarney (in Tralee) but is worth it in my opinion. We stayed at both the castle and another hotel when visiting Killarney.
Explore the World Famous Ring of Kerry
When you visit Kerry, another one of the best things to do is explore the world famous Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula. The Ring of Kerry is 179km long and takes you on the most picturesque journey. Full of rugged coastlines and rural villages. In most parts, the Wild Atlantic Way covers the same route as the Ring of Kerry. Only the Ring of Kerry passes Killarney National Park.
There are so many points to see along the Ring of Kerry so be ready for lots of stops. Look out for Ladies View (as mentioned above), Skellig Michael (a rocky island with a monastery and a filming location for Star Wars, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), Moll’s Gap, Kenmare, Killorglin and Portmagee.
The Ring of Kerry drive is worth it. You can take many tour buses around the Ring of Kerry, which will stop at some of the best places. If you do decide to drive the Ring of Kerry yourself, be sure to drive the Ring of Kerry in a counter clockwise direction. This is the way tour buses drive so it will make for a much more pleasant drive so you don’t meet any tour buses along the way. The roads are narrow with a lot of twists and turns so this will make your experience a lot easier.
If you want to do the Ring of Kerry properly, leave early in the day to avoid the crowds and also factor in enough time to stop for photos and to take in the scenery and tourist stops. I would dedicate a full day to this road trip.
Visit Muckross Abbey
Muckross Abbey is another great tourist attraction in Killarney. Muckross Abbey is also in Killarney National Park. You can visit the ruins of the church, a vaulted cloister, the courtyard and the square tower.
Local chieftains and poets were buried at Muckross Abbey. The Abbey has been well preserved and it is a work of art. You can easily stop by Muckross Abbey, Muckross House and Torc Waterfall in one day as they are all very close by.
Eat in the Award Winning Restaurants in Killarney town
We were bowled over by the amazing choice of restaurants in the town of Killarney. Some of the best restaurants are side by side in Killarney town. After you are finished touring all the top things to do in Killarney, treat yourself to some delicious traditional food in Killarney Town. We had so many places bookmarked to eat and too little time. When we were there we loved:
Cronnin’s Restaurant, The Mad Monk by Quinlans, Khao Asian Street Food and Murphy Brownes (their lasagne was amazing!)
You’ll have such amazing food when you are in Ireland. The quality is so good and you can taste the difference in quality.
Visit J M Reidy’s pub to enjoy live music
J M Reidy’s pub is a famous traditional Irish pub in Killarney town. After you have had an exciting day of adventures on the Ring of Kerry, stop off for a drink and some live music. This is a great place to wind down for the evening and is a short walk from most of the hotels in Killarney town. There are also a lot of other pubs that play live music throughout Killarney so be sure to enjoy at least one live music session on your Killarney trip.
Treat yourself to a luxurious spa day
If you need a break during your Killarney trip, the Europe Spa is a popular spot for spa goers in need of some TLC. The views from the Europe spa are incredible and the facilities are amazing. This spa is an ESPA spa, which is one of my favorite spas. ESPA has the most luxurious spa products that you can bring home to have mini spa nights at home. Highly recommend treating yourself at the Europe spa.
Admire the architecture of St Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral is in the heart of Killarney town. It was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin in 1840. The Cathedral has a beautiful backdrop of mountains and lakes. Stop by on your way to dinner or when you are strolling around Killarney town.
Enjoy a craft beer at Killarney Brewing Company
We were planning to head to Killarney Brewing company but ran out of time. As you can see there is so much to do and see in Killarney! Killarney Brewing Company is a microbrewery in Killarney and a great spot for wood fired pizza and a beer at their tap room. There are lots of different types of beer offered which change depending on the season. You can also book a one hour brewery tour if you want to find out some history about the brewery and get to taste lots of varieties of beer.
Go West to the Dingle Peninsula
If you haven’t done enough touring on your Killarney trip, the Dingle Peninsula is another top thing to do in Killarney. The Dingle Peninsula is known for surfing and kayaking. The beautiful views are what make the Dingle Peninsula one of the best things to see in Killarney. We learnt about the Dingle Peninsula in school as it has the most Ogham stones in Ireland. Ogham is a form of old Irish writing. The inscriptions can date from the end of the 4th, up to the early 8th century AD. The inscriptions can signify a single name, or a phrase such as ‘X son of Y of the family of Z’ and sometimes a little more detail is added.
Top things to do in Killarney Ireland
I hope you enjoyed my top things to do in Killarney travel guide. As you can see from this Killarney travel guide, there is so much natural beauty in Killarney and so many things to do. There are plenty of things to keep you busy in Killarney for many days. I spend about 6 weeks in Ireland every year and grew up there so will have regular blog posts to help you with your Irish travels. Sign up to my newsletter to be notified when new blog posts go live.
Some frequently asked questions on visiting Killarney
To wrap up this Killarney travel guide, I wanted to answer some questions I got while visiting Killarney. Over time, I will add to these as new questions pop up:
How many days do you need in Killarney?
As you can see there is so much to do in Killarney and it depends how much you want to cover. I would say, plan to spend 3-4 days in Killarney. You can definitely see the National Park and Ring of Kerry in 2 days but 3+ days will allow you to explore at a slower pace and really enjoy the beautiful landscape. Kerry is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland so be sure to dedicate enough of your time there. The biggest mistake I see travellers make when they go to Ireland is trying to pack to much in - aiming for quantity over quality. Ireland is a place to relax, unwind and enjoy nature. Take your time and enjoy where you do visit. The rest will be there on another trip.
When is the best time to visit Killarney?
The best time to visit Killarney (and Ireland in general) is the summer months from June to August. The rain is warmer during these months ;) May and September are also great times to visit with less tourists.
It does rain in Ireland so be prepared. The sights still look so beautiful, even if it is raining. Also there are perfect castles like Ballyseede castle which make a rainy day all the more cozy with a book and tea by the fire.
A lot of the tours in Killarney close for the winter months so avoid visiting then. Killarney is best seen in warmer months due to so many of the activities being outside.
Where are the best places to Stay in Killarney?
There are lots of hotels in Killarney which are walking distance to all the restaurants and bars in Killarney. There are also some beautiful hotels a quick 10 min drive away which look onto the lake.
When we were there, we stayed at the beautiful Ballyseede Castle (30 min outside Killarney in Tralee) and we also stayed at Cahernane House (I love old school hotels and castles). We also looked at the Brehon and The Lake Hotel Killarney which look beautiful too.
That’s all for my Killarney travel guide. See more of my travel guides and recommendations here.
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