Killarney (Cill Airne in Irish) means The church of the sloes. This town is located in the County of Kerry, in the southwestern part of Ireland.
Killarney is THE tourism town. There are more available accommodations in this town than in any other town in Ireland (except for Dublin of course). Tourists come from all over the globe, all year round.
The town has quite a number of shops and tourist attractions. Most of these shops are already geared towards the tourists – functioning as either gift shops or souvenir shops. As we mentioned earlier, the town has a lot of hotels (and we mean a lot), together with a variety of pubs and restaurants that cater to every tourist’s need and craving.
Killarney is also a popular destination for partygoers. The nightspots in the town are busy all week long (especially during the summer months). Some of the more known and frequented pubs and clubs are: Mustang Sallys, McSorleys, Scruffys, Scotts, Charlie Foleys, Jades, The Grand Hotel and The Granary.
Being an old town, Killarney is also famous for its horse drawn carts which they call jaunting cars operated by local jarvies. The best way to get around town is through these jaunting car rides. Plus, the jarvies also offer a complete guided tour of the towns hotspots and attractions.
Jaunting Cars awaiting tourist riders
Killarney, however, is more known to be a summer destination. During the summer season, the entire town is busy servicing its tourists. The highlight of the season is the Killarney SummerFest. The festival features both indoor and outdoor concerts with many mainstream international acts. Some of the more well-known acts who have performed in the Killarney SummerFest are Snow Patrol, The Cranberries, Bryan Adams, The Corrs, Westlife, Tom Jones, Kris Kristofferson, David Gray and Pink. For 2008, Irish boy band Westlife is set to headline the outdoor concerts. Aside from the concert, there will be different events to participate in like: outdoor theatre, hot air ballooning, Riverdance, art exhibitions, childrens events, and the annual SummerFest Black Tie Ball. Annual sporting events include the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, the Killarney Regatta, the 5 kilometer SummerFest Fun Run and the Killarney Races.
Queen Victoria’s Town
Killarney is one of the oldest towns in the country. The town’s very first settlers came when a Franciscan monastery was built there in 1448. The nearby castles then used the town as their local center for trade. Soon, with the addition of a mining facility, population employment boosted the financial status and overall development of the town. But the town’s history of being a tourist destination only started in the mid 1700s much thanks to the travel writers who had nothing but good praise for the area. Add to that the eventual opening of the railway, and you have the perfect recipe for a blooming populace. But much of the international attention that the town is enjoying now was made possible via a visit by then United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Victoria. In 1861, her Majesty bestowed her royal approval to the town as the original Irish holiday destination. For the record, the year 1747 is the one used as the official tourist boom year when the town celebrated its 250 years of tourism in 1997.
Much of the popularity of the town of Killarney is due to its close proximity to the various tourist attractions surrounding the area…
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a tourist trail of the county’s different attractions. This trail covers a 170 kilometer road (covering the N70, N71 and R562). It starts from the town of Killarney, then heads around the Iveragh Peninsula, passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. Some of the popular stops include Muckross House, Staigue Stone Fort, Ross Castle, Lough Leane, Ladies View, Derrynane House and Killarney National Park.
The Ring of Kerry is offered by numerous bus companies during the summer months. But since most of the roads are narrow, which prove to be difficult for the buses to pass, all tours run in counter-clockwise direction, traveling via Killorglin first. It is recommended that car owners travel in the opposite direction, going first to Kenmare to avoid delays caused by tour buses. For those who are fit enough for it, there is also a walking path named The Kerry Way, that roughly follows the scenic driving route of the Ring of Kerry. There’s also a signposted Ring of Kerry cycling path which uses older and much quieter roads where possible.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park (Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne in Irish), known for its beautiful scenery, is located just beside the town. It was the first national park established in the entire country – it started with the Muckross House and its entire estate, which was donated to the Irish state in 1932. from there, the park has expanded to over 103 square kilometers of land – covering a diverse landscape which includes the Lakes of Killarney, Oak and Yew woodlands, native forests and mountain peaks.
Because of the diversity and extensiveness of its habitats and the wide variety of rare species that live in them, the park is considered as that of high ecological value and designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1981. the park is home to Ireland’s only native herd of Red Deer.
