Ireland, Killarney National Park and Gap of Dunloe

Share it on:


Ireland, Killarney National Park and Gap of Dunloe

Share it on:

Page also available in:

Our road trip to Ireland continues in Killarney. Here we spend some time exploring the main town attractions such as Ross Castle, Muckross House and Muckross Abbey. But the highlight of Killarney is definitely the Killarney National Park, a large park characterized by a rich vegetation and three lakes with charming colors. So we explore the park through a funny and exciting adventure first by boat, along all the lakes and canals that connect them, and then by bicycle to the Gap of Dunloe, one of the most striking mountain passes in the area.

We love... Killarney!

After exploring the charming Drombeg Stone Circle and the surprising Garinish Island, we reach Killarney, County of Kerry. This small but vibrant village is one of the island’s most popular tourist destinations not only because of its many attractions – including Ross Castle, Muckross House and Muckross Abbey – but especially because it is located in the middle of a lush, protected park of more than 10,000 hectares – the Killarney National Park – featuring numerous lakes and lush, rich vegetation that you can explore on foot or by bicycle. We will stay here for a couple of days, during which we will visit the town and its main attractions. But for this part of our trip we are also planning a fun outdoor adventure: the Gap of Dunloe Tour by boat and bike! This is a semi-guided tour that takes visitors first along Killarney’s three lakes on a small boat and then by bicycle to the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow mountain pass that runs north-south in County Kerry. So, in this article, we tell you about all of these places and our bike exploration of the Gap of Dunloe, an experience we absolutely recommend you do not want to miss!

Our visit


Killarney is a small but interesting town located in County of Kerry and in the heart of Killarney National Park. The town has a long tradition of tourism – which is why it is definitely well organized, welcoming and hospitable – and is the perfect base for exploring the area or staying overnight before, during or after the must-do Ring of Kerry tour. The heart of Killarney is in its town center, a lively tangle of streets between New Street, Main Street and High Street, where you will find well-stocked stores open evenings, good restaurants and plenty of pubs with live music. If you decide to spend an evening here, you certainly won’t be bored. The city is a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer. But although it is never too chaotic, on summer evenings parking can become a problem. Therefore, our advice is to choose a hotel or one of the many B&Bs* close to the center, so you can walk to the heart of the city with a short stroll.

Ross Castle, Muckross House and Muckross Abbey

Killarney’s main points of interest are located just outside the town center, on the shores of the lake. You can reach them easily by car, but a good alternative is the bicycle (or for those less trained, the e-bike). There are several bike rentals in town. We suggest you use this one: excellent, well-maintained bikes and friendly service. However, it must be said that much of the bike route is on busy, vehicular roads, so although there are no particular risks, it is a good practice to pay the necessary attention to road traffic, especially at crossroads.
That said, here is some information on the main city sights not to be missed!

Ross Castle – Ross Castle is a distinctive 15th-century building located on the shores of Killarney’s Lower Lake and close to the city center. The name “Castle” may actually be misleading: in fact, Ross Castle is not exactly a “castle” but rather a tower house, an ancient fortified mansion built for everyday life and for the needs of protection and control of the territory. Built in the late 15th century by the local ruling clan – the O’Donoghues Mór – over the years it passed through the ownership of various families until it was abandoned and fell into ruin. Fortunately, a massive recovery project has enabled its restoration and made the building available for visitors once again. Ross Castle is normally open to visitors from March to October, from 09:30 to 17:45 (last admission 17:00) through guided tours of approximately one hour and leaving every 30 minutes. You will find the information at the entrance or at the ticket office. The entrance fee is € 5.00 per adult. More information can be found at this link.

Muckross House – Muckross House is a mansion house built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, Mary Balfour Herbert. However, the building visible today is the result of extensive refurbishments over the years, the most impressive of which were undertaken only a few years after construction in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861. Moreover, it is said that these improvements were the cause of the Herbert family’s financial crisis, which shortly afterwards led to the sale of the estate. But the real turning point for this elegant residence came in 1911, when Muckross House and its lands were sold to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy mining tycoon from California, who in 1932 decided to donate the building and its gardens to the Irish nation, thus enabling the establishment of the Republic of Ireland’s first National Park: Killarney National Park.
Muckross House is easily accessible by car or bicycle from downtown of Killarney. On site, you will find a large free parking. Just pay attention to the closing time of the gate to the park, normally reported along the entrance driveway. The mansion can be visited during the summer months between 09:15 and 19:00 (last entry 17:40), but in the winter months access hours are significantly reduced and end around 16:00. The entrance fee is € 7.00 per adult. More information can be found at this link.

