Killarney National Park - May 26th, 2012

I love visiting National Parks. Ireland has six national parks (Ballycroy, The Burren, Connemara, Glenveagh, Killarney, Wicklow). On our trip, we managed to reach five of these parks. Killarney is the largest and oldest of the Irish parks. It was donated to the nation in 1932. Additional lands have been added, greatly expanding the original borders. Killarney has forests and mountains and beautiful lakes. It has a herd of red deer, this was about the only wildlife we saw during our trip. Killarney also has some ancient history, with ruins of Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle. Plus it has more recent history - the Muckross House itself and it's vast gardens. Our plan was to stay two days in Killarney to give ourselves enough time to see it all.

We drove to Killarney from Cork. Killarney is touristy town - it seems to exist solely for visitors to the Park. Killarney is loaded with pubs, B&Bs, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Plus horses pulling jaunting carts. We found a laundromat here and dropped off our clothes for a washing. (They don't have self-service laundries in Ireland.)

It was a beautiful day. Our first hike was to the summit of Torc Mountain (535 meters tall). It isn't a long hike, but it was all sharply uphill. The trail is in fantastic shape - it all treated wood bound in chicken-wire or stone steps, so there is no erosion from the tramp of hundred of hikers. We talked to a couple of locals on the way to the top, one of whom was originally from Cleveland, England. Torc mountain is Irish for Boar Mountain, because a legendary boar was apparently hunted on its slopes. The top of Torc Mountain was impressively windy. It must have been a sustained wind of 40 mph, so strong it threatened to knock us over.

After Torc Mountain, we visited Ross Castle, and took a guided tour up through its still-intact floors. Medieval living looked to be pretty rough - smoky, cold, dark, vermin - and bad food. No wonder they didn't live long.

In Killarney, we had a pizza for dinner at Four Star Pizza. Then, because of the extra long Irish days, we still had time for another hike, so we did the hike in Tomie's Wood to O'Sullivan's Cascade. This short hike leads to waterfall, plus it gives some nice views of Lough Leane from the far shore.

Our first week in Ireland was over. So far it had been amazing weather and great sightseeing. Two weeks more to go!

Here is a map showing where we visiting in Killarney National Park today

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Torc Mountain

Ross Castle

O'Sullivan's Cascade