This is now the second time a friend of mine has told me of her plans to take a trip and I’ve been like “Can I come toooo??”. There’s nothing like a good ‘ole roadtrip to brush away those winter blues. So it was I found myself on my way to Killarney, a beautiful little town in the south of Ireland.
Killarney is not exactly off the beaten track; in fact, it’s probably one of the most touristy places in Ireland. But there’s good reason for that. And heading there in winter means less crowds, though you won’t have the place to yourself no matter what time of year you go. Don’t let that put you off.
Like many small towns in Ireland, Killarney is surrounded by incredible scenery. Lakes, mountains, moss-covered forests, waterfalls…it’s all there. As a nature-lover, I was in heaven. We didn’t have a lot of time – half a day, really – but that was enough to see a few of the best sights Killarney has to offer. Here were my favourites.
Of all places, I never expected a small forest in Kerry to make me feel like I was back in New Zealand. This type of scenery feels straight out of Lord of the Rings, and if you know me at all, you won’t be surprised to discover that I completely fell in love with Torc Waterfall because of that. There are several hikes in the area ranging from half an hour to longer day hikes, but if you simply want to see the waterfall, it’s an easy 200 meters from a carpark right at the main road. Follow the path as it meanders along a gushing stream making its way through a forest blanketed in thick moss all the way to Torc Waterfall. Here it becomes a long set of stone stairs inviting you to continue on upwards. Unfortunately, those steps will have to wait until my next visit.
This 19th century manor sits overlooking the Lakes of Killarney and is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. It’s a beautiful house, though the interior can only be seen on a guided tour. There are also lovely gardens to wander around and traditional farms to visit. The nearby Muckross Abbey ruins are high on my list for my next trip.
Lakes of Killarney/Killarney National Park
Ireland’s oldest national park and some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. The lakes with their snow-capped mountains in the background will take your breath away. Walking along the shoreline was an absolute highlight for me and reminded me again why I love Ireland. Although we got caught in a brief rainshower, the clouds soon cleared and we were treated to a beautiful sky above the mountains. Definitely worth the numb fingers to capture those views.
Bars specialising in one variety of alcohol are now a thing, apparently. Ireland is no exception, with whiskey bars popping up all over the place. While in Killarney, we checked out the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder and wow, was it impressive. Now, I’m not much of a drinker, but the chic and modern decor coupled with the astonishing array of gold liquor-filled bottles covering shelf after glass shelf of this place was pretty amazing. The gorgeous presentation of the whiskey tasters and the accompanying cheese boards was even more so. Each whiskey flight was taste-tested with precision by my companions, with careful consideration of each smell and flavour before a final verdict was given. This isn’t just a bar, it’s an entire experience. They even make their own whiskey, which you can bottle yourself from giant casks for a fairly pricey €150. It could well be worth the price tag!
With such a limited amount of time on our hands, there was a lot of Killarney and the surrounding area we didn’t get to see. The town is on the Ring of Kerry, a popular drive to do, and Killarney National Park is full of hikes for the more adventurous. Just pick a mountain and go! (But please make sure you’re well prepared). Not to mention all the cafes, bars and cute shops just waiting for you to walk through the door.
There’s a huge variety of accommodation to cater for every budget, from backpacker hostels to four-star hotels. We stayed at the Harmony Inn (Glena House), a nice place on the edge of town with comfortable rooms and a decent breakfast for a mid-range price.
Like any touristy place, there are tours in the area that take you around the popular sights, but I would highly recommend getting your own transport. This way you can spend as long as you like at each spot and stop to take in the view whenever you want.
Though I only stayed one night, I definitely would have preferred more time to explore Killarney. There’s enough in the area to keep you occupied for three days at least, more if you’re into hiking and want to get out on the trails.
Have you ever been to Killarney? Or anywhere in Ireland? I’d love to hear about your experience – tell me in the comments below!
Welcome to This Wild Life of Mine (previously known as Life of Dearbh)
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.