Whether you’re a hard-core adventurer or just want to spend some time in nature, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Killarney. From exploring the lakes in a kayak to hiking mountainous trails, there are endless options for exploring the surrounding landscape. And don’t worry if the weather is less than glorious – a rainy day is a perfect excuse for sipping coffee by a crackling fire or enjoying a blissful spa day in one of Killarney’s many hotels.
Thanks to all of this natural beauty, Killarney is also one of the most popular tourist spots in Ireland. Crowds descend during the summer, so consider visiting in late spring or early autumn and enjoy the relative serenity. But even in summer, it’s surprisingly easy to escape the crowds. Leave Killarney town behind and head into the forests for a day in nature. Here are 15 of the most enjoyable things to do in Killarney for active travellers:
Things to do in Killarney:
1. Walk in Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park is 10,236 hectares of woodland, parkland, and shimmering lakes, overlooked by craggy mountain peaks. You could spend half a day exploring the trails, which wind through the lush gardens of the Muckross Estate and out into the wilder sections of the park.
If you’re in the mood for a long walk, try the Muckross Lake Loop. It’s 15 km and typically takes 3 -5 hours to complete. The route starts at Muckross House, a 19th century stately home, and wraps around Muckross Lake. The Blue Pool trail winds through a quieter section of the national park. This 3 km walk is short, but lovely, and will take you through peaceful woodland and past the Blue Pool.
2. Visit Torc Waterfall & Torc Mountain
Torc Waterfall tumbles from the base of Torc Mountain, just 8 km from Killarney town. It looks particularly dramatic after heavy rain. So if the weather decides to turn miserable, head for the waterfall and watch as it cascades onto the rocks below.
The Torc Waterfall Loop walk is a 4.5 km trail that’ll take you on a steady climb through woodland, before passing above the falls. The route then descends along a tree-lined track, before crossing the Owengarriff River and looping back along the road to the Torc Waterfall car park.
If you want a more challenging hike, try climbing Torc Mountain. You won’t need any navigation skills to make it to the top of this mountain, as a track runs all the way up. The trail is made up of boardwalks and rocky sections, which are steep, but accessible to anyone with a moderate level of fitness. Although, the trail gets slippery after rain, so trail shoes or hiking boots are a good idea. The incredible views from Torc Mountain are worth every bit of effort on the way up.
3. Take a Kayaking Trip
Kayaking across the Killarney Lakes is a thrilling way to explore the area. Kayaking tours will glide past forested islands, rugged shorelines, and limestone caves. It’s a great way to get a different perspective of the landscape and possibly spot some of the local wildlife. Trips range from half-day adventures to full-day experiences and there are a few different operators to choose from.
4. Go Horse-Riding in Killarney National Park
Ireland is known as the Land of the Horse for good reason. There are incredible opportunities for riding around the country and Killarney is no exception. Killarney Riding Stables offers daily trail rides through the national park. Trail rides range from one to three hours and pass through some of the most scenic spots in the area.
In operation since the 1960s, Killarney Riding Stables is a family run business. The instructors and trail guides are all experienced, and even if you’re a complete beginner, they’ll make you feel safe. The first ride of the day leaves at 9.30am and prices start at €40. It’s best to book in advance, especially during high season.
For riders who want to spend as much time as possible on horseback, you could opt for the Killarney Reeks Trail. The full trail ride lasts for six nights and five days, so it’s a proper adventure. Riders cross beaches, bogs, and fields and trek through sections of forest.
5. Compete in an Adventure Race
Quest Killarney are one-day sports events that involve running, cycling, and kayaking. If you’re up for the challenge, entering a Quest race is a unique way to experience the diverse landscapes of Ireland. The Quest Killarney routes range from the 27 km Challenge race to the 83 km Expert race. Each route is definitely an endurance test. But if you’re looking for the most adventurous things to do in Killarney, it doesn’t get more challenging than this.
6. Take a Boat Tour of the Lakes
Don’t worry if you’re not quite up to a day of kayaking – you can still get out on the water. The Muckross Boat Trip is a relaxing way to explore the lakes. The trips are run in a traditional open boat, powered by a motor, so you’ll need to layer up to stay cosy. But as it’s an open boat, you might also get the chance to see the white-tailed eagles that sometimes soar near Dinis Cottage.
The boat crosses the lake alongside the Muckross Peninsula, past limestone caves and small beaches. It docks by Dinis Cottage, an old hunting lodge turned tea room. The Muckross Boat typically runs from 11 am to 5 pm, May- September.
7. Have a Spa Day
Killarney is home to some of the most luxurious spa hotels in Ireland. And if you’ve been running, hiking, or kayaking, then you deserve to indulge in a spa treatment or two. The Angsana Spa at The Brehon brings every element of wellness into its treatments.
