Killarney National Park was established in 1932 to protect one of Ireland’s most precious natural habitats. Beneath the wild, rugged summits of the country’s highest mountains, it encloses a beautiful sylvan landscape of ancient woodland, spectacular waterfalls and quiet lakes.
A great place to start exploring is the Muckross Estate, 5km south of Killarney Town on the famous Ring of Kerry. Most routes centre around Muckross Lake, and the quickest circuit takes around three hours. There are optional side-trips to Torc Waterfall, and these can add two or more hours to your walk.
Starting and finishing at Muckross House, the walks involve a minimal of climbing and include visits to the beautiful formal gardens and historic buildings of the Muckross Demesne.
Muckross Lake Loop:
Make your way along the signposted route from the 19th century Muckross House, stopping off to discover the traditional working farms and elegant formal gardens on your way.
Quiet green paths take you away from the Estate and down to small beaches and rocky coves of Muckross Lake, where you can watch heron hunt for food. The trail then brings you to Muckross Peninsula, with the spur of the land separating the Muckross Lake from the larger Lough Leane.
Here, you enter Reenadinna Wood. Carpeted by moss and ferns, it’s worth watching out for red squirrels and the majestic red deer.
At the western end of Muckross Lake is the 200-year-old Dinis Cottage. You can grab refreshments here before heading behind the Cottage to a short path leading to the Meeting of the Waters – where Killarney’s Upper Lake flows down to join the lower loughs.
Lakeside tracks and wooded paths lead you back to Muckross House. Shortly before you arrive, an optional side-trip leads to the top of Torc Waterfall, but this 4km circuit can also be tackled in its own right.
Torc Waterfall Loop:
Begin your route at Muckross House, leaving the Estate along the Lake Loop, but taking a right turn as you go. You’ll climb steadily through the trees to cross the Owengarriff River, just above the main falls. A series of steps leads you back down through the woodlands on the eastern side of the river to the viewpoint of the 18m high Torc Waterfall cascade. The trail continues by passing through a dry in the road bridge before rejoining the Lake Loop and returning to Muckross House.