Killarney's tradition of entertaining visitors began over two centuries ago. Tales of the legendary lakes and mountains surrounding the town initiated a wave of tourism that continues to this day. The town's charm is retained in the curious old-style shop fronts and brick footpaths, while luxury hotels offer the most modern facilities. There have been many unsuccessful attempts at town planning in Killarney since the 18th century; the maze of lanes and oddly angled streets that have resulted lend the town a truly unique flavor, offering the visitor a surprise at almost every corner.
The town center sits at a T-junction, which connects New Street with High Street on one side, and Main Street on the other. Shops catering for visitor interests radiate in all directions. The footpath is very wide here with benches and shady trees. It's a popular gathering spot with visitors and locals alike, and there is usually a crowd milling about or listening to a musician busking. Directly behind the junction, the large brick building divided by a high arch was once the Town Hall—it is now home to various businesses. If you wander through the arch, you will enter Old Market Lane—once the heart of Killarney's commercial quarter. The old terraced cottages are now boarded up, but artists have painted their doorways with colorful characters that seem to observe your progress as you walk along.
High Street is filled with shops selling clothing, tourist goods, pottery, and antiques. Several lanes branch off High Street; rushed locals use them as short cuts, but visitors can indulge and explore them at a leisurely pace. Pleasantly restored in recent years, these lanes have a mixture of housing and small shops. The Old Firehouse stands in Glebe Lane and features pretty, modern wood carving along its porch. On the left-hand side of High Street, three lanes lead to Chapel Place. Fleming's Lane and Barry's Lane are perhaps the most pleasant of the three; the brightly painted houses and shops lending them a cheery aspect.
The second road branching from the town center is Main Street. Books, clothing, hardware and other goods can be found along here, as well as several restaurants. Built in the 19th century in English Gothic style,
Past St. Mary's, Main Street veers to the left. There is a concentration of hotels here, with nine in the immediate vicinity. Branching off Main Street, Brewery Lane leads to College Square. This is another area full of shops and restaurants. In the 1780s a Franciscan school for boys was located here, giving the area its name. College Street leads out of the Square towards Fair Hill. Scene of numerous hangings at the hands of Cromwellian soldiers, the
At the Western End of the town is a complex of religious buildings.
The Muckross Estate dominates the Southern End of Killarney. The estate offers many pleasures for those interested in nature and history.
No trip to Killarney would be complete without a trip to Aghadoe at the Northern End of the town. In addition to spectacular vistas of the lakes,
Beyond Killarney Town
Killarney is the perfect base for anyone wishing to explore the many delights of the entire south Kerry region. The 110-mile long
Visitors are drawn to Killarney for the natural beauty of the magnificent lakes, mountains and nearby Atlantic coast, as well as the friendly and hospitable people. Whether you're here on business for a single night or with your family on a two-week holiday, there is a wide range of hotels and guesthouses from which to choose.
In the heart of this wonderful town one finds the family-run Killarney Royal. The rooms are individually decorated to anticipate the diverse needs of the modern traveler. You can experience the bygone charm of yesteryear at the Great Southern; there's plenty here for the entire family - tennis courts, a swimming pool and extensive conference facilities, to name a few. There's a special pleasure to be gleaned from staying in a town center hotel that also offers guests the peace and serenity of more bucolic surrounds. That's exactly what's on offer at the Killarney Park Hotel. Guests can take a break from touring and relax in the handsome library, drawing room, billiards room or simply take a walk in the landscaped gardens. The Arbutus Hotel on College Street also provides first class accommodation at affordable prices and holds out the promise of great Guinness and lively music in the evening. A more modest (but equally comfortable) place to stay is at Aisling House a warm welcome is assured and the staff members are more than willing to assist you in arranging outings and tours.
Killarney is a place where the extraordinary soon becomes the norm, as evidenced by the spectacular views from many of the hotels in this part of town. Indeed it becomes difficult to avoid the sublime for those choosing to stay at Hotel Europe. Wake up to glorious views of the famous lakes what better way to start the day? The hotel also includes a boutique, gym, heated pool and a bar and restaurant. Also situated lakeside, is the Castlerosse Hotel. Come prepared for the views from the panoramic bar and restaurant. If you feel like some exercise in the evening, grab a racket and play a few sets of tennis on one of the floodlit courts. The Castlelodge Guesthouse also provides good affordable accommodation and is very popular with tourists and business people alike. Overlooking Loch Lein and enjoying magnificent views of the Magillycuddy Reeks, Tuscar Lodge is another popular place to rest one's head. Pony trekking, boating, fishing and mountain climbing are just some of the pursuits available to guests here.