The park is open for tourists all year round. They have their own visitor center found at the Muckross House. Some of the known attractions in the park are: Dinis Cottage, Knockreer Demesne, Inisfallen Island, Ladies View, the Meeting of the Waters and the Old Weir Bridge, Muckross Abbey, Muckross House, the Muckross Peninsula, the Old Kenmare Road, O’Sullivan’s Cascade, Ross Castle and Ross Island, Tomies Oakwood, and Torc Waterfall.
Muckross House (Theach Mhucrois in Irish) is located 6 kilometers from the town of Killarney, between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, two of the three famous Lakes of Killarney. The entire estate is a popular destination all year around. The aforementioned jaunting cars can be rented to take tourists on a scenic ride to the estate.
This mansion was designed by Scottish architect, William Burn, pioneer of the Scottish Baronial style. It was completed in 1843 for Irish politician Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, famous British artist Mary Balfour Herbert. In preparation for the Queen Victoria visit in 1861, extensive improvements were undertaken to further beautify the house and the surrounding gardens. Some say these improvements led to the financial difficulties of the Herbert family which eventually led to the sale of the estate.
The house, gardens and its traditional farms are open to the public all year round with guided tours of the houses rooms. The mansion has a total of 65 rooms, furnished with unique antique pieces. Currently, there is an average of 250,000 tourists that visit the estate every year. The Muckross Gardens are famous for their collection of rhododendrons, hybrids and azaleas, together with some of the world’s most exotic trees. The Muckross Traditional Farms is a working farm project that recreates authentic Irish rural life in the 1930s a time when there was still no electricity.
Ross Castle (Caisleán an Rois in Irish) is the ancestral home of the ODonoghue clan. It is located on the edge of Lough Leane.
Ross Castle was built in the late 1400s by the local ruling ODonoghues clan. The castle is known in history as one of the last fortifications to surrender to the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell in what was known as the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland that ended in 1653.
The castle’s structure and design is typical of the old Irish lord strongholds that were built during the middle ages. Its tower house had a thick end wall and square bartizans on both sides of its corners. The tower was heavily fortified – further surrounded by a square curtain wall defended by round corner towers on each end.
Legend has it that O’Donoghue was sucked out of the window of his grand chamber at the top and disappeared deep into the waters of the lake. Together with his horse, his table and his library, it is said that O’Donoghue now lives in his own great palace at the bottom of the lake keeping a close eye on his castle and its surroundings.
During the summer, tourists can go on boat trips on Lough Leane from Ross Castle. You can rent the smaller boats which will allow you to visit Innisfallen Island in the middle of the lake.
Gap of Dunloe and Moll’s Gap
The Gap of Dunloe (Bearna an Choimín in Irish) is a narrow pass between Macgillycuddys Reeks and the Purple Mountains, another small mountain range close to the town of Killarney. Although the Gap has been one of the older and more popular tourist attractions, the road going there is still as narrow as before – making it difficult for vehicles to pass through. The best way to get there is… yep, you guessed it, by jaunting cars! If you have your own bike (or rented one in the town) then you can go there on your own, but we still recommend having the jarvies show you around – they add interesting stories to the attractions.
The 11 kilometer path begins at Kate Kearneys Cottage and ends with a descent into the remote Black Valley. You will pass by five small lakes along the path. These are Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough. Be sure to make a wish at the old bridge found after the first lake (they don’t call it the Wishing Bridge for nothing). All these bodies of water are connected by the River Loe, where the gap got its name.
The red sandstone cliffs of the Gap of Dunloe is also a popular location for rock climbing. The slopes above the Black Lake and Coosaun Lough are the best climbs. The current guide lists a total of 130 climbs, ranging in difficulty from below VS to above E2. most of the climbs are peppered with horizontal cracks so its best that you bring a camming device if you plan on climbing the slopes.
Molls Gap is another pass at one end of Dunloe. The path offers a nice view of the Macgillycuddys Reeks mountain range. Lots of tourists visit Molls just to enjoy the spectacular view. The rocks of both gaps are the same old red sandstone.