Killarney National Park is one of the most popular and scenic destinations in Ireland. Whether you’re looking for hiking trails, waterfalls, historic ruins, or simply a scenic drive, there’s plenty to do and see in this park in southwest Ireland. After spending a day in the park, Buddy and I are sharing 5 amazing things to do to full experience Killarney National Park for a fun adventure!
Buddy and I visited Killarney National Park on the same day, and at the same time. However, we did not visit the park together. Buddy toured the park with his choir while Sal and I explored on our own. In fact, we only briefly saw Buddy outside of Muckross House and he did not see us! After visiting Blarney Castle and driving the Ring of Kerry the day before, Sal and I were happy to get outside, hike, and explore nature at the park. For Buddy, a stop at the park was a nice way to get out in nature in between performances.
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Killarney National Park: The Details
Páirc Náisiúnta Cill Airne or Killarney National Park is located in the southwest of Killarney town in County Kerry. It is a magnificent natural reserve that showcases the mesmerizing beauty of Ireland’s countryside. The parks is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous hiking trails, cycling routes, and scenic drives to explore. The park is also home to iconic landmarks such as the strikingly beautiful Torc Waterfall, the historic Muckross House and Muckross Gardens, and the tranquil world famous lakes of Killarney National Park.
The park is open year-round, and it is free to enter and explore! But, if you are interested in exploring Muckross House or the Killarney House and Gardens, please note that those locations are only open during certain hours and prices vary. Muckross House charges an admission for entry while entrance to Killarney House and Gardens is free. For the most up-to-date information, including where to find parking (and it’s free!) visit the website.
Fun Fact! Killarney National Park was Ireland’s first National Park.
Our day in Killarney National Park
Sal and I visited Killarney National Park on day 5 of our Irish Road Trip. After driving most of the Ring of Kerry the day before, we decided to complete the ring, so to speak, and spend an entire day in Killarney National Park. We left our Airbnb in Killorglin at 9:20am and headed to the park.
The day we visited Killarney National Park also happened to be the day of the annual Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. So we planned our trip to Killarney around the events road closures. Even with some roads closed and event traffic, parking was easy to find at Killarney National Park. We grabbed the first parking we saw, which happened to be next to where the horses and buggies were parked. The best part about parking was it is free!
After we parked, we crossed the street and walked into the park. It was lovely! There are trails everywhere. We began walking until we stumbled upon our first site. It is gorgeous.
It just so happened that Buddy’s choir was also exploring Killarney National Park on the exact same day that we visited. In fact, we saw him with his choir after their tour of the Muckross House. So, this post will include Buddy’s teenage take on the park.
5 Amazing Adventures To Do in Killarney National Park
1. Visit the Muckross Abbey Ruins
Nestled in a woodland clearing, the ruins of Muckross Abbey make for the perfect dose of history and adventure. Once home to Franciscan monks, the ruins of this 15th-century are beautifully preserved. As you wander the grounds, marvel at the gravestones, climb the bell tower, and admire the abbey’s famous yew tree.
Muckross Abbey Ruins was the first stop in Killarney National Park. Sal and I did not plan out our day, we just followed the paths, and they led us to the ruins. It was lovely to experience first thing in the morning. There were a handful of other visitors there at 9:30am but it was not crowded. It was a good way to start the day.
A Teenager’s Perspective
Buddy visited later in the day with his choir. He says, “I had some fun experiences at Muckross Abbey. I liked getting lost inside the Abbey ruins and exploring the refrigerator room and bell tower. Sadly, the bell tower room does not have any bells anymore, but my friend decided to climb up it anyway! It was fun visiting the site. We also saw some spiders and other things there. Many of my choir friends were scared of the spiders.“
Muckross Abbey Ruins is great for: Travelers of all ages.
2. Visit Muckross House and take a tour
The Muckross House is a Victorian mansion that was built in the mid-1800s. This museum is home to a collection of antique furniture, paintings, and other historical artifacts. You can take a guided tour of the house to learn about the history of the Muckross estate and architecture of the building and to experience the opulence of the Victorian era. After the tour, you can explore the beautiful scenery of the surrounding countryside, visit the Muckross Traditional Farms, or take a carriage ride to the nearby lakes for some unforgettable views.
