They are celebrated in song and the star of a million photos: The Lakes of Killarney are so famous you think you know them even if you’ve never set foot on Irish shores. Killarney’s Holiday Village is situated right beside Killarney National Park, which contains the three famous lakes, so it makes the perfect base for exploring them. And you don’t even have to get wet!
Make your way down to Ross Castle, (4.5km from Killarney’s Holiday Village) and you’ll have the choice of two waterbuses to tour the largest of the Lakes of Killarney. The Lily of Killarney and the Pride of the Lakes embark from the 15th-century castle and take you on a one-hour trip in comfort. Both are covered with outside areas and offer running commentary on the sights, including the monastic ruins of Innisfallen Island and the soaring backdrop of the mountains.
Kayaking the Lakes of Killarney is a tranquil way to experience their beauty up close. Companies such as Outdoors Ireland, Mor Active Tours, and Cappanalea Outdoor Centre all offer guided tours of the lakes accompanied by an expert guide. No previous experience is needed, as you will receive full training. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, however, and you will soon be paddling serenely on Lough Lein (the largest of the three lakes), discovering limestone caves, ancient forests, and the ancient ruins of Innisfallen Abbey.
Picnic on the Beach
Beach? Killarney? Legend has it that tonnes of sand were imported for the visit of Queen Victoria to Muckross House in 1861, but wherever it came from, there is golden sand at Dundag beach, in the grounds of the house. Relax and enjoy views of Torc Mountain and Dinis Cottage across the lake. It’s a popular swimming spot if you fancy a dip.
Boats from Ross Castle
If you don’t fancy the waterbus, or you want to see even more of the lakes, head back to Ross Castle and take a trip in an open boat from the pier there. The boatmen will take you to Inisfallen, where you can explore the monastic ruins, or, if you are there in the mornings, you can take a trip right through the three lakes to Lord Brandon’s Cottage near the Gap of Dunloe. This is ideal if you want to cycle through the Gap, as you can bring your bikes on the boat. Otherwise, you can hike through the Gap and get a shuttle bus back to Killarney.
If boats don’t appeal to you, but you still want to see the lakes, start at Muckross House and travel in an anticlockwise direction around Muckross (Middle) Lake until you get back to Muckross House again. This is a beautiful walk or cycle, taking in breathtaking views around every bend. Stop at the picturesque Brickeen Bridge, which marks the point where the lower and middle lakes meet. Have a coffee at Dinis Cottage, the delightful 19th-century lodge where boat trips from Muckross House stop.