Killarney National Park

Windy Mountain Roads

John McKinney

Regardless of if you stay in Kenmare or Killarney, the road that links the two is an absolute must to drive. Specifically, the stretch of land called Moll’s Gap. Moll’s Gap, a mountainous intersection where the roads R568 and N71 meet, has some of the best views in the whole Emerald Isle. Made even better by the presentation on the route from Kenmare. From Kenmare, you take the N71 toward Killarney. The road will eventually curve seemingly right into the rocks and all of the sudden the view opens up. A vast valley below, mountains all around, an utterly awe-inspiring view. Both our eyes went as wide as could be and in unison, we exclaimed one word, “wooooooooowwwww!!!”. This would not be the last time Ireland would do elicit this reaction during our adventures.

We pulled over to stop and stare at the vast mountain range with its windy roads and deep sinking valleys. My wife turned to me and said exactly what I was thinking, “I can’t wait to go hike this!”. We headed back to the car to drive those windy roads to Killarney town. This road was far windier than anything in the Ring of Beara. Thankfully, I thoroughly enjoy driving windy roads with one exception. My recurring enemy had reared its ugly head once more, tour buses! They made it a nightmare at times, the one lane each direction roads are notably small and at times turn into a single lane. All you can do is be careful and hopefully get a little of that Irish luck.

Hiking in Shimmering Emerald

Arriving in Killarney National Park, the Emerald Isle was on full display with various shades of green shimmering in the sunlight. We traversed every trail, I’m pretty sure we hiked every inch of the park. All of the hikes are amazing and well worth your time. However, if you’re short on time and just want to see the best, I’d recommend the Torc Waterfall Loop or the Muckross Lake Loop. I don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for waterfalls and the Torc Waterfall is one of the best I’ve seen.

Many people made the short trip to the waterfall from the parking lot but very few went any further, that’s a shame. I recommend climbing up the steep path to continue the hike. You’ll be rewarded with an invigorating hike to the top of the waterfall. This provides a viewpoint not visible from the bottom of the falls.

How little the percentage of people that visit a place and don’t want to work hard to get to the top always amazes me. To me, I like to go places that require you to give more than what the majority of people will do. It has always paid off for me. Knowing I had to work a little to get to the view, to push that little bit further, makes the vista so much better when I get there.

The Muckross House & Gardens

Eschewing the jaunting cars, which we know as horse-drawn carriages, we made our way to the Muckross House and Gardens. Situated on Muckross Lake and in the middle of Killarney National Park, this mansion is well worth the visit. Though, we were both expecting a mansion with grandeur similar to that of the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. This estate is far less expansive than the Biltmore but still a sight to behold. With perfectly manicured grounds and gardens, which are free to visit, you have no reason not to spend a little time relaxing in placidity.

Leaving Muckross, we made our way to Killarney, which is a lot of fun to say in your best Irish brogue. We stopped in a few touristy shops, such as one where they can print the history of your surname for you. Before we headed back to Kenmare to cook dinner (you gotta be frugal sometimes), we indulged our sweet tooth and grabbed a pastry from a French pastry shop (you gotta spend money on the good things sometimes).

“I’m a sucker for waterfalls and the Torc Waterfall is one of the best I’ve seen.”

One Last Treat

On our way back to Kenmare, we decided to stop one more time at the first vista we came to upon entering Killarney National Park. We couldn’t have been happier that we did so. A man was there playing the bagpipes with a picturesque Irish view. Thankfully, we were able to capture this moment, enjoy!

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