This months guest post is from Mimi McFadden. Mimi is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow travelling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing on her blog The Atlas Heart, you can probably find her sipping on a pint of craft beer, chasing waterfalls, or planning her next adventure in a foreign land.
Fabulous and fun things to do in Killarney
Killarney is a small town in south-west Ireland, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in spirit, history, and culture. The city has everything from a castle, to great pubs to drink in, fun outdoor activities, and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet! Here are all the things to do in Killarney that I recommend when you visit Ireland.
The town itself is located on the northeastern shore of one of Killarney National Park’s three famous lakes, Lough Lane, surrounded on all sides by the incredible natural scenery of lush Ireland.
Killarney National Park is one of the biggest draws to the town and brings thousands of tourists to Killarney every year. The park itself is an outdoor lover’s playground; waterfalls, lakes, rivers, wildlife, and woodlands make up the roughly 40 square miles of the park.
Even for those not enthralled by the magic of the outdoors, Killarney is an ideal version of the image that comes to mind when you hear “small Irish town”. There are shops, restaurants, book stores, pubs – all painted in the warm, welcoming colours of old-town Ireland.
Things to do in Killarney
Read on for some firsthand tips and suggestions on how to plan out your itinerary for your much-needed visit to beautiful Killarney.
How to get to Killarney
The closest international airport to Killarney is the Cork Airport (ORK) which not many destinations outside of Europe fly into direct. Likely, you’ll be re-routed to a larger international airport in Europe (Dublin, Heathrow, or Edinburgh), from which you can catch a European budget airline into Cork.
Once you make it to Cork it is a short 1.5-hour train ride from the closest station to central Killarney. You can also easily get to Killarney via bus or train from Dublin in about 3.5-5 hours.
How to Get Around Killarney
You made it! The town of Killarney is actually quite compact so getting around isn’t too much of an ordeal. In fact, using your own two feet is a great option if you’re just looking to explore the town. Though for anything not directly within the town centre you’ll want to check out some other options.
By far the most fun and liberating ways to get around is on two wheels! There are bike rentals dispersed throughout the city with reasonable prices for day rentals (roughly 15€ for a full day), and most you can take into Killarney National Park too.
Another cheap option is to just hop on the Killarney Shuttle Bus. It makes its way from a handful of stops throughout the town (Fair Hill, Beech Road, Ross Castle, and Torc Waterfall to name a few), and also makes two trips a day to the Gap of Dunloe. You can also arrange for a direct pickup at your hotel!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Killarney without taking a ride in the traditional “Jaunting Car”. A horse-drawn carriage through Killarney National Park is something every visitor should make time for on their itinerary.
What to Do
Explore Killarney National Park
First and foremost you should include a visit (or two) to Killarney National Park, which borders the town of Killarney.
Killarney National Park is Ireland’s oldest National Park (established in 1932) and features a landscape full of oak trees, woodland wildlife, mountain peaks, and the famous Lakes of Killarney.
Killarney National Park is also home to the only herd of Red Deer on mainland Ireland – another big draw to the park.
You can explore the park the old fashioned way: on foot with a park map and comfortable walking shoes, or you can schedule some kind of a guided tour. The park itself offers guided tours in the form of a bus tour, jaunting car, or boat tour.
Enjoy the Ladies View
A great way to start your sightseeing day if you’re heading to Killarney National Park is at Ladies View. It is incredible lake-side viewpoint in the park that is most well known for its view of the winding rivers that make their way through the park’s landscape.
Try and visit as early in the day as possible as it can get pretty crowded come afternoon time (most tourists are following a guide map). For a truly splendid morning, stop in at the Ladies View Cafe for a cup of coffee (or spot of tea!) before settling into your morning view spot.
Don’t forget to make a visit to the fascinating Muckross House. This Victorian mansion sits on the shores of Muckross Lake, in the middle of the three Lakes of Killarney and it includes a traditional farm, the Garden Restaurant, walled gardens, we weavers, potters and a lovely shop to buy all the gifts you need to take home.
The Torc Waterfall is also in Killarney National Park and is a beautiful highlight to see for yourself while you’re in town. The waterfall itself is 20 meters high and 110 meters long and is certainly one of the biggest draws of the park.
To see the waterfall at its peak performance you’ll want to schedule your visit during the rainy season when the falls are booming!