Beaufield House is a family-run guesthouse on Cork Road, two kilometers from the town center. It is noteworthy for the high standard of its rooms and because of the genuine warm welcome afforded to all who stay here. Chutehall is another establishment on the road to Cork. The National Park is on the doorstep and activities include golf, fishing and horse riding. Overlooking the majestic Torc and Mangerton Mountains you can encounter the old world charm of the Killarney Heights Hotel. Guests here can expect to see plenty of open fires ablaze in winter while friendly faces abound all year round. D'Arby O'Gill's is another hostelry in the vicinity that provides good quality accommodation for all.
To the south of the town center one can find many more excellent places to stay. Chief among them is the Muckross Park Hotel; it's set deep in the heart of Killarney's National Park adjacent to Muckross House and Abbey. You may decide to exercise after a meal in the well-equipped leisure center, or you might prefer to relax with a brandy and cigar in one of the spacious lounges. Close by, Fuchsia House promises guests affordable luxury and service with a smile. Nestled at water's edge the aptly named Lake Hotel oozes with the charm of gone but not quite forgotten days: double height ceilings, open log fires and spacious lounges all combine to create a truly unique atmosphere. Another interesting hotel nearby is Randles Court Clarion; formerly a residential rectory it was transformed into a deluxe hotel. The walls and rooms are adorned with antiques and works of art while the bedrooms are spacious and luxurious. It has a long list of guests who return year after year, a fact that in itself speaks volumes.
Aghadoe Heights Hotel is one of the town's finest; it enjoys superb views of the lakes and mountains (all of which can be taken in from the acclaimed rooftop restaurant). It's a perfect place to stay whether you are looking for a relaxing break from city life or interested in something a bit more strenuous. Nearby are some of the best golf courses in the country while guests are also welcome to fish on the hotel's private stretch of riverbank. Killeen House Hotel is another good place to stay for anyone wishing to explore this part of Ireland. The food in the restaurant is top-notch and the staff members are friendly and helpful.
Beyond The Town
Most visitors to Killarney plan on spending some time touring the South Kerry region and can look forward to residing in some fine hotels and guesthouses during their stay. Bianconi in Killorglin is a family-run inn on the Ring of Kerry. The restaurant and bar are both held in high regard for the consistently good food and lively entertainment on offer. There are plenty of opportunities for hill walking and mountain climbing in the area as well as boating on nearby Caragh Lake. Built in 1897, the Park Hotel Kenmare is set in 11 acres of natural gardens overlooking the Kenmare Estuary. There's an 18-hole golf course on site, as well as tennis courts and a croquet lawn. The restaurant here is renowned for its outstanding international cuisine prepared using only the finest local ingredients, the seafood being particularly good. Sheen Falls Lodge sits above the Sheen Waterfalls overlooking Kenmare Bay. It's a luxurious hotel with fishing, horse riding and golfing facilities available to guests. Why not arrive in style by chopper and land on the convenient heli-pad? This hotel can also provide conference facilities for up to 120 delegates. The Parknasilla Great Southern Hotel in Sneem is a 19th century house set in 300 acres of grounds. It is probably best known as the favorite 'home away from home' of the late Princess Grace of Monaco. From swimming to water skiing, pony trekking to archery, this hotel has it all.
Killarney diners were once limited to the ubiquitous Irish stew, boiled bacon, and roast with veggies, but now the restaurant scene caters for even the most discerning palates. The quality and diversity of cuisine has never been better. From traditional to contemporary Irish, there is a wealth of choice and Italian, Mediterranean, Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese restaurants are scattered throughout the town. Most pubs offer bar menus during the day, but from evening onwards concentrate on providing liquid nourishment with a bit of craic thrown in for good measure.
