Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park, near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. The park was designated a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1982. The Lakes of Killarney and the Mangerton, Torc, Shehy and Purple Mountains are in the park
Sprawling over 10,236 hectares, this beautiful park is an idyllic place to explore. Ross Castle and Muckross House draw big crowds, but it's possible to escape amid Ireland's largest area of ancient oak woods, with panoramic views of its highest mountains and the country's only wild herd of native red deer.
The lakes of Killarney are all situated within Killarney National Park, County Kerry. Nearest the town is the Lower Lake (Lough Leane) studded with islands and having on its eastern shore the historic Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle. The wooded peninsula of Muckross separates the Lower from the Middle Lake sometimes called Muckross Lake. At the tip of the Muckross Peninsula is the quaint Brickeen Bridge and Dinis Island further on with its sub-tropical vegetation and views of the 'Meeting of the Waters’. A narrow straight called the Long Range leads to the island-studded Upper Lake. Around these islands are luxuriant woods of oak, arbutus, holly and mountain ash, while beneath grows a profusion of fern and other plants. The Killarney Lakes – Lough Leane (the Lower Lake, or 'Lake of Learning'), Muckross (or Middle) Lake and the Upper Lake – make up about a quarter of the park, and are surrounded by natural oak and yew woodland, and overlooked by the high crags and moors of Purple.
Mountain (832m) to the west and Knockrower (552m) to the south.
The National Park is a bird watchers heaven. Extensive broadleaved and mixed forest set among beautiful lakes and the highest mountains in Ireland. Birdwatching in Killarney is especially good in spring, with a wide range of typical Irish woodland and upland species, wildfowl in winter, and White-tailed Sea Eagles. Torc Waterfall and Brickeen Bridge are good areas for general woodland birds, including Long-tailed Tit, Jay, Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher.
The official first leg of The Kerry Way trail is from Killarney town, via Muckross house and gardens to Torc Waterfall. From Torc upper carpark, The Old Kenmare Road is a superb 16k trail that meanders through the uplands of Killarney National Park. Forming part of the Kerry Way long distance trail, it is a magical experience that will take you back in time and back to nature. The variety of landscape, flora and fauna along the Old Kenmare Road sets it apart as a truly special trail within
Killarney National Park. There is wonderful isolation and stark beauty sandwiched between the bustling towns of Killarney and Kenmare. Even during the busiest summer months, it is a place of peace and solitude. A day walking on the Old Kenmare Road through the Killarney National Park is a truly original one.
Some of the most impressive archaeological remains in the park are from the early Christian period. The most important of these features is Inisfallen Abbey, the ruins of a monastic settlement on Inisfallen Island in Lough Leane. It is thought that the monastery gave rise to the name Lough Leane, which means "Lake of Learning".
Muckross Abbey was founded in 1448 by Observantine Franciscans and is also still standing. The central feature of Muckross Abbey is a central courtyard that contains a huge yew tree surrounded by a vaulted cloister. It is traditionally said that this tree is as old as Muckross Abbey itself. The abbey was the burial place of local chieftains. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Kerry poets Seafraidh O'Donoghue, Aogán Ó Rathaille, and Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin were buried there.