Excited to be hitting publish on my Ireland Guide part two today–Killarney! It is a very special place in our hearts due to family ties (more about that as we get further into the post!) but also just because it’s a magical place in and of itself. To me, Killarney is quintessential Irish charm. You get a little bit of everything here, making it a must-see destination for your Ireland trip. Keep reading for my guide with personal reccos as well as several recommendations from locals and readers alike! (Also, if you need help packing, here’s what I packed for our trip!)
*Asterisks denote personal favorites!
Killarney, Ireland Travel Guide
Planning a trip to Killarney? Here’s what you need to know!
*Asterisks indicate my personal favorites!
Grabbing a Bulmers (with ice, IYKYK) at Galway Hooker in the Dublin train station before hopping the train to Killarney
What’s the best way to get to Killarney?
If you’ve never been to Dublin before, I think it would be fun to see both as they’re very different and you get a little bit of everything–city, country, etc! Flying to Dublin is often the most economical as well, and there are several trains you can take from Killarney to Dublin. There’s also a cute pub called Galway Hooker inside the train station where you can grab a pint and something to eat if you have some time to kill in between when your flight lands and your train takes off! I definitely recommend making train reservations ahead of time save yourself some stress. There are lots of options available, but I believe the quickest one changes at Mallow (you’ll make one stop and only change trains once–it’s very easy) and gets you there in about 3 hours and 15 minutes. You can search trains here.
If you aren’t into seeing Dublin and would rather explore other places in Ireland, you could also fly into Cork and get to Killarney by train (an option maybe we’ll explore next time!), or you could fly into Shannon and get a car and drive about 1 hour and 30 minutes to Killarney. (You can either rent one or hire a driver/Uber, although that would be pretty expensive). I know there is also a bus but I’m not sure of that timetable! If you do plan to rent a car and don’t want to take a train, I’d say flying into Cork or Shannon are your best options because the drive from Dublin is about 4 hours.
Do you need to rent a car?
You certainly don’t need to, but it depends on how much time you have, how much you love to drive, and what kind of experience you want to have! Neal and I have been to Killarney twice and never rented a car. Driving on tiny, windy roads on the opposite side of the road is not our idea of fun, but some people love driving and don’t mind that at all, and like the added flexibility that a car provides.
How many days do you need in Killarney?
Both times we’ve been, we’ve had three nights and two full days there, and we are always left wishing for at least one more day. The great thing about Killarney is that the town itself is super charming, but there is also so much to see in and around the area and it’s a good spot to situate yourself for day trips and other fun excursions.
Now let’s get into some of the best places to check out while you’re there!
Where to stay in Killarney:
I think this depends on your preferences! If you’d like to be able to go out at night and walk home from the bars, be within walking distance to shops, cafes, etc–you definitely will want to stay right in the center of town. (There are lots of AirBnB’s and hotels to choose from, but I can’t speak to any of them personally!)
We stayed at the Lake Hotel, which is about a 25 minute walk into town, or a very quick cab ride. It had absolutely breathtaking views, as the name suggests, it’s right on the lake! Keep in mind that while it’s an easy cab ride into town, you just have to actually call one as there aren’t many out and about later at night.
A great thing about the location is it’s proximity to Killarney National Park, it’s just a few minutes down the street! It also has a big parking lot and plenty of parking if you’re renting a car, which is a big plus! You can check out photos here.
What to do in Killarney:
Best Killarney pubs:
- *Courtney’s (Uncle Liam’s favorite pub. It’s very cozy and charming inside!)
- O’Conor’s pub
- Danny Mann pub
- Martha’s Pub
- Muckross Pub
- *JM Reidy’s pub (a MUST for live music, dancing–it’s huge and like a maze inside. I’ve also always wanted to eat here!)
- *Killarney Grand: (also a don’t-miss for amazing live music in the front room, dancing and a DJ in the back room!)
- Kileen House
Above left: dinner at Bricin. I know this is the WORST photo but the boxty was so good! Above right: Late night at the Grand. This band was SO amazing!
Best restaurants in Killarney:
We asked several locals the best restaurant in town and they all said Bricin–and they weren’t wrong. It was a great meal! They’re famous for their boxty which is a savory Irish crepe. (I got the lamb curry boxty and it was so delicious!)
(Our family’s brewery! We are also investors, so obviously I’m biased, but it’s really fantastic) Amazing beer and great flatbread pizzas. (The Helles lager is my favorite!) They have a cute little back patio and the staff are amazing!
*Killarney Distilling Restaurant:
Killarney Brewing’s latest venture! (Why we were there–keep reading below!) Stop in for a tour or tasting (they make whiskey, gin, and beer here–tours should be opening very soon, but the restaurant is open now!), don’t miss the views from their rooftop and eat lunch or dinner at their beautiful swanky restaurant. Their restaurant was some of the best food we had in Killarney and it’s far and away the swankiest, most modern place to dine in the area! They also plan to offer live music.
Other honorable mentions that were recommended but we didn’t get to: Murphy Brownes and Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder. Also, Hotel Europe–which is just a bit outside of town, next to the distillery. It has some incredible views and is a great spot for a special lunch.
Things to do/see in/around Killarney:
A visit to Killarney Brewing & Distilling!
Some of the crew stopped before our Ring of Kerry tour to check out the progress of the facility!
The reason for BOTH of our last two Ireland trips: Killarney Brewing & Distilling!
Neal’s Uncle Liam (whose parents are from Killarney, he lives in Chicago) is one of the founders, along with his friends Tim O’Donoghue and Paul Sheahan (both from Killarney). They opened Killarney Brewing in 2015, and we went for the grand opening back then as well. It was such a success that they decided to move forward building a whiskey and gin facility–which we, along with other family members, invested in a couple years back, and this recent trip in July was the big reveal and chance for investors to get a chance to see the new facility before it opens to the public!
So, while, of course, I may be a little biased as a family member and an investor–this isn’t shameless self promotion–everything about it BLEW us out of the water, from the gorgeous design of the entire facility, to the beautiful restaurant with great food and great service, breathtaking views of the Gap of Dunloe from their rooftop, the live music accompanied by Irish dancers–this is absolutely a place you do NOT want to miss! (Luckily, it’s located right on the Ring of Kerry, not far from town–so it’s the perfect place to end your Ring of Kerry adventure or take a quick cab any other time!)
I recommend doing a tour as well as stopping for a drink on the rooftop (weather permitting) and coming here for a nice dinner. **As of now just the restaurant and gift shop are open, but the rest of the facility (tours, etc) are opening in a couple weeks!**
Also worth noting:
They will also have an event space soon, which is the only one of its kind that isn’t attached to a hotel, in case you’re wanting to plan an Irish wedding in the future! It wasn’t finished when we were there, but I’ve seen the plans for the space and they are beautiful, modern, and chic!
Ideas on how to best work your visit to KBD into your itinerary:
Go for drinks at the Europe Hotel (next door), followed by dinner at the distillery. (Both are an easy cab ride from town!)
End here for dinner after driving the Ring of Kerry. (Or at least for a pint to admire the views!)
Come for lunch after hiking the Gap of Dunloe (you can see the Gap from their rooftop!)
*Killarney National Park:
An absolute must not miss. (It’s also free–not like national parks in the states!) You can hike, bike, or horseback ride through the park! I highly recommend checking out Muckross House (Downton Abby vibes!) and Muckross Abby–old Abby ruins you can actually walk around in. So so cool. We rented bikes at Killarney bike rental (just down the street from the Lake Hotel) and only had about two hours to check out the park, but that was plenty of time. (Totally could’ve spent longer, but we felt like we saw enough in those two hours for it to be worth it!)
On your way back into town from your park visit, stop at the Lake Hotel on your way back into town for lunch or a pint and enjoy the beautiful views, or at Killarney Brewing for a flatbread and a pint!
Ring of Kerry:
The main attraction in this area and what brings most people to Killarney. The Ring of Kerry is a road that goes in a big circle around the countryside. We’ve only been here with a big group, so have done a big group bus tour of the Ring of Kerry, but you can also do it by yourself if you aren’t with a group. (This is one occasion I would want to rent a car for, granted the roads can be harrowing at times–I still think it would be worth it!)
Some things to note:
The tour busses all drive counterclockwise. To avoid the bus traffic, drive clockwise, as this also makes it easier to pull over and stop wherever you want. I would love to do the drive on my own because I know there are so many places that we’ve missed being with a big group. Also, it is a WINDY road–bring non-drowsy Dramamine and Sea bands. They will save you!
There are so many beautiful things to see along the Ring of Kerry from stunning views, beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and more. There are also lots of cute towns you’ll drive through–Kenmare and Sneem are two very cute spots worth a stop! This article gives a great overview of highlights, but some reader favorites include: Valentina Island, Skellig Michael (where Star Wars was filmed!), hiking the Gap of Dunloe, a visit to Derrynane beach, and the Ladies View overlook. (Keep in mind, you don’t have to do the *whole* ring of Kerry–each of these destinations could be excursions in themselves!)
How long to give yourself to do the Ring of Kerry?
I would reserve your whole day. This isn’t something you want to rush! Another thing I think would be cool is to rent a car and spend a couple days making your way around, staying in the smaller countryside towns, a quaint cottage, etc. How fun would that be! It would allow you to spend more time in certain places (like an afternoon at Derrynane beach, for example!) without rushing.
Above: Our first stop was at the Red Fox Inn for their famous Irish coffees. They were delicious!
Other must-do’s in the area according to readers and locals:
Daytrip to Dingle: Dingle is another popular destination within a short drive from Killarney. Some will tell you to rent a car and do a day trip to Dingle instead of the Ring of Kerry–but others say the opposite! Dingle is definitely at the top of my list for our next trip. This is my Father in Law’s favorite spot–he wants to rent a house in Dingle one summer soon!
Torc Mountain: Know to be another beautiful hike, one reader said this was her favorite thing she did while studying abroad in Ireland!
Shopping at Weavers of Ireland or Quill’s: Great place for an Irish sweater and other wool souvenirs. They’ll ship home for orders over $100!