Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.
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How to Spend 36 Hours in Killarney, Ireland

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. My husband and I spent 36 hours in Killarney as part of our two week trip to Ireland and England. It was perfect, and we wish we had allowed for more time there. We did not want to leave, and we have dreamed about going back ever since!

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Killarney is home to the stunning Gap of Dunloe, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, Ross Castle, and more. It is a great stop along the Ring of Kerry and is just a short drive away from the Dingle Peninsula loop. I cannot recommend this town and its surrounding area enough!

I’m excited to share how to spend 36 hours in Killarney! If you’re interested in reading our full itinerary of our trip to Ireland, check out this post: 4 Perfect Days in Ireland.

How to Spend 36 Hours in Killarney, Ireland

Getting There – Driving from Wexford to Killarney

We arrived in Killarney in the late afternoon, after driving across Ireland from Wexford. (We had arrived in Ireland from Wales the night before; we stayed in Rosslare for the night and then took a bus to Wexford, where we picked up our rental car. I look forward to blogging about this experience in detail soon!)

The drive across Ireland was magical and was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Ireland was just as green as I had envisioned. Photos and videos cannot do it justice. We stopped for lunch in a tiny town where we were the only tourists in the only open pub (the owner even kicked a few regulars out of their seats for us- which was a little awkward but amusing at the same time). We enjoyed our first true Irish lunch (I had bangers and mash) before continuing on our beautiful road trip. Without stops, the drive took 3 hours and 15 minutes. My husband is a total stud and rocked the whole driving a manual on the opposite side of the car/road thing. We passed countless rolling, green hills and few gorgeous castles along the way.

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

Lodging – The Killarney Railway Hostel

When we arrived in Killarney, it was late in the afternoon and we checked into our lodging- the Killarney Railway Hostel. This was the only hostel we stayed in during our entire trip (the rest of the time we used Airbnb and a couple of hotels). Airbnb pickings were slim during our stay, so we opted for a private room in this hostel, which had great reviews. Parking was tight – they had only a handful of spots and they were tiny. One spot was open and it took my husband awhile to squeeze our rental car in, but we made it! (Note: When we returned to the hostel later that night, after we explored Dingle Peninsula, there were not any spots available. We had to park in a public parking lot in downtown Killarney, which was nearby, and walk back to the hostel.)

We opted for the private double bed option, which slept two and had a private bathroom. The hostel had a very rustic feel, and our private bedroom made it feel like a hotel. The room had two beds- one double and one twin, so my husband and I slept together in the double.


Overall, we were really happy with our stay. In true hostel form, it was loud at night with people walking down the hallway, but my husband and I are both deep sleepers and didn’t have any problems with it.

The shared kitchen was nice and spacious, with plenty of refrigerator space. We made breakfast there on our first morning, but we were not able to access it on our second (and last) morning there. The kitchen was locked up at night, and we had to leave before it opened to catch our 7:36am train to Dublin. We couldn’t find an open breakfast spot in town that early either, so I had to eat chips for breakfast (I have several food allergies, so allergen-friendly snacks are a must when I travel!).

Overall, I would highly recommend a private room in the Killarney Railway Hostel, if you’re ok with a little noise. The staff were all friendly and helpful, and we paid 5 Euro to have them wash and dry a load of laundry for us while we were out exploring. We were thankful for that service!



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Dingle Peninsula

By the time we checked into our hostel, it was late afternoon. A lot of the major Killarney attractions were closing soon for the day, but we were ready to explore! We headed out for a couple hours in our rental car for the Dingle Peninsula. (The drive around Dingle Peninsula is about 30 miles, and you must drive it in clockwise direction.)

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

It was so fun. Because it was later in the day, almost all of the tourists were gone. We didn’t see any tour buses, and we only saw 1 or 2 cars on our drive. We loved having the tiny little roads to ourselves!

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

It started raining, which made our experience that much more fun. We stopped several times to take in the beauty of Ireland and enjoyed the scenery with awe. We fell in love with the view!

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

Gap of Dunloe

We began the next day by driving to the Gap of Dunloe, which turned out to be the most stunning destination that I have ever traveled to. I really mean it. It was absolutely gorgeous, and it left us breathless. We never wanted to leave, and we wound up spending several hours here (longer than we expected and planned for), because we could not pull ourselves away.

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass in Killarney. There are several lakes, countless rolling green hills, adorable sheep, and authentic cottages in the area. Although it is considered a popular tourist attraction, I have found that many people skip this when visiting Killarney. Please, do yourself a favor, and do not skip it! If you only visit one destination in Killarney, pick this!

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

You can rent a jaunting car (a horse-drawn cart with a guide- called a ponyman), but we chose to walk the gap. We took our time and explored as much as we could. We relaxed by the streams, enjoyed walking alongside the friendly sheep, and took in as much beauty as possible. We got lucky with perfect, sunny weather.

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

We ate a late lunch at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, which is located at the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe. It’s been family-run for 150 years. We loved their cheesecake! It was difficult to leave the Gap of Dunloe, but there were a few other sites in Killarney that we wanted to see, so we managed to pull ourselves away. (You can enjoy more of our photos from the Gap of Dunloe in this post.)

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

Ross Castle

After lunch we drove to Ross Castle, which was beautiful! It was built in the 1400s, and it is open the public now for guided tours. We are really glad we decided to go inside – we learned so much about Killarney history and life for all the social classes. (Spoiler alert- even the wealthy didn’t live very glamorous lives!)

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.


The grounds are stunning and it was well worth our time to explore the outside of the castle. It is right next to Lough Leane (also known as Killarney’s lower lake). We saw several people out on the lake on hired boats, and we decided that we need to make time for that next time we go to Killarney!

