Looking for the best things to do in Killarney Ireland? Well you’re in the right place!
But first a fun fact, early inhabitants of Ireland thought that this part of the west coast was quite literally the end of the world.
The hostile and seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean stretched out in front of them, mysterious and impenetrable, and nothing existed beyond the horizon.
Known simply as “The Kingdom”, County Kerry lives up to it’s grandiose nickname and then some. The scenery is breathtaking and it is without a doubt one of the most amazing places in Ireland to discover spectacular landscapes and surprising wildlife.
Even though this part of the Wild Atlantic Way tourist trail has long been a popular destination, County Kerry tourism has exploded in recent times, particularly in and around Killarney Republic of Ireland.
This small colourful town is the historic gateway to the stunning peninsula and serves as the start and finish point for most explorations of the Ring of Kerry that skirts its outer perimeter.
The business owners we chatted with told us there were now people coming to Killarney from all over the world and that the number of visitors continues to grow year on year.
It’s easy to see why.
Things To Do In Killarney Ireland
To help you plan your visit, we’ve put together this guide of what to do in Killarney Ireland.
In this Killarney guide you’ll find out all the bang on things to do in Killarney, plus how to get there, how to get around, where to stay in Killarney, the best restaurants and pubs in Killarney.
And with the aim of being extra helpful, we’ve popped all the Killarney attractions mentioned here on a map for you.
Okay let’s get into all you need to know about the green oasis that is Killarney Ireland.
Best Time To Visit Killarney
As we just mentioned Killarney tourism is booming. The small town actually only has about 15,000 residents that live there permanently, yet each year an estimated 1.1 million tourists visit.
How crazy is that?
But despite the explosion in tourists over the summer months, what you’ll find here is a warm and welcoming community, thriving on tourism. The value of Killarney tourism is actually estimated to be worth €400 million.
That’s a lot of pints of Guinness!
Anyway if you’re keen to avoid the busiest times of year in Killarney Co Kerry, which let’s face it can be a little intense, the best time to visit Killarney is Spring or Autumn. This way not only are there fewer tourists, there are also lower accommodation rates.
In terms of how long to spend in Killarney Kerry, we recommend a minimum of 3 days/2 nights. You can see most things in 2 days if you are pushed for time but it’ll be a rush and trust us there’s going to be at least one morning that you’ll have a hangover and need a later start.
Because there’s just as many things to do in Killarney at night as there are by day – but more on that later.
How To Get To Killarney Kerry
For visitors travelling from the US, the closest and largest international airport is in Cork. However there are also some airlines that fly into nearer Kerry airport.
If you’re flying here from Europe or mainland UK, these are also your best options.
But they might not necessarily be the cheapest so do check other airports in Ireland too.
Because it’s a relatively small country, it’s dead easy to get around, so if you find a better deal flying into Shannon or Dublin for example jump on it.
Kerry airport is just 7 miles from Killarney town centre so that’s a doddle.
But from Cork and all other major cities it’s a breeze to get to Killarney town town. Ireland has a great public transport so you can easily jump on a bus or a train.
You can find train tickets to Killarney here.
Ireland was made for road tripping so you may also be planning to hire a car in Killarney Republic of Ireland, in which case you can pick one up at any of the airports no probs.
We prefer to use Auto Europe to compare car hire deals as not only do we find they have the best prices, they also have lots of choice of different vehicles.
How To Get Around Killarney
Hiring a car in Killarney will definitely give you the most freedom to explore at your own leisure is what we would recommend doing. However the roads are rather small and windy in County Kerry, plus if you’re not used to driving on the left that can be an additional challenge.
You can find our tips for driving Ireland here.
If you don’t want to hire a car for Killarney sightseeing, fear not it’s totally possible to explore Killarney and County Kerry without one.
Because it’s relatively small, a lot of the fun things to do in Killarney city centre are easily accessible by foot. And for exploring further afield into Killarney National Park and beyond onto the Ring of Kerry you have plenty of transport options for Killarney travel.
