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2 Days in Killarney, Ireland

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Article author: michael
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This is the 2nd part in my Ireland 2019 series.

You can view my overview page with links for all the cities I stopped at.


Killarney was the absolute highlight of my trip. I didn’t know it would be when I was planning my trip to Ireland, and in fact I wasn’t even familiar with Killarney prior to this trip, but it definitely became one of my most memorable travel experiences ever.

Day 5 - May 25th

Catching a train from Dublin to Killarney

Day 5 started with me leaving Dublin, to take a train from Heuston station to Mallow station in county Cork, and then switching trains to head to Killarney station, county Kerry.

The train ride took about 3 hours, and was quite peaceful … well at least the Dublin -> Mallow portion was. For the Mallow -> Killarney portion, a stag and hen party hopped on, and well, it wasn’t so quiet and peaceful anymore!

The views are stunning though, as of course you’ll get to see some of the countryside, and Irish countryside is some of the most beautiful in the world. I was sitting next to an older couple for the journey, and had some nice conversations with them for the duration. They actually lived in Killarney and were returning home.

Neptune Town Hostel

After arriving at the train station in Killarney, I headed straight to my hostel by foot. It wasn’t a long walk, only about 10 minutes or so.

Killarney streets

I think one of the first things I noticed about Killarney is how pretty the streets are.

Killarney streets

It really did seem like a cozy little village. But I suppose that’s because it’s a tourist hot spot?

Killarney streets

Navigating to the hostel from the train station wasn’t that difficult, but I did initially have a bit of trouble locating exactly where my hostel was as it was kind of tucked away behind a street.

Neptune Town Hostel sign

I prefer to book private rooms when travelling, and this was by far the most modern and clean I had while in Ireland. It was also really nice and quiet, so I was able to get a good nights rest when I went to sleep.

The private rooms were in a separate building from the main hostel where the dorms and dinning areas were, which is probably why it was so calm and quiet in the building I was in.

My room

My room

I checked in as quickly as I could, and then rushed out to try to salvage what time I had left of the hop-on hop-off bus tour before it was too late.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

I tried to plan things out well enough while still in Montreal, but of course miscalculations sometimes happen, and in this case I hadn’t calculated enough time for the hop-on hop-off bus tour after arriving by train in Killarney. There simply wasn’t enough time as I arrived in Killarney near end of day.

I was under the impression when booking the bus tour that you could hit all the stops at any point of the day based on their posted schedule. What I didn’t quite understand, and this is on me, was that some of the time-slots on the schedule are for taxiing/pick-up only - meaning it’s a pick-up service for tourists that previously got off at one stop and were heading to another. To make it worse, because I ended up arriving in Killarney so late in the day, I had actually only made it in time for the very last time slot, which was a pick-up for every stop except the last!

The driver was awesome though, and super kind. He explained to me what I had failed to understand about the time-slot I made it for, and that this was essentially the 2nd-to-last pick-up of the day. Despite that though, he offered to wait a brief amount of time for me at each stop, up to about 10 minutes each time, as beyond that it would mess up the very last return pick-up from Muckross House.

He did tell me though that my best bet was to head straight to Muckross House, as that was definitely worth seeing, and even more so the Abbey nearby. He advised me I probably wouldn’t have enough time to visit the Abbey if I visited one of the other stops. I took his advice and quickly darted out to take a few quick shots at Ross Castle,

Ross castle

Ross castle

Ross castle

And he waited for me as I quickly darted out to see Torc waterfall.

Torc waterfall

The main attractions though were Muckross House and Abbey, which is where he suggested I spend the little time I had before the last pick-up to take everyone back to the start point.

Muckross House

Unfortunately, Muckross house wasn’t open for visiting, as I had missed the opening hours, and tours are by booking only, so I just walked around the house and appreciated the absolutely gorgeous gardens.

Muckross House

Muckross Gardens

Muckross Gardens

Once I’d walked around the gardens a bit, which I did at a slightly quick pace, I started trying to figure out how to get to the Abbey.

There was an info booth to the left of Muckross house, so I eventually headed there to get some directions. Turns out there’s a path to follow, albeit a slightly inconspicuous one, that does eventually lead to the abbey. We’re talking maybe a 5-10 minute walk, but it’s hidden by the landscape, and so not initially obvious where it is from the house.

So I headed over there, and once the abbey came into view, I was glad the tour bus driver had suggested I spend most of my time there.

Muckross Abbey

I very much love old ruins, and old architecture in general. Crazy to imagine when these places would have been at their full splendour.

The roof is missing from the structure, but the walls are very well intact in most of the abbey, and the architectural details are really beautiful.

Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey

There was also an internal courtyard, which had a nice old tree growing in the middle of it. It was hard to get decent shots of it from my mobile phone though. The two pics below show the archways/columns surrounding the courtyard, and then the old tree within it.

Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey

After that I made my way up to the second floor, which was in surprisingly good shape and had decent square footage.

Muckross Abbey

There was also a narrow stairway leading to small third floor room, but it was quite dark and difficult to get a decent shot with my camera, so I’ve left it out.

I would highly recommend visiting the abbey if you visit Killarney and like old ruins. It’s really quite beautiful, and a nice structure to explore.

