Killarney National Park is Ireland’s oldest National Park. It covers 10,236 hectare (25,300 acres) of mountains, lakes, woods, and waterfalls. You can spot lots of birds and if you’re lucky even a herd of deer. Hiking Killarney National Park is a great way of exploring its beauty. Going on a guided walking tour with Ireland Walk Hike Bike however, will take your explorations to the next level with fascinating stories and interesting facts.
Hiking Killarney National Park with Ireland Walk Hike Bike
In October 2017 we went on a guided walking tour of Killarney National Park with Ireland Walk Hike Bike, as part of the TBEX Ireland conference in Killarney. Linda Woods, the founder of the company, picked us up at Muckross Park Hotel & Spa for a couple of hours of hiking Killarney National Park.
Entrance to Killarney National Park is free, but a guided tour isn’t. You can find the different Ireland Walk Hike Bike tours on offer on their website.
Our first stop while hiking Killarney National Park with Linda from Ireland Walk Hike Bike was Muckross Abbey. She told us all about the history of this impressive ruin that used to be an 15th century Irish monastery. It is located on the shores of the biggest of the Killarney Lakes: Lough Leane.
The abbey has been built around a yew tree, which is typically found in monastic settlements. Its dense needles cast a shadow beneath the tree and together with the toxins secreted from the roots and branches, that made sure nothing else grew in the vicinity. These natural open spaces were perfect for building large constructions like monasteries.
The yew tree in the middle of Muckross Abbey is believed to be almost 700 years old. The Celtics linked the yew tree with immortality and believed weapons forged with its wood would grant victory in wars. On top of that, its berries are toxic for both people and animals.
The graveyard around Muckross Abbey is still being used to this day. Not everyone can be buried here though, only families who already own a plot.
From Muckross Abbey we continued to Muckross House. This marvellous Victorian mansion, built in the 19th century, is now serving as museum. This grand estate is a famous part of Killarney National Park, situated on the shores of Muckross Lake, another one of the 3 Killarney Lakes. Even though it rained, the walk up was idyllic, with a horse and carriage (called jaunting car) passing us by.
An entrance fee applies to enter the building, but the charming gardens surrounding it are free to visit. As you would expect of rainy Ireland, the garden is very green, with an extraordinary Rock Garden on limestone rocks. It looks out over Muckross Lake, a breathtaking view. While wandering through the garden, Linda told us some more about the plants and the animals growing and living there.
Note that this is one of the touristic hot spots in Killarney National Park, with a souvenir shop, and lots of tourist activities. It’s for example the starting point of the jaunting cars, waiting to take you on a horse and carriage ride through the park.
Our last stop while hiking Killarney National Park was Torc Waterfall. Although it’s not the most impressive one we’ve seen (yes, we’ve been spoilt), it’s still worth a visit. Keep in mind that this 20 meter (70 feet) high waterfall is a popular stop among tourist busses, because it only takes a 5 minute walk to get there from the car park.
We didn’t know at the time, but apparently there’s another viewpoint looking out over the Killarney Lakes. Just climb the steps along the Torc Waterfall.
Animals in Killarney National Park
We spotted 2 types of mammals while hiking Killarney National Park with Linda from Ireland Walk Hike Bike. On our way to Muckross Abbey we passed a couple of Kerry cows. You can recognise this rare breed of native Irish dairy cattle by their short legs and black fur. They can survive in the mountains and go into semi-hibernation in winter, needing less food then normal.
It was interesting to learn about Kerry cows, but we were way more impressed by the herd of deer we spotted on our way from Muckross House to Torc Waterfall. We stood there watching them graze for a while from afar. Too bad we didn’t bring our binoculars to have a closer look!
About Ireland Walk Hike Bike
Ireland Walk Hike Bike is a tour company that aims to show visitors the Ireland that they know and love, helping them experience the country and meet locals. They offer both guided and self-guided tours, ranging from a couple of hours to 11 days. As their name suggest, you can opt for a walking, hiking, or biking tour.
We had a wonderful experience going on a walking tour through Killarney National Park with Linda, the founder of the company. She’s really passionate and has a lot of fascinating stories and interesting facts to share. A great way to explore the beauty of Killarney National Park, while learning a thing or two about it.
You can find everything about these tours and their rates on the Ireland Walk Hike Bike website.
Have you been to Killarney National Park yet? Went on a tour with Ireland Walk Hike Bike by any chance or explored it on your own? We’d love to read about your experience in the comments!
We didn’t have to pay for this walking tour through Killarney National Park with Ireland Walk Hike Bike, but our opinions are our own.
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