The best things to do in Killarney, Ireland – 2020 update! Travel guide to what to see in Killarney, and make the most of a stop in this charming and welcoming town.
The town of Killarney, in Co. Kerry, features as a prominent stop on most Ireland itineraries.
Pretty and well served, it is in an enviable position just at the entrance of the Kerry peninsula and one of the best starting points for one of the most famous drives in the whole of Ireland: the Ring of Kerry.
Whether you are in Killarney for a day you make it as a base for your Ireland stay, you are sure to fall in love with this most beautiful part of the country.
After many trips to Kerry, we came out with a list of the best things to do in Killarney and tips for visiting. Safe travels!
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The best things to do in Killarney town
Killarney is usually mentioned as a starting point for the Ring of Kerry drive however, it is a lovely town worth itself some time.
My favorite way to explore it is by making it my base for a couple of days or more. when I do, I like to stay in:
Old Weir Lodge, a lovely B&B with nice rooms and a lovely home-made breakfast
Explore Killarney’s photogenic town center
Killarney is a lovely town so the first thing I recommend doing here is to take a stroll along its colorful streets.
Killarney is well known to tourism and its town centre is full of souvenir shops selling from tat to warm Aran sweaters.
However, its old charm still shines through and a walk across its tiny streets is pleasurable and offers some good photo opportunities.
The town is full of traditional pubs with flower pots hanging outside their doors, old shops with cute signs.
My favorite way to enjoy its buzzy center is to plan a stop here at lunchtime, grab a seat by the restaurant window and watch people go by.
Sample the local food
Killarney is full of cute restaurants and all you need to enjoy the local food scene is to choose one that picks your fancy.
Traditional pubs tend to serve warming, earthy food such as lamb, boxty dishes (a traditional Irish pancake) and seafood but specialized restaurants and even international ones abound.
Personally I found myself recently in Quinlan Seafood bar (amazing fish and chips, super fresh!) and the traditional The Laurels, and found them both excellent.
If you like fish and seafood this is a good part of Ireland to indulge as the fresh catch from the Atlantic truly is something special.
Kids will be pleased to know Killarney has some lovely ice cream shops with both traditional and less traditional flavors (sea salt ice-cream anyone? It is surprisingly nice!).
Explore Ross castle and his haunted grounds
Immediately outside the busy Killarney town center sits ancient Ross castle.
You can reach it with a short drive or you can make your way there by bike, renting one from one of the several bike rental shops around town.
Ross Castle sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake and was built in the 15th century by O’Donoghue Mór.
This is a name you may want to remember as legend says he still inhabits the area and pays regular visits to the castle grounds!
According to the local stories, he now resides in the depths of the lake in front of the castle and every day at sunrise circles around the lake on horseback. Visitors lucky enough to get a glimpse of him will be guaranteed good fortune so if you are an early riser you may want to head to Ross castle at the start of your day!
The castle is now in ruin and it is open to the public, albeit by tour only.
The location of the castle is beautiful and the short stroll to its ruin easy and with good photo opportunities.
This is a stunning stop and one of the best things to see in Killarney if you want to experience the charm of an abandoned Irish castle.
Experience a traditional Irish pub
No day in the West of Ireland would be complete without an evening stop at the local pub.
Killarney has many of them and they cater for all tastes: some offer music, some have outdoor seating areas and some have that cozy and snug feel that makes Irish pubs so pleasant when temperatures drop.
Some pubs are large and serve food and, in that case, kids are often welcome until about 9 pm, when they will be asked to leave the premises.
Pubs serve both alcoholic and not alcoholic drinks and many also nowadays serve cocktails so you don’t have to be a beer or Guinness drinker to enjoy them.
The best things to do in Killarney area
Take a walk in Killarney National Park
Killarney town sits at the edge of the Killarney National Park and is the perfect base to explore this beautiful stretch of Irish nature.
The park entrance is immediately outside the town and can be easily reached by car or bike.
Inside, the park has a large car park and a visitors centre and several facilities for visitors including restrooms, souvenirs and snack shops.
The Killarney National Park is vast but if you are only here for the day you can enjoy it easily following the walking trails recommended at the park entrance.
Personally I am fond of two stops, Muckross Abbey and the lake-side walk leading from the abbey to Muckross house.
Visit Muckross abbey
Muckross Abbey is an abandoned abbey inside the Killarney National park.
The abbey is a short walk away from the main car park and it is striking. The main building is now in ruins and has lost its roof but the remains are incredible.
The abbey has kept its full height and perimeter and is open to visitors.
Walking in, you can still appreciate the size of the complex and identify the several rooms that made up the abbey and its living quarters
Worth visiting is its cloister and the impressive tree in its centre, which makes you feel like you stepped into an out of time world of moss, stone and bark.
For a bird-eye view over the surrounding lakes, make your way to the second floor, accessible by stone stairways on both sides of the cloister.
Peek inside Muckross house
If you like elegant stately homes, Muckross House is a treat.
Sitting beside the lakes in Killarney National Park, it is a Nineteenth-century Victorian mansion designed by Scottish architect William Burn in 1839.
The house is now open to the public and its complex comprises of the house itself, old school buildings, traditional farms and tourism amenities such as cafes and shops.
Take to the water
Killarney National Park has beautiful lakes and one of the best ways to enjoy them is from the water.
Take a jaunting car tour
Another fun way to see the park, especially if you are visiting with kids, is t take a tour in a traditional jaunting cart.
Horse-drawn, they are typical of this part of the country and cute to use or even just photograph, thanks to their peculiar shape and colors.
You can find info and prices here
Drive up to Lady’s View
Killarney is surrounded by beautiful mountains that offer gorgeous viewpoints, some of which accessible by car.
A famous one and one worth seeking out is Lady’s View, close to Killarney and easy to drive to, even if you are not used to mountain driving.
Visit the stunning Gap of Dunloe
Another stunning place you should seek out while in Killarney is the Gap of Dunloe, a scenic mountain pass.
The easiest way to visit is by joining a tour od the area such as this one, that will bring you not just to the gap but will also show you some of the best bits of the area, without the stress of driving yourself.
Drive or take a tour of the Ring of Kerry
I am leaving this for last but a list of the best things to do in Killarney would not be complete with at least a mention of the famous Ring of Kerry.
Visiting the Ring from Kilarney is easy and you can do it by car or bus tour.
This last option is the best one if you are worried about tackling Irish scenic roads or if you are road-tripping around Ireland a need a break from being behind the wheel.
You can have a look at this bus tour departing from Killarney to get a sense of costs and what to expect on the day.
How to get to Killarney
Killarney is a small town in Co Kerry, in the West of Ireland.
It can be easily reached by car or bus from Dublin, Cork and Shannon and their respective international airports.
If coming from Dublin, you can drive to Killarney following the Motorway to Limerick and then the N21 to Killarney Town
From Cork, you can follow the N22 or the longer and scenic N71
From Shannon, you can follow the National Road N18 and then join the N21 in Limerick
If you are visiting Ireland without a car, you can also reach Killarney by train.
The station is walking distance for the city center, making this an excellent option if you do not wish to drive in the area and explore Kerry by train + bus instead.
Where to stay in Killarney
Killarney has a large selection of hotels to suit most needs and budgets. Our favourites are:
Old Weir Lodge: a traditional guesthouse and B&B with homely welcome, well kept rooms and good breakfast offering. Free parking on site. Check availability and prices here.
Killarney hotel: elegant and conveniently located near Killarney train station, the hotel has a restaurant onsite and large family rooms. You can check availability and prices here.
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I hope you enjoyed our overview of what to see in Killarney. Safe travels!