With abundant natural beauty, a rich history, no shortage of things to do or places to visit, all the modern amenities you could wish for and a hugely welcoming local populace, it’s little wonder that Killarney is one of Ireland’s top tourism hubs. Here’s a brief guide to this magnificent town in County Kerry.
Religious settlements were prominent in Killarney’s early history, with the earliest known monastery lying on nearby Innisfallen Island and founded by St Finian the Leper in 640 AD. It remained occupied for more than eight centuries.
Aghadoe, a village overlooking modern Killarney, is thought to have originated as a pagan religious site, with 7th century ogham stones the earliest evidence of its existence. Nearby, the Parkavonear Castle was built by the Normans in 1169 following the Anglo-Norman invasion.
Ross Castle was built as a defensive tower house on the edge of Lough Leane in the 15th century by the ruling O’Donoghue Mór clan.
The Franciscan friary of Muckross Abbey was founded in 1448 before being burned down by Cromwellian invaders two centuries later. Its ruins have been preserved to this very day.
Killarney climate & weather
Killarney has a stable, temperate climate with moderate average temperatures of 5-15°C (41-59°F), although this can dip below 0°C (32°F) in winter months and rise above 20°C (68°F) on warm summer days.
Visitors should be prepared for rain at any time of year but could be just as likely to catch beautiful warm sunshine between April and September. Although winter months can be quite cold, snowfall is rare in Ireland.
How to get to Killarney
Air: Kerry Airport is the nearest to Killarney, lying just 15 minutes’ drive from the town. Other international airports include Cork (approx. 75 minutes’ drive), Shannon (just under 2 hours’ drive) and Dublin (3-4 hours’ drive).
Boat: Ireland’s two main ports, Rosslare and Dun Laoghaire, are situated on the east coast of the country and lie 3-4 hours by road from Killarney. These ports mainly serve routes to and from the UK and north-west France.
Bus: Bus Eireann, the primary bus service in Ireland, runs multiple connections to and from Killarney every day, while many private coach operators also serve the town.
Rail: Killarney’s train station is served directly by Dublin and Cork, the two biggest cities in Ireland, with 7-8 services daily. You can also get trains between Killarney and Limerick, the nearest city to Shannon Airport, via connecting services.
Car: If you’re visiting Killarney on a driving holiday, two national routes - the N22 and N71 - pass through the town. The road network in Killarney and its surrounding regions is quite good, with fabulous scenery to enjoy in County Kerry. Speed limits are generally between 50 and 100 kilometres per hour (31-62 mph).
Things to do & see in Killarney
What to do
Embrace the adrenaline junkie in you and go rock climbing, paintballing, kayaking, abseiling or mountain hiking.
Spend some quality family time on activities like swimming, cycling or horse riding.
Immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty (including mountains and waterfalls) by going for a walking/driving tour or spotting rare animals and sea life on board a water cruise.
Go shopping in the town’s mixture of traditional and modern retail outlets.
Learn about the region’s past by visiting its plethora of historical sites.
What to see
Killarney National Park, the oldest of its kind in Ireland, is a haven of unspoilt scenery and captivating wildlife in its natural habitat.
Religious sites such as Derrycunnihy Church and Killegy Celtic Cross provide fascinating monuments to the historical significance of Christianity in the region.
Innisfallen Island, which lies 1.5 km off the coast of Killarney, maintains its traditional architecture and tranquil setting, making it ideal for a family day trip.
Beautiful waterfalls like Derrycunnihy Falls, Torc Waterfall and O’Sullivan’s cascade offer picturesque natural landscape for a refreshing walk.
Tourism & other industries in Killarney
Tourism is the most important industry for Killarney’s economy and it has more hotel beds than any other town or city in Ireland except Dublin.
Traditional industries like linen making, hosiery, shoemaking and pottery continue to hold great significance in the town.
Killarney is also a hub for contemporary industries such as financial services and retail.
Famous Killarney natives
Michael Fassbender – actor best known for his roles in 12 Years A Slave, Steve Jobs and multiple X-Men films
Sean Kelly – Member of the European Parliament
Colm Cooper – 5-time All-Ireland winner with Kerry’s Gaelic football team (Ireland’s national sport), known colloquially as ‘the Gooch’
Gillian O’Sullivan – former Olympic athlete and world silver medallist
Facts about Killarney
14,504: Population (as of last census in 2016)
640: Year in which Innisfallen Abbey, Killarney’s first significant historical settlement, was founded
8: Killarney was named as the 8th most popular tourist destination in the world by Trivago
26,000: Acres in Killarney National Park
€410 million: Income generated annually by the tourism industry in Killarney
3,100: Jobs generated by the tourism industry in Killarney