Lush green fields, beautiful mountains, lakes, grazing sheep, a castle, abbey ruins, and a historical mansion all surrounding a friendly and photogenic town – What more can you ask for in a visit to Ireland? Killarney, Ireland has it all. Not only is there a lot to do in town, the city is located on the Ring of Kerry and a short distance to the Dingle Peninsula. Both drives offer spectacular scenery but it’s the locals that really make this town a wonderful place to visit. If you’re looking for a great family friendly place to bring the kids, Killarney should be high on your list.
For place to stay look for a bnb in town or a smaller hotel. One of the best parts about visiting Ireland is talking with locals and other travelers. Staying in a smaller place may give you more opportunities to meet other people. Another option may be a bnb or small hotel just outside of town but located on a farm. We stated in a house just outside of Kilorglin (30 minutes away from Killarney). It was beautiful. Since we had additional family visiting with us during this part of the trip the extra space was wonderful.
The City of Killarney
The downtown area of Killarney is very walkable with cute shops and many restaurants. We enjoyed wandering through many of the local wool shops. The craftmanship is just beautiful. If you have an Irish Surname you can get particular patterns that are associated with your name. Other shops have different specialties and you can likely find any type of souvenir that you want to take home. If you would rather just stroll and sight see you can do that too. There are many family friendly Irish Pubs/Restaurants. Some are popular for evening music sessions. You can also see St. Mary’s Cathedral, the statue of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (who saved hundreds of people during the holocaust), and Fransiscan Friary others. If whiskey is your thing – consider a whiskey tasting or tour. There are also numerous tours if you want a more in depth history.
We visited in March during St.Patrick’s Day Parade. It was a fun and unique experience. The year we visited it was unseasonably chilly but still a good time – Although I think the green ice cream almost gave the kids hypothermia.
Kilarney National Park
Downtown Killarney is cute but the scenery just outside of town and in Killarney National Park is just breathtaking. We went in March. There were green fields, beautiful lakes and snow-capped mountains. Killarney national park it the location of many of the sites outside of town. You can hike, bike, take a jaunting cart or see my recommendations below. There are also many guided hiking tours in the area. For a unique experience consider falconry (click here for more info).
Gap of Dunloe
We weren’t able to fit this in to our trip but it sounds wonderful. You can walk, ride a bike or rent a jaunting cart. The trail starts at Kate Kearney’s Cottage goes through a very scenic mountain pass and ends at Upper Lake and Lord Brandon’s Cottage. From there you can either backtrack or take a boat to Ross Castle. If you’re doing a bike tour you go the opposite direction starting at Ross Castle and ending at Kate’s Cottage. Even though we did not have time to fit this in to our trip we could see that area where the trail started and I’m sure the views are just amazing. For more information click here. There are numerous companies that will help plan your tour and transportation or you can go on your own.
Most of these start from beautiful Ross Castle. There are several different boats and tours to choose from including kayaking. The lakes are very scenic.
We enjoyed Ross Castle so much – we went twice. The first time the inside was not open for the season. The second time we did the complete tour. The castle is located in a very photogenic area and is just the perfect model for photos. Even if you don’t do the inside tour the grounds are really nice to explore. This castle is a tower house and was built way before the huge structures that most people think of when they think of castles. The structure was built for function and defense not for looking good (although against the backdrop of Killarney – anything would look good) lake. To see the inside you must do one of the tours. I found the tour to be informative and I really enjoyed learning about life in the middle ages. Say hi to the Swans!
Muckross Abbey is an old Irish monastery from the 1400’s surrounded by a more modern graveyard. Most of the building is in ruins but still very photogenic. I recommend taking a small flashlight to explore the areas that still have a roof (and can be a little dark). Also carefully make your way up the stairs but watch your step – these stairs are ancient and not up to code. The interior of the second floor was my favorite part is definitely worth the visit.
The Muckross House is a 19 century mansion with gardens and a nearby traditional farm. The house was built by the Herbert family who resided on the property for 200 years. It is furnished in period furniture and welcomed guests such as Queen Victoria. We did not purchase a tour of the house but we did enjoy our time exploring the gardens and stopping at the cafe for a little lunch.
This waterfall is a short drive and hike from Muckross House (or you may be able to take a jaunting cart). It’s an easy hike and I really enjoyed the peacefulness of the area. The forest floor is blanketed in moss which adds to the lovely scenery. You can easily imagine fairies hiding between the trees.
The Ring of Kerry is the most popular scenic drive in Ireland with good reason. Set aside a full day to make this trip. You’ll see beautiful beaches, green pastures, wild coastlines and views of the Skellig Islands (think Star Wars). It can get crowded during the busy seasons and you’ll see a lot of tour buses but it’s definitely worth the drive. We did parts of the Ring of Kerry but the weather did not cooperate with us enough to do the entire trip.
For another full day of exploring try the Dingle Peninsula. We did make this trip and we loved it. This drive has all of our wants for an Irish trip and then some.
Killarney Ireland is a wonderful choice as a base to explore the West Coast of Ireland. The scenery if fabulous, the locals are friendly and there is a lot to do. It’s a wonderfully kid friendly location as well. If you’re looking for an easy but memorable international trip – Killarney should be high on your list.