A Day Trip to Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park is an expansive 26,000 acre wooded area in County Kerry that ended up being one of the major highlights of our trip to Ireland. Complete with mountains, lakes, castles and even 15th century abbeys the park has something for everyone to enjoy and we found ourselves wishing we had spent more time there.
Our trip through Killarney only included a short one-night stay. We left Kinsale very early in the morning so that we would arrive at around 9 am. Our first stop in the park was Ross Castle, a beautiful tower house built in the 15th century. Only guided tours are taken through the castle and photography is strictly prohibited but the tour is informative and the antique furniture in the castle dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries would have made my mother swoon.
If you’re pressed for time you can still peruse the museum on the lower level instead of waiting for the next tour. If you have all day to spend at Ross Castle there are boats for hire that you can take around Lough Leane.After Ross Castle our plan was to find the Muckross House and Gardens. We drove along the main road and eventually saw a tiny sign that said “Muckross House” with a small parking area. Surely this wasn’t the official entrance for Muckross House? We continued driving a little more but after a few miles we didn’t see another entrance so we turned around and parked. There were 4 or 5 gentlemen around with jaunting cars who offered us a ride to Muckross House which wasn’t in sight of the car park area. We declined, not wanting to fork over 70 euros for a buggy ride, but were soon informed that Muckross House was a 4 km walk. Clearly we had parked in the wrong area!
We negotiated with a young jaunting car driver (“jarvey”) to take us on a one-way trip past the Muckross House up to Torc Waterfall and then back down to Muckross House for 35 euros. This ended up being an excellent decision because we really enjoyed our jaunting car ride and the waterfall was stunning, something we would have never seen had we simply parked next to the Muckross House. Our jarvey was very informative, pointing out various highlights of Killarney National Park along the way.
Ironically our jarvey dropped us off at the Muckross House right next to a giant parking area so we did find the main entrance, just in a very roundabout way. When we arrived at Muckross House we were disappointed to learn that they too only offer guided tours and the next one wouldn’t be for another hour and a half. Instead of waiting around we decided to tour the beautiful gardens and then head back to the car. In hindsight I wish had stuck around for the tour, I’m sure we could have found plenty to keep us busy for an hour and a half.
The 4 km walk back to our car was quite picturesque, a different and smaller road than we had taken on the jaunting car. We stopped by the 15th century Muckross Abbey along our way where I marveled at some of the newer gravestones in the cemetery. Exactly how does one manage to be buried next to a 15th century abbey in a national park?
By the time we reached our car it was only 3 pm but not wanting to inconvenience our B&B hosts we left to check in to our room. The next day we began the Ring of Kerry which also goes through Killarney National Park. This time we only made a quick stop to check out the Ladies’ View before heading onto the rest of the ring and the remainder of our journey through Ireland. We only saw a small snippet of all that Killarney National Park has to offer and I wish we had the time to prolong our stay. Perhaps on our next trip.
The Verdict: Killarney National Park is one of those places you really must see while in Ireland. Whether it’s for a few hours, the whole day or an entire week, set aside some time to visit. It’s easy to find and offers a multitude of activities to fit anyone’s interests.
When To Go: We visited Ireland in May and the weather was so wonderful. During wintertime when tourist season is low many attractions close early or altogether. Ross Castle is only open for tours March through October. If this is your first (or perhaps only) trip to Ireland I recommend going in the spring or summer.
Other Tips and Tricks: Purchase the Heritage Card for 25 euros and get free admission to dozens of attractions across Ireland including Ross Castle and Muckross House. But first tally up the cost of each attraction you want to visit to be sure that it’s worth a good deal. Because Brandon and I had to cut Muckross House and Dublin Castle from our itinerary at the last minute we actually paid more for the Heritage Card than we would have if we had paid admission to each attraction.
Child Friendly? Kids will love Ross Castle and taking a jaunting car ride. While the Muckross House may not interest them they would enjoy checking out the traditional farms which depicts an Irish working farm from the 1930’s and 1940’s. The farm even includes a petting area.
Pet Friendly? Killarney National Park is very pet friendly but places like Ross Castle do not allow pets. Still, this would be a wonderful destination to take your pet as many of the hotels and B&B’s around Killarney accept pets.