Upon leaving the abbey to explore the exterior quickly, I ran into a tourist from Switzerland, and we struck up a conversation on the way to catch our bus back into town. Once back at our hostels, we headed out to grab a bite to eat at Quinlans Seafood Bar, and I was able to convince her to join me on my Gap of Dunloe tour the next day, which was fantastic as I was hoping to find someone to join me!

Day 6 - May 26th

Gap of Dunloe tour

On day 6 I had my Gap of Dunloe tour, something I had been looking forward to, but even more so now that I had a hiking partner to join me. I had a quick breakfast at the hostel, got my things ready, and then waited to be picked up by the tour operator.

I thought it would be like the typical tours where a big tour bus comes to bring you to the destination, but was pleasantly surprised when it was more of a small van that came to pick us up. There was only one other couple in the van when we got picked up, and then we headed to our start point.

There are a few options you can choose, and the tour starts either from Kate Kearney’s Cottage or Ross Castle. I believe they have starts at both locations to allow them to stagger the boat rides, but basically if you start from Kate Kearney’s Cottage, you end with the boat ride, and if you start from Ross castle, you end with the hike to Kate Kearney’s Cottage. For the hike, you can decide to take one of those horse-drawn carriages (jaunting car) or a pony, or hike like we did.

Gap of Dunloe

If you choose the jaunting car or pony though, that’s an extra (and quite steep!) cost paid separately to independent operators, and apparently the charge is per person. Some of the reviews I saw online seemed to note different people were charged different amounts for the jaunting car ride, so looks like you might want to haggle the price if you go for that option.

My partner and I both love hiking, and neither of us had the steep funds needed for the jaunting car, so we stuck with the hiking option.

We began our hike, mostly alone, and were some of the few actually going by foot. Most took either the jaunting car, a pony, or simply drove - which I initially thought (I’m pretty sure I was told) wasn’t allowed, so was a little surprised and frankly, a little annoyed, to see.

Gap of Dunloe

Of course we passed many flocks along the way. Some grazing, and some just chilling enjoying the views.

Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe

The views truly were spectacular, and went on far into the distance.

Gap of Dunloe

The hike is about 11 km, and takes you through plenty of scenic fields, streams, and mountains. It’s so hard to narrow down the pics to only a handful though, there’s just so much beautiful scenery along the way.

Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe

We had started at a pretty leisurely pace, really taking in the views and taking tons of pics, but we weren’t quite sure if our pace was working for the time-limit of the tour.

Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe

We had about 3 hours to hike from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, which is where the boat would pick us up.

Gap of Dunloe

But as we kept walking, it didn’t seem like we were getting any closer to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. We started to pick up the pace, looking for a fork in the road where we were told we needed to head left.

Gap of Dunloe

I was afraid at some point that we may have made a mistake and went the wrong way? But nope, I guess we really had just been taking our time!

Finally after what was probably easily approaching 3 hours, we hit the last stretch before the fork.

Gap of Dunloe

Despite having to pick up the pace a little, we did manage to get a ton of amazing pictures, which isn’t hard given the landscape!

The other couple we met during the pick-up were waiting for us when we got to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. They had opted for the jaunting car ride, so made it there with plenty of time to spare.

Dux, the boat operator company who would take us across the lakes, came and greeted us and brought us to the boat. Once we were all in the boat and had our life vests on, we headed out!

Gap of Dunloe

Our driver was the son (or was it grandson?), and now current owner, of the original founder of this family business. He was absolutely hilarious and pointed out some of the native bird species along the way, and told us about some of the over-fishing that had taken place and subsequent laws put in place to now limit the fishing.

Gap of Dunloe

He was super passionate about the local ecosystems and had tons of info about the lakes and plant and animal life inhabiting them. He was also responsible for my newfound love of cider!

Gap of Dunloe

After an incredible hike, and amazing and fun boat ride, we arrived at Ross castle, and the end of our journey.

Tour Verdict

Did I mention already how much I loved this tour???
I’m so honestly glad that I booked it, as it was definitely the highlight of my trip to Ireland.

I will say though that for me, having someone along to share it with was part of what made it so great. It would still have been amazing alone, so I think it depends on your character and what travel style you prefer, as the scenery is just that incredible. Of course you’ll need to like hiking as well, unless you want to shell out the cash for the jaunting car - which from what I read, is possibly around €50 - €100 per person!

But the mountains, nature, and lake views and boat ride were unbeatable!

Ending an amazing day at Marguerite’s Bakery & Restaurant

After arriving at Ross castle at the end of the boat ride, our bus drove us back to town, and we looked for a nice spot for a relaxing dinner.

We found Marguerite’s Bakery & Restaurant, and it looked nice and cozy, and the menu quite good, so we headed in.
After speaking with the boat driver and his love of ciders, I was really craving one myself. I ordered a chicken curry, and decided to have a cider along with it.

The chicken was tender and juicy, and the curry was creamy and full of flavour. My friend decided to go with a simple burger and fries, and it was really delicious as well … made me wonder if I’d made the right choice!

Some curry and a pint of cider

It ended up being the perfect way to end a truly amazing day, and one that has become one of my most memorable experiences ever.

If you come to Ireland, I highly highly recommend taking the Gap of Dunloe tour - either directly from Killarney, or I believe you can find some from other parts of Ireland. Whether by foot like us, or by jaunting car, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking and it’s a truly unforgettable experience.

Up next the following day was my time in Cork!

Until next time,
michael 😀

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