Other than by car or foot, one of the most popular ways to get around Killarney Ireland is by horse and cart, or pony and trap, or jaunting cars as they are called around these parts.
The jauntys are available to hire to take you around all the Killarney points of interest. Plus amusing drivers/guides, called a Jarveys, will treat you to a few entertaining stories about the local history and people. They are worth the ride just for the laughs.
If you’re thinking more nay than yay about the Killarney jaunting cars, there’s also a handy Killarney Hop On – Hop Off bus. Click here for more details.
Plus several day trip options with local Killarney tours operators, which we’ll give you the details for as we go through each of the things to do in Killarney Republic of Ireland.
Some of which, if you choose to do, you can’t visit by car anyway – well unless your car happens to be car-boat hybrid. As as good as Auto Europe are when it comes to car hire options, we haven’t those pop up in the choose selections yet.
Where To Stay In Killarney
Because of the popularity of things to do in Killarney, there is a good selection of places to stay in Killarney. From luxury hotels to cosy B&Bs and backpacker hostels, there’s something for all.
We’ve actually written a whole blog post about the best Killarney accommodation options for every budget, so you can check that out here now.
Or alternatively here’s a quick rundown of our favourite places to stay in Killarney Ireland.
If you do know your travel dates already, we recommend getting your accommodation in Killarney booked up as early as possible to avoid disappointment on your first choice.
Cheap & Cheerful: The Black Sheep Hostel
When it comes to Killarney hostels, you won’t get better than this gaff. The comfortable bunks have privacy curtains with individual reading lights and electric sockets.
The shared kitchen is huge, plus for breakfast you can cook yourself an egg up from the chickens in the garden.
Mid-range: Ashville House
This family run Killarney B&B is a delightful little place to stay in Killarney. The rooms are bright and spacious, with ensuite bathrooms, complimentary toiletries and tea/coffee making facilities. Plus there’s an extensive scrummy cooked breakfast menu to choose from.
Affordable Luxury: The Killarney Park
Unusually for a hotel in Killarney town centre, you can choose from city or countryside views. At this 5 star Killarney hotel, the service is second to none. Plus you can relax to the max after a day of Killarney activities in the jacuzzi and steam room in the spa facilities.
What To Do In Killarney Ireland
Righty, let’s get into the nitty gritty. For each of these things to do in Ireland with you some information about why we recommended then for your Killarney itinerary, let you know whether there’s a cost attached and give you the options for how to get.
Killarney National Park
Starting just a couple miles from Killarney town centre, Killarney National Park is easy to get to on foot and free to enter.
There’s over 103km² of lush green woodland and vast lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains. And many of the Killarney attractions are within the grounds of Killarney Park, including some seriously impressive historical buildings.
There’s the Killarney Lakes, Torc Waterfall, Ross Castle, Muckross House, Abbey and Farms, Killarney House and Gardens and Ladies Gap. More on each in turn.
You may even be lucky enough to see the Red Deer heard, the only one in Ireland. Or even the White Tailed Eagle. Hunted to extinction during the Victorian era but reintroduced in 2007, the species is now making a comeback.
And if you are visiting Killarney Co Kerry during Spring, from April to May each year you’ll be treated to parts of Killarney National Park being covered in a beautiful blanket of Bluebells.
There’s lots of different routes, all of which are clearly signposted with walking distances and estimated times and many are loops that begin and end at the same place. So when it comes to things to do in Killarney National Park, you can just head off on your own two feet to explore it.
Alternatively you have these Killarney National Park tour options:
- Guided Walking Tour of Killarney National Park – click here.
- Jaunting Car Tour Killarney National Park – click here.
- Boat & Jaunting Car Tour Killarney Park Tour – click here.
