Killarney is a darling, quaint town that is situated in the southwest part of Ireland at the start of the famous Ring of Kerry drive. The downtown area reminded me of an alpine village with its colorful shop and restaurant facades and flags flying over the main street. One of the challenges of Killarney is that there isn't much on the town in tour books, despite it being a very popular place to start many excursions in the southwest part of Ireland. We had done a bit of research in advance and had a few ideas to get us going. Since we were staying at a small hotel, we also figured that we could get some tips from the front desk staff. We really loved this small town and it was a lovely contrast to the business of the capital city.
Description: This is Ireland's first national park and is an outdoor enthusiast's dream with so many activities and picturesque views in every direction. There are many different activities from walking/hiking to boat tours to historical sites to jaunting cars (horse drawn carts) to boat rentals to bike rentals.
Location: Every direction you travel in Killarney, you seem to be in or near the park. It's a massive park with multiple entrances depending on your activity.
Visiting: Entrance into the park is free.
Tips: If you choose to partake in an outdoor adventure in the park, be sure to pack water and snacks/lunch. There is a small cafe on one side of the lake but we found peace of mind knowing we had water and a picnic lunch. Get a map of the park from the Muckross House which will include trails and corresponding elevation.
Pam and Christine's take: The park is gorgeous and we think it's a must!
|The views of Muckross Lake from just above the Torc Waterfall|
Description: The Muckross House is a Victorian estate house from the 1800s that has been restored. Fans of Downton Abbey may recognize the style of this house. The estate grounds are beautiful and include some formal gardens and a beautiful lawn overlooking the lake.
Location: Located within Killarney National Park. Note that there are several entrances for different modes of transportation so pay attention when you arrive.
Visiting: Entrance into the house is by guided tour only. Tour groups have about 40-50 people and the tour is approximately 90 minutes.
Tips: Tours seem to fill up quickly so arrive early or be prepared to book a later tour and see other things first. We ended up hiking the park in the morning and touring the house later in the afternoon. The grounds are definitely picnic-worthy with the sprawling lawn and numerous benches providing adequate space. So bring some food and enjoy the spectacular views of the lake.
Pam and Christine's take: The house is nice but we didn't think the tour was worth it. Spend your time walking the gardens and head to the farm and abbey instead.
Description: The farm area features the different parts of a traditional Irish farm, including different sized farms, schoolhouse, blacksmith, and tannery. It's a circular tour so it's easy to make your way between "exhibits." The farm also features many different types of animals including pigs, horses, cows, goats, and donkeys.
Location: The farm is in the same general area as the Muckross House within Killarney National Park.
Visiting: The farm is a self-guided tour and at each stop, there are hosts to answer questions and provide you with additional information. This is definitely kid friendly.
Tips: Don't go first thing when it opens as not everything will be up and running. Have your cameras ready to snap some shots of the many farm animals!
Description: This Franciscan abbey was in operation until Orwellian times. Now it is simply well-preserved ruins that includes a cemetery where local chieftains were buried. It's beautifully preserved and incredibly peaceful.
Location: This isn't in the same general vicinity as the house and farm, but it's in the park and within walking distance.
Visiting: There is no entrance fee nor is there a formal reception or welcome desk. You can walk through the abbey and cemetery at your leisure.
Tips: Venture to the abbey early in the day when you'll find it essentially deserted. We stopped while we were on a morning run.
Pam and Christine's take: A fun and low-pressure (also free!) addition to your Muckross visit.
|Imagine our surprise to stumble on this place in the early morning|
long before most tourists were up and about!
Description: This was one of the many tower houses that existed in the 14th and 15th centuries in the Irish countryside. These houses were used to help protect a chieftain and his property at a time when there was much feudal warfare.
Location: The castle is a very short (8-10 minute) drive from downtown and is well marked!
Visiting: You can enter the castle on a guided tour or choose to walk the grounds. The castle entry fee (4 euros for adults!) includes a guided tour where you learn quite a bit about the construction and defense mechanisms of the castle. We had a fabulous guide and really enjoyed the 45 minute tour!
Tips: Arrive early as the tours are small and fill up quickly. Also, the bus groups seem to arrive mid to late morning so you may want to beat them to the castle.