Killarney National Park

The air was filled with the fragrance of wild flowers, and the Eye wherever it turned beheld a region of Delight, in which nature seemed to have unlocked all her treasures.  Lewis Dillwyn 1809

To the south and west of the town of Killarney, are the world famous Lakes of Killarney.  Killarney National Park, 10,289 hectares in extent, comprises the mountains and woodlands which surround these Lakes as well as the three Lakes themselves. The Park includes the peaks of Mangerton, Torc, Shehy and the Purple mountains while just to the west of the Park rise MacGillycuddy's Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland.

The nucleus of the National Park is the 4,000 hectare Bourn Vincent Memorial Park, formerly known as the Muckross Estate, which was presented to the State in 1932 by Mr. and Mrs. W. Bowers Bourn and their son-in-law Senator Arthur Vincent to be Ireland's first National Park. In recent years, lands and waters of the former Kenmare Estate have been added, including Knockreer, Ross Island, Innisfallen and the townlands of Glena, Ullauns and Poulagower.

In 1981, the Park was designated by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme as a Biosphere Reserve, part of a world network of natural areas which have conservation, research, education and training as major objectives.

Killarney National Park is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.


Human presence in the Killarney area dates back at least to the early Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago, when copper was first mined at Ross Island. In early Christian times, monastic settlements provide the main evidence of the occupation of the area.  The most important of these was the monastery on Innisfallen founded by St. Finian the Leper. The "Annals of Innisfallen", written there in the 11th-13th centuries, are a major source of information on the early history of Ireland.

Following the Norman invasion of Ireland the lands around the Lakes were held by McCarthy Mr and O'Donoghues of Ross.  Later the lands came into the hands of the Herberts of Muckross and the Earls of Kenmare respectively.  In 1911 the Muckross Estate was purchased by Mr. W. B. Bourn as a wedding gift for his daughter, Maud, on her marriage to Arthur Vincent.

Muckross Abbey, a Franciscan Friary, was founded in 1448 by Donal McCarthy Mor. These well-preserved ruins were the burial place of local Chieftains and, in the 17th and 18th centuries, of the Kerry Poets, O'Donoghue, Rathaille and S illebhin.


In the upland areas of the National Park, especially on the slopes of Torc and Mangerton, roam the only native herd of Red Deer remaining in the country.  Now numbering over 650, this herd has had a continuous existence since the return of Red Deer to Ireland, possibly with human assistance, some 4,000 years ago.  Japanese Sika Deer, introduced to Killarney in 1865, are found not only on the open mountain but also throughout the woodlands.  Most of the other native mammals, as well as the long established introduced species, occur in the Park.  Worthy of note is the Bank Vole, a species first identified in 1964 in north west Kerry from where its range has expanded and now includes the National Park.

With the varied habitats of mountain moorland, woodland and lake, the Park is rich in bird life.  On the uplands, the most common birds are the Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Raven.  Peregrine Falcons and Merlins are occasionally seen.  The woodlands support characteristic bird communities with the Chaffinch and Robin as the most common breeders.  The aquatic habitats are home for Heron, Mallard, Little Grebe and Water Rail which all breed around the Lakes, while the Kingfisher and the Dipper are frequently seen on the rivers and streams.  In both winter and summer, native bird populations are augmented by migrant species.  In winter, for example, a small flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese from the world population of around 12,000 feed in the Killarney Valley.

Natural stocks of Brown Trout and Salmon inhabit the lakes and fishing for these is free, subject only to the usual Salmon licence regulations.  The lakes also contain populations of Char, usually a fish of Sub- Arctic lakes, and of Killarney Shad, a small lake-dwelling form of Twaite Shad.

Within the National Park are the most extensive areas of natural woodland remaining in the country.  On the Old Red Sandstone of which the mountains are composed, are the native oakwoods, dominated by Sessile Oak with Holly and other evergreens as the under-storey.  On the low-lying Carboniferous Limestone on the lake edges, swamp forest is dominated by Alder, while on the limestone reefs of the Muckross Peninsula is a unique Yew Wood.  The mild oceanic climate permits a luxuriant growth of mosses and filmy ferns, many of them growing as epiphytes on the branches and trunks of the trees.  In the uplands, the Park contains interesting areas of bog and moorland vegetation.

Quite a number of plant species found within the Park have interesting or unusual geographic distributions and are of localised occurrence within Ireland.  These fall into four main categories;- Atlantic species, the North American element, Arctic-Alpine plants and very rare plants.  The Atlantic species are those found otherwise mainly in Southern and South-Western Europe.  Examples of these are the Arbutus, St. Patrick's Cabbage and Greater Butterwort. The North American element includes the Blue-eyed  Grass and Pipewort.


