Nestled amidst the captivating landscapes of County Kerry, Ireland, lies the charming town of Killarney. This picturesque destination offers a delightful blend of natural wonders, world-famous lakes, rich history, and warm Irish hospitality. Plus, there are some pretty incredible things to do in Killarney as well.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a tranquil retreat, Killarney has something to offer everyone. In this comprehensive guide that I put together, we’ll explore the top things to do in Killarney, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this enchanting Irish gem ☘️.
I’ll share my personal travel tips, suggested day trips and, of course, a comprehensive travel guide.
Before we get to my top things to do in Killarney, I will share some accommodation options.
Accommodation in Killarney:
For those seeking opulence and top-notch amenities, the town boasts a selection of luxury hotels that exude elegance and sophistication. These establishments provide a pampering experience, ensuring your stay is nothing short of extraordinary.
Top luxury hotel: Muckross Park Hotel & Spa– Get the celebrity treatment with world-class service at Muckross Park Hotel & Spa
Top Hostel: The Black Sheep Hostel – Located in Killarney and with St Mary’s Cathedral reachable within 300 metres!
Top B&B: The Gardens B&B – The Gardens B&B is located only a 2-minute walk from Killarney town centre and next to the entrance to Killarney National Park. It features free private parking and free Wi-Fi in public areas
Killarney offers a variety of charming bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). Run by friendly hosts, these accommodations provide a warm and welcoming ambience, creating a home-away-from-home experience.
For budget-conscious travellers and backpackers, Killarney’s backpacker hostels offer a fantastic option. These lively and social establishments allow you to connect with fellow adventurers while keeping costs low, leaving you with more funds to spend on exploring the town and its surroundings.
So now that you have a place to stay let’s get to the top things to do in Killarney!
Explore Killarney National Park
One cannot talk about Killarney without mentioning its crowning jewel, Killarney National Park. Covering over 26,000 acres, this UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve is a treasure trove of pristine lakes, majestic mountains, and ancient woodlands.
Take a leisurely stroll or rent a bike to explore the lush landscapes and discover the iconic Muckross House and Gardens, Ross Castle, and the stunning Lakes of Killarney. Muckross House and Gardens, nestled approximately 6km (3.6 miles) from Killarney town centre, stand as the heart and soul of Killarney National Park – Ireland’s oldest National Park. This natural wonder encompasses the renowned Lakes of Killarney, along with the picturesque mountains and woodlands that embrace them. You can book a ticketed tour of the house, and they also have traditional farms, which are pretty incredible to see. They show you what life was like in Ireland in the 1930s, 1940s. Tickets vary in price depending on the month you go. But full pricing and availability can be found here.
Embrace nature’s embrace and breathe in the fresh air as you immerse yourself in this ecological wonderland. Keep an eye out to see Red Deer and White Tailed Eagles.
Jaunting Car Tour(horse-drawn carriage)
Ask anyone what the best things to do in Killarney are, and most will say to do a Jaunting Car tour! It’s a totally unique experience in a horse-drawn carriage. Experience the old-world charm of Killarney with a traditional jaunting car tour. Led by knowledgeable and friendly jarveys (drivers), these horse-drawn carriage rides provide a unique perspective on the town and its surrounding beauty. Whether you choose to explore the National Park or venture through the quaint streets of Killarney, this nostalgic journey will undoubtedly leave you enchanted.
- Recommended tour: 1 Hour Jaunting Car Tour ~€35 per person
History enthusiasts will find delight in visiting Ross Castle, a medieval fortress situated on the edge of Lough Leane. Built in the 15th century(Irish chieftain O’Donoghue Mór), this well-preserved castle offers guided tours, where you can learn about the MacCarthy dynasty, tales of battles, and the rich heritage of the region.
For those seeking a panoramic view of the area, climb to the top of the castle tower and soak in the breathtaking scenery of the lakes and mountains.
Boat Tour on the Lakes of Killarney
Embark on a boat tour across the serene Lakes of Killarney, surrounded by the towering peaks of McGillycuddy Reeks. The calm waters offer an idyllic setting to unwind and capture postcard-worthy snapshots of the landscape. The tour guides narrate intriguing stories and folklore associated with the region, further enriching your experience of these mystical waters.
I recommend this tour which ticks all the boxes, including Gap of Dunloe and a Guided Boat, Jaunting Car, and Bus Tour. It was one of the best tours we’ve been on in Ireland. See availability here.
Muckross House and Gardens
Step back in time with a visit to the opulent Muckross House, a 19th-century Victorian mansion that reflects the elegant lifestyle of the past. Wander through the lavishly decorated rooms, marvel at the antique furnishings, and learn about the fascinating history of the Herbert family, who once called this grand estate their home. Surrounding the house are exquisite Muckross Gardens, a visual delight with its beautifully manicured lawns, vibrant flowerbeds, and tranquil walking trails.
Visit St Mary’s Cathedral
St. Mary’s Cathedral stands as a majestic testament to the town’s religious and architectural heritage. This beautiful place of worship is a significant landmark, attracting visitors from all walks of life. The cathedral’s neo-Gothic style architecture, with its imposing spires and intricate detailing, is a sight to behold.
