I just returned from a week in Killarney, one of the most beautiful places to stay in County Kerry.
This is one of the absolute must-dos when you travel in South-West Ireland. Tucked right into the centre of County Kerry, Killarney sits on the edge of a spectacular national park. Over 100sq km of native forest, prehistoric-looking ferns, tempting hiking and cycling trails and even home to the majestic Red Deer.
And lucky me, I had it all to myself! I woke up early and set off after a hearty breakfast of eggs benedict and Irish tea, to see those wondrous mists rising over the mountain peaks, turning them gold and green.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit Killarney National Park
All I could hear was the gentle whirl of my bike and cracking twigs in the undergrowth as something (a Pine Marten perhaps?) scuttled out of sight. Amber leaves fell from the trees as the old mining trail hugged the side of Lough Leane - which seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was almost filmic. I couldn't help but stop to take photographs every 4 or 5 minutes.
Perfect for cyclists, walkers and even strollers
There were plenty of well signposted trails leading off from Ross Castle and Muckross House. The mining trails around Ross Castle were so wide and relatively flat that they are ideal for walkers or parents with strollers. Don't forget to take some snacks and water with you. Once you're in the park, there is nowhere to buy provisions (if you're visiting on a weekday in autumn, like I was, and the shop and tea room nearby were closed). However there were toilets just behind Ross Castle.
Stumble upon hidden beaches and ancient forest
There were so many unmarked trails that I couldn't resist going down at least a couple of them. The first led me to huge boulders covered in bright green glistening moss and ferns. And the next, down to a tiny pebble beach on the edge of the Lough. Had I been brave enough, I could have easily gotten away with some skinny-dipping in the chilly water (I wasn't). Instead, I headed up to Library Point, where the only noise that broke the silence, was a small fishing boat passing by. It was so clear, I could even hear the fishermen's 'craic'.
Cycle hire in Killarney
Many of the larger hotels in Killarney offer bike hire. O' Sullivan Bike Hire are super friendly and will help plan your route. I stayed at The Brehon, and used one of their excellent bikes, then returned with rosy cheeks to sit by the fire with some restorative tea and biscuits :)