Picture by Jean Beaufort

With its wild coastline, high peaks and the Killarney National Park, Kerry combines nature at its most picturesque with a whole host of activities, from festivals and fairs to food and drink – and it’s an ideal destination for a self-catering, holiday cottage holiday

The Killarney National Park

Killarney was Ireland’s first national park, when the Irish Free State received a donation of the Muckross Estate. Today the National Parks and Wildlife Service manages this spectacular natural beauty spot.

The park covers some 26,000 acres and within it are notable landmarks such as Muckross House and its gardens, Inisfallen Island and the Lakes of Killarney.

The large area of natural oak woodland covered in the park is itself a stunning natural attraction, as are the herds of red deer on the mountain slopes. Muckross House was originally built between 1839 and 1843, then further improved in 1850, in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland.

Looking out across Muckross Lake, the house is an imposing feature of the park and well worth exploring, as are its surroundings, including its elegant, multi-themed gardens.

Killarney’s Upper, Middle and Lower lakes converge at the aptly named Meeting of the Waters. This is a wonderfully tranquil spot in the national park, which you can only get to on foot or by cycling, making it something of a hidden gem.

On Inisfallen Island are the remains of Inisfallen Abbey, dating from the early Christian period. The monastery dates from 640 and in its desolate state still evokes an air of mystery and spirituality.

Sitting on the edge of Killarney’s Lower Lake, Loch Leane, in the national park, Ross Castle was built in the 15th century. It was one of the last fortresses in Ireland to hold out against Cromwell’s armies, until its fall in 1652.

Recently restored, it has guided tours from April to October but its grounds are open to visitors throughout the year.

The Gap of Dunloe is one of Ireland’s most famous visitor excursions, involving travel through stunning natural landscapes. It combines a coach trip to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a traditional, family-run venue, and thereafter visitors can travel on horseback through the six-mile pass of the gap.

A trip through the gap will take you to the shore of Killarney’s Upper Lake and Lord Brandon’s Cottage.

 

The Dingle Peninsula

Stretching 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, the Dingle Peninsula is a coastline of steep sea cliffs and sandy beaches.

It’s a great centre for angling, walking, surfing and swimming, with a thriving Iocal Irish-language community.

There are eco marine tours to the nearby Blasket Islands, where you can see whales, dolphins and plenty of seabirds, including puffins and gannets. You can also enjoy land-based minibus tours of the peninsula and Slea Head.

Along with action and adventure attractions such as cycling, trekking and climbing, there are various festivals held in Dingle throughout the year. These include traditional music festivals, hill walking and fitness, visual arts and poetry, and even Dingle’s own film festival.

The area is culturally, vibrant, and its landscape is richly, naturally dramatic, providing a whole range of interests and sights for visitors.