The most familiar part of the National Park is the Muckross Demesne, of which the focal point is Muckross House.  The House, built in 1843, is jointly managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Trustees of Muckross House (Killarney) Ltd., as a major centre for visitors.  The House, to which there is an admission charge, is presented primarily as a late 19th century mansion. The Trustees of Muckross House (Killarney) Ltd. is a not-for-profit voluntary body having charitable status, which operates under an agreement with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Close to the House is the recently developed Walled Garden Centre which is managed by the Trustees of Muckross House (Killarney) Ltd., under agreement with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This contains a restaurant, craft shop and workshops for craft workers and looks out onto a formal parterre and Walled Garden.  Muckross Gardens, are renowned for their fine collection of rhododendron species and hybrids and azaleas.  There is an extensive water-garden and a rock-garden on a natural limestone outcrop.  Many tender and exotic trees flourish in the mild climate and sheltered location around the large expanse of informal lawn and in the Arboretum.  

A pedigree herd of Kerry cattle, once the dominant breed in Ireland, graze the demesne grasslands while on the hill overlooking Muckross House are sited the Muckross Traditional Farms, an evocation of farm houses and farming practice in Kerry in the 1930s.  The Traditional Farms, for which there is an admission charge, are open to visitors from mid-March to October and are managed by the Trustees of Muckross House (Killarney) Ltd.

For more information see:


Knockreer Estate, which is close to the town of Killarney, is the northern portion of the former demesne lands of the Earls of Kenmare.  There are several pleasant walks through pasture and woodland and along the shores of Lough Leane.  Knockreer House and its surrounding gardens command fine views of Lough Leane and the mountains beyond. It is now used as the National Park Education Centre catering for students of all ages from primary school through to college students. Further details of all the services provided at  Knockreer House can be obtained by contacting
Killarney National Park Education Centre,
Knockreer House,
Co. Kerry,
Phone/Fax +353 64 35960


The Killarney National Park Visitor Centre at Muckross House is the main Information Office and is open on a year round basis.  It includes an audiovisual introduction to the Park and exhibition area showing features of the ecology of the Park.  Publications on sale include booklets for the self-guiding nature trails, illustrated guide books and a large scale Ordnance Survey map of the Park. A coffee shop and restaurant is open all year in the Walled Garden Centre close to Muckross House.

For further information please contact Killarney National Park, Muckross, Killarney.
Location:   6.5km from Killarney on N71 (Kenmare Road).
Telephone:   +353 64 31440
Facsimile:   +353 64 37565
Also see:

Opening Arrangements:

November - Mid March; Daily 9:00 - 17:30
Mid March - June; Daily 9:00 - 18:00
July and August; Daily 9:00 - 19:00
September and October; Daily 9:00 - 18:00

Gardens open all year round

Mid March - April; Sat, Sun (and Bank Holiday) 13:00-18:00
May; Daily 13:00-18:00
June and September; Daily 10:00-19:00
October; Sat, Sun (and Bank Holiday) 13:00-18:00

Please note last admission is 1 hour before closing. All groups of 10 people or more must be pre-booked. The House and Farms are closed for one week at Christmas. An information Office at Muckross is open throughout the year. Average length of visit is 3 hours (incl. House and farms).

Admission Charges: 

(A) Muckross House OR Muckross Traditional Farms (i.e. Single Tickets):

Single Adult €5.75

Single Group & O.A.P. €4.50

Single Child/Student €2.35

Single Family €14.50

(B) Muckross House AND Muckross Traditional Farms (i.e. Joint Tickets):

Joint Adult €8.65

Joint Group & O.A.P. €6.50

Joint Child/Student €3.90

Joint Family €22.00


  • Group Rate: The group rate applies to twenty visitors or more and when payment is made by a single transaction. Groups of ten or more must have advance reservations.
  • Child/Student Rate: The child/student rate applies to children and students up to the age of eighteen and thereafter to students in full time education on production of a valid and current student identity card. Children under six years of age are admitted free of charge.
  • Family Rate: The family rate applies to a group of two adults and a reasonable number (usually up to four) of their children aged eighteen years and under.
  • There is no admission charge to the National Park, National Park Visitor Centre or Gardens.

For more information see:

Jaunting Cars:- A traditional feature of Killarney, jaunting cars are available for hire in the town and at other locations adjoining the National Park. Most jaunting car routes pass through parts of the National Park.

Motor Cars:- Cars may enter Muckross Demesne by the Muckross House gate, the opening hours of which are displayed at the gate. Visitors in cars to other areas of the Park have access from several car parks and lay-bys along the public roads.

Pedestrians:- Many parts of the National Park are accessible only on foot.  As well as the Nature Trails, there are many developed paths and roadways.  The outlying areas are suitable for hill-walking but visitors are urged not to venture alone into remote areas.

Killarney National Park exists to conserve significant parts of our environment in a natural state.  Please help to protect the Park for future generations by observing the Park by-laws. We ask you especially to observe the following points:-

* Please remove all litter from the Park or place it in the bins provided.

* Please do not pick flowers or damage plants. Leave them for others to enjoy.

* Please keep dogs firmly under control. Their scent will scare wildlife and reduce your chances of seeing animals.

* Please do not bring guns into the Park. Wildlife is strictly protected.

* Please do not light fires. A fire is easily lit, but much harder to put out once it gets out of control.

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