Killarney is one of those spots in Ireland where you will never be bored. From out of this world scenery to Jaunting Car drives around the national park, beautiful restaurants, shopping, top class music venues and golf courses and plenty of water activities on the lakes! Tourism in Killarney dates back to the early 18th century and its home to Ireland’s very first National Park.
We set off to Killarney from Cork city early on a Sunday morning and it was an easy hour and a half’s drive out the N22. Its not until you reach Killarney that you meet the camper vans, the tour buses, the cyclists and the walkers! It was fantastic to see so many tourists around. As you drive into town you will see the Killarney Outlet Centre on your left. This is also the train and bus station and there is plenty of parking here too.
It was much too nice a day (well it wasn’t raining!) to go shopping so we headed out the Muckross road (or the N71) to our first port of call- Ladies View. Killarney is also on the Ring of Kerry- a hugely popular scenic drive- so this road is always very busy during the summer. Its out this road you should head for the amazing scenic walks in the national park. Its a 20 minute drive out this road to reach ladies view and its well worth the bendy roads. Its called Ladies view after the Queens ladies in waiting expressed their pleasure of the views up here during their trip in 1861. There is a lovely gift shop up here with plenty of Irish souvenirs and one of the best value gift shops I have seen in a while. There’s also a lovely cafe here with an outdoor area where you can sit with your coffee and cake and take in the view. You can continue out this road to reach Kenmare but we decided to head back down towards Killarney and our next stop- Torc Waterfall.
Torc waterfall is at the base of the Torc mountain and is one of the many attractions in the Killarney National park. There is parking on the roadside here but it was full when we reached it. We found more parking 200 meters down the road and we were delighted to discover a little path in front of the clearing so we didn’t have to go back out on the road (this is a path for walkers and jaunting cars and there was amazing views of the lake from here too). Its only a 5 minute walk up to the water fall from the main car park and on the way up we encountered a random man playing the bagpipes! I felt like we were in the Scottish highlands but in fairness he was playing Irish songs!
When we reached the waterfall there was plenty of people milling around taking pictures. There was also a hoard of people down on the rocks (with children!) at the base of the waterfall making it next to near impossible to get a clear picture of the waterfall without 20 selfies in your shot! Check out the picture on Instragram and you will see what I mean- 🙂
To the left of the waterfall there is a steep climb up some 100 or so steps to get a fab view over the lakes. The Torc waterfall is also one of the stops on the 200km Kerry way walking tour. 200km well walked I would say! Another one for the bucket list. We stopped at the Ice Cream van on the way out of the car park and made our way back to the car through our scenic walk. You can grab a jaunting car at this point also which does lovely leisurely trips through the park and Muckross House. We continued back down the road towards Killarney and a took a right turn into the amazing Muckross House and Gardens. There is plenty of free car parking here for cars, camper vans and buses alike. While we were parking up I couldn’t help notice all the families sitting on the lawns having their picnics. A beautiful spot in beautiful surroundings for outdoor dining.
There is a really large map of the estate to the right of the car park that points you in the direction of the house itself, the famous gardens, the traditional farms, the craft shop and so many more amazing attractions in the estate. I was so excited to start exploring so we headed straight for the main house. We headed down the path towards the house and got the pungent aroma of horse manure. We found the Jaunting cars! The drivers (known as Jarveys) are a fountain of knowledge on Muckross House and the National Park in general and I would highly recommend taking a trip with them.
At the front of the house there is a fabulous expanse of lawn where there were plenty of people having picnic’s, walking their dogs and taking in the amazing view of the lake in front of them. The house itself looks like it is undergoing some external renovation but you can’t help but appreciate the grandness of it and what it may have been like to live here back in the day when is was inhabited by the Guinness family. You can take a tour of the House for €9 per adult or you can buy a joint ticket for the House and the Traditional farm for €15. This is for access into the main house also and the traditional farms. We decided to make our way over to the Gardens at this stage which is to the left of the main house.
On the way over you will find the rock garden and then further on you are greeted with the most amazing views of a glass house and the very well tended gardens.