Lakes of Killarney Republic of Ireland
Killarney Park Ireland has three lakes that are all in close proximity, Upper Lake, Muckross Lake and Lough Leane. The surrounding mountains reflected in the still waters making it a tranquil and otherworldly setting to really enjoy nature and get back to basics.
The lakes are punctuated with tiny jagged islands that stick out above the surface of the water and are clearly home to a lot of the wildlife in the area. These beauties should definitely be on your what to do in Killarney Ireland hit list.
There’s also the ‘Meetings of the Water’, which is the point where the three beautiful lakes of Killarney meet in the middle.
You can walk all around the lakes or alternatively we recommend taking a trip on a boat.
This Lily of Killarney Lake Cruise starts from Ross Castle and heads out onto Lough Leane. It stops by Innisfallen Island and the ancient Copper mines on Ross Island. There’s a great guide onboard and the boat is covered in glass for great views.
The hour long Killarney tour has daily sailings at 10:30am, 12:00pm, 1:45pm and 3:15pm.
The largest island in Lough Leane, Innisfallen Island literally means the ‘the lake of learning’.
This is because in the 7th century Saint Finian the Leper founded a monastery on the island. Which remained occupied by resident monks for 950 years and it is reputed that Brian Boru, a foregone king of Ireland was educated here.
The Annals of Ireland, which recounts the early history of Ireland, was also written by the monks of Innisfallen Abbey.
One of the best ways to explore the ruins of Innisfallen Island and its majestic ancient woodlands complete with wild deer is to head over there by kayak.
During this 3 hour Killarney Kayaking Tour you’ll be provided with a wetsuit, life jacket and kayak. Plus a knowledgeable local instructor who’ll also be your guide for the duration and tell you all about the lake’s hidden secrets and local myths and legends.
Dating back to the 15th century, Ross Castle is in remarkably good condition considering its age. Built on the banks of Lough Leane by O’Donoghue Mór, it’s a tranquil, picturesque and yet supposedly haunted place.
According to legend O’Donoghue’s spirit lies in a deep slumber in the waters of Lough Leane. But on the first morning of May every 7th year, he comes back on a white horse and circles around the lake.
Tickets are €4 for a 45-minute tour of the inside of Ross Castle. But it’s only open seasonally, you can explore the outside for free all year round. Ross Castle should absolutely be on your itinerary for what to see in Killarney Ireland.
This 2 Hour Kayaking and Ross Castle Tour is another good option if want to get out of the water and learn more about the fascinating history and invasions of Ross Castle. And how the natural landscape of the area was formed all those centuries ago.
With a local instructor/guide you’ll pass through caves and along small channels, taking in the beauty of Killarney National Park at it’s best angles all with the backdrop of McGillycuddy Reeks – Ireland’s tallest mountain range.
Ross Castle is around a 30 minute walk from Killarney town centre, though part of Killarney National Park. Alternatively there is a carpark so you can drive. Or as mentioned before, take a jaunty tour there.
If you have the time this self guided loop walk around Ross Island from Ross Castle is a lovely little addition to your visit to Ross Castle.
This pretty, Tudor-style 65 room mansion overlooks Muckross Lake and Lough Leane. Once owned by Arthur Guinness, creator of the famous beer, it was eventually given to the Irish people, turning it and the surrounding estate into the Republic of Ireland’s first national park.
There is a fee to get into the house itself, but it’s entirely free to wander around the grounds and it’s impressive manicured gardens. Queen Victoria famously stayed here in 1861, which was one of the first events that put County Kerry and Killarney on the tourist map.
There’s also three working traditional farms that you visit to discover the tough but intriguing 1930’s and 1940’s rural way of life in Ireland.
About a mile away from Muckross House you’ll find Muckross Abbey, which despite being almost 600 years old is incredibly well preserved. Don’t miss this off your list of things to do in Killarney Kerry, lots of tourists do mistaking the house and abbey for the same thing. They’re not.