Unfortunately, Sal and I opted to hike the Torc waterfall rather than visit the Muckross House. However, Buddy and his choir took a guided tour of the historical site, and this is what he has to say.
“Muckross House was really cool. I liked learning about the bell ringing system that they had for the service. For example, every servant had a different bell. It was interesting to learn about that. The house itself was pretty nice. It was two stories with a large kitchen area. And it was very luxurious. The Queen of England, Queen Victoria, stayed there once, that is how fancy it was. On the tour, the guides do a lot of explaining about how the house worked. It was pretty interesting. I recommend it.”
A paid ticket is required to visit Muckross House. However, it is free to visit Muckross Gardens.
A tour of the Muckross House is great for: History buffs.
3. Hike to Torc Waterfall
For visitors looking for an outdoor adventure at Killarney National Park, hiking Easach Toric or Torc Waterfall is a must-do! One of the most popular attractions in Killarney National Park, Torc Waterfall is a breathtaking sight. The cascading waterfall at the base of Torc Mountain is 20 meters high and it is surrounded by lush green plants and large boulders.
There are three different hikes or circular walks that you can do when visiting Torc Waterfall.
- Yellow trail is moderate and takes approximately 35-40 minutes to complete
- Blue trail is moderate and takes about an hour to complete
- Red trail is strenuous and takes about 5 hours to finish
For visitors who are pressed for time, or are not fans of hiking, the trial to the waterfall itself is just a short hike from the nearby car park.
Hiking Torc Waterfall’s Circular Walks
After walking past the Muckross House and seeing Buddy after his tour, Sal and I walked to the Torc Waterfall. As we were eager to hike but wanted to see other things in the park, we decided to do the blue loop. We hiked counterclockwise on the blue trail, visiting the waterfall first. Although it wasn’t Cardiac Hill, we ended up hiking up lots of steps! It was nice to walk after a long day of sitting in a car the day before. In total, the hike took us 1.5 hours, but I stopped to take a lot of pictures.
If you are planning on hiking, here are a few things to bring with you.
- Water bottle
- A hiking back pack
- Sturdy hiking boots. These ones are perfect for Ireland as they are waterproof! However, these boots do not have great arch support, so I use insoles.
- Sunscreen (in an airplane friendly stick since we flew into Ireland!)
- Layers! Layers! I wore a cozy North Face jacket, which went on top of a long sleeve yoga top from Stitch Fix, and a tank top and sports bra. On the bottom, I wore yoga pants from Stitch Fix with REI Co-op rain pants layered on top. I was not hot or cold so the layers worked well for me.
- A rain jacket because it did rain on us for a few minutes on the hike. I wore this Columbia rain jacket.
Visiting the Torc Waterfall but not hiking
Buddy visited the Torc waterfall with his choir, but they did not do a circular walk. Rather, they parked and the nearest car park and walked to the waterfall. This is what he had to say.
“The Torc Waterfall was really nice. I thought it was going to be a fairly small waterfall then I discovered it was larger after walking close to it. It was a fun visit. But I did not hike it like my parents, Instead, we turned around and went back. Although that would have been fun.”
The Torc Waterfall is great for: Hikers, nature lovers, travelers of all ages.
5. Grab a bite to eat
After a full morning of sightseeing, exploring, or hiking, you’ll need to refuel. Killarney National Park has plenty of great options when it comes to food. From coffee shops, restaurants, and cafes, there are a handful of places to eat in the park. But, for travelers who want to bring their lunch, there are many lovely picnic spots throughout the park. Who can’t resist a picnic overlooking the lake?
After all that hiking, Sal and I opted to grab a bite at the Muckross House Garden Restaurant. Our food was delicious. And we enjoyed lovely views of the garden as we ate. I loved the 4th of July cupcakes that the restaurant was selling for the holiday.
