If your vision of Ireland is rolling green hills and blue lakes, colourful villages and historic sites, then you better add Killarney to your Ireland itinerary. This Irish city is one of the most visited areas of Ireland. The area’s natural beauty makes it one of the most picturesque regions of the country, plus there are some pretty amazing things to do in Killarney as well. It’s certainly one of my favourite places in Ireland, and with the help of my ultimate Killarney guide, I’m sure it will become a favourite for you as well.
A Little Bit About Killarney
Killarney, located in County Kerry in the south of Ireland, is a popular area to visit for locals and tourists alike. Rolling green mountains, beautiful lakes, history and heritage, and plenty of things to do make Killarney a must-visit for travellers to Ireland.
It’s a small town, only about 15,000 people live here, but the locals are warm and welcoming and the community thrives on tourism. Like many other cities in Ireland, it can be incredibly crowded (and more expensive) during the summer months. However, early spring and fall are both beautiful times to visit with fewer tourists and lower accommodation rates.
Getting in and Around Killarney Town
Killarney can be reached by car, bus, or train. When it comes to accessible cities by public transit in Ireland, Killarney is one of the easiest to get to with regular connections from other major Irish cities including Dublin, Galway, and Cork. There is also a nearby airport, Kerry Airport, which is about 13km (7 miles) from the city centre.
Once you have arrived in Killarney, it’s easy to get around by foot. The city centre is small and located beside Killarney National Park which is home to many of the area’s best sights and attractions. There are, however, several day trip options as well. But don’t worry, if you don’t have a vehicle there are a number of tour providers that excursions.
As you wander through Killarney you will notice horse and carriages throughout town. These are called jaunting carts and are a popular way for tourists to explore the sites around Killarney National Park. If you are interested in taking one, ask your accommodation if they recommend a driver, or just go for a walk; trust me when I say that a driver will find you.
The jaunting carts are a unique way to see the sites and the drivers are professionals who are full of local knowledge and good humour. From what I’ve seen, the horses always look healthy and are treated kindly by the drivers.
Accommodation in Killarney
When it comes to finding a place to stay in Killarney, you’ll find a little bit of everything. Killarney is a popular tourist hub and makes a great base for travellers, so there are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation. From luxury hotels to homey B&Bs and even backpacker hostels.
One of the things to keep in mind when booking accommodation in Killarney is that some B&Bs and more upscale properties are located a outside of the city centre, making them ideal for travellers who have rented a car, but maybe not the best pick for those relying on public transit. Be sure to check the property’s proximity to the city centre before you book; you don’t want to be spending all of your pub money on cabs!
Here are some suggestions for accommodation in Killarney.
The Best Things to do in Killarney
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park was the first national park in Ireland. It’s just under 103km2 of lakes, forest, and mountains. It’s also home to the only red deer herd in Ireland. Many of the main attractions and things to do in Killarney on this list are located within Killarney National Park, however, nature enthusiasts should take the time to explore some of the park’s trails either by walking or jaunting cart, as well as visiting the sites. Killarney National Park is right beside the town making it impossible to miss.
Ross Castle is one of my favourite stops in Killarney. The 15thcentury castle sits on the edge of Lough Leane in Killarney National Park. It overlooks the lake and distant mountains and there always seem to be white swans around adding to the fairy-tale allure. The castle is opened seasonally for tours, however, anyone can visit and explore the outside for free.
Only about a five-minute walk from another main attraction, Muckross House, is Muckross Abbey; an Old Irish Monastery. This building dates back to the beginning of the Christian religion in Ireland. The first monastery was believed to have been built in the 6thcentury by Saint Fionan. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of a 15thcentury Franciscan Friary which was abandoned in the 1650s when the monks were driven out by Cromwell’s forces.
Built in 1843, Muckross House was owned by a couple different families before it was gifted to the Irish nation. Today, the beautiful mansion, still elegantly furnished, and it’s gardens are open to guests to explore. When visiting Muckross House you may also want to include a visit to the Traditional Farms where you can see and experience what Irish farming life was like in the 1930s and 1940s.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
If you are visiting Killarney with friends or family, why not explore the town by a scavenger hunt? It’s a fun and unique way to uncover the history and sites of this Irish town. Plus, since it’s interactive, you can do it whenever you want- no waiting around for a specific tour time! The Killarney scavenger hunt will take about 1.5-2 hours and involves about 5km (3 miles) of walking.
Learn more doing a scavenger hunt in Killarney.
Lakes of Killarney
There are three lakes of Killarney; Lough Leane, Muckross Lake (Middle Lake), and Upper Lake. There are walking and hiking trails around the lake, as well as boat tours. One of the most beautiful viewing points for these lakes is called Ladies View, which was named after Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting. This viewpoint is part of the famous Ring of Kerry route, along the N71.