West End House stands at the bottom of New Street, across from St. Mary's Cathedral. A large rotisserie is the dining room centerpiece and you can watch the flames cook your meat to perfection. Vegetarians may find the pickings slim, but this is a popular spot for meat eaters. Further up New Street is the renowned Dingles restaurant. Contemporary Irish cuisine is served in a cosy, casual atmosphere and reservations are a must. Moving up the street, Ma Reilly's serves up those old favourites just like you remember from home. The Country Kitchen has fine baked goods and serves simple lunches and snacks, while Café Internet serves its snacks with cyber-time. Further along the street is Busy B's Bistro. This lively spot has a dedicated young following who seem to flow in and out for most of the day. Teo's, just next door, serves Mediterranean dishes to a mainly tourist crowd. In good weather you can dine alfresco. A hop across Main Street and under the arch brings you to Old Market Lane. In complete contrast to the old terraced cottages, is the Cooperage. Sleek and cool, this fine restaurant serves cuisine that is as modern as its decor.
Back under the arch and on the right is High Street. There is a concentration of restaurants in this area with a mixture of styles. The Laurels is world renowned for its "singing pub," but it also has a pleasant restaurant that is open during the summer. High Street also features several coffee houses that serve tasty lunches. Sceal Eile and The Bean House are both good places for a snack or light lunch with a steaming cup of tea or coffee. For more substantial and wholesome fare try Bricin. During the summer months, Bricin extends its hours and offers a dinner menu. Gaby's and Foley's Seafood & Steak have upmarket steak and seafood. If you are in the mood for international fare, Sherkhan Indian Restaurant serves excellent dishes, while Robertino's has Italian specialties.
The southeastern part of town including Main Street, Plunkett Street and College Street offers more eating opportunities. Paddy's serves an excellent range of Irish dishes with French influences in a casual atmosphere. Mustang Sally's attracts a hip, young crowd for its burgers and other American-style cuisine while the youngest diners of all love Mac's Ice Cream Parlour. A lane connects Main Street with College Street and is the location for a Taste of India. Sizzling Baltis and Tandoori specialties are featured on the menu. The Killarney Royal has elegant hotel fare, while the Arbutus' restaurant has interesting, contemporary cuisine in a fun atmosphere. The Failte is also a good stop for traditional favorites.
For those able to go slightly further afield, the Killeen House Hotel offers delicious dining in a historic setting in Aghadoe. In Waterville, The Huntsman has an extensive menu and a dining room with panoramic views.
Killarney has been honing the art of entertaining visitors for over two centuries. Coach loads of tourists are shepherded into The Laurels for an evening of ballad singing and toe tapping tunes, while the Danny Mann offers similar, but less formulaic entertainment. Buckley's offers traditional style music performed with precision. Murphy's has been awarded a James Joyce Award for being an "authentic Irish pub" and having a friendly atmosphere that is full of interesting characters. The Art Deco style of the 98 Bar contrasts with the norm and attracts older singles. Well-dressed natives go to The Kube to be seen. This snazzy bar in the bottom reaches of The Towers Hotel is a hotspot and you could be turned away if your attire is not up to scratch.
Outside of town, true pub character can be found in abundance. Killorglin pubs are famous for their traditional sessions and visitors are made most welcome. Cahersiveen has many old style pubs that combine a day business with pulling pints. The Anchor stocks a fine array of fishing supplies with its beverages. The Fertha manages to combine food, music, and a natural spring.
Tour One: The Ring of Kerry
The fabled 110-mile Ring of Kerry explores the Southwest's most celebrated peninsula. Many operators have bus tours of the Ring, but driving your own transport is the best way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, ancient forts, and religious monuments.
Begin by taking the R562 road out of Killarney towards Killorglin. After approximately five miles, turn left at the thatched house, following the road to its end. Here is the 16th century tower house Ballymallis Castle. Return to the main road and continue to Killorglin. In the Town Square a wild mountain goat is crowned king in August during Puck Fair. The oldest European festival, it combines revelry and copious alcohol consumption.
Heading towards Glenbeigh, you will soon pass the Kerry Bog Village. This stop combines pub life with a glimpse into Irish history. The picturesque town of Glenbeigh was once part of the Headley estate. The estate house ruin is known as Wynn's Folly and offers a panoramic view. It is worth a small side trip to Rossbeigh Beach, but save Rossbeigh Hill Walk for another time.