You really get a sense of the weight of history as you enter the graveyard, which though still being used today, has some headstones dating back to when it was originally built.
We were fascinated whilst walking around inside the abbey itself, which although roofless is still in almost perfect condition. The rooms are separated by tiny doorways and narrow spiral staircases lead you to the upper floors.
There is also a central courtyard which has a gorgeous, twisted ewe tree growing at its centre that was decorated with white roses when we went.
The place was abandoned in the 1650’s when the resident monks were driven out by the invading Cromwell forces.
Muckross House is just a 10 minute drive from Killarney centre town.
You can walk too – it’ll talk you around an hour from the centre of Killarney. But we recommend driving and parking there. Then taking a stroll through Killarney National Park to Muckross Abbey and the Muckross Traditional Farms.
There’s a few different routes, all signposted all of about 20-30 minutes.
There’s also a lovely walking route around the whole of Muckross Lake. It’s a 10km loop that’ll take you around 1-2 hours depending on how often you stop to take in each of the Killarney tourist attractions.
Right on the edge of Killarney town centre with Killarney National Park, you’ll find the stunningly quaint Killarney House. Even if you don’t go inside, having a wander around it’s manicured gardens is one of the top things to do in Killarney town.
St Mary’s Cathedral
Right nearby there’s also St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. Another of Killarney’s well loved historical buildings, due to the Great famine and subsequent lack of available funds construction of it was stopped and started. In its entirety, it took 65 years to complete.
Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial
While you’re in the area you may as well drop by the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial. The Kerryman saved the lives of over 6,500 POWs and civilians in Rome during World War II through an escape organisation.
The memorial was unveiled in 2013 to inspire future generations to play their own part in making our world a better place.
This stunning waterfall is another of the main Killarney attractions within Killarney National Park. It’s about 10 minutes from Killarney city centre if you’re in a car, or an hour and a bit walking and somewhere in between to cycle.
We discovered it by accident when we were on our way through Killarney Park, the day before we were due to explore it. Whenever we see a sign that says waterfall we have to follow it.
Don’t miss this Torc waterfall of your Killarney things to do list.
This beauty is 20 metres high and dramatically carves its way down through the forest canopy over a series of massive boulders. The huge trees that surround it are covered in a green lichen giving the short walk from the road an eerie but enchanting feel.
It’s best seen when it’s raining and the water flow is more powerful.
You can also get to Torc waterfall via a walking trail from Muckross House. It’s about a 2.5km walk through a pretty valley with serene wooded areas. You’ll hear the thundering of the water reverberating through the landscape before you see it.
Torc Mountain Summit
From Torc Waterfall you can also take on the ‘Cardiac Hill’ trail. Aptly named, hundreds of steps will take you on a steep and tough ascent roughly half way up Torc Mountain. At the top of the steps you’ll find an old well, stone shelter and gorgeous views of Killarney town.
Depending on how often you have to stop for a breather, it should take around 1.5 to 2 hours. When we say there are hundreds of steps we aren’t joking.
Then make your way back down Old Kenmare Road and follow the road until you see a little signpost for Torc Mountain and a footpath on your right. From here it’s a further 7.5km climb which should take around 2 hours.
Be sure to stay on the wooden sleepers, they are there to protect the National Park, but do be careful when it’s wet because they can get rather slippery.
At the top you’ll be rewarded with knockout panoramic views of the Lakes of Killarney, Killarney National Park and the McGillycuddy Reeks mountain range.
You can also just park in the Killarney Hiking Carpark and just do the second half of the hike up to the summit of Torc mountain if you prefer.
Gap of Dunloe
A crazily narrow mountain path that winds its way along 11km, past five lakes, between Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain before dropping into Black Valley. It’s insanely picturesque and is one of the most magical places to visit in Killarney Ireland.
It is a public road which you can drive, but due to how narrow and steep it in parts, it’s best experienced either by walking it, cycling it or taking a jaunting cart. Be sure to make a wish standing on the iconic ‘Wishing Bridge’.
