If you visit Ireland, try to spend at least two days exploring Killarney. This town makes a great base for exploring the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle peninsula, and its many highlights warrant at least two days for exploring the town and the Killarney National Park. On your first day, take a walk or a horse and buggy ride through Killarney National Park. See the ruins of a medieval abbey, majestic Torc waterfall, and the historic Muckross House, once owned by brewing magnate Arthur Guinness. Have dinner looking out over the ruins of a castle along the edge of the lake. On the second day, walk through the gardens of Killarney House and take the free tour of the newly opened home. Visit the medieval Ross Castle. Take a one-hour boat tour on the largest lake in Killarney. See the only remaining indigenous species to Ireland, the Red Deer, in their natural habitat. Stop and have tea at a thatched-roof lodge on the edge of the park. Visit St. Mary’s Cathedral. Spend some time in the shops of quaint Killarney town. Enjoy world-famous Murphy’s Ice Cream. Perhaps have dinner at The Flesk Steak and Seafood Restaurant. End your trip with traditional Irish music at Murphy’s Bar.
To listen to a podcast to accompany this two-day itinerary, scroll to the bottom of this page and click to listen.
Killarney National Park Walk – Day 1:
Check in to your hotel. Hotels in the town of Killarney are about 2½ miles from the beginning of Walk 1 and less than ¼ mile from the beginning of Walk 2. Three hotel options within 1½ miles of the beginning of both Walk 1 and Walk 2 are The Brehon, The Gleneagle Hotel and Apartments and the Lake Hotel Killarney.
Walk, drive, or bike to Starting Point 1-A on Walk 1 Map at Killarney National Park. (Bikes can be rented at most hotels in Killarney. Bikes can also be rented at David O’Sullivan Bike Rental at Beech Street in the town center.)
Take Killarney Park Walk (Walk 1) via foot or via a horse and buggy with Killarney Jaunting Cars.
Overview maps are included below, but interactive maps can be found at http://walkli.com/route/59eb6b2a5d2d59313b3ef632.
Jaunting Cars stop at the same sights that are included in Walk 1. Highlights are Muckross Abbey, Muckross House and Gardens, and the Torc Waterfall. The round-trip walk from starting point (A) of Walk 1 is about 5 miles. If you decide to take the Jaunting Car, at a cost of about 20 Euros per person, your driver will wait for you to get down and walk around a bit at each of the sights, so there is no need to worry about missing anything unless you want to take a scheduled, guided tour of Muckross House. There is plenty of free car parking at Muckross House and at the base of Torc Waterfall.
Killarney Park Walk – Walk 1:
Muckross Abbey, Muckross House and Gardens, Torc Waterfall
Killarney Park Walk Starting Point – Walk 1 – Stop 1-A
Starting Point 1-A is a free parking lot alongside Ring of Kerry Road (N-71) across from the Muckross Park Hotel and Spa. Walk through the doorway (pictured) cut into the stone wall to begin walking on the path toward Muckross Abbey.
Jaunting Cars may be parked here, as well as cars. If you don’t see the Jaunting Cars, they may be on the other side of the wall.
While Jaunting Cars are usually available at point (A), they can be booked in advance or contacted via the information on their official website below:
Ruins of Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park – Walk 1 – Stop 2-B
Follow the path from 1-A and take the first right turn of the path to the ruins of Muckross Abbey. Founded in 1448 as a Franciscan Friary, the ruins reflect many years of reconstruction and disrepair. The ancient cemetery contains a number of beautiful tombs. The view of the abbey, the cemetery, and surrounding Killarney Park is surreal and beautiful at the same time. There is no charge to visit.
Muckross House and Gardens, Garden Restaurant, and Traditional Farms – Walk 1 – Stop 3-C
From Muckross Abbey, walk back to the path and turn right. Take the first left, and veer to the right when you come to the next path. Take the first left after this merge and continue straight to Muckross House and Gardens. The house will be facing you. The formal gardens are around the back on the right-hand side. The entrance to the house for guided tours is from the left side of the house. There are public toilets near the ticket office for guided tour ticket purchases. There is a small shop in the house where you may see weavers at work. To the left of the main house, there is a walkway to a restaurant and craft centre. The restaurant is self-service. It is open daily and overlooks Muckross House formal gardens.
Muckross House is a mansion built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, Mary Balfour Herbert, a watercolorist. Her works hang in the home to this day. The improvements that the family made to prepare for a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861 caused such financial problems for the Herberts that they were forced to sell their home. In 1899, Muckross House was bought by Arthur Guinness of the Guinness brewing family. He wanted to preserve the landscape, so he rented it out the mansion to wealthy hunters. He never lived in the home.
