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Looking for things to do in Killarney National Park? It’s more than just a stop on the Ring of Kerry – it’s a personal favorite of mine. The scenery is breathtaking, with stunning lakes and impressive mountains everywhere you look. And let’s not forget about the history – there are some fascinating sites to explore too. So, let me guide you through the top 9 things to do in Killarney National Park and offer some practical advice.

What You Need to Know About Killarney National Park

  • Established in 1932, Killarney National Park was Ireland’s first national park, founded upon the donation of Muckross Estate to the Irish Free State.
  • Recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981, the park gained global recognition for its ecological significance.
  • The park remains accessible year-round, welcoming visitors to explore its natural beauty regardless of the season.
  • You can find essential information and assistance at the Visitor Center located at Muckross House.
  • Encompassing over 25,000 acres, Killarney National Park offers ample space for exploration and a wide range of outdoor activities.

Map with 9 Things to Do in Killarney National Park

Top Things to Do at Killarney National Park


Take Guided Tour at the Muckross House

The main attraction within Killarney National Park is the Muckross House.

It was built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, Mary Balfour Herbert, and designed in the Tudor style by the Scottish architect William Burn.

Muckross House

Muckross House in Killarney National Park

Today, Muckross House is open to the public for guided tours, providing insights into its history, architecture, and the lives of its former inhabitants.

GOOD TO KNOW: The guided tour lasts about an hour and costs €9 per adult. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed.

What you will see are very elegant interiors, featuring period furnishings and intricate detailing which offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of the Victorian era.

Muckross House in Killarney National Park

Muckross House in Killarney National Park

Muckross House has historical significance, having been visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their tour of Ireland in 1861. The visit was commemorated with a plaque in the gardens, and the house retains artifacts and memorabilia from this period.

Muckross House is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, including formal gardens, woodlands, and expansive lawns,  The estate also includes a traditional farm, where you can experience rural life in 1930s Ireland through interactive exhibits and demonstrations.


Visit Muckross Abbey

Located about 20 minutes from Muckross House is Muckross Abbey.

It was founded in 1448 and served as a Franciscan friary for the Observantine Franciscans.

Over the centuries, the abbey underwent periods of damage and reconstruction, reflecting the region’s tumultuous history.

Things to Do in Killarney National Park

Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park

The site features a cloister with intricately carved arches, a testament to the craftsmanship of its builders. Additionally, you can explore the abbey’s interior, including a second floor accessible via stairs, providing a unique perspective on its architectural layout.

Muckross Abbey in Killarney

Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park 

The abbey’s setting is quite tranquil as it is surrounded by lush greenery and overlooks Muckross Lake.

If your time allows, make sure to stop by the graveyard, where centuries-old tombstones bear witness to the abbey’s rich history.


Hike Torc Waterfall Loop Trail

Torc Waterfall is another popular attraction in Killarney National Park. It plunges approximately 20 meters (66 feet) over rocks into a pool below, surrounded by lush greenery.

GOOD TO KNOW: You have two options to reach Torc Waterfall: you can either hike the Torc Waterfall Loop Trail or park nearby and take a short walk to reach it. There are 2 parking lots. One is located no more than 5 minutes from the waterfall, and the second one is about 25-20 minutes away from the waterfall.

If the weather permits, I highly recommend the loop hike. Below is the map and additional details for your reference.

Torc Waterfall Loop Trail Map

Map of Torc Waterfall Loop Trail / Image Credit: Kerry Gems / Things to Do in Killarney National Park

  • Distance: 4.5 km / 2.8 mi (loop)
  • Time: 1.5 – 2 Hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Muckross House

GOOD TO KNOW: Torc Waterfall’s name comes from ‘torc,’ Gaelic for wild boar. Legend says a cursed man, turning into a boar by night, lived in a cliff cavern. Discovered by a farmer, he offered riches to keep quiet but vanished in anger, creating the waterfall as he disappeared into a nearby lake.

Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park

Torc Waterfall 

  • The trailhead is located at Muckross House. When you leave Muckross House, the path turns sharply left, revealing panoramic views of mountains and meadows. On the right stands the Old Boathouse, home to rowing and fishing boats for centuries.
  • From there, you’ll ascend through the trees until you reach the Owengarriff River, crossing just above the main falls.
  • Next, descend a series of steps through the woodlands on the eastern side of the river to reach the viewpoint of the 20-meter-high Torc Waterfall cascade.
Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park

Torc Waterfall 

  • The trail continues to the N71, which you will need to cross. Keep left along the path to rejoin the Lake Loop and return to the car park at Muckross House.


Take a Guided Tour of Ross Castle

Ross Castle is a historical tower house. It was built in the late 15th century by the O’Donoghue clan, a local ruling family in the area.

The castle is situated on the edge of Lough Leane, the largest of the three Lakes of Killarney.

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park 

Ross Castle is constructed primarily of limestone and features typical medieval architectural elements such as turrets and battlements.

It served as a stronghold for the O’Donoghue clan and was later seized by English forces during the Desmond Rebellions in the late 16th century. During the Irish Confederate Wars in the 17th century, the castle was again involved in conflict.

Nowadays, Ross Castle offers guided tours that will give you a glimpse into the castle’s storied past.

Inside, you’ll see furnishings and tapestries that depict life in the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s like a snapshot of history, showing how people lived back then.