Entering Cahersiveen, Daniel O'Connell's Birth Place is on the left. The Daniel O'Connell Memorial Church is the only Irish church dedicated to a layperson. Across the bridge are Ballycarbery Castle, Cahergal Fort, and most impressive of all, Leacanabuaile Fort. If time allows, a visit to the old smuggler's den of Portmagee is worthwhile before going on to Valentia Island, connected to the mainland by a bridge.
On Valentia, the Old Slate Quarry at the top of the island has spectacular views of the Atlantic and the two famous monastic islands of Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. Former home of the Knight of Kerry, Glanleam Subtropical Gardens offer the possibility of an enjoyable interlude in the jungle.
Back on the N70, continue on to Waterville. This Victorian resort town was one of Charlie Chaplin's favorite holiday spots. His bronze statue on the promenade also offers a humorous reminder. Earlier visitors left Eightercua, a stark line of standing stones on a hillside. The next stop is Derrynane House, former home of Daniel O'Connell. In addition to the interesting museum, there is a pleasant walk along the strand. The Derrynane Walk includes abbey ruins, Bull Rock, and the beautiful estate gardens. Well sign posted and a little off the main road is Staigue Fort. This magnificent 1000 BC stone fort is the largest in Ireland.
Sneem is the next town on the ring. A winner of Ireland's Tidy Towns Competition many times over, its most interesting attraction is a sculpture park. The park tour is called The Way the Fairies Went with written guides available at the tourist office.
The road now leads to handsome Kenmare. As the Stone Circle shows, this area has been inhabited for centuries. In 1775 the town itself was planned by the first Marquess of Lansdowne. The Kenmare Heritage Centre has an interesting museum on the town and provides maps for walking tours. Other places to note are Our Lady's Well, Hutchin's Folly, Cromwell's Bridge, and Kenmare Lace Centre. The return to Killarney takes you through stunning mountain scenery with viewing points at Moll's Gap and Ladies' View. Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, and the Kerry Country Life Experience are all worthy stops before entering town again.
Tour Two: The Town of Killarney
Killarney is relatively compact and a two-hour walking tour offers a pleasant way to view most of the historic sites. One of the most notable Killarney landmarks is the Old Workhouse on Rock Road. This large complex of buildings was designed by George Wilkinson of Oxford and completed in 1845. The stone buildings have remained virtually unaltered since those times.
Continue in towards the center of town pausing at the Mercy Convent on the right. This beautiful Victorian building is one of many in the town designed by Augustus W. Pugin. Unfortunately, visitors can only view the convent from the front gate as both it and the gardens remain private. Turn right at the next corner, continue past the Garda station, and take the next left down St. Mary's Terrace. These original two-roomed buildings housed estate workers. Built in 1890, it was the first time mass concrete was used in Killarney; they are known locally as "The Concrete." At the end of St. Mary's Terrace, turn right. You will soon come to the impressive St. Mary's Cathedral. A.W. Pugin designed it also; many people consider it to be one of his finest works. The Old Monastery stands nearby and is the only monastery Pugin designed in Ireland.
Retrace your steps, walking along the Deenagh River. Otters and a variety of birds are frequently seen here. Take a right at the large gates. You are now entering the old Knockreer Estate. The quaint thatched Deenagh Cottage was once a gatehouse, but now serves snacks. There are many pleasant walks through the estate, but these are best left for another day. Return out the gate and take the first right. Follow this wooded road to the car park and go towards the large hotel. On your left you will see a car barrier. Go around the barrier to St. Mary's Well. This small well dates from the 13th century. Pass by the well and through another car barrier to Main Street. St. Mary's Church will face you. Moving past St. Mary's and towards the cinema, you will see the charming Killarney Methodist Church. It has a beautiful interior and is well worth a look. Exiting the Methodist Church, turn left up Countess Road. At the top of Countess Road and on the bridge is a Civil War memorial.
Continue straight to the junction and turn left. Walk under the railway bridge to the Franciscan Friary. This beautiful, unique church is a combination of Belgian and Irish styles. Across from the Friary is the Speir Bhean Monument to Kerry's four Gaelic poets.