Ireland Travel Tips: A First-Timer’s Guide to Killarney

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Guide to Killarney For First-Timer's: Jaunting cars




I began to get used to this sound; I’d hear it every day as I walked through the streets of Killarney.

It was my first visit to Ireland and so far I’d been impressed – but Killarney spun a whole new spell on me.




The lively rhythmic beat of horse hooves on the concrete was loud enough to drown out any conversation, but it didn’t bother me. These beautiful horse and carriages – known as jaunting cars – took me to a place I’d only ever experienced through books and television – the late 18th/early 19th Century, courtesy of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Guide to Killarney: Horse and carriage

Jaunting car in Killarney © Juliette Sivertsen


I was in Ireland for the TBEX conference – an international gathering of hundreds of travel bloggers, writers, photographers and tourism brands.

I expected my trip to Ireland to be mainly be work-related, with long days and nights spent learning, networking and generally enjoying new connections.

I didn’t expect Ireland to get under my skin, and that I would leave the country yearning to return, dreaming of anything remotely Irish to liven my soul.

Killarney wowed me more than I ever thought possible for a destination which possessed neither a ski field nor a tropical climate, my typical preferred travel options.

Here’s what stood out in this charming town.






Need to hail a taxi? Forget it. Hail a horse.

Killarney is filled with Jaunting cars – horse and carriages – carrying passengers to and from their destination. Sure, there’s a good chance they’re mostly tourists in the carriages, but this beautiful mode of transport screams romance and a hint of old-school glamour.

And they’re everywhere. You won’t walk down a street anywhere in Killarney without hearing the clippity-cloppity of horse hooves behind you.

First-timer's guide to Killarney: hail a horse

Your typical mode of transport in Killarney © Juliette Sivertsen




I’m well aware one of the biggest cliches of Irish people is that they possess the gift of the gab. I don’t remember a conversation during my entire journey through Ireland that lasted less than a solid five minutes. Even with complete strangers.

It’s wonderful – there are far worse stereotypes than being wonderfully chatty. The Irish hospitality is outstanding and Killarney knows how to party and welcome guests from afar.




Did you know you can kayak around a 15th-century castle in Killarney? And head out into the middle of the lakes of the Killarney National Park? Perhaps cycling is more your thing – switch up gears and bike through mountains and woodlands along the Gap of Dunloe.

Prefer a bigger adrenalin rush? Rock climbing and abseiling can all be done on a day trip from the town centre.

Don’t forget the numerous hiking trails in the region, the famous Killarney National Park and the must-visit 20 metre high Torc Waterfall.

There’s something for every traveller with a keen sense of exploration and adventure.

Guide to Killarney: kayak on the lakes of Killarney

Photo: Supplied




The Irish accent sure is charming with its lyrical and melodic pitch and tone – but the Kerry accent, at its strongest in Killarney, will throw you. Even people from Ireland struggle to understand what fellow Irishmen and women from Killarney are saying. Expect to nod a lot.




Muckross Park Hotel is quite possibly the most indulgent spot in Killarney.

The tantalizing aroma of lemongrass will strike the nerves in your schnozz as soon as you walk through the hotel’s luxury spa. A quick walk past the vitality pool and thermal area will have you clearing out the rest of the day to allow you to relax.

If you’re fortunate to stay a night or a few, expect nothing but the finest suites with an eloquent interior decor and soft furnishings.

Guide to Killarney: Stay at the Muckross Park Hotel

Muckross Park Hotel | © Juliette Sivertsen


As for tempting the taste buds – start with an Irish Twist, a local citrus tipple made from the whiskey-based Irish Mist liqueur, followed with a main of Kerry lamb or local seafood before indulging in devilishly rich salted caramel chocolate brownie. 


Guide to Killarney: Try an Irish Twist cocktail

Irish Twist | © Juliette Sivertsen



Killarney Racecourse provides a base for many events – and the Irish dance group Celtic Steps has its base at the Racecourse. It’s Ireland’s top traditional Irish music and dance show that will surely have you attempting your own version of Riverdance in the privacy of your own home – or down the main street after a few more beverages.

Irish dancing in Ireland may seem like another cliche but it’s a joy to watch – and you never know when someone will suddenly bust out their moves. Like this Irish fiddler who clearly had more strings to his bow than we realised: 



“That’s grand.”

You’ll hear this phrase many times throughout Ireland – where grand does not mean how many thousands of dollars you’ve spent, but simply an expression of how great something might be.

“How did it go last night?”

“Oh, just grand!”




One of the more surreal moments in Killarney was finding myself at The Shire, a delightful Lord of the Rings themed pub in town.

As a New Zealander, I come from a country where the LOTR and Hobbit trilogies were filmed, they produced by a New Zealander, in a country that became known as Middle Earth which every tourism agency capitalised on. Naturally, it was a little bizarre to be on the complete opposite side of the world and immersed in the Hobbit world. I thought that stuff only happened in New Zealand? Turns out it’s a big deal in Killarney too.

I highly recommend the secret-recipe ‘Hobbit Juice’. Who knows what the heck is in it – but after the first few you’ll no longer care.

Guide to Killarney: The Shire

The cocktail list at The Shire, Killarney | © Juliette Sivertsen



Seriously. There are few words to describe the overall tone of Killarney with its beautifully manicured gardens, delightful alleyways, Clydesdale horses, traditional Irish pubs and fabulous hospitality – it’s simply charming at every corner.




Sunshine, wind and rain – expect it all within a few hours. Don’t go anywhere without a rain jacket. I was in Killarney in autumn – a beautiful time of year with red and golden leaves adorning the trees against a backdrop of green fields. That greenery – well it’s green because it rains a heck of a lot. But it also gets sunny. Then windy. Then rainy. Then sunny. Dress for all seasons.

And if you’re lucky to get a semi-clear evening, the sunsets by the lake are mesmerising.


Guide to Killarney: Sunset at Ross Castle

Sunset by Ross Castle, Killarney | © Juliette Sivertsen




As an adventure traveller I don’t expect to be wowed by old historical buildings. But Killarney’s history left me breathless as if someone had knocked the wind out of my chest with a single blow.

The 15th-Century Ross Castle provides a perfect setting for watching the sun go down…


Guide to Killarney: Ross Castle

…while walking through the ruins of Muckross Abbey will trigger a powerful stillness in your heart…

Guide to Killarney: Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey | © Juliette Sivertsen



Kerry Cows are beautiful and unique. They’re black and shiny and silky looking. And their milk is said to be some of the best in the world due to its butterfat content. The breed is unique to Ireland and one of the oldest breeds in the world. I never thought I’d describe cattle as pretty, but the Kerry Cows are black beauties.




You’ll think you’re wandering through Mr Darcy’s estate Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice. Give yourself several hours to wander through the picturesque gardens and soak up the views surrounding the stately Muckross House.

Guide to Killarney: Muckross House

Muckross House and Gardens | © Juliette Sivertsen


Have you been to Killarney? What were your first impressions? What would you include in a first timer’s guide to Killarney?


Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Killarney, Ireland

Suitcases and Sandcastles


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  • Wow! What a place! It has so much to see and do. I really like the photo with all the red kayaks. It looks like something is wrong in the photo since it is an old castle surrounded by a kind of modern mode of transportation. I get what you are saying about the accent. I even have problem understanding English people! #WanderfulWednesday

  • I absolutely feel in love with Ireland last year and I really want to