IRELAND&UK SERIES-Part 5: Killarney National Park and Muckross Park Hotel & Cloisters Spa

When you visit a country as beautiful as Ireland, it is nearly impossible to choose a favorite part of the trip. However, I was so enamored by Killarney National Park that I think I would have to choose it as my favorite. The owner of our B&B tried to tell us that there was no need to go to Killarney because “all it has is mountains, lakes, and forests,” but for this Florida girl, that is heaven! Alex and I stayed at Muckross Park Hotel & Cloisters Spa, another 5 star hotel that we booked through Travel Pony. Click here to sign up for a Travel Pony account. When you sign up using this link, you will get $35 in travel credit towards your next booking!

Beautiful Killarney National Park

The Muckross Park Hotel is a beautiful and relaxing hotel that was originally built in 1795 and has since been expanded into the hotel that it is today. The hotel includes 3 restaurants: the Yew Tree Restaurant, Molly Darcy’s, and Monk’s Lounge. The hotel is also home to Cloisters Spa, winner of a World Spa Award for Best Destination Spa in Ireland. Unfortunately we weren’t staying long enough to take advantage of the spa, but it looked amazing (and prices were reasonable!).

Our room at the Muckross Park Hotel
One of the many seating areas in the hotel lobby
Cloisters Spa

One of my favorite parts about traveling to Europe in the summertime is the amount of daylight. The sun rises at 5 and sets at nearly 10, making for plenty of daylight for activities and adventures. We arrived at The Muckross in early afternoon and set off to hike around the Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park. As soon as we started the hike, Alex and I were both amazed by the sheer amount of green we saw. I’ve never seen more green in my life and I will never forget the incredible beauty of the forest. The hike to Torc Waterfall is only about a quarter-mile or so, but the falls themselves are very impressive. There are several trails beyond the waterfall that connect throughout the park (see the trail map here) in a loop for a few miles. We started the loop, but weren’t sure how long it was so ended up hiking out and back to the top of Torc Mountain. It was a beautiful trail and we saw some gorgeous views from the mountain peak.

So much green!
Me in front of the Torc Waterfall
Alex in front of the Torc Waterfall
View from the top of Torc Mountain
Hiking in Killarney National Forest

After working up our appetites hiking, we went to Molly Darcy’s for dinner. Molly Darcy’s is a traditional Irish pub with great food, pints, live Irish music, and traditional Irish dancing. The atmosphere is rustic and the food is locally sourced. If you want to make a night of it, you can reserve a seating for dinner and the music/dancing show certain nights of the week, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t interested in a 3 hour fixed menu meal. Alex and I opted to sit at the bar for our meal so we could choose our meals and leave when we wanted.

Inside Molly Darcy’s

Live music at Molly Darcy’s
Last Irish beers

The next morning, Alex and I woke early to have breakfast at the Muckross Park Hotel. They served a full Irish breakfast including black sausage and various types of yogurt and mix-ins.  After fueling up, we set off on a hike in the national park to Dinis Cottage and Brickeen Bridge. The signage wasn’t the best so we ended up hiking quite a bit longer than planned, but we didn’t mind. There were beautiful flowers all along the hike around Middle Lake. Dinis Cottage is normally open as a tea room and would be a nice hiking destination or break, but it wasn’t yet open when we were there. Brickeen Bridge crosses the stream dividing Muckross Peninsula from Brickeen Island and has gorgeous 360 degree views.

Beautiful flowers near Dinis Cottage


Alex and I at Brickeen Bridge
Gorgeous views of Killarney

After our hike, we headed back to the hotel to change and check out before spending the afternoon walking around the Muckross House and Gardens. We opted out of the organized tour because of time constraints, but were able to read some history in the Killarney National Park Visitor Center (located just inside the Muckross House). You can easily spend the day in the Muckross Estate grounds, enjoying the walking trails, cycling routes, historic tours, horse back riding, jaunty cars, and lake activities.

The Muckross House

In the blooming Muckross Gardens
Stopping to smell the flowers

Another cartwheel in Ireland!

After exploring the gardens for a bit, Alex and I headed to Muckross Abbey, one of my favorite destinations of the trip. Muckross Abbey is a Franciscan friary from the 1400s that was destroyed during Cromwellian times. The ruins are some of the most well-preserved I have seen and provide a mysterious and somewhat spooky ambiance. You can almost sense the friars walking around their abbey. In the middle of a courtyard in the Abbey is an ancient yew tree, thought to be as old as the Abbey. The Abbey is surrounded by a cemetery, which is still in use to this day.

Former stained glass window in Muckross Abbey
The yew tree in Muckross Abbey
Inside Muckross Abbey

Our next stop was to Ross Castle, a 15th century Irish castle that changed hands many times. Like the Muckross House, Ross Castle is only accessible by guided tour only, but you are free to walk around the grounds. Many people were enjoying picnics outside the castle. We briefly walked around the area and then drove to St. Mary’s Cathedral in the town of Killarney. The cathedral is absolutely breathtaking and looks like something out of Harry Potter. We were limited in our ability to explore the cathedral because there was a wedding at the time, but that made the experience even more special and memorable.

In front of Ross Castle
Outside of Ross Castle
St. Mary’s Cathedral
Inside the cathedral
Inside the cathedral


The wedding party!

Before leaving Killarney, we stopped for lunch at The Laurels, a traditional Irish pub. We shared a pizza and salad, but the most memorable part of the meal was the fried chunks of brie with red currant sauce. It was out of this world and I really do not understand how it is not on every menu in America. Delicious! For dessert, we went to the Killarney location of Murphy’s Ice Cream. It was just as delicious as the Murphy’s Ice Cream we ate in Dingle. Another restaurant that was recommended to us was Bricin, a restaurant owned by two brothers from Killarney. It is located above a craft store which is a great place to find unique souvenirs.

The Laurels Pub in Killarney

Killarney was a great place to end our Irish adventures. After leaving the town, we drove to Cork to catch our flight to London. I’ll tell you all about our visit with our friends in London next week!

Molly Darcy’s, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
The Laurels, Main St, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Murphy’s Ice Cream, Main St, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Molly Darcy’s, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Hikes in Killarney National Park
Muckross Estate
Muckross Abbey
Ross Castle
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Plás Na hArdeaglaise, Cill Airne, Co. Ciarraí, Ireland

Muckross Park Hotel & Cloisters Spa, Lakes of Killarney, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland


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