Killarney National Park is home to Ireland’s highest peaks, ancient woodlands, shimmering lakes and a rich variety of wildlife.
Established in 1932 to protect one of the country’s most precious natural habitats and stretching over 25,000 acres, Ireland’s first national park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1982, an award given to areas that demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature.
Ireland’s only herd of native red deer roams the oak and yew woodlands that make up the most extensive covering of native forest in the country. Other residents include otters, red squirrels, Irish hares, peregrine falcons, hen harriers and white-tail eagles.
Around a quarter of the landscape is taken up by three beautiful lakes, Leane (Lower), Muckross (Middle) and Upper. These are as rich in wildlife as the surrounding woodland, with cormorants on the constant look out for the salmon, trout and perch that abound in the glistening waters.
Running parallel to the park’s western border and overshadowed by Ireland’s highest mountains, the Gap of Dunloe is a rugged stretch of land that changes dramatically with the weather.
The Muckross Estate and its 19th century mansion sit at the heart of the park, which also boasts attractions such as Ross Castle, Knockreer House and Gardens, and Inisfallen Island, which has a monastery said to have been founded by St. Finian the Leper in the 7th Century.
If you have a car you can access the park via the N71. Walkers should use the pedestrian accesses at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney.