Exploring Killarney National Park on Your Ireland Family Vacation
You will need two things before you drive into Killarney National Park with Kids. The first is Dramamine. The second is a sword. Yes, you read that right. You will need a sword on your Ireland family vacation.
I don’t know what possessed me to fly to Dublin by myself with my two boys, ages five and eight at the time. We were originally going to hang out for a day or two in Dublin with my parents before heading south, but thanks to a freak spring snowstorm, flights got screwed up.
Our plans changed. I headed south the day after we landed.
I just needed to get out of the city. This was going to give us more time to get over our jet lag in Ireland. We’d also have more time in Killarney, which I’d been trying to figure out.
After all, Killarney National Park deserved more than an hour of our time.
Killarney National Park Hotels
We were staying at the Old Weir Lodge, just outside of Killarney National Park. We were literally five minutes from many of the sites in the park. Our family room was massive, especially by European standards.
Restaurants were an easy walk or drive away. Downtown Killarney was also an easy distance, although we never actually got there. We were too busy visiting the natural beauty that Ireland had to offer.
Old Weir Lodge Killarney, Muckross Rd, Dromhale, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland.
Large family rooms and a full breakfast make this the perfect hotel to call home when you are visiting Killarney and exploring the Ring of Kerry. Family rooms include a queen bed plus two twin beds, a small table with chairs, desk and bureau. The bathroom is even large enough for a family of four to all brush their teeth at the same time.
Breakfast includes a cold buffet of assorted fruits, pastries and cereals. Hot items can be ordered off the menu from the wait staff, along with coffee, tea and hot cocoa. Oh, and get ready for your kids to be doted upon. The wait staff is ready to adopt your kids as their surrogate nieces, nephews and grandkids.
Packing for Killarney National Park
Yes, you need to pack when you go into a national park. Just like when you visit U.S. national parks, there are a few things you want to bring with you. There isn’t a convenience store every five minutes, although there are little rest areas and cafes at various points along the route.
You will want water and snacks for those hungry kids. Make sure your camera batteries are charged as well.
Pack up that rain gear for any weather that will blow through, as well as sweatshirts. You will be going up in elevation. It will get chilly.
Dramamine, or an anti-nausea/ motion sickness medication, is a must for adults and children who may get car sick on the small, winding roads that take you through Killarney National Park. My oldest gets car sick, and more than once he complained about his stomach acting funny. Even his little brother had to have one children’s Dramamine tablet to keep that funny belly at bay.
Killarney National Park with Kids Packing List
- Plastic Sword (like this one)
- Dramamine (motion sickness medication)/ Children’s Dramamine
- Sweatshirts/ coats
- Waders/ Rain boots (love these lined ones for kids)
- Hiking shoes (we love these waterproof ones)
*Note: If you are driving, PLEASE do not take Dramamine or a motion sickness medication. It can and will make you drowsy. You can take these ginger tablets to help settle your stomach though. They will not make you nod off on the road.
Where to buy swords in Killarney National Park
You will have to go to the town of Kenmore to pick up swords. While there are a few shops in Killarney that carry them, it is more of an adventure to grab swords down in Kenmore.
This will also get your kids out the door and excited to explore. If they just can’t wait, drive straight to Kenmore and then backtrack to see all of the sights in Killarney National Park.
Planning out your time in Killarney National Park
It is actually pretty easy to explore Killarney National Park with kids. Like many other national parks, it requires some driving to get to each hike. There are some nice maps in the free Killarney tourist books. Your hotel will be able to point out the family-friendly trails.
We did a few, but more often than not just pulled over and started climbing rocks when we saw a magnificent view.
Since Killarney National Park is on the Ring of Kerry, it is very easy to get sucked into driving the Ring, when all you meant to do was explore the park. With that in mind, I knew that the farthest we would go was Kenmore our first day.
We had to find swords, so we had our destination in mind. We timed it out so we would be headed back to our hotel by mid-afternoon. I wanted to be off the road by dark. It was only my second day driving in Ireland. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be driving on the opposite side of the road with tour busses quite yet.
Read all about driving in Ireland with a U.S. License
Killarney National Park Dark Sky Preserve
Did you know that there is a Killarney National Park Dark Sky Preserve? Yup! What does this mean? It means that light pollution is kept to a minimum so that star gazing can be possible.
If you do decide to stay until dark, you can stop here on your way back to Killarney from Kenmore. Pull over and get ready to gaze at a sea of stars you might not glimpse at home if you live in the city.
Killarney National Park Itinerary
Drive from Killarney to Kenmore with these major stops in mind. We’ll dive into why they are important later on.
- Ross Castle
- Muckross Abbey
- Muckross House and Gardens
- TORC Waterfall
- Old Weir Bridge
Snack Stops along the Ring of Kerry
Even though you are exploring Killarney National Park, you are still driving the Ring of Kerry. This has its benefits, mainly in the form of a few snack stops and pull offs along your route. It also means you will have restroom access as you drive. Take advantage of these stops as some are far between each other.
Lepruchan’s Crossing is the sign you will notice as you cruise by this little café and gift shop. Don’t worry, there is a spot to turn around about 3 minutes down the road. And you will want to turn around.
