While Killarney National Park isn’t technically in Britain, it’s still one of the finest parks you’ll find in the region. The park is located in County Kerry, Ireland, and was established back in 1932. It’s just over 40 square miles in size and features some of Ireland’s most scenic countryside. The park also houses the tallest mountain range in the country, known as McGillycuddy’s Reeks. The tallest one of these peaks reaches more than 3,280 feet into the sky.
Killarney is well known throughout Ireland for its beautiful crystal-clear lakes. In fact, these lakes cover about 25% of the park’s land. The mountain slopes rise from the shores of the lakes and are covered in forestland. If you head to Muckross Peninsula, you’ll find some of the oldest trees in Ireland.
(photo credit: JessyeAnne)
The local animals love the parkland as much as the humans and you’ll be able to see red deer here. These animals have been present in Ireland ever since the last Ice Age and they prefer to make their homes inside the boundaries of the park. There are numerous species of interesting water birds as well, including cormorants. If you’re into fishing for your supper, you’re in luck as there are plenty of trout and salmon to be caught.
One of the most popular areas in the park is Dinis Cottage, which sits on Dinis Island. It’s quite an historic lodge and along with its quaint tearoom is still in use today. You can hike or cycle to the island by crossing over Muckross Peninsula. You can also hike there from Killarney Town by following the lakeshore for about 3.5 miles. If you’d rather travel by water, you can get a boat from Muckross house and dock on the island once you’ve crossed the lake.
Another popular attraction is Muckross House and Gardens. This is a well-known cultural site inside the park. It’s an old 19th-century mansion that used to belong to one of the Guinness family. Of course, it also has had some remarkable guest over the years such as Queen Victoria. If you’d like to take a tour of one of the local farms and view the traditional way of life you can do so at Muckross Traditional Farms, which is located close to the mansion. However, they’re usually closed during the winter.
There’s plenty more to explore though, such as Ross Castle, which sits on the shore of one of the lakes. O’Donoghue Mór built the castle in the 1400s and legend has it that he’s buried beneath Lough Leane and he rises from the dead every seventh year on May 1 and rides his white horse around the lake. There’s a bed and breakfast at the castle if you’d like to spend some extended time there.
If you’re the adventurous type, you may be interested in the Gap of Dunloe journey. The trip begins by boat from Ross Castle and which makes its way by crossing the Middle and Lower Lakes. It then heads up to Upper Lake and ends up at Lord Brandon’s Cottage. The trip is about 7 miles in length and is completed by boat and then either by foot, bicycle, or pony. You end up at the Gap of Dunloe, which was carved out of glacial ice many years ago.
You can also travel to Innisfallen Island by boat from Ross Castle. It’s an ancient monastery and it’s believed that King Brian Boru studied there. The famous Annals of Innisfallen were written on the island from the 11th to 13th centuries.
One of the best ways to reach Killarney National Park is to rent a bicycle in Killarney Town then cycle down the network of trails. If you’re going there to see the fabulous gardens at Muckross House the best time of the year to visit is from April to July.
Because there’s so much water in the park, you may want to take one of the waterbus or boat trips that stop at Ross Castle, Dundag, Muckross, and Innisfallen Island. If you’d like to spend a few days exploring the park, there are several camping and caravan sites to choose from in the local communities.