Killarney National Park – Kerry, Ireland
The Greenest Spot in a Very Green Country
Perfectly situated as a base for the numerous drives, sites, and natural attractions this corner of County Kerry offers in spades, Killarney is as attractive for its village character as for the incredibly scenic hinterlands that await beyond. Head on the road south for a visit to “the jewel of Killarney,” Muckross House and its elegant lakeside gardens that burst with rhododendrons and azaleas in early summer.
An ivy-covered Victorian mansion, built as a private home in 1843, it is now a handsome museum of County Kerry folklore and history and serves as the entry point to the car-free 25,000-acre Killarney National Park, the county’s centerpiece. Lakes, rivers, waterfalls, heather-covered valleys, woodlands, and the large variety of wildlife they support promise wonderful cycling, nature walks, and rides in two-wheel horse-drawn “jaunting cars,” all of which can be arranged in Killarney. Large enough to let you escape sight of the other Homo sapiens who inundate the area in summer, the park possesses the grandeur of true wilderness, just minutes south of civilization.
Here is found one of Ireland’s most photographed panoramas, the Ladies’ View (the ladies being Queen Victoria and her ladies-in-waiting) of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and across the lakes toward Killamey’s other natural gem, the Gap of Dunloe, 9 miles west of town. Horseback tours can be arranged to explore the rugged glacial pass of craggy cliffs and the rock-strewn gorge. The Gap’s unofficial gateway is Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a well- known former coach inn full of character and, on occasion, traditional Irish music.