As you reach the outskirts of Killarney, it’s pretty obvious from the topography that mountain climbing and walking is one of the most popular activities in the area, the art and science of which is celebrated during the Killarney Mountain Festival.
But the fun isn’t restricted to higher altitudes. There’s an astonishing amount of things to do in Killarney centre that most visitors make a return visit. It’s a town which has been doing tourism of all types for nearly three hundred years, catering for everyone from royalty and show business icons to budget backpackers.
The picturesque area adjacent to the town is Killarney National Park. Visited by over one million people a year, it’s the oldest national park in Ireland and one of the most popular places to walk, run and cycle in Kerry. Bicycles can be rented from O’Sullivan’s Bike Hire on Beech Road and High Street. Killarney National Park is large enough to absorb the extensive visitor count and is actually considered a haven of tranquillity.
There’s a lazier way of traversing the national park and that’s by the iconic jaunting car method. Driven by a Jarvey, these horse-drawn carriages do passenger pick-ups at Kenmare Place.
It’s possible to take boating trips on the park’s lakes. Gap of Dunloe Tours based at O’Connor’s on High Street do boating trips across the lakes combined with walking, bus, cycling and jaunting car tours of the Gap of Dunloe.
The National Park is frequented by nature and wildlife lovers given the large variety of flora and fauna in the area including Red Deer and Japanese Sika Deer. In order to maintain the park’s ecological balance an advance permit is required to use a kayak or canoe within the park. Click here for details on obtaining a permit.
KILLARNEY HERITAGE SITES
Ross Castle, at Lough Leane’s shoreline, dates back to the 15th Century. Changing ownership several times, it was donated to the State by the McShain family, the well-known US building contractor. Boating tours depart from Ross Castle with some tours stopping at Innisfallen Island.
Also donated to the State by the McShains, Killarney House and Gardens is the National Park’s Visitor Centre and is conveniently located on the town side of Muckross Road.
Further along Muckross Road is Muckross House & Gardens which is one of the most popular things to do in Killarney. A classic example of the Victorian era, Muckross House has sublime views of Muckross Lake. Hosting Queen Victoria in 1861, the house and its parklands were donated to the State by Arthur Vincent and the Bowers Bourn family in 1932 forming the initial part of what is now known as Killarney National Park.
The Traditional Farms on the grounds showcase agricultural methods before the advent of modern machinery and electricity, and are a great educational experience for children.
For ecclesiastical architecture, St. Mary’s Cathedral is Augustus Pugin’s stunning masterpiece, the spire of which soars impressively over the town’s skyline. St. Mary’s Church of Ireland at Kenmare Place dates back to the 19th Century as does the Franciscan Friary at Fairhill. The ruins of the 15th Century Franciscan Muckross Abbey are located on Muckross Road near the entrance to Muckross House.
SHOPPING IN KILLARNEY
Killarney is well-served by national and independent retailers. As an international tourism town, a number of outlets specialise in arts, crafts, vintage items, traditional musical instruments and souvenirs. If you arrive without your outdoor equipment get kitted out at O’Sullivan’s Killarney Outdoor Store on New Street.
EATING AND DRINKING IN KILLARNEY
Killarney has an extraordinary supply of individual cafes, restaurants and pubs which offer food menus. Combine this with the facilities each hotel has to offer so arrive hungry and thirsty.
Lír Café on East Evenue, Jam and Noelle’s on Old Market Lane, Petit Delice on High Street, Revive on New Street, Mac’s on Main Street all come recommended as part of Killarney’s vibrant café culture and do lunch servings as well.
Killarney Brewing Company, an independent craft brewery on Muckross Road, offers a unique food and drink experience. Tours of the brewery are available and this package comes recommended by friends.
NIGHTLIFE IN KILLARNEY
…is legendary and every Irish person will have experienced it at least once in their lifetime (If you haven’t please leave a comment below explaining why not!). Although individual pubs are dotted around the town quite a few are concentrated on College Street and Plunkett Street.
Many of Killarney’s bars at the weekend have live music so you’ll more than likely choose your pub according to the musical genre being played.
For a Manhattan vibe and great cocktails check out The Kube on East Avenue and The Lane Café Bar at The Ross. For a sing-song, a great pint and a great coffee check out O’Donoghue’s Public House on College Square. Its convivial atmosphere of locals and tourists is worth a visit.
Given its size, JM Reidy’s on Main Street may have several musical acts performing. It also has a beer garden, one of the few pubs in Killarney town centre that does.
Some of my favourite evening restaurants include Vendricks on Fair Hill, The Porterhouse on Plunkett Street, The Laurels on Main Street and a number of High Street venues such as Bricín and Gaby’s Seafood Restaurant.
Cultural night-time activities include the cinema on East Avenue and concerts at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland. Dóchas Drama Group hold their shows at Killarney Avenue Hotel and are always worth attending…but that’s a slightly biased view as you will see from my home page!
A few years ago I was seated beside a well-known economist on an international flight. He asked me what the secret to Killarney’s success was. For me, that success revolves around three components: spectacular scenery which is easily accessed, a bountiful amount of things to do, plus a vibrant and hard-working local community which not only strives to make Killarney a pleasant place to visit but an extraordinary place to live.
Do you agree? What do you think Killarney’s success is down to? Leave your comments below. Your email address will not be made public.
GETTING TO KILLARNEY
Given Killarney’s prominence, lots of signposts point in its direction. The town is also a transport hub for bus and rail in Kerry so have a look at my Kerry, Ireland: A Travel Guide for further information. The post outlines methods for getting around Kerry for those interested in day trips from Killarney.
For the rest of Ireland check out my Planning a Trip to Ireland post.