This is the perfect spot for a quiet walk, a spot to go reading in the lovely little gazebo or just to scout around checking out all the different species of flowers. To the right of the gardens is where you will find the main restaurant that is really well laid out and offers an abundance of hot food and snacks. There is an outdoor seating area here too to enjoy the sunshine and the views of the gardens. To the back of the restaurant is the gift shop. We were again pleasantly surprised at the amazing value in here. You will find all your compulsory Killarney souvenirs in here as well as a clothing section and a fabulous Pottery display. To the back of the shop you can view the pottery makers at work- they were obviously on a day off that day though.
The great thing about Muckross House and Gardens is that it is open all year round. I will definitely be back again to do more exploring around this amazing tourist attraction!
We headed back into Killarney from here to check into our digs for the night- the stunning Cahernane House Hotel. The hotel is just on the left hand side as you drive towards Killarney on the Muckross road, or on your left if you are coming out of town. The Hotel is set in a beautiful 19th century manor house at the end of a tree lined drive way. The grounds of the hotel are set just at the edge of the National park and the hotel has beautiful gardens complete with outside seating and their very own swing seat! Our lovely receptionist Siobhán checked us into a beautiful room in the new wing of the house. It was a standard room but had a spacious seating area, a walk in wardrobe and a jacuzzi in the bathroom! All the rooms in this wing seemed to have their own balcony or outside seating area. Our balcony had a view of the mountains and fields that lead down to the lake and we spotted a few deer milling around in the neighbouring field also. This is the perfect spot for a romantic weekend away.
The Hotel has two beautiful reception rooms with open fires (a cosy spot in winter no doubt!), a billiards room downstairs with a cosy cellar bar beside it. We headed down here for a drink before dinner and a chat with the very friendly bar man. They had a pretty extensive al a carte menu for the Herbert room restaurant but we decided to head up the town for dinner.
You are spoiled for choice with restaurants in Killarney. Murphy’s on the main street was recommended to us but alas we couldn’t get a table and we were far too hungry to wait for one. After checking out a few other menus along main street we settled with Genting Thai in the Inishfallen centre. The restaurant was packed but we got a table within 5 minutes. The wine was flowing, the food was amazing and plentiful and really good value too! Two main courses, a glass of wine and a bottle of Thai beer was less than €40.
There is plenty of Bars to choose from in Killarney too. Courtney’s on Plunkett street, Scruffy’s and the Plaza Hotel all come highly recommended for a tipple or two. We had a few drinks in the very swish Cube Bar on East Avenue before two very tired tourists headed back down the road to climb into bed (we are really getting old! :)).
We were bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning as we headed down for breakfast in the Herbert Restaurant. There is a full breakfast menu on offer here including pancakes, omelettes and of course the full Irish! I had raided the buffet for lovely home made bread, cheese and hams before realising we also got a fab tiered tray of croissants, home made preserves of rhubarb Jam, lemon curd and a variety of pastries all to ourselves. The breakfast in Cahernane House will really set you up for the day! We took a little time after breakfast to walk around the grounds of the hotel, taking a few pictures and of course have a swing in the swing seat. That did not bode well for the belly after breakfast!
Unfortunately the weather was not on our side on this particular day but we got on the rain jackets and headed down Ross road to the beautiful Ross Castle on the banks of the Lough Leane. This is just a short 5 minute drive from Muckross road and there is plenty of parking down here. The Jaunting car drivers offer trips down to the castle from outside the Killarney Avenue Hotel in the centre of town. Entry into the castle is only €4 for adults and its open from March to November each year. There’s plenty of history and legends surrounding this castle and its a must visit on a trip to Killarney. You can take boat trips from here also onto Lough Leane.
It was with a heavy heart- and incredibly fuzzy wet hair- that we took our leave of beautiful Killarney. Other day trips that I am looking forward to getting to are Kenmare and the Gap of Dunloe which are a very short drive from here. We didn’t have to pay into any of these attractions in Killarney so it’s not an expensive trip away. So if you are looking for some inspiration on where to go for a short break away this year, look no further than the Kingdom of Kerry and the enchanting Killarney. I have attached some helpful links below that may help you to plan your trip and as always- Happy Galavanting xxx