Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park

South and west of the town of Killarney in Co. Kerry is an expanse of rugged mountainous country. This includes the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland which rise to a height of over 1000 metres. At the foot of these mountains nestle the world famous lakes of Killarney. Here where the mountains sweep down to the lake shores, their lower slopes covered in woodlands, lies the 10,236 hectare (26,000 acres), Killarney National Park . The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls under ever changing skies gives the area a special scenic beauty.



Killarney National Park, Ireland’s oldest National Park is located in Killarney, all the while adjacent to the town. Killarney is also Ireland’s Oldest National Park, formed in 1932 when Senator Arthur Vincent and his family entrusted Muckross House & Estate into the care of the Irish State. Now the focal point for many visitors to Killarney, Muckross House & Gardens has been entertaining as a 19th century mansion, containing all original pieces of furniture, artwork, trophies and many other furnishings from that period. The Park is currently managed jointly by the National Parks & Wildlife Services and the Trustees of Muckross House, Killarney.

  • House & Gardens
  • Walking & Hiking
  • Nature & Wildlife
  • Education Centre

The extent of the park’s range and rugged landscape is 26,000 acres, encompassing the infamous McGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Range which includes Ireland’s highest Mountain, Carrauntoohill standing at over 1,000 meters.

These mountains have known millions of footsteps over the years; other famous mountains include Torc (Waterfall), Mangerton, Purple and Tomies Woodland along with endless exploring of looped and park walks. Nestled within the woodlands and at the foot of these glorious mountains are the three world famous Killarney Lakes; Upper, Muckross and Lough Leane. The lakes, woodlands, waterfalls and living history are the ingredients that make Killarney National Park so unique, particularly when coupled with the ever changing light and skies that share in Killarney’s breathtaking scenery.

Killarney National Park was deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 due to the quality and high ecological diversity, extensive habitats and range of species found that in the park, some of which are quite rare. From an ecological perspective, the most important feature from a National and International perspective is the preservation of the native oak and yew woodlands as well as the evergreen trees, shrubs and lichens that thrive under Killarney’s climate. Along with housing the largest stretch of native woodland remaining in Ireland, Killarney National Park is also home to the only herd of native red deer. The red deer are believed to have a presence in Killarney, Ireland since the last ice age. In 1865, Sika deer were introduced from Japan; since their inception the group has increased considerably in size and reside throughout the National Park.

The Park is widely used for recreational activates; crowned as Ireland’s adventure capital there are plenty of thrilling sporting options to satisfy your appetite; trail running across Ireland’s most scenic mountain trails, climbing Ireland’s highest Mountain Carrauntoohill, canyoning etc. For the lesser octane souls, there are many enjoyable activities such as boat trips on the lakes and Innisfallen Island, beautiful leisurely walks, ideal family locations for picnics, cycling, discovering the nature trails and a lot more exploring.

Killarney National Park Wildlife

Among the mammals occurring within the National Park are otters (now rare in Europe), Stoats, Hedgehogs, Pygmy Shrews, Irish Hares, Rabbits, Rats, Wood Mice, House Mice, Badgers, Foxes, Red Squirrel and, since 1983, the American mink. In the past pine martens were occasionally recorded here and in recent times their population has been augmented by the release of pine martens from the healthy breeding populations of Co. Clare. Seven species of bat have also been identified within the Park. The Bank Vole, first identified in north west Kerry in 1964 has been present in Killarney since 1969. The uplands support the only remaining native herd of Red Deer in the country. A policy of total protection of these animals has been in operation in the National Park since 1964. The smaller Sika Deer from Japan were introduced into the area in the 1865.

The varied habitats of mountain moorland, woodland and lake, ensure that the Park supports a wide variety of bird species, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Raven occupy the uplands, with Peregrine Falcons, Merlins and Red Grouse occasionally seen. Chaffinch and Robin frequent the woodlands, while Heron, Mallard, Little Grebe and Water Rail breed about the lakes. The rivers and lakes are home to Kingfisher and Dipper. More recently, a former resident was re-introduced into the National Park – The White Tailed Sea Eagle. Once plentiful around Killarney and the southwest, this magnificent bird of prey became extinct in the early part of the 20th century and now thanks to a joint venture between National Parks and the Golden Eagle Trust, it is being gradually re-introduced. The Lakes, which in their present form are the result of glacial excavation during the last Ice Age, contain fourteen species of fish, including natural stocks of Brown Trout and Salmon. Of special interest is the Charr, a species of fish which usually occupies Sub Arctic lakes.


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