Photo: Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, Ireland

Ross Castle, on the shores of Killarney National Park’s lower lake, was built in the 15th century.

Photograph by Travel Pix Limited/Photolibrary

Name: Killarney National Park

Location: Ireland

Date Established: 1932

Size: 41 square miles (106 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

Ireland's Top Peaks Killarney National Park is home to Ireland’s tallest mountain range, the irresistibly named McGillycuddy’s Reeks. The peaks top out at over 3,280 feet (1,000 meters).

Lake Land Killarney is famed for its beautiful lakes, which cover about a quarter of the entire park. From their shores rise mountain slopes, cloaked by notable forests like Tomies Wood. One of Europe’s only remaining pure yew woods can be found across 60 acres (25 hectares) of the Muckross Peninsula. Together these trees make up some of Ireland’s largest remaining stands of old forest.

Native Deer Red deer have lived in Ireland since the last ice age and now survive only within the refuge of the park. Local waters are home to salmon and trout, and water-loving birds like cormorants thrive in the park.

Dinis Island Dinis Island is home to Dinis Cottage, a historic lodge and charming tearoom. Walkers and cyclists can reach Dinis by crossing the Muckross Peninsula or meandering along the lakeshore some 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) from Killarney Town. Boats also dock here and return to the boathouse near Muckross House.

Mansion and Farms Muckross House and Gardens is a major cultural attraction within the park. The 19th-century mansion was once owned by a member of the Guinness family and has hosted notable guests, including Queen Victoria. Muckross Traditional Farms, near the house, allows visitors to explore working farms and the traditional way of life as enjoyed in these parts in the 1930s. The farms are closed from November to March.

Ancient Apparition Ross Castle, on the shores of Killarney’s lower lake, was constructed in the 15th century by O'Donoghue Mór. Legend says Mór rests still under Lough Leane, but rises once every seven years on the morning of May 1 to circle the lake on a white horse.

Gap of Dunloe Those with time and a thirst for adventure may attempt the Gap of Dunloe trip. This trek begins on a boat (visitors can bring bikes aboard), which leaves from Ross Castle and crosses Lower and Middle Lakes on its way to Upper Lake and Lord Brandon’s Cottage. Seven and a half miles (12 kilometers) on, by cycle, foot, or pony and trap, lies the Gap of Dunloe—a U-shaped example of glacial breach carved by ice more than 1,640 feet (500 meters) thick.

Annals of Innisfallen Innisfallen Island, visible from Ross Castle and reachable by tour boat, is an ancient center of monastic study where King Brian Boru is said to have studied. It was here that a treasured record of early Irish history, the Annals of Innisfallen, was penned between the 11th and 13th centuries.

How to Get There

Killarney, an Irish tourist mecca, is on the park’s northeast border, and walkers can enter opposite St. Mary’s Cathedral. Those arriving by car or bus may use entrances on the N71 auto road. Many visitors rent a bike in Killarney Town and take to the network of paths. Horse-drawn jaunting cars can also be hired in Killarney Town or in Muckross.

When to Visit

The spectacular gardens of Muckross House, with their treasured rhododendrons, peak between April and July.

How to Visit

Lakes cover about a quarter of the park’s area and are the source of much of its beauty, so consider getting out on the water. Boat and covered waterbus trips can be taken from Ross Castle and Dundag in Muckross with stops at notable spots, including Innisfallen Island.

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