The picturesque town of Killarney is on the list of "things to do" for many visitors to Ireland. It is the Irish dream in a nutshell. It is also very busy.
Nestling between high hills and large lakes, Killarney is located in south-eastern County Kerry. The landscape is nothing but spectacular, stunning and scenic - also ensuring an interesting drive to the town. This is an area of Ireland where you should heed all tips for driving and be alert at all times - be warned.
Around 13,000 people live in Killarney, with another thousand or so in the rural fringes of the town proper. Due to a massive number of hotel beds, the perceived seasonal fluctuations are enormous.
The area was settled for ages when a Franciscan monastery built in 1448 and nearby castles elevated it to a local center. Some mining provided industrial employment, but the tourism industry started off here as early as 1700! Travel writers and the opening of the railway boosted Killarney's influx of visitors even more in the 19th century and Queen Victoria's visit bestowed royal approval on the original Irish holiday destination.
Killarney remains one of the top tourist destinations for both Irish and foreign travellers. Tourism is the one factor that basically keeps the town and area alive. Though there is some industry (thankfully on the very outskirts of town), the hospitality sector and smaller shops dominate the town centre.
What to Expect
Opinions about Kilkarney differ - it is geared towards tourism and nothing else, the perfect holiday for some, a tourist-trap-nightmare for others. Beauty, as ever, lies in the eye of the beholder. The numerous (and sometimes huge) hotels are necessary to cope with the influx of visitors and make the town itself seem insignificant at times. Yet Killarney has its quiet, unspoilt corners, especially in the National Park.
When to Visit
Whenever you go, Killarney is bound to be busy. It might be best to avoid the town during July and August and any Irish bank holidays. Take note that Killarney can lay claim to having some of the highest prices for overnight stays, especially if you opt for a better hotel - bargains can be had outside the main season, though.
Places to Visit
The town itself is nice enough for a few strolls but has no real major attractions. Just outside the town is the real place to go. Muckross House and Muckross Farm are popular all year around, the typical horse-drawn "jaunting cars" will take you there. Or head for Ross Castle (built around 1420) and from there take a boat trip on the lakes of Killarney, either a tour of the lakes or a round trip to Inisfallen. On the other side of Tomies Mountain (2,411 ft) and Purple Mountain (2,730 ft) a (careful!) drive, ride or hike through the Gap of Dunloe is a dramatic experience. Coming from Killarney in a car you might be interested to press on towards Moll's Gap, a dramatic mountain pass slightly spoiled by the modern souvenir shop on top. But the views are magnificent and the N71 will take you back via Ladies' View and through several interesting curves and tunnels to Killarney. Hidden in the woods (but well signposted) is the sixty feet high Torc Waterfall, another must-see.
From Killarney you can also drive the Ring of Kerry, one of Ireland's most famous tourist routes.