Located in Lough Leane, Innisfallen Island is home to one of the most important archaeological sites in Ireland; the ruins of Innisfallen Abbey. Saint Finian the Leper founded the monastery in 640 and it remained occupied for about 950 years. The Annals of Ireland, which tell the early history of Ireland, was written by the monks here.
It is possible to visit Innisfallen Island during the summer months. You can hire a boat to take you across in front of Ross Castle.
Torc Waterfall is about 18m high and is a picturesque waterfall about 7km from town. It’s a must-stop on your Ring of Kerry tour (for those who don’t have a car- don’t worry, tours stop here as well). It’s actually best seen when it’s raining and the water flow is more powerful.
At 535m high, Torc Mountain is visible from more viewing spots around Killarney. It’s a popular spot for hikers, especially when the weather is good. There are a couple different routes and paths, so if this is on your must-do list I recommend asking a local for some advice on the best route to take.
At 1038m, Carrauntoohil is the tallest peak in Ireland and a popular spot for adventurous travellers, hikers, and mountaineers. It offers spectacular views over the Lakes of Killarney and surrounding landscape and is associated with a few Irish legends. No special gear is needed to climb Carrautoohil, however, you should be in good shape and go prepared.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
A beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral in Killarney Town. Be sure to go inside and look at the stained glass windows.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is probably the best-known driving route in all of Ireland. It’s a beautiful day trip however, drivers be warned; the weather should be clear. If it’s foggy, you really aren’t going to see anything so don’t bother.
The stops are what you make them, however, check out this website for the main route.
If you haven’t rented a car, don’t worry. You can still experience the Ring of Kerry with a day tour.
Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe as a narrow mountain pass that stretches about 11km long and passes by 5 lakes. Because the road is so narrow here, it’s tricky for tourists to navigate by car so the most popular ways to experience it is by jaunting car or walking/cycling.
Dingle & Slea Head Drive
Killarney is also a great base for travellers to explore another scenic area of Ireland; the Dingle Peninsula Personally, I adore Dingle and think it’s worth visiting on its own for a couple of days. I might even argue that the Slea Head Drive is nicer than the Ring of Kerry (though you should definitely do both). However, if you are low on time then a day trip will do. You can either do a self-drive tour or book a day trip with a tour company. For more about Dingle and Slea Head Drive, check out my Dingle Guide.
Food and Drink in Killarney
Whatever you’re craving in Killarney; you can find it. Fresh fish, traditional Irish foods, pub fare, Italian, Indian, Pizza… I could keep going. There are numerous restaurants throughout Killarney Town and a quick look at the menu’s in the window will help you pick. Of course, I have a few favourites that I have to suggest.
- Murphy’s of Killarney: This hotel offers great Irish Pub food, plus you can stick around for a couple of pints. If you are looking for something a little more upscale, Lord of Kenmare is a fancier restaurant in the same hotel that has delicious food as well.
- The Shire: One of my favourite places in Killarney, the Shire offers pints and burgers all following a Lord of the Rings Theme. Gollum and Gandalf make appearances too.
- Bricin: A local and tourist favourite with a modern take on Irish fare. I haven’t eaten here personally, by my chef buddy has and loved his boxty dish.
- Quinlan’s Fish: If you love seafood, head to Quinlan’s. They serve fresh, sustainable seafood with a range of daily specials based on season and fisherman’s catch.
- Killarney Brewing Company: I ADORE the Killarney Brewing Company and definitely recommend taking the tour (the video is hilarious) as well as eating and drinking here. The craft beer is named after Irish myths and legends, and they also serve delicious artisanal pizza. Open Thursday-Sunday.
- Underground: A cute café good for grabbing soup and a sandwich or a tea/coffee.
- Killarney Ice Cream Shop: Freshly made ice cream, sorbets, and frozen yoghurts; because ice cream is always a good idea!
Killarney also has a bunch of great pubs that offer live music, DJs, and dancing. For a fun night out try John M Reidy’s and The Grand. And if you need a bit of a grease fix after your night out, head to Mike’s Take Away where you can get everything from curry fries to fish and chips and more.
If you love nature and beautiful landscapes, then Killarney is an absolute must when travelling in Ireland. Keep in mind though that this south Ireland town is quite popular, so if you are planning to visit during the summer months book your accommodation well in advance to avoid any disappointment. I recommend spending at least two full days in Killarney, but if you’re excited by the list of things to do in Killarney that I shared above, definitely plan on staying a bit longer. It’s a gorgeous spot to use as a base to explore southern Ireland.
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are who I use.