Muckross Abbey – Muckross Abbey is certainly one of the most fascinating ecclesiastical sites in the region. Founded in 1448, this monastic site has had a troubled history and has been damaged and rebuilt several times. Today, although the building is roofless, it is generally well preserved and can easily explored. The most interesting part of the building the central courtyard, a magnificent cloister in the center of which stands a huge yew tree: truly scenic and impressive! Muckross Abbey is within walking distance of Muckross House. Therefore, our advice is to plan to visit both monuments on the same day. To get there, you can park your car at the large parking lot at Muckross House and continue on foot.
There are no opening hours for visiting the Abbey, as it is a monastic area with a cemetery attached and therefore always accessible to the public. However, if you have left your car at the Muckross House parking lot, don’t forget to pay attention to the closing time of the large entrance gate to the park, normally posted along the driveway!

Killarney National Park and Gap of Dunloe by bike

Killarney National Park is the first and oldest protected national park in the Republic of Ireland. Since its founding, the park has been greatly expanded and now covers more than 102 square kilometers, including the lakes of Killarney, several forests and the many mountain peaks in the area. Besides the three historical monuments mentioned above – Ross Castle, Muckross House and Muckross Abbey – the main attractions of the area are undoubtedly the three lakes: Lough Leane (Lower Lake), Muckross Lake and Upper Lake. But the nearby Gap of Dunloe – a mountain pass offering magnificent views of the valley and lakes – should not be overlooked either. The best way to explore the park is to get around on foot and by bicycle. But if you only have one day to spend, our advice is to take part in one of the “Bike on Boat” tours as we did. The tour starts from a small pier near Ross Castle. Here you will be taken aboard – together with your bike/e-bike – on a small motor boat that will take you to explore the three lakes of killarney and drop you off at Lord Brandons Lodge. The boat tour lasts about 90 minutes, after which you will be free to continue by bicycle to conquer the Gap of Dunloe, then return toward Killarney. The section of the bike route to the Gap of Dunloe is about 5 km and is on a steep road. Although it can be done (with some effort) even with a regular bicycle, if you are not particularly trained or simply want to enjoy the scenery without too much effort, our advice is to rent an e-bike. From the Gap of Dunloe, the journey back to Killarney continues for another 20 km on a road that is at first downhill (about 6 km) and then mostly flat to Ross Castle. Along the way you will have the opportunity to make several photo stops and have something to eat either at Lord Brandons Lodge or – at the end of the downhill section – at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. The bicycles are not included into the tour, so you will have to rent it on your own. As mentioned above, we went with this rental company: excellent well-maintained bikes and friendly service.
Here you can find more information about the tour we made and here you can find some more tour in this area. Instead if you want to see the map of our bike route, as always you can find it on Outdooractive.

How to get there

Arriving by airplane

See the location in Google Maps. Most travelers choose to reach Ireland by plane. The island’s main airports are located in Dublin and Cork – in the Republic of Ireland – and in Belfast – in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. However, the island is well connected to Switzerland and the rest of Europe by several flights of the national airline Aer Lingus, Swiss and, of course, the low-cost airline Ryanair. Dublin Airport is located about 11 km north of the city. If you have rented a car, the counters of the major rental companies are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Arriving by ship

See the location in Google Maps. Ireland can also be reached by ship, a popular option for those who enjoy on-the-road travel with their own car or caravan. Dublin has two harbor areas: Dun Laoghaire Terminal, southeast of downtown, and Dublin Port Terminal, northeast. Many companies connect the city with the United Kingdom. We suggest Stenaline, Irishferries, P&O Ferries. Alternatively, other companies connect Ireland with France (mainly with Cork, southern Ireland): Irishferries and Brittany Ferries.



Ross Castle is a monumental property managed by the Office of Public Work (OPW). This means that if you have decided to purchase the Heritage Card, you can access it for free. However, we recommend that you always check in advance if a reservation is required for your visit!


If you don’t feel like cycling to the Gap of Dunloe, you can also decide to walk it – about 11 km that can be covered in about two and a half hours – or by car, although the latter option does not, in our opinion, allow you to fully enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the place!


Are you planning an on-the-road trip to Ireland? Then read all our articles on the topic and if you have any questions or need additional tips let us know by leaving a comment below. We will get back to you as soon as possible!

Advertising note: this article contains affiliate links from our partners. Through affiliations, we give you the opportunity to access promotions and offers, often in advance or exclusively, for the purchase of products and services. At the same time, if you choose to buy from one of our partners, you will support our blog and help us to keep it open. Our opinions about the recommended products or our purchase advices are not influenced by the partnerships. If you want to know more about the way we handle advertising on this blog, you can visit this page.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep in touch

By receiving our newsletter you will be informed about our travels and hikes and will receive our tips directly in your mailbox!

Isn’t it enough? Here you can discover 6 more good reasons for subscribing to our newsletter!