Ross Castle’s defenses are pretty impressive. It was the last place in Munster to hold out against Cromwell, so you can imagine how tough it was. You will get to see the cannons on the roof, the walls, the slits for arrows, and the lookout spots. It’s a glimpse into the military tactics of the time.

The scenery around Ross Castle is stunning! You’ve got Lough Leane right there, surrounded by mountains and forests. You can see the distant McGillycuddy’s Reeks and the thick woods all around.


Take the Lakes of Killarney Boat Tour

One of the tours that you will definitely enjoy is the Lakes of Killarney Boat Tour. It is about 1-hour long and it will take you across Killarney’s largest lake, Lough Léin.

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park 

The tour departs from Ross Castle. As you drift along the water, you’ll have the opportunity to see the ruins of St. Finian’s 6th-century monastery on Innisfallen Island and continue towards the foot of the majestic MacGillycuddy Reeks, where Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil, stands tall.

Along the way, you will learn about the flora of the area, including ancient oak and yew forests. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of Red Deer and White Tailed Eagles.


Go on Jaunting Car Ride

Jaunting Cars, traditional horse-drawn carriages, were once the cherished mode of travel from the 1800s to the mid-20th century.

The term “jaunting” originates from the Irish word “jauntings,” signifying pleasure trips or outings.

Today, these iconic vehicles are treasured for sightseeing tours, guided by experienced Jarveys who offer commentary and insight throughout the journey.

Things to Do in Killarney National Park

Jaunting Car Tour in Killarney National Park

One of the most popular jaunting car tours in Killarney is the Killarney on Horse & Carriage: 1-Hour Jaunting Car Tour. It will take you through the heart of the town and into Killarney National Park.

Along the route, will be treated to breathtaking views of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range, and pass by notable landmarks like the majestic 15th-century Ross Castle.


Stop By the Ladies View Viewpoint

Ladies View, situated along the N71 road to Kenmare about 19 kilometers (12 miles) from Killarney, is a renowned scenic viewpoint on the Ring of Kerry tourist route.

Ladies View earned a reputation as one of the most photographed spots in Ireland according to The Irish Times.

GOOD TO KNOW: The name “Ladies View” or “Ladies’ View” originates from Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland in 1861, during which the breathtaking panorama particularly enamored her ladies-in-waiting.

Ladies View in Killarney National Park

Ladies View Along Ring of Kerry in Killarney National Park


Hike to the Old Weir Bridge at the Meeting of the Waters

Old Weir Bridge is one of Killarney’s oldest structures, presumed to date back to the 16th century, however, the exact origins of the Old Weir Bridge remain uncertain.

It is believed to have potentially served as a timber transport route from nearby oak forests.

Its unique location at the confluence of Killarney’s lakes, known as the Meeting of the Waters, has solidified its status as an interesting spot.

To reach this iconic landmark, from N71 drive to Dinis Cottage. From the Cottage, the Old Weir Bridge is only a few hundred meters via a trail that meanders through the woods and streams that surround the cottage.

INTREPID’S PRO TIP: Keep an eye out for a grey sign marking the trailhead, situated a short distance east of Dinis Cottage along the path from the N71 car park.

Weir Old Bridge in Killarney National Park

Old Weir Bridge in Killarney National Park


Hike Tomies Wood Loop Trail to O'Sullivan Cascade

The Tomies Wood Loop Trail is your gateway to the O’Sullivan Cascade.

To get there take the N72 Killorglin/Ring of Kerry road for approximately 6.5 km (4 mi). Once past Fossa village, make a left onto the Gap of Dunloe/Glencar road (L4040).

Drive another 2.5 km (1.5 mi) until you reach the bridge over the river Laune. At the T-junction, take a left and follow the road until you find the parking lot and trailhead.

Map of Tomies Wood Loop Trail in Killarney National Park

Map of Tomies Wood Loop Trail / Things to Do in Killarney National Park 

As you begin your hike, around 200 m in, you’ll encounter a choice point. Decide whether to take the right trail (counter-clockwise) for the high-road or the left trail (clockwise) for the low-road, leading you to O’Sullivan Cascade.

GOOD TO KNOW: The low-road is the shortest route to reach O’Sullivan Cascade. The round trip from the parking area to the cascade is roughly 3 km and usually takes about 45 minutes.

INTREPID’S PRO TIP: About 1.5 km into your walk, watch for a sign pointing to the cascade on your left. Follow the trail down and then bear right. Descend around 130 steps to reach the cascade.

Legend whispers tales of the cascade once flowing with whiskey and being the dwelling place of Fionn MacCumhaill, Chief of the Fianna, until the English arrived.

For your return journey, ascend the steps and head back to the main path. From there, you can turn right to head back to the car park or left to continue the loop in a clockwise direction, keeping your adventure alive.

Intrepid Scout's Tips for Things to Do in Killarney National Park

  • I highly recommend venturing onto lesser-known trails like the Cardiac Steps or the Old Kenmare Road.
  • Renting a kayak or canoe to explore the Lakes of Killarney provides a different view of the park’s scenery.
  • Make sure to check the weather forecast. My own experiences have taught me that the park’s weather can be incredibly diverse and unpredictable. Nestled in an area characterized by its coastal influences and mountainous terrain, Killarney will surprise you with a medley of rain, wind, and sunshine all in one day.

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Things to Do in Killarney National Park
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