Killarney National Park takes in 24,700 acres (10,000 hectares) of lake and mountain scenery in south-west Ireland. It was Ireland's first national park, having been created in 1932 when the Muckross estate was given to the country.
The park is known for its natural habitats, and over 140 species of bird have been spotted. Woodlands, gardens, parks, and waterways help make up its landscape. Blanket bog is widespread in the remote uplands, and it is here that many red deer are found. On the lower mountain slopes are native oak woods (3000 acres). These woods support various bird life including chaffinch, robin, goldcrest, blue tit, and wren. Woodmouse, fox, badger, deer, and red squirrel make their homes in the oak woods.
The Muckross peninsula supports an area of yew woodland (60 acres). Mosses, ferns and liverworts like the humid habitat of this section of the park.
In the park are three lakes collectively named the 'Lakes of Killarney', that cover one quarter of the park. The lakes are named Upper Lake, Muckross Lake (Middle Lake) and Lough Leane (Lower Lake). They join up at the 'meeting of the waters', a spot where a 400-year-old bridge is on view. Arctic char, Killarney shad, and brown trout live in the lakes. One of Ireland's rarest native trees, the strawberry, is found on the shores of the lakes. St Patrick's cabbage and the Killarney fern are two other rare plants in the park.
Lough Leane is home to an island where a 7th-14th century monastery, Inisfallen, once stood. The ruins can be visited. A 15th century towerhouse, Ross castle, overlooks the lake from its shores. It has been restored, and visitors are welcome. A boat trip of the three lakes starts from this point. A second abbey, Muckross, founded in the 15th century, is largely intact except for its roof. Of note are a vaulted cloister and courtyard.
The park's visitor centre is located at Muckross House, a Victorian mansion (1843) owned by the Herbert family who owned the Muckross land. There is an information point at Torc waterfall. Knockreer House is home to an education centre that provides courses related to nature conservation and the ecology of the park for students and other groups. Walking and cycling trails are located in the park.
Killarney National Park
6.5km from Killarney on N71 (Kenmare Road)
Tel. 0 64 31440
Tel. 0 64 37565
Open: Visitor centre, exhibition, craft shop, and av presentation: from Nov-mid March by request only; mid-March-June daily 9am-6pm; July-Aug, daily 9am-7pm; Sep-Oct, daily 9am-6pm; information point at Torc waterfall open from end June-mid Sep, daily 9.30am-6.30pm.
AV presentation: 20 minutes;
Restaurant/tearoom open various times.
Killarney National Park Education Centre
Killarney, County Kerry
Tel. For education service 353 64 35960
Killarney National Park website: Killarney National Park
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