At Angsana, the focus is on holistic, non-clinical treatments and natural products. All Angsana therapists are trained at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy in Phuket, Thailand, so you can expect the highest level of pampering. Book a room at The Brehon.
Opposite the national park, you’ll find the luxurious Muckross Park Hotel & Spa. It’s an award-winning spa and a joy to visit. Spend a restful afternoon in the Vitality Pool and Thermal Area, or try any of the extensive range of treatments. Book a room at Muckross Park Hotel & Spa.
8. Hike the Old Kenmare Road
Isolated and wild, the Old Kenmare Road is a truly special long-distance trail. Stretching for 16km, it stretches from Torc Waterfall to Kenmare. If you get the chance to walk it, expect stream crossings, bogland, crumbling ruins, and incredible mountain views. To reach the Killarney starting point of the trail, drive to the second carpark at Torc Waterfall and take the path towards Torc Mountain.
9. Practise Yoga
When it comes to yoga classes, Killarney has a few to choose from. Navé Yoga, in the town centre, offers classes based on their signature Vinyasa Flow style of Hatha. Meanwhile, Yoga Killarney offers beginner-friendly Gentle and Flow classes in their studio. Both yoga studios offer single class passes if you just want to try one session.
10. Go Deer-Spotting
The national park is home to Ireland’s last remaining herd of native red deer. And if you’re a nature lover, seeing the deer their natural habitat is one of the most fun things to do in Killarney. Heading to quieter areas of the forest is generally the best way to see the deer, but you might also spot them from some of the main walking tracks.
Knockreer and Muckross are two of the best areas of the park to find the deer. The main entrance to Knockreer is by St. Mary’s Cathedral, near the centre of Killarney town.
11. Eat Lunch in The Lake Hotel
You’ll need to eat after hours of outdoor adventuring and The Lake Hotel is one of my favourite hotels in Killarney. This has a lot to do with its incredible location. Nestled in Killarney National Park, The Lake Hotel overlooks a tranquil lake, set against a backdrop of mountains.
Visitors can eat lunch in The Lake Hotel’s lively Lakeside Bistro. And If you’re looking for things to do in Killarney in the rain, having afternoon tea in the hotel’s Piano Lounge should be top of your list. A path leads from the hotel to castle ruins on the lakeshore, so you can wander after eating lunch.
12. Explore Muckross House & Farms
Muckross House, an elegant Victorian mansion, sits at the heart of Killarney National Park. Admission is by guided tour only, but tours run throughout the day. If you have any interest in history, or in Victorian interiors, then it’s well worth visiting.
If you’re looking for things to do in Killarney for families, exploring the Muckross Traditional Farms should be at the top of your list. The traditional farms, which represent Ireland in the 1930s and 1940s, are similar to an open-air museum. You can visit three different kinds of working farms, complete with animals and machinery. There’s also a schoolhouse, a carpenter’s workhouse and a farm animal petting area to visit.
13. Hire Bikes
Cycling is a lovely way to explore the national park and it makes it a lot easier to cover lots of ground quickly. There’s bike rental available opposite the park entrance, so you can spend hours exploring off-road. The wide, gravel paths in the park are generally easy to explore on a bike.
14. Drive the Ring of Kerry
Killarney is a great base for exploring the Ring of Kerry and beyond. One of the most famous driving routes in Ireland, the Ring of Kerry takes visitors past windswept beaches, through small villages, and over dramatic mountain passes.
Killarney is the starting point and highlights along the way include Derrynane National Historic Park, Rossbeigh Strand, and the town of Kenmare. So there are plenty of opportunities to get out of the car and enjoy the landscape. Just be prepared for the large tour buses that travel along the narrow roads.
15. Tour Ross Castle
Ross Castle is a 15th-century tower house, perched on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake. During the summer months, the castle is open to the public. The history of the castle is shrouded in myths and legends, so it’s well worth taking a guided tour to learn more. Ross Castle is one of the top attractions in Killarney and there’s a limit of 15 per group for the tours. So if you’re visiting in summer, be prepared for a short wait.
16. Explore Killarney Town
After a day of being active outdoors, Killarney town centre is a welcome source of restaurants and pubs. There are often live music sessions and other events on in the town. So if you’re looking for things to do in Killarney at night, it’s worth checking ahead to see what’s on.
Don’t miss Murphy’s, an ice cream shop in the centre of town. Murphy’s uses all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients to make their delicious ice cream.
Planning to visit Killarney?
- Killarney has an almost overwhelming number of hotels and B&Bs to choose from in and around the town.
- From Cork City, Killarney is roughly a 1 hour and 15-minute drive.
- Kerry Airport, a small regional airport, is just a 15-minute drive away.
- The Killarney tourist office is a great source of information on activities in Killarney.
- You might also like: Walks in Cork: From Mountain Tracks to Coastal Paths
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