Overview & Brief History

Situated at the north end of the Ring of Kerry, Killarney boasts incredible lake and mountain scenery. Killarney National Park was the first national park in Ireland founded in 1932 and now both the town of Killarney and the wider park are at the top of Ireland’s must see destinations.


A Brief History

Killarney’s origins trace back to the 7th century when a monastery, Aghadoe, was established in the area. The town’s name, derived from the Irish “Cill Airne,” translates to “Church of the Sloes,” reflecting its early ecclesiastical roots. Throughout the medieval period, Killarney evolved into a vibrant market town.


The 18th century marked a significant turning point for Killarney when it became a popular destination for the emerging tourism industry. The picturesque landscapes, including the famed Lakes of Killarney, drew visitors seeking the sublime beauty of the Irish countryside. The construction of Muckross House, a grand Victorian mansion, and the expansion of the road network further enhanced Killarney’s appeal.


In the mid-19th century, the arrival of the railway solidified Killarney’s position as a premier tourist destination. Wealthy Victorian travelers flocked to the town, exploring the surrounding Killarney National Park, home to diverse flora and fauna. The park, established in 1932, encompasses Muckross House and several other notable landmarks, contributing to the town’s designation as a gateway to one of Ireland’s most cherished natural reserves.


Today, Killarney seamlessly blends its historical charm with the demands of modern tourism. The town remains a hub for visitors exploring the stunning Ring of Kerry, the Gap of Dunloe, and the enduring beauty of Killarney National Park. Its rich history, combined with the warmth of Irish hospitality, continues to make Killarney a captivating destination for travelers seeking a glimpse into Ireland’s past and a connection with its breathtaking landscapes,

Things to See & Do

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Built during the 19th century, this Gothic style church is one of the most important churches built in this style. In the 1840s the building was used to house famine victims, and it was later opened to the public in 1855.

Muckross House & Gardens

This grand stately home dates to the Victorian times, and is located in Killarney National Park. Muckross House is one of the best stately homes in the country, while its gardens are known for their exceptional elegance. Explore the exquisitely designed internal rooms which showcase how the rich lived, and head to the downstairs areas which shows hoe the servants worked.

Muckross Abbey

Found within Killarney National Park, this Franciscan friary was founded in 1448 and occupied by monks until the monasteries were dissolved during the Cromwellian times. The present well-preserved ruins include a church with a wide, square tower and fine windows, and a vaulted cloister with an arcade of arches around a square courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard grows an ancient yew tree, said traditionally to be as old as the Abbey.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park was the first national park in Ireland. It was founded in 1932 and expands over 25,000 acres. Within the park you will find the Lakes of Killarney, Torc, and Managerton Mountain. The national Park is globally known for its incredible scenery and is very popular not just with tourists but also locals.

Ross Island & Copper Mines Loop Walk

Popular among local, visitors and walking clubs in Kerry, this walk takes you on the trail of the copper mines and open mine shafts nearly 4,500 years old. The trail includes the fabulous scenic viewing points of Governors Rock and Library Point, a UNESCO site with stunning views of the Killarney Lakes, Mangerton and Torc Mountains to the south and Purple, Tomies and Shehy Mountains to the west.

Ross Castle Loop Walk

The Ross Castle and Demesne Loop is an easy 1 hour (5 km) walking route from Ross Castle into the Demesne with scenic views of the lakes and mountains at every turn. This is one of the most popular and accessible walks in Killarney which is in County Kerry in the south west of Ireland.

Local Dining

Food you will find…

Local Irish beef, lamb, and seafood is the name of the game in southwest Ireland and we recommend not to miss out.


Make sure not to miss…

Cronin Restaurant is a family run business serving up freshest locally sourced produce such as smoked salmon from Kenmare, award winning Ring of Kerry lamb, and Irish Hereford beef.

Insider Tips

The town of Killarney serves as the perfect staging point for exploring Killarney National Park and the wider region. It’s advised to spend two nights here to explore town of Killarney, the National Park, and the magnificent Ring of Kerry route.

Virtual Tours

Ireland from the Air

Visit Killarney

Red & Sika Deer at Killarney National Park

Gap of Dunloe

Killarney Grand Live Traditional Music

Jack’s Favorite Moment

Hiking in Killarney National Park

Surrounding the town of Killarney in County Kerry is a large expanse of rugged mountainous country which serves as one of the great gems in the Irish crown.

Here lies 26,000 acres of untouched landscape boasting a distinct combination of mountains, lakes, woods, and waterfalls giving the area a special scenic beauty.

Killarney National Park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 by UNESCO as an area that contains many features of national and international importance.

I hiked the area with a tour group I was leading through Ireland in 2018. This was our 10 day ‘Best of Ireland’ tour, and it was glorious.

Keep Reading

Our private tour took us from Dublin down through Kilkenny then into the south and west areas of the country, getting a taste for the best the Emerald Isle has to offer. One of the tour highlights was, of course, Killarney National Park.


The park is the last remaining piece of ancient forest that once covered all of Europe thousands of years ago. Such important features in the national park are the native oakwoods and yew woods together with an abundance of evergreen trees. The native red deer are unique in Ireland with a presence in the country since the last Ice Age. I was immediately struck by the sheer ancientness of the flora and fauna we witnessed as we made our way though.


Visitors can drive up through the park with stop offs, viewing points, hiking trails, and waterfalls to visit. The focal point of the National Park for visitors is Muckross House and Gardens, a late 19th century mansion featuring all the typical furnishings and artifacts of the period. The house and gardens is a worthwhile attraction, but even if you don’t have time to visit the inside the grounds and surrounding landscape are magnificent. You may admire the grand Victorian architecture while strolling through the distinctive pathways set about the vast grounds.


One thing I always loved about Ireland is its ability to generate a feeling mystery with a combination of history, beauty, nature, and wildlife. And Killarney National Park offers this feeling in spades. We stopped for a hike at Torc Waterfall, a 65 ft high, 360 ft long cascade waterfall that lies at the base of Torc Mountain in the Killarney National Park.


Walking up through the winding path we were flanked by ancient trees with vibrant green moss growing all around. I watched the sunset at nearby Muckross House come down over the glistening lake and dramatic landscape and couldn’t help but think…Ireland is pretty a magical place.


Jack Bauman

Founder of Guidester


Interactive Maps

Walk around the town of Killarney


Explore Muckross House

Visit Torc Waterfall

Walk around St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney


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