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall at the bottom of Torc Mountain. We did our research and knew that the best views were from the bottom, so we opted out of doing the hiking trail to the top of the mountain (we knew we wouldn’t have enough time in the day to do it all- sadly!).

The waterfall did not disappoint! It was pretty crowded compared to the Gap of Dunloe, but we still had a great experience. People often see red deer here. We didn’t, but I imagine that it would make the experience that much more beautiful!

Dreaming of the perfect Irish town? I highly recommend spending time in Killarney, Ireland. We spent 36 hours there as part of our trip to Ireland and England.

We originally planned to visit the Muckross House as well, but we decided to skip it after arriving at the Gap of Dunloe. We wanted to see it all, but we knew we would enjoy ourselves much more if we took everything slowly and truly enjoyed our experiences, rather than rushing from one place to the next.


That evening, we returned our rental car (which turned out to be a very difficult task- I’ll blog about it soon!) and then enjoyed dinner at a local pub. My husband drank Murphy’s Irish Stout here for the first time (a bartender’s recommendation), and it has been his favorite ever since (thank you, Trader Joe’s, for selling it here in California!). We were excited to visit Dublin the next day but we were so sad to leave Killarney! We agreed that 36 hours wasn’t enough time, and we will absolutely return again!

Have you been to Killarney? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments! If you’re planning your first trip there, please let me know what you plan to visit. It’s the perfect Irish destination – enjoy your adventure!

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How to Spend 36 Hours in Killarney, Ireland

34 Comments

  • Deborah Regen

    You certainly had a magical touring experience in ireland. while the rainy times are important for all those natural green environments, it was lucky that you also had some lovely sunny days for those gorgeous photos of this gap. i would love to hike it and enjoy a stop at a local 150-year-old eatery. What fun! thanks for sharing, enjoyed this.

    • Leah

      Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed this post. I hope you make it to the Gap of Dunloe soon- it really was magical! I agree that we were lucky to have some sunshine, but the rain is the reason it is so beautiful.

    • Ashlee

      Beautiful post about a beautiful journey. I’m heading to Killarney this week and now you’ve got me even more excited and inspired. Thanks for sharing your experience about this mystical place!

  • ANITA

    This place looks so beautiful and vergine with a stunning view from the cliffs. I am absolutely fan of outdoor activities so would love that place. I loved the Gap of Dunloe, it looks so beautiful.

  • Sierra

    This looks magical!! I think you have put killarney on my bucket list for sure. the gap of dunloe with the adorable sheep are absolutely breathtaking. I promise not to skip it when i go someday. Funny that the locals got kicked out of the restaurant so that you could eat! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos!

  • Amanda

    Your pictures are absolutely lovely! We were in Dublin for about 10 days and did a bunch of tours that took us all around, but I really wish we had rented a car like you guys did. i also feel like I missed out on so much by not staying in places like Killarney overnight. Even the hostel you stayed at sounded so perfect and everything seemed so less touristy! Glad you had a blast, and can’t wait to read some of your follow on posts about your time there!

    • Leah

      So glad you enjoyed it! If you ever go back to Ireland, I do suggest leaving Dublin if you can. Even though we loved Dublin, Killarney was the highlight of our trip! 🙂

  • Elena

    Wow Your experience in ireland sure seems like an extraordinary one. you were lucky that you had some lovely sunny days – some of these photos look gorgeous! i would definitely want to visit that local 150-year-old eatery. Impressive! thanks for sharing, enjoyed this.

  • Sinjana Ghosh

    This is such an amazing travel guide for a short stay in Killarney. Ireland is on my list for long and i am more interested to go there after learnign about this new place. The castle looks so fascinating . Also the gorgeous waterfall! you captured the beauty very well

  • Kristy Bullard

    I have been dreaming of visiting Ireland ever since i watched “The Quiet Man” when i was a kid! Reading about your trip there makes me want to go even more. I especially enjoyed reading about the Gap of Dunloe. I will definitely add that to our travel plans. It looks like paradise!

  • Valentina

    I love this post, it’s bringing back so many dear memories! I’ve been to Killarney once and has a fantastic time, it’s such a charming town. I’m taking note of Gap of Dunloe, it’s absolutely stunning and I want to see it next time I’m there

  • jen

    I have heard about Killarney several times, I can’t wait to finally see it for myself! The way you described your drive reminded me very much of our Iceland roadtrip – magical and photos/videos do not give justice to its actual beauty. Your landscape photos look amazing! Thanks for the tip that the Gap of Dunloe must be the priority. Taking all of these in, I think we would need more than 3 days to explore!

  • Annick

    The Gap of dunloe Is amazing so i cant BELIEVE that some people skip it. Ive had so many friends visit the dingle peninsula and they all rave about it. Your husband was very brave driving on those roads and parking in the tiny spots!

  • Manjulika Pramod

    I have heard a lot about KILLARNEY and i definitely want to visit it some day. Self drive/ Road trips are super fun. I like it too with my husband. We take rental cars and do the trip as per our itinerary. The rains definitely added more charm to your trip. Keep traveliing.

  • Sharon

    The Gap of Dunloe is something I had not heard of — and it’s just breathtaking! I’m glad to hear that the rain didn’t keep you from exploring. I’m thinking of going to Ireland next year, and I’m reading that it rains year round — thus the green everywhere!

    • Leah

      Yes, Ireland gets a lot of rain, but it is worth it! I highly recommend the Gap of Dunloe. So many people skip it, but it is possibly our favorite spot that we’ve visited so far.

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