This 5 hour guided tour of the Gap of Dunloe and Killarney Lakes starts at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. Here you’ll board a jaunting cart to travel through the glacial valley before disembarking at Lord Brandon’s Cottage where you can grab lunch you wish.
From there you’ll jump aboard a traditional open topped boat for a 2 hour peaceful and scenic tour of the Killarney lakes, ending at Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. Transfer from Ross Castle to Kate Kearney’s cottage at the start of the tour is included.
Alternatively you can take this Gap of Dunloe tour. Where a transfer from Killarney town centre will drop you off at Kate Kearney’s cottage for you to walk the Gap of Dunloe before jumping on a boat across the Killarney lakes and another transfer back into town.
If you do drive it be extremely careful of walkers, cyclist and the jaunting cars.
The central peak of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Carrauntoohil is the tallest mountain in Ireland. And although you don’t need any specialist equipment to climb this 1038m peak, the shortest and easiest route is a strenuous 12km hike over 4 to 6 hours.
With the Devil’s Ladder towards the top a particular challenge. And good weather conditions change to bad weather conditions in heartbeat. If you’re not an experienced hiker, you should go with a local guide.
It’s definitely one of the more adventurous things to do around Killarney, but the panoramic views from the summit of Carrauntoohil on a clear day are out of this world.
If you are doing it yourself park at Cronin’s Yard. There’s a fabulous little cafe there too for post hike refreshments.
Another popular route for a self guided hike of Carrauntoohil is the Coomloughra Horseshoe. This route also take in the second and third highest MacGillycuddy’s Reeks peaks. And if you want a serious challenge, there’s the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks ridge trail that hits all sixe peaks.
The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry refers to a scenic route around the Iveragh Peninsula of County Kerry.
It’s the main reason that so many people visit Killarney each year as it has a reputation for being the most beautiful place in Ireland, which let me tell you is some accolade!
But when it comes to Killarney what to do, exploring the Ring of Kerry is 100% a must.
There are a number of ways to get round it on day trips from Killarney, including coach tours, biking or even walking.
We rented a nice little motor through Auto Europe because we wanted to be in control of where we stopped and how long for. Depending on these factors, driving the 175km will likely take around 4-5 hours so can easily be completed in half a day.
To cycle it will take 3-4 days or to walk 8-10 days. If you do fancy this there’s plenty of accomodation along the way and you can have your luggage sent ahead to your next stop.
The route traditionally runs anti-clockwise from Killarney, but for various reasons we chose to go the opposite way round. The main one was the coach tours all follow the same anti-clockwise route and stop at the same places at virtually the same time.
Which means that if you get stuck behind them you’ll be sharing the attractions with dozens, possibly hundreds of other people at any one time, which although not a disaster is pretty easily avoided by just going in the opposite direction.
We’d recommend heading straight into the Killarney National Park, on to Sneem and continuing in that direction or alternatively setting off early so you are ahead of the coaches.
The views are so spectacular and ever changing that we were pulling the car over literally every five minutes to take in the views. The narrow road winds high into the mountainside before dropping steadily into valleys, revealing new and even more beautiful scenery with every twist and turn.
Be sure to stop off at the two picturesque viewing points of Ladies View and Molls Gap. The former viewing was named after Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting, it being a favourite of theirs during the visit of 1861.
Sneem is a pretty little village with a short walk known as ‘The Way the Fairies Went’. It’s great for stretching your legs and especially good for things to see in Killarney Ireland if you have any little ones with you.
Caherdaniel is also a great place on the Ring of Kerry for a stop off too. If you’re not the one driving grab a cheeky in The Blind Piper. And don’t miss Derrynane and Rossbeigh beach.
We spent about 8 hours driving the Ring of Kerry, but we could easily have spent even more time on it as there is so much to see and do. So many incredible beaches, panoramic views out to the Skellig Islands, as well as ancient buildings to explore.
