Killarney is a quintessential Irish town with a population of about 14,000, located in County Kerry in the southwest of the country. My daughter Katie and I immediately fell in love with it. We only spent two nights there, but it's easy to get a taste of it during a short visit. We stayed in the center of town and enjoyed shopping, eating in the wonderful restaurants and strolling through the picturesque streets.
I know many people rent a car to travel around Ireland. Certainly that allows for maximum flexibility, but we decided to play it safe due to the left-hand driving and use the Irish rail system. Trains are an excellent way to travel in Ireland. They're clean, modern and efficient. We bought all our tickets online. You get an email with a booking number and when you arrive at the train station, you type in the number and it spits out your ticket. It's that easy. The trip from Dublin to Killarney took about three hours with one change.
The little train station in Killarney is less than a five-minute walk from the center of town. All official signs in Ireland are in Irish and English.
So many pubs, so little time! We ate lunch here on our first day and it turned out to be our favorite pub, right on College Street.
My daughter Katie was my traveling companion on this mother/daughter trip.
And more pubs...
Pubs aren't the only option for food; I regret not trying one of these delicious-looking donuts!
Saint Mary's Church was all dressed up!
Killarney by night is equally charming.
The town sits at the edge of the Killarney National Park, a beautiful 25,000 acre park with lakes, many plant species and Ireland's only herd of red deer. It's also home to the Muckross House, a 19th century Victorian mansion, and to Killarney House, an 18th century mansion. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit Muckross House, but we were able to spend a short time at Killarney House before we left Killarney. When we visited, the living area of the house wasn't open due to Covid, but there were exhibitions on the main floor with good information about the flora and fauna of the park.
The grounds are beautiful.
The Ring of Kerry
The Ring is an 111-mile loop with diverse geology and stunning scenery. We were lucky that on the day we went, there was hardly a cloud in the sky! There are a number of different ways to see it; we chose an organized tour through Paddywagon Tours which was great. We left at 11:00 a.m. and returned by dinnertime. Everything you've heard about narrow Irish lanes is correct; our guide told us that all tour buses have to drive the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise direction because otherwise they wouldn't be able to pass each other!
Lots and lots of sheep...
At one of our stops there was a man who had a two day-old goat. Katie wanted to bring the newborn home!
This is Paddy and Lady. Evidently Lady has rested comfortably on Paddy's back for the better part of her 13 years.
Notice the round stone structure in the photo below. It's thought that these stone "ring forts" were built between 600 and 900 AD to protect the landowners from invaders who came from the sea. There are a few of them in the southwestern part of the country.
Most of the Ring was the lush green that you'd expect in Ireland, but as we got closer to Killarney on the return, the landscape became beautifully rugged.
Our final stop was the Torc waterfall in the Killarney National Park.
It was a day full of breathtaking natural beauty and one that we won't soon forget!
There are many hotel options in Killarney. We stayed at the Fairview Boutique Hotel which is right in the center of town and only a five-minute or less walk from the train station. Despite its being in town, it was perfectly quiet at night. It was the nicest hotel of our trip.
➜ Top Tips
While a day or two is adequate for the town of Killarney itself, the southwest of the country is deserves more time. If (when) I return to Ireland, I'll spend at least a week exploring this part of the country.
Driving along the Ring of Kerry is a perfect way to see the beautiful and diverse landscape in this area of Ireland. Unless you're perfectly comfortable driving on the left, leave the driving to someone else! You'll see more of the beautiful countryside, too.