Inside, you will be captivated by the cathedral’s grandeur, adorned with stunning stained glass windows, intricate mosaics, and elegant marble altars. The atmosphere within the cathedral is serene, making it an ideal place for reflection and a moment of peace amidst your explorations.
St. Mary’s Cathedral also plays an integral role in the local community, hosting regular religious services and cultural events. If you have the opportunity, attending a mass or a musical performance within the cathedral’s divine ambience is a memorable experience.
Be sure to add St. Mary’s Cathedral to your list of things to do in Killarney, as it offers a unique blend of spiritual reverence, historical significance, and architectural splendour. A visit to this sacred gem will undoubtedly enrich your journey and deepen your appreciation for the town’s rich cultural heritage.
Nestled amidst the woodland of Killarney National Park, Torc Waterfall is a mesmerizing natural wonder. A short hike(although it can be a bit challenging) through enchanting scenery leads to this cascading beauty, making it a favourite spot for photographers and nature lovers alike. The sheer beauty and the soothing sounds of the falling water offer a refreshing break from the bustle of daily life.
The gap of Dunloe(personal favourite!)
This is one of my favourite stops! It is such a unique and beautiful drive. Venture into the heart of the Kerry countryside with a journey through the Gap of Dunloe. This rugged mountain pass between MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountain is best explored on foot, by bike, or by horseback.
Witness the rugged beauty of the landscape, dotted with ancient stone walls and picturesque cottages.
The Gap of Dunloe is a truly unforgettable experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the untamed splendour of the Irish wilderness. By far one of the best things to do in Killarney. You can walk, drive or do a tour of the Gap of Dunloe.
If you don’t have your own car, I highly recommend booking this tour as it covers a lot of things to do in Killarney.
Traditional Irish Music Sessions
No trip to Killarney would be complete without experiencing the lively atmosphere of traditional Irish music. And there is plenty of craic to be had in Killarney! Numerous pubs and restaurants throughout the town host sessions where talented musicians play enchanting tunes on fiddles, bodhráns, accordions, and more.
Join the locals in a local trad session, and let the joyous melodies transport you to the heart of Irish culture. Be sure to have a pint or two!
Final tips on things to do in Killarney
Moreover, no trip to Killarney would be complete without immersing yourself in the local culture. Embrace the jovial spirit of the town by joining in on traditional Irish music sessions that can be found in the many pubs and restaurants throughout the area. Let the lively tunes and warm Irish welcomes of the locals lift your spirits and create memories to cherish forever
But wait, there are more things to do in Killarney!
Yes, that is not all you can do in Killarney. You can also:
- Travel the Ring of Kerry: Embark on a scenic drive along the renowned Ring of Kerry, a 179-kilometre circular route that showcases some of Ireland’s most breathtaking landscapes and coastal views.
- Killarney Outlet Centre: For shopping enthusiasts, the Killarney Outlet Centre offers an array of stores with discounts on various designer brands. A massive Nike store is there!
- 👀Ladies View: Stop by Ladies View, a scenic viewpoint along the N71 road, and be awestruck by the panoramic beauty it offers. Gaze upon the Lakes of Killarney and the majestic mountains, and feel the charm that enchanted Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting during their visit in the 19th century. Capture postcard-worthy snapshots, and bask in the ever-changing colours of this picturesque landscape. Ladies View is a must-visit spot that promises to leave you mesmerized by the natural splendour of Killarney.
- Kerry Bog Village: Step back in time at Kerry Bog Village, an open-air museum that showcases traditional thatched cottages and offers insight into the lives of Irish people in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Falconry: Experience the ancient art of falconry and interact with magnificent birds of prey at one of Killarney’s falconry centres.
- Kayaking and Canoeing: Take to the water and explore the Lakes of Killarney by kayak or canoe. Paddle along the serene waters and soak in the natural beauty surrounding you.
- Kayak to Innisfallen Island. Speaking of kayaking, one of the more unique things you can do in Killarney is take a kayak tour to Innisfallen Island.
- Traditional Craft Shops: Explore the local craft shops in Killarney, where you can find unique Irish souvenirs, handmade crafts, and exquisite Celtic jewellery.
- Golf, Golf and more Golf!: For golf enthusiasts, Killarney boasts world-class golf courses that provide breathtaking views and challenging play. Tee off amidst the stunning landscapes, and enjoy a memorable golfing experience. Just double-check the weather before you go!
- Carrauntoohil Summit Hike(a personal favourite): Embark on an exhilarating adventure by climbing Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain. Rising to a height of 1,038 meters (3,406 feet), this majestic peak offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including the Lakes of Killarney and the rugged landscapes of the national park. Choose from various hiking routes, such as the Devil’s Ladder, Caher route, or Brother O’Shea’s Gully, each providing a unique and rewarding experience. Climbing Carrauntoohil is a challenging yet unforgettable activity that allows you to embrace the natural splendour of Killarney from the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain range.
In conclusion, Killarney is a gem in the crown of County Kerry, Ireland, drawing visitors with its breathtaking landscapes, friendly locals, and abundant activities. Regardless of the season you choose to visit, this vibrant town will welcome you with open arms and a genuine Irish embrace. So pack your bags, and prepare to be enchanted by the charm and allure of Killarney – an unforgettable journey awaits! ☘️😎
P.S. Any tips you would like to add about Killarney? Comment below.