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After the stress of driving on the wrong side of the road, the disappointment of Galway the night before, and the seemingly constant rainy mist that followed most of our time outside of Dublin and obscured the Cliffs of Moher earlier that morning, I was in quite a mood when we arrived in Killarney, Ireland. Seriously. If I’m being truly honest, there were points during the hours of driving between the Cliffs and Killarney that I was questioning why I had ever even wanted to come to Ireland and, even more so, why I had thought we could handle a foreign road trip.
Thankfully, Killarney brightened up my mood – metaphorically because of its charm and literally because it was the first time we’d truly seen the sun all day.
Gap of Dunloe
No matter which way you come in, you get a spectacular view of what seems to be a valley between some mountains? We stopped here first as it was on our way to the city center of Killarney. Because the sign said that the road is not for cars (and a lot of reviews online agreed and reported a narrow road ripe for rental car damage) we decided not to drive to the top. Apparently, you can book a tour that involves taking a horse and cart up, which, if we had more time and more forethought, I definitely would have done. However, even just seeing it from afar was beautiful.
Located at the beginning of the road at the Gap of Dunloe, you can’t beat Kate’s Cottage in terms of price or atmosphere. Filled with a strange mix of tourists and locals when we were there, I appreciated their hospitality and their efficiency. Highly recommend if you need a snack or a mid-afternoon pick me up while you’re out that way. We treated ourselves to half-sandwiches and tea after the journey from the Cliffs all the way down to Killarney.
Our first stop in Killarney proper was to check into our glamping tent at Killarney Glamping. My sour mood had unfortunately tainted my expectations, as I was assuming that if everything else on the roadtrip portion of our itinerary had been lackluster, then glamping must surely follow. I was completely wrong. Not only was our tent beautiful, but Linda helped coordinate our day’s itinerary to ensure that we saw the most of Killarney, even though we arrived mid-afternoon. (Read my whole review of Killarney Glamping below.)
Located right on the water, Ross Castle has the type of scenery that you came to Ireland for. If I had to do everything over, I would get to the castle earlier, take the boat out for a scenic view of the area and then do the tour at Ross. Because our adventures in Killarney were last minute, we decided to not wait for the tour and just walked around. Ross is a small castle, so even if you stick to the free aspects of strolling the grounds and visiting the exhibit room, you’ll enjoy yourself and feel like you learned some Irish history.
Not too far from Ross Castle, Torc Waterfall sits about a kilometer or so up a very bumpy road, but don’t be too intimidated. It is made for cars so just take it slow, dodge the potholes as best you can, and be ready to yield to cars coming down (as there’s really only enough room for one). The waterfall is a ten(ish) minute walk from the parking lot, mostly at a slight incline except for the end which is straight down a bunch of stone steps. If you want to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, this is the perfect excuse. Both parking and the waterfall itself are free.
Originally I was a little confused that Linda from Killarney Glamping would send us to check out the old Muckross Abbey, but her recommendation was spot on. Google seems to have an incorrect idea of how to get there, so if it takes you to the fancy, gated parking lot for the Muckross House, you’re in the wrong place. (Although you can walk from there.)
The real parking lot for the Abbey is small piece of asphalt right off the main road. Walk through the iron gates and soon you should be able to see it in the distance. Per the internet, an Abbey is like a mini-monastery, and there are a few explanatory signs located around the ruins to help interpret your visit. It is also ringed by a cemetery that, judging from headstone dates, is still fairly active. Feel free to climb and explore – this is totally free and a really interesting example of old, stone architecture. It is spooky though, so make sure to get out before sundown.
A pub in downtown Killarney, JM Reidy’s used to be some sort of general store and the current owners kept that aesthetic. Apparently they have a great beer garden and serve food, but we got there too late for the food and never ventured out to the garden. However, I loved the general store vibe and it was a good place for a downtown drink while we decided where we wanted to go for dinner.
The Lane Café
While not all hotel restaurants are overpriced and generic, there are enough examples to prove my skepticism. However, The Lane Cafe was another Linda recommendation and we went, even though it is located in the Ross Hotel. While probably not the cheapest place in town, we enjoyed their modern feel and good food and would send others there for a nice meal.
While Killarney Brewing was not open while we were in town, The Lane does serve their beer on draft. Good taste with a smooth finish – we wish the actual brewery had been open!
Have you been to Killarney? Did you love it as much as I did?!