While you’re milling about the park, be sure to get a glimpse of Ross Castle, an epic ruin of a 15th-century fortress. You can schedule a guided tour through the fortress (these are offered seasonally) or observe from the outside.
Ross Castle is right on the edge of Lough Leane Lake, which is the largest of the three Lakes of Killarney. If you’re making your way through the park on your own, packing a picnic and enjoying the lakeside view is a fun option. You can also do a boat tour on Lough Leane!
Gap of Dunloe
For a cool experience outside of Killarney National Park, head to the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap, right next to Black Lake, is a narrow mountain pass that separates the two major mountain ranges that run east-west through Ireland.
The scenery at the Gap of Dunloe is unreal, you’ll feel like you’re in a Lord of the Rings movie. Truly epic.
If you’re looking for the quintessential small Irish town experience you will certainly find it in downtown Killarney!
The main streets through town are cosy and winding, bordered by brightly coloured shops, restaurants, bookstores, sweet shoppes, cathedrals, and pubs that all have a welcoming charm emanating from them. You will feel the urge to go into every place you pass – don’t fight that urge!
The Aran Sweater Market is a favourite stop for tourists in the area. To satisfy your sweet teeth, Mr McGuire’s Olde Sweet Shop!
Due to its close proximity to Killarney National Park and the fact that it was one of the first Irish towns to embrace tourism, there is surprisingly a lot to do in this compact little town; shopping, eating, drinking…drinking and eating…you get it.
Sing Your Heart Out in a Killarney Pub
Almost every bar and pub in Killarney has live music, any given time of day, week, month, or year.
Sit down and relax with a pint while you enjoy an early evening serenade or get rowdy with a few shots of whiskey and sing along with the late night band and see where the night’s shenanigans take you!
Things to do in Killarney – Where to Eat
Downtown Killarney has some great food options!
To fuel up for the day you can grab a good pastry at almost any cafe in town. For something exceptionally good in the area, Noell’s Retro Cafe has a variety of homemade menu items like sandwiches and cakes which you can enjoy on their outdoor garden patio or tucked away in a cosy nook inside.
Those looking for a hearty lunch Quinlans Seafood Bar features a fresh fish menu for reasonable prices right in the downtown area. They serve fresh lobster, fish and chips, smoked salmon, and some amazingly fresh chowder.
Ready to treat yourself to a nice dinner out on the town? Cronins Restaurant looks like any old Irish pub and restaurant from the outside, but inside they serve elegant, traditional Irish dishes that will blow you away!
Where to Stay
Since the town is so small, finding a place to stay close to the centre of town won’t be difficult (or too pricey).
A fun boutique hotel with starting rates of around $100/night, Scotts Hotel is a great option! Their bright, modern design makes for a more casual environment and certainly a nice place to call home for a few nights.
Wanting something a bit more luxurious? The Killarney Park Hotel is the upscale, luxury accommodation in town. A 5-star, high-end hotel with an indoor pool, extravagant decorations and a few antique elements add a unique charm to the hotel.
Probably the most sought-after accommodation in Killarney though is at The Lake Hotel. The Lake Hotel is located within Killarney National Park, right along the edge of Lough Leane Lake, and for such a prime location the nightly rates are surprisingly not that absurd. If you have the opportunity and the budget to stay here you absolutely should.
What to Pack
No matter what time of year you’re visiting you’ll want to pack for cooler weather. Definitely make sure you have a heavier coat, light rain jacket, and a warm hat – these items will come in handy throughout all of Ireland!
Killarney sees the most rainfall in January, October and December while the warmest month is August with temperatures reaching an average high in the mid-60s. It never really reaches “shorts weather” in Southern Ireland.
There you have it, that’s Killarney in a nutshell! It’s one of my favourite Irish towns for a reason and definitely worth a stop on your Ireland itinerary while you’re in the country. As you can see there are so many things to do in Killarney you could spend weeks in the area.
If you’re looking for more travel inspiration for this part of the world, don’t forget to check out my favourite peaceful spots around London. I know, ‘peaceful’ and ‘London’ don’t usually go hand-in-hand. But, it’s surprisingly easy to find that small town peaceful feel similar to Killarney, even in the biggest cities in Europe, if you know where to look.
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