Whatever route you chose, base yourself in the lively town of Killarney for some culture and fun, before or after your hiking adventure.
Just a five minute drive or ten minute walk from the centre of Killarney, the Knockreer Circular Walk is a great way to explore the National Park. Circling around some of the most accessible parts of the park, the 5km trail follows a smooth paved path suitable for walking and cycling. There are a couple of reasonably challenging inclines, but the climbs are worth it for the wonderful views of Lough Leane and the MacGillycuddy Reeks.
Keep an eye out for red deer during your two-hour tour and stop at Deenagh Lodge for some well-earned refreshments afterwards. The quaint, thatched cottage café sits at the entrance to the park and is the natural start and finishing point for this walk which is a good choice to ease yourself into a few days walking in Kerry.
Park at Muckross House, 6km from Killarney town centre and give yourself two hours for this relatively challenging, but family-friendly walk. Follow the Old Boathouse Trail past heady views of mountains and meadows, by the scenic limestone cliffs of Dundag Point and panoramas of the Middle Lake.
After a steady climb through the trees, a series of stone steps leads you back down through the woods to the best viewing point of the powerful, 18m high Torc Waterfall. Continuing downwards, you’ll join the Lake Loop and return to the car park at Muckross House.
With its incredible views of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, Ross Castle is an intact 15th century fortress on the eastern shores of Lough Leane. Park at the castle and pick up your map of the 17-stop Ross Island Mining Trail which leads you around Ireland’s, and north western Europe's, earliest known metal mines.
History buffs love this loop, which should take you about 1.5-hours to complete. Historical mine ruins and encampments, as well as several specimens of rare trees and plants, are marked all along the 3km trail.
Seasoned walkers enjoy the Torc to Incheens two-hour route, which forms part of the much longer Kerry Way and meanders through the uplands of Killarney National Park. Starting out at the Upper Torc car park, you’ll follow the Old Kenmare Road across the wooden bridge over the Owengarrif River, before turning left down the leafy wooded trail.
The route navigates along a rustic boardwalk, river stepping stones and the occasional muddy, rocky patch, so make sure you bring your hiking boots. After a sharp descent, you’ll meet the public road where you turn right to return to Derrycunnihy Church. The church car park is the perfect place to leave a second car if your walk ends here. If you’re up for an extended trek, you could carry on from here to The Mass Path.
With a dramatic start, you’ll descend old wooden steps into lush forest as soon as you leave the car park at Derrycunnihy Church for this 1.5-hour route. Meander beneath ancient oak trees, cross trickling streams and wander by abandoned ruins. Quality walking gear is recommended for this terrain, which is rough underfoot and prone to flooding in winter months.
Soon you’ll meet a broader track, known as The Mass Path, which follows the shores of the Upper Lake, past mountain views to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. Look out for glimpses of the elusive White-Tailed Sea Eagle as you go. In summer, the café at Lord Brandon’s is a scenic lakeside spot where you can soak up the views with a welcome coffee. For the ultimate end to your day, head back to Killarney by boat, across the lakes to Ross Castle.
Whether you’re after a gentle, scenic stroll for all the family or a robust trek through some of Ireland’s most dramatic landscapes, Killarney National Park is waiting to be explored.