Killarney's tradition of entertaining visitors began over two centuries ago. Tales of the legendary lakes and mountains surrounding the town initiated a wave of tourism that continues to this day. The town's charm is retained in the curious old-style shop fronts and brick footpaths, while luxury hotels offer the most modern facilities. There have been many unsuccessful attempts at town planning in Killarney since the 18th century; the maze of lanes and oddly angled streets that have resulted lend the town a truly unique flavor, offering the visitor a surprise at almost every corner.
The town center sits at a T-junction, which connects New Street with High Street on one side, and Main Street on the other. Shops catering for visitor interests radiate in all directions. The footpath is very wide here with benches and shady trees. It's a popular gathering spot with visitors and locals alike, and there is usually a crowd milling about or listening to a musician busking. Directly behind the junction, the large brick building divided by a high arch was once the Town Hall—it is now home to various businesses. If you wander through the arch, you will enter Old Market Lane—once the heart of Killarney's commercial quarter. The old terraced cottages are now boarded up, but artists have painted their doorways with colorful characters that seem to observe your progress as you walk along.
High Street is filled with shops selling clothing, tourist goods, pottery, and antiques. Several lanes branch off High Street; rushed locals use them as short cuts, but visitors can indulge and explore them at a leisurely pace. Pleasantly restored in recent years, these lanes have a mixture of housing and small shops. The Old Firehouse stands in Glebe Lane and features pretty, modern wood carving along its porch. On the left-hand side of High Street, three lanes lead to Chapel Place. Fleming's Lane and Barry's Lane are perhaps the most pleasant of the three; the brightly painted houses and shops lending them a cheery aspect.
The second road branching from the town center is Main Street. Books, clothing, hardware and other goods can be found along here, as well as several restaurants. Built in the 19th century in English Gothic style, St. Mary's Church stands at the far end. Just across the road from St. Mary's, and down another lane, is St. Mary's Well. Continuing along Main Street will bring you to Kenmare Place. Jaunting cars with their patient horses are lined up here while their drivers, or jarveys, tout for business. The lovely Killarney Methodist Church stands a few seconds further on.
Past St. Mary's, Main Street veers to the left. There is a concentration of hotels here, with nine in the immediate vicinity. Branching off Main Street, Brewery Lane leads to College Square. This is another area full of shops and restaurants. In the 1780s a Franciscan school for boys was located here, giving the area its name. College Street leads out of the Square towards Fair Hill. Scene of numerous hangings at the hands of Cromwellian soldiers, the Franciscan Friary is now the dominant feature of the hill. Facing the Friary is the Speir Bhean Monument, erected to commemorate four of Kerry's great Gaelic poets. A more light-hearted sculpture of three gigantic fish sits in front of the nearby Court House.
At the Western End of the town is a complex of religious buildings. St. Mary's Cathedral, the Old Monastery, and Presentation Convent are grouped together with large grass expanses between them. All date from the 19th century and complement one another. Across the road is the entrance to the Knockeer Estate, now part of Killarney National Park. There are many pleasant walks through the grounds past Deenagh Cottage, Cloghmochuda, and along the Deenagh River. Those with stamina can follow a path all the way to Ross Island for glorious views of Ross Castle and Lough Leane. Once there, boats to Innishfallen Island and O'Sullivan's Cascade can be hired at the pier.
The Muckross Estate dominates the Southern End of Killarney. The estate offers many pleasures for those interested in nature and history. , Muckross Abbey, Muckross Nature Walks, and the Traditional Farms can all be found here. The restaurant and shop in the House's grounds have excellent facilities. If you find the idea of walking the extensive gardens too fatiguing, a Jaunting Car Tour may be the perfect solution. Lying a little beyond Muckross House - Ladies View, Torc Waterfall, and Torc Mountain Walk are three more beauty spots. Coach loads of eager tourists descend upon Ladies View and Torc Waterfall, but Torc Mountain Walk enables the hill walker to enjoy stunning panorama in solitude.
No trip to Killarney would be complete without a trip to Aghadoe at the Northern End of the town. In addition to spectacular vistas of the lakes, Aghadoe Church and Round Tower are of major historical interest. Further down the slope is one of the few Norman remains near Killarney. Parkavonear Castle has an unusual circular shape and is known locally as The Bishop's Seat. Aghadoe is also the site of Killarney's famine graveyard, St. John's Cemetery. The full tragedy of how many souls were buried under the undulating ground may never be known.
Beyond Killarney Town
Killarney is the perfect base for anyone wishing to explore the many delights of the entire south Kerry region. The 110-mile long Ring of Kerry drive is an enjoyable day's outing with incredible vistas and many archaeological sites of interest. Hill walkers have a wealth of opportunities with the Paps, Devil's Punch Bowl, Old Kenmare Road, Rossbeigh Hill Walk, and Derrynane being particularly popular. Festival goers are also spoiled for choice. Regattas, car rallies, set dancing, and traditional music festivals take place throughout the region, offering visitors a unique look at local culture. Killarney caters for all interests with style and charm, perfectly combining the quaint with the contemporary.