The Ring of Kerry certainly makes you understand where County Kerry gets its nickname from and why it has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Really it should be number one on your list of things to do in Killarney Kerry Ireland.
If you’re looking for Ring of Kerry tours from Killarney, rather than renting a car here’s a few different options that have awesome reviews.
- Full day tour with Killarney Paddywagons – more details here.
- Full day tour with O’Connor Autotours – more details here.
- Full day Ring of Kerry tour with Deros Tours – more details.
- Ring of Kerry full day tour including Valentia Island – details here.
All of these Ring of Kerry tours have slightly different itineraries so do check of the details of each so you can match your choice with the Killarney sights that interest you the most.
The Skellig Ring
Skellig Islands lie some 10km off the western tip of the Iveragh Peninsula and is a short detour that takes you onto the tiny island of Valentia. We were recommended by a Kerryman to include it in our Ring of Kerry trip and were so glad we did.
In the summer months you can cross a bridge onto it at one side, drive around some of its perimeter and over its highest point before getting a car ferry from the other side back to the mainland and onto the Ring of Kerry.
When you get onto the island, you’ll notice every resident that passes you in the opposite direction waves at you, an indication of how tight the community must be here.
As we were there a couple of weeks before the season officially started the car ferry wasn’t running so we had the pleasure of driving around the entire island, and it also meant that we didn’t miss out on any of the Ring of Kerry as we picked it back up exactly where we left off.
It’s a detour of about 18km but is certainly worth it.
The Best Pubs in Killarney
Of course after all the exploring you’ll be doing on your Killarney day trips you’re going to want to relax with one, two or a few post adventure pints in one of the best pubs in Killarney Ireland.
In fact the pubs in Killarney Ireland are another reason this Irish town is so popular is for its amazing craic. Along with Tralee a bit further north, it’s the liveliest town in County Kerry and there are plenty of pubs, clubs and bars that are packed on an almost nightly basis.
Plunkett Street was our favourite destination for Killarney nightlife. In particular the traditional pub Courtney’s which has a great live band of Killarney music and plenty of different spaces where you can dance, sit at the bar or just chill out depending on what mood you’re in.
More pubs in Killarney with music? Murphy’s Bar, O’Connor’s, John M Reidy’s, Killarney Grand, The Porterhouse and Danny Mann Pub are all solid options when it comes to entertainment in Killarney.
The Best Restaurants in Killarney
In terms of places to eat in Killarney, most of the above pubs in Killarney do some cracking traditional Irish grub. If you fancy a novelty Killarney restaurant there’s The Shire where you can grab a pint and a burger with Gollum and Gandalf. Weird flex, but okay.
Bricin is a good shout too. They do a modern twist on local food, be sure to try the Boxty – tasty potato cake. And Quinlan’s, a delicious sustainable seafood restaurant. The crab claws are so good. For those with a sweet tooth Killarney Ice Cream Shop right next door is a must.
If you fancy some asian food, Khao Asian Street Food, Bombay Palace and Genthing Thai Killarney restaurants come highly recommended. Oh and there’s the Killarney Brewing Company, you’ll be in craft beer and homemade pizza heaven there.
Recommended Ireland Guide Books
Travel Insurance For Killarney
Even though Ireland is by far one of the safest countries in the world, we don’trecommend travelling anywhere without a good quality travel insurance in place.
Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. They have a no bullshit approach to policy wording & you can even buy a policy even if you’ve already set off on your travels.
So don’t be a wally and get no obligation quote here:
More Cracking Places In Ireland
If you’re planning on visiting other places around Ireland, you might find these blog posts helpful too:
- Complete Guide To Sligo Ireland
- Why You Need To Visit Galway
- 27 Cracking Things To Do in Derry
- How To Do Dublin On A Budget
Pin Me For Later…
Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.