The views from here of the lakes below are worth a look. Let the kids climb over the rocks across the street from the café for a bit. Take your photos, and even do some hiking. If it is raining, be careful; the rocks are slick.
Avoca has a shop at this stop, so get ready to try on a few things and load up on Irish goods. It’s hard to resist. Sheep are also a big draw for the kids as there are pastures right out front. A cafe is also inside if you need to grab a bite for lunch.
What to do in Kenmore with Kids
Once you arrive in Kenmore you will wish you had booked a night in this cute town teaming with restaurants. By this point you have already had lunch and probably want to turn around before dinner. You will be kicking yourself because the dinner menus at the restaurants are amazing.
Don’t fret. Grab some ice cream and start walking the town.
While your kids eat ice cream outside, pop into the boutique shops, pick up Hunter rain gear we just don’t see in the U.S., and wishing you had a larger suitcase to bring home sweaters, furniture and antiques.
Major Stops in Killarney National Park
Now that you have an overview of your drive from Killarney to Kenmore, it’s time to dive into the major sites along the way. While each stop could be a day trip all their own, you can spend an hour at each stop too. Just know that this will be a gloss over visit. You will have to skip some tours, and not every attraction can be visited in one day. Spots closer to Killarney can be saved for another time when you want to stick close to your hotel.
Photo via Twenty20
Ross Castle in Killarney was originally the home of Irish Chieftain O’Donoghue Ross in the late 15th Century. While the castle is only open to the public April through October for a fee (includes guided tour), you can still wander the grounds throughout the year. Views of Lough Leane are quite pretty, and you can get a peek at Inisfallen Island. Boat tours around the lakes of Killarney are also available and go near Ross Castle if you just want to catch a glimpse.
Muckross Abbey is a nice site to wander with the kids, as there is no guided tour or entry fee to worry about. You can wander through the ruins of the Franciscan friary from about the 15th century. The Cloisters are still in great shape, and you can climb a few stairs to get a view of the lakes beyond. There is an active graveyard, where locals are still being buried today (no ghosts that we know of are wandering about. That is not what makes it “active.”)
Keep in mind that the parking lot is a bit of a walk from the Abbey and just off the N71 road. Bundle up the kids if it’s chilly. Put on your rain boots as the path can be muddy once you get to the Abbey. Most of the path is paved, so if you have a stroller, you can use it for younger children until you get to the Abbey.
Jaunty car rides are available in the parking lot if you would rather hop in a horse and cart for a tour.
Start planning your first trip to Ireland with our handy checklist
Muckross House and Gardens
Muckross House is open year round to the public, and accessible via guided tour throughout the day. Even if you don’t tour the home, the grounds within Killarney National Park, sitting on Muckross Lake are worth visiting. However, you won’t have access to the incredible gardens design for a visit from Queen Victoria. The Sunken Garden, Rock Garden and the Stream Garden will be worth the price of admission.
This is one attraction that you could spend all day visiting. There are multiple pieces to the property, including Muckross farms, the house, gardens, a garden restaurant, and both weavers and potters on site.
Muckross Traditional Farms
Just down the road from Muckross House you can learn about local farm life at Muckross Traditional Farms. The Farm Animal Petting Area and bouncy castle allows children to get hands on after being so good in the Victorian home you made them tour. Three working farms are available to tour, so you and your family can learn what life was like in Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s in rural Ireland.
Stop at Torc Waterfall in the morning if at all possible. You will be driving on the left, so the pull off will be easier to make. The crowds will not have gathered yet either. Afternoons see the parking lot filled with tour buses, however, if you get there late enough, you may miss the buses. It’s kind of a luck of the draw.
Park in the lot and make your way down the path. It’s very clearly marked. You can bring a stroller, but it is much easier to pop the baby in a carrier and walk in. Let the kids run along the Owengarriff river path, while you stroll along taking in nature’s beauty.
The waterfall is at the base of a set of steps. Climb up the steps for views of the lakes and valley below, but remember you have to climb back down those steps. If the kids’ legs start to get tired, you might want to turn around, especially if you have just started your journey. You have a long way to go.
Entry is free, and there are restrooms at this stop. Take advantage of the restrooms before you get back in the car.
Old Weir Bridge
For those who have the time, the Old Weir Bridge is a fun hike to do, even with kids. It is about a 25-minute hike (for adults) from the parking lot of N71. It is not clearly marked, so make sure you ask the front desk at your hotel or B&B for a map with directions. Everyone in town knows this hike. Follow the path to Dinis Cottage. It is the closest landmark to the bridge.
Why are you going to this bridge? Well, it is picturesque, in the middle of the woods, and a nice hike for the family. It is also one of the oldest structures in Killarney, and a special spot in the park. You just have to find it to know what we mean.
Looking for a Killarney Hotel? Check out the following!
- Old Weir Lodge– Large family rooms, great staff.
- The Lake Hotel– #1 Best Value on TripAdvisor
- Muckross Park Hotel and Spa– Spa and a pool, what more could you want?
- The Fairview– Boutique-style hotel in the heart of the city
- Killarney Royal– Walkable to many town attractions
Looking for more? Search for a great deal on Booking.com on the map below!
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