Killarney has been a tourist hub since it was developed by Thomas, Fourth Viscount Kenmare, as something of an Irish Lake District in 1750. Kenmare certainly had vision. In the 250 years since, the scenery of Killarney National Park has entranced visitors from all over the world.
But Killarney is about much more than the surrounding scenery. It hosts two heritage trails – one measuring 2.1km and winding around the town itself; another stretching to 6km as it ranges out towards St. Finian’s Hospital, the old monastery and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
All roads in Killarney lead to the Market Cross, the de facto town centre. This was the market place for Killarney Valley produce until the mid-20th-century and the town clock (or at least, beneath the town clock) remains one of the town’s favourite meeting places.
Don’t forget to check out the jarveys’ stand on Kenmare Place, too. These horse-drawn carriages have been taking tourists to the surrounding sights since the early days, with the jarveys themselves acting as guides, spinning stories at every bend on the road (and then some).
Other attractions in the town include the Franciscan friary, built in 1860 around a foundation stone taken from the ruins of Muckross Abbey, as well as Killarney’s courthouse (1835), its railway station (1853) and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Designed by Augustus Pugin, the cathedral’s large tower and skyrocketing spire, are of an Early English style and date from 1855.
A final source of intrigue is Killarney House, the Elizabethan Revival mansion set on a hillside with awesome views of Lough Leane. Its origins lie in the late 1800s, when the Earl of Kenmare of the time, decided to build a new residence.