Some other restaurants in Killarney National Park include:
- Yew Tree Restaurant
- Dinis Cottage
- Lord Brandon’s Cottage
- Ladies’ View Gift Store Cave Bar & Roof Terrace
Buddy’s choir opted for a picnic lunch at Killarney National Park.
Eating at Killarney National Park is great for: Foodies, hungry travelers of all ages.
5. Sing in a cave
Hi everyone. Buddy here. So, there is a cave at Muckross near Muckross House. This is a cave in Killarney National Park that you can walk through. The tour guide the chorus hired to drive us around knew about the cave and led us there. If you can find it, It is very dark, so I recommend taking a flashlight or using the flashlight on your phone when you enter. Don’t worry, we did not see any animals . But I heard that there are sometimes bats in there sometimes. So, if you do go, just beware.
The cave is short, but my entire choir managed to fit inside. Once inside the cave, we started singing in the cave as a joke. It was a really interesting experience. Never in my life did I think that I would sing in a cave. The sound was interesting. After we finished singing, we walked out the other side. That’s about it. But now I get to say that I sang in cathedrals, castles, and a cave!
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos in the cave for this post.
Sal and I had no idea this cave existed, so we did not visit. But I wish I would have known because I would have liked to see the cave. Buddy is right, upon further research, there are no signposts for the cave so finding it truly is an adventure. And while you can sing in a cave, it is completely optional!
Visiting the Cave at Muckross is great for: Adventurous travelers who like to navigate their own way, visitors who geocache, travelers of all ages
What we missed in Killarney National Park
It is impossible to see everything in Killarney National Park in one day. On top of that, Sal and I needed to get back to our Airbnb to do laundry as we were leaving early the next day to drive the Dingle Peninsula. Meanwhile, Sal and his choir had a performance at St. Mary’s Church of the Sloes that evening. So, we did not stay at Killarney National Park long into the evening. That said, this is what we missed.
- Ross Tower
- The Ladies View
- The Gap of Dunloe
- A boar tour
- A tour of Muckross Traditional Farms
- The native red deer
Sal and I planned on visiting the Gap of Dunloe before heading back to our Airbnb. But we changed our minds when we read that it takes 1-2 hours to complete the 7.4 out and back round-trip trail. We decided against it since we already walked 9 miles that day between our Torc Waterfall hike and exploring the park. We returned to our Killorgen at 6pm that evening.
How long does it take to explore Killarney National Park?
In our experience, visitors definitely need at least one full day to explore Killarney National Park. There are so many incredible things to do and see there. In total, Sal and I spent 11 hours at the park. Buddy doesn’t remember how long they were there.
Is Killarney National Park worth visiting?
We had a great day taking in the sites and exploring the area. I absolutely loved that there were hikes for nature lovers, museums for history buffs, and good food too! It was a lovely way to spend the day. We had so much fun in fact, that we filmed a Movement Postcard! Look for the jaunting car in the distance of the Movement Postcard.
Buddy says “The whole park was really nice. I truly liked everything. If I could pick only one thing to do at the park, I would pick Muckross Abbey. It looks really nice and it is cool to explore. I liked it, I would go back. I recommend it for teenagers. As All of the other kids liked it too.”
There’s no doubt that Killarney National Park is worth a visit. Whether it’s exploring the Muckross Abbey Ruins, immersing yourself in the opulence of Muckross House or taking in the scenery at Torc Waterfall, there is something for everyone! This park is a gem waiting to be explored. So, pack up your family and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in one of Ireland’s most beautiful national parks!
Have you visited Killarney National Park? If so, what would you add to this list? Are you planning a trip to Killarney National Park? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you have questions about family travel or traveling with teens? Feel free to reach out! We are happy to chat and share our experiences! We look forward to connecting with you.
If you enjoyed reading this, check out these blog posts!
- 5 Tips for a Fantastic Visit to Blarney Castle
- Day Trip to Kilkenny: 5 Interesting Things To Do
- One Day in Dublin: 9 Interesting Things to Do
- Ring of Kerry One Day Road Trip: The Ultimate Adventure!
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