The best things in life are free – or so they say. It’s not always that simple when travelling with the family but luckily there is an abundance of free things for families to do in Killarney. With a little bit of planning and a healthy dose of persuasion, you can enjoy some of the best that Killarney has to offer for free and create some magical memories that will live long in the memory. Here we look at 5 of the best with something to suit all ages and abilities.
We know how costs can easily build up for a family on holiday. There seems to be a charge for everything these days. Well, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most fun and adventurous free things for families to do in Killarney. They’re suitable for all ages and yes, even big kids and adults will enjoy them too – and they’re totally free!
1. Deer Spotting in Killarney National Park
Go deer spotting in the spectacular Killarney National Park. Stroll around the extensive park and spot the herds of wild Red Deer that roam here freely. Tell your kids that they are the oldest surviving deer in Ireland, and they have lived in the Killarney valley since the Ice Age! There are a number of different areas of the Park where it’s easy to spot the deer – either close to the town in the Knockreer area of Killarney National Park or close to the entrance of Muckross House & Gardens.
How to Get There (Knockreer)
The Deenagh Lodge is located at the entrance to Killarney National Park directly opposite St. Mary’s Cathedral, about a ten minute walk from Killarney town centre. A cycle path and footpath along Mission road will take you directly there. Roadside parking is available on Port Road directly outside the entrance but this can be quite busy during the summer months or when services are underway in the nearby St Mary’s Cathedral. Head up a slight hill behind the Deenagh Lodge and follow the Circular Walk trail. Within 10-15 minutes walk, you will see the red deer in the meadows around Knockreer.
Top Tip: Extend your time in the National Park by starting or finishing at the nearby Killarney House & Gardens. The kids can roam around the gardens while you take a break and enjoy the views.
How to Get There (Muckross)
Located about 6km outside of Killarney town, Muckross Gardens and Traditional Farms can be reached by various forms of transport. There is a paved path from the outskirts of the town that goes through the National Park all the way to the farms. The path is shared by walkers, cyclists and the traditional jaunting cars. Jaunting cars can be hired from the town centre and there are a number of locations to rent a bicycle if you need one. There is ample car parking right outside the entrance to the farms, with an overflow car park in use during the busy summer months. There are also a number of buses stopping at Muckross House.
As you approach the entrance to Muckross House from the main N71 road, keep an eye out for a herd of deer in the field directly opposite the entrance. This is a favourite haunt of the deer and you are very likely to see them here throughout the year. Afterwards, wander around Muckross Gardens where you and the kids can enjoy the open spaces and spectacular views of Torc mountain and Muckross Lake.
Top Tip: Dress according to the weather and consider that you may stay here for at least an hour or more!
2. Visit Ross Castle
Visit the 15th Century Ross Castle which is beautifully situated on the shores of Lough Leane. It is open to the public during the summer months and tours are free on the first Wednesday of every month. It’s a great opportunity for your kids to explore a well preserved castle in Ireland, and one that was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Cromwell! Tours last 45 minutes and start from 10am with the last tour at 5.55pm each day. Please note that tours are on a first come, first served basis and if your group is larger than 8 people, it is highly recommended to email reservations first. There are public toilets and a cafe on the scenic grounds serving light refreshments.
There are a number of options for getting to Ross Castle (see table below). The surrounding area on the shores of Lough Leane provides ample entertainment for the kids to explore. For more details on the tour of Ross Castle, contact 064 6635851 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full list of Heritage Sites that you can visit for free in Kerry, click here.
Top Tip: For some more adventure, explore some of the walking trails around the adjacent Ross Island.
How to get there:
|Walk||Town Centre Via Knockreer and Killarney National Park||3.5km through parkland, woodland, riverside paths and open meadows. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to stop at viewing points or observe wild deer|
|Cycle||Town Centre Via Knockreer and Killarney National Park||3.5km through parkland, woodland, riverside paths and meadows. 15 -20 mins|
|Car/Taxi/Bus||Town Centre Via Ross Road||5 minutes. Regular shuttle buses operate April to October. Taxis in town centre|
|Jaunting Car||Town Centre Via Knockreer and Killarney National Park||3.5km through parkland, woodland, riverside paths and open meadows. Allow 30-45 minutes to an hour to stop at viewing points or observe wildlife|
There is ample parking at Ross Castle and plenty of places to securely lock your bicycle around the castle grounds. During the summer months a coffee shop serves refreshments at the house adjacent to the castle, Public toilets are located to the rear of the castle.
3. Killarney Playground
Visit Killarney Playground which is ideally located in a sheltered corner of Killarney National Park, roughly a 10 minute walk from Killarney town centre. It’s open all year round and is fantastic free fun for your little ones! Amenities in the playground include a well kept toilet and changing area. With almost an acre of ground, the playground has ample room to store buggies, scooters, bicycles and any other accessories you may have.
How to get there:
The playground is located just off Port Road, close to St. Mary’s Cathedral. On the banks of the Deenagh River that flows into Killarney National Park, the playground is quite close to the Deenagh Lodge at one of the entrance gates to the Park. The distinctive, thatch-roofed lodge is home to a lovely coffee shop which provides refreshments during the summer months. The playground is
As Killarney playground is located within the National Park, a visit to the playground can be combined with a number of walks, cycles or rambles through the Park. In particular, the playground is ideally located near the Circular Walk of Knockreer. The path that runs alongside the playground is also part of the Knockreer Castlerosse Hotel loop route. The Knockreer area is a great place in general to set off towards Ross Castle and other attractions so consider these when visiting the playground. The simple option of a visit to the playground still remains one of the most popular of free things for families to do in Killarney so make sure to fit it in on your visit to Killarney.
All of these wonderful (free!) walks are all close to the playground and to the centre of Killarney town. Of course, one of the best ways to cut costs when holidaying in Killarney, is to stay close to all these attractions. Killarney is renowned for it’s fantastic hotels and many are situated within walking distance to Killarney National Park.
Top Tip: Grab a coffee at the Deenagh Lodge before you arrive at the playground
4. Torc Waterfall
Located on the main Killarney to Kenmare road, just 5 mins drive outside Killarney, Torc Waterfall can be reached by a very short scenic stroll (approx 300 metres)from the car park to the main viewing area. It’s one of the most exciting free things for families to do in Killarney.
Parking is available and the walk is suitable for young children. Enjoy the spectacular view of the cascading waters, perfect for that memorable family photo! The waterfall is an impressive 20 metres high and is best viewed after heavy rainfall. Exercise caution if walking after rainfall though, as the path may be slippery especially for little ones.
For those with bigger kids and feeling a bit more adventurous, you can continue up the steps that lead on from the viewing point at the waterfall. This trail leads you further up Torc Mountain and has some stunning views to enjoy along the way. The trail is marked on an information board at the car park so you can check this before you set off to see if it is suitable. The trail can be arduous at times for little legs so be prepared or you may ending up carrying some tired kids for some of the trail!
Top Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes and keep hold of the small kids near the waterfall!
5. Cycling Trails
There are many fantastic active free things for families to do in Killarney including plenty of Cycling Trails to suit all ages and levels. With its scenic routes, Killarney is most definitely one of the best places in Ireland to get out and get active. If you have your own bikes, why not savour one of the fantastic trails while on holiday!
Knockreer Castlerosse 5km Loop
The looped circuit of Knockreer to Castlerosse through Killarney National Park is a wonderful 5km route that passes through open parkland, golf courses and along shaded riverbank paths. Two 19th century gate lodge cottages en route are joined by more modern additions of a children’s playground and an open air fitness park. The Knockreer area of Killarney is popular with locals and visitors alike and this 5km route is a great way to experience some of the magic of Killarney National Park quite close to the Killarney town. It is completely flat throughout so ideal for family cycling.
Top Tip: Reward the young cyclists by finishing the cycle at the playground.
Muckross and Dinis Trail
The Muckross and Dinis Cottage Trail is a spectacular route that circles Muckross Lake in Killarney National Park. It is a more demanding route with a few steep climbs so the younger cyclists may need to walk for some of these parts. There is also a short section on the busy N71 road so caution is required here for about 1km. The route starts at Killarney town and takes you past Muckross Abbey to Muckross House. Just before reaching Muckross House, you take a right for Dinis Cottage / Old Weir Bridge. This is a popular route with walkers also so be mindful of meeting other people. At Dinis Cottage, you can take a break and visit the Old Weir Bridge and the Meeting of the Waters where Killarney’s 3 lakes meet.
After you leave Dinis Cottage, continue on the paved path until you meet the main N71 road between Kenmare and Killarney. Exercise caution on this busy section of the main road and soon you can return to the National Park tracks that will lead you back to Muckross House and Gardens.
Top Tip: If you are bringing your own bikes and gear, consider staying in self catering accommodation so that you have plenty storage space.
Knockreer Ross Castle 8km Loop
The route is largely contained within the Knockreer area of Killarney National Park, passing Ross Castle at the 5km mark. Knockreer is located right next to Killarney town centre and brings the National Park right into the town. On this route you will be distracted by scenic views and abundant wildlife and rewarded with peaceful surrounds. Despite its proximity to the town centre at one end and the ever-popular Ross Castle at the other, you will have the place to yourself for much of the time in between.
All of the loop is within the boundaries of Killarney National Park and you will not meet any vehicular traffic on the route. Parts of the loop near Ross Castle can become busy during the summer months so be prepared to share the path at these points with walkers, runners, buggies and horse-drawn jaunting cars. At Ross Castle, there are public toilets available and during the summer months there is a snack shop and cafe. The Deenagh Lodge operates as a coffee shop during the months of April to October.
Top Tip: Bring a picnic and stop at Ross Castle.
For a list of other cycling routes, visit cyclingkillarney.com
We hope you found this short list useful, it is just a short introduction to the wonders of Killarney National Park that will thrill all of the family. If you have any other favourite free things to do for families in Killarney, please let us know in the comments below or contact us via email.