In August 1911, Muckross House was sold to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian mining magnate. He and his wife gave it to their daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent as a wedding present. The couple lived there until Maud’s death from pneumonia in 1929. In 1932, Vincent and the Bourn’s presented it to the Irish nation along with its 11,000 acres. It became the first National Park in the young Republic of Ireland, and it is now even larger with additional lands that have been added since 1932.
Muckross Traditional Farms is a separate admission area of three working farms from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Free bus service is provided between buildings on the property where visitors can see a Blacksmith’s Forge, a Carpenter’s Workshop and other buildings and examples from Ireland’s farming history.
Both Muckross House and Muckross Traditional Farms are open daily, and each cost 9 Euros to visit. Combination ticket discounts and discounts for seniors and children are available. Muckross House visitation is via 30-minute guided-tour.
Check for updated information before your visit at the official website:
Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park – Walk 1 – Stop 4-D
Follow the path allow the main road toward Ring of Kerry Road (N-71). Carefully cross N-71 and turn right. Carefully walk about 4 minutes alongside N-71. Take the first left and follow the road leading to the parking lot for Torc Waterfall. Follow the signs to the falls. There are public restrooms at the entry to the path leading to the falls. It is about a 5-minute walk from the parking lot area to the base of the falls.
Note: It is 1.75 miles from Muckross House and Gardens to the Torc Waterfall Parking Area. Jaunting Cars are available at Muckross House if you want to do just this portion of the route via horse and buggy.
Jarvey’s Traditional Irish Pub, and Muckross Hotel and Spa – Walk 1 – Stop 5-E
To avoid walking alongside Ring of Kerry Road (N-71) for 10 minutes, return to the starting point of the walk by walking on the path toward Mangerton Road from the Torc Waterfall parking lot. Turn left when the path reaches Mangerton Road. Turn right at N-71 in front of Jarvey’s Restaurant and Traditional Irish Pub. Continue to the right, and you will see Starting Point (A) across the road from the Muckross Hotel and Spa. Jarvey’s serves fish and chips, burgers, and traditional Irish food daily from 12:30 pm until 11:30 pm.
Note: It is about 2.25 miles from the Torc Waterfall parking lot to Starting Point (A). Jaunting Cars are available at the Torc Waterfall parking area if you want to do just this portion of the route via horse and buggy ride.
Dinner Option: Dining at The Lake Hotel Killarney
Just 1.5 miles toward town, The Lake Hotel Killarney offers additional dining options.
Killarney Lakeside Bistro
The Killarney Lakeside Bistro offers sandwiches, soups, salads, and fish dishes looking out over the lake and the ruins of 12th century Mór Castle. The outdoor terrace is open when the weather is nice. The bistro also serves breakfast and afternoon tea.
The Castlelough Restaurant offers a fine dining experience in the evenings. It offers a 3-course prix-fixe menu for about 45 Euros.
Highlights of Killarney Walk – Day 2:
Walk or bike to the Killarney House, the starting point (A) of Walk 2, Highlights of Killarney. The round-trip walk from this starting point is about 4¼ miles. You can access the maps below at http://walkli.com/route/59eb31005d2d5930fb2ba2db, if you would like an interactive version of the map. Note – There is no parking at the Killarney House. There is public parking at Glebe Public Parking on Plunkett Street in town, 0.2 miles away from Killarney House.
Killarney House and Gardens – Walk 2 – Stop 1
Enter the gates of Killarney House on Muckross Road near Countess Road. Walk through the gardens behind the house facing the Killarney National Park. If you have the time, take the free 15-minute tour of the house.
The Killarney House was built on the foundations of the stables of the Kenmare Estate, after earlier houses had burned. In 1956, Mrs. Grosvenor, niece of the seventh Earl of Kenmare, Gerald Ralph Desmond Browne, sold the house and 25,000 acres. In 1959, the house was sold to John McShain, an American building contractor responsible for many buildings in Washington, DC, including the Pentagon and the Jefferson Memorial. He and his wife, Mary, extensively renovated the building and renamed it “Killarney House”.
In 1978 Mr. McShain sold Killarney House and the greater part of the estate to the Irish State for a price well below market value at the time. The house was sold with the stipulation that it would be incorporated into Killarney National Park after the death of he and his wife. Mary died in 1998.
Killarney House fell into disrepair in the early 2000’s, but in 2016 the house opened for free tours after a 10 million Euro refurbishment of the building and gardens. The house’s three main rooms are open. These include the dining room, living room/library and the drawing room. The house is being developed to eventually become the main visitor center for the Killarney National Park.
Killarney Park Red Deer – Walk 2 – Stop 2-B
Walk through the gardens of the Killarney House into the Killarney National Park using the path along the right side of the house as you face the park. Turn left on the path after you cross over the River Deenagh.
In this riverside area of the path, look for Red Deer, the only native species to Ireland. Red Deer are believed to have been in Ireland since around 10,000 BC, when they roamed freely throughout the country. Due to industrialization, hunting, and famine, the Red Deer population decreased over time. Since the middle of the 1800’s the only surviving Red Deer are in Killarney, where their preservation was due to the protections provided by the Herbert family of the Muckross Estate and the estate of the Brownes, Earl of Kenmare.
Unfortunately, though even in Killarney, the Red Deer population was down to about 1500 by the year 1900. In 1960, the population of Red Deer had declined to 60. Thankfully, due to recent conservation efforts, their numbers have increased to about 700.
Ross Castle in Killarney National Park – Walk 2 – Stop 3-C
Continue along the path and turn right at the first path, just after you cross back over the river. This will lead to the 15th Century ruins of Ross Castle, nestled on the lake to the right.
The castle was built by the local ruling clan the O’Donoghues Mor (Ross), but it was eventually became the home of Sir Valentine Browne, ancestor of the Earls of Kenmare. Later the castle served as a military barracks.
The castle is open daily for 40 minute guided tours for 5 Euros per person.
Killarney Lake Boat Tours – Walk 2 – Stop 4-D
Killarney Lake Boat Tours depart from the dock along the lake at the rear of Ross Castle for one-hour tours of the Lough Leane, Killarney’s largest lake. Daily sailing times are 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm, and 4 pm pending weather conditions and a minimum passenger count of 10 people. Be at the dock 15 minutes in advance of your preferred sailing time. Pay on board. Adult – 10 Euros, Child – 5 Euros
Deenagh Lodge (Thatched Roof Cottage) in Killarney National Park – Walk 2 – Stop 5-E
Walk back toward Killarney House on the same path but continue straight toward the exit from the park in the direction of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Before you reach the gate, you will see Deenagh Lodge just inside the gate of Killarney National Park closest to St. Mary’s Cathedral. Deenagh Lodge is an old gate lodge with a traditional thatched roof with decorative ridge thatching and overhanging eaves, dating to 1834. Today it is a Tea Room run by a charity group that provides training to young adults with Down Syndrome, with the aim of preparing them for possible work opportunities in the hospitality industry. The Tea Room serves coffee, tea, snacks, and ice-cream daily.
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 6-F
Exit the park and walk toward St. Mary’s Cathedral. This is Killarney’s Roman Catholic cathedral serving the entire County Kerry. It was built from 1842-1855 and is considered to be one of the best Gothic Revival churches of the nineteenth century in Ireland.
Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 7-G
From the church, walk toward the left on the road that will become New Street as you approach town. For those that want to try Irish Whiskey, or any kind of whiskey, stop in at Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder on the right after you pass Beech Street. The bar features over 1000 different types of whiskey with about half being Irish whiskies, including many hard to find, limited edition whiskeys. The restaurant serves sandwiches and salads, so it makes a nice lunch stop. It also has whiskey tastings that include cheeses and chocolate, too. You can even bottle your own Irish Whiskey and label it for your own special souvenir.
Murphy’s Ice Cream, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 8-H
Continue walking on New Street and turn right on Main Street. Murphy’s Ice Cream will be on the left. Sean and Kieran Murphy started Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle, Ireland in 2000, with the goal of making the best ice cream in the world. In 2013 Murphy’s Ice Cream was named by USA today as one of the top 15 ice creams in the world. They use milk from the rare breed of Kerry Black Cows. They don’t use artificial colors or flavors. They even make their own sea salt from Dingle sea water and distill Dingle rain to make their sorbets. They now have expanded to another shop in Dingle, the shop in Killarney, and in Dublin. Don’t miss having an afternoon snack here!
Christy’s Irish Store, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 9-I
Continue walking and Christy’s Irish Store will be on the left. This two-story shop sells traditional Irish clothing and gifts, including Waterford crystal items. It is open daily.
The Flesk Restaurant, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 10-J
The Flesk Restaurant, on the other side of Main Street from Christy’s, serves steak and seafood for dinner nightly. Prices are moderate.
St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 11-K
St. Mary’s Church of Ireland is at the corner of Main Street on the left. A member of the Anglican Church, St Mary’s Church of Ireland serves both locals and tourists. The Church offers evening concerts and Saturday morning tours in the summer.
Murphy’s Bar and Restaurant, Killarney – Walk 2 – Stop 12-L
Walk back toward Christy’s on Main Street and turn right on Plunkett Street. Murphy’s traditional Irish pub will be three blocks ahead on the right. The lively traditional music and good food attract visitors and locals, too. Listening to the music here is a great way to end your two perfect days in Killarney.
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Until next time, I hope all your travel days are just perfect!
Listen to the podcast of this 2-day itinerary here: