A bucolic refuge with breathtaking scenery just steps from the fracas of Killarney, this national park is the most essential stop along the Ring. If peace and quiet is what you seek, you could skip the Ring altogether and spend the whole day here. Cars are banned from most of the ferny trails, so take a hike or hire a “jarvey,” or “jaunting car”—an old-fashioned horse-and-buggy available at not-too-steep prices. The drivers congregate behind the visitor center at Muckross House.
Within the park’s limits are two estates, Muckross and Knockreer, along with the romantic remains of medieval abbeys and castles. At almost every turn, you'll see Killarney's own botanical wonder, the arbutus, or “strawberry tree,” plus eucalyptus, redwoods, and native oak.
For many, the main attractions are the park’s three lakes. The largest of these, the Lower Lake, is sometimes called Lough Leane or Lough Lein, translated as "the lake of learning". It’s more than 6km (3 3/4 miles) long and is dotted with 30 small islands. The most celebrated of Killarney's islands, Innisfallen, seems to float peacefully in the Lower Lake. Nearby are the Middle Lake or Muckross Lake, and the smallest of the three, the Upper Lake.
The main visitor center for the park is at Muckross House and is clearly signposted from the main Ring of Kerry Road (N71), a couple of miles south of Killarney. Drop by here to pick up maps and other information about the park to explore the many walking trails. The visitor center is open daily from 9am to 5:30pm; hours may vary in winter.