When you think about Ireland, there aren’t many extremes which spring to mind.
We don’t get severely cold winters, we don’t (usually) get particularly hot summers, our mountains aren’t that tall, our population isn’t huge and our native animals aren’t especially dangerous.
Not that we’re saying that’s a bad thing! Most of those things are all part of why we love about our little island. But this lack of extremes means that Ireland is just a bit… tame.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you need some wildness. You want to be able to get lost somewhere. You itch for a sense of a larger world, of the unknown, and that’s why Killarney National Park is such a wonderful corner of our country.
Killarney National Park was the first of its kind in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. Set across more than 10,000 hectares of land, this verdant region is bursting with animals, vast lakes and and towering mountains. Even Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil, can be found within the bounds of the park.
It’s here that you’ll find the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland, boasting a wealth of oak woods, yew woods and shrubs. A boat trip upon the lakes is one of the best ways to make your way through the bright heart of the area, allowing you to admire many of the most beautiful sights from a tranquil vantage point.
When the sun shines on the area, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the place for its more celebrated counterparts from around the world, such as Canada’s Banff National Park and New Zealand’s Nelson Lakes National Park.
Lakes of Killarney
The park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 and efforts are made to deal with the conservation challenges that come with receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
A huge part of the park’s character stems from its abundance of wildlife, including stoats, goats, hedgehogs, pygmy shrews, Irish hares, rabbits, rats, wood mice, house mice, badgers, foxes, red squirrels, the American mink and the native red deer.
If you’re lucky you might even spot a white-tailed eagle flying overhead.
Not to suggest that the whole park is just an overgrown wilderness, as Muckross House can be found at its nucleus.
Dating back to 1839, the resplendent Victorian mansion was originally built for the family of Henry Arthur Herbert and its design is testament to the opulent lifestyle of the nineteenth century landowning class.
The Herbert family carried out extensive works on the grounds surrounding their home in anticipation of a visit from Queen Victoria in the 1950s, leading the creation of the colourful Sunken Garden, Rock Garden and Stream Garden.
A trip to this part of the country is definitely worth it, to a place where you can climb our highest mountain, encounter our rarest animals and marvel as the sheer scope of it all.
We can promise that, as you watch the sun set on a clear day in Killarney National Park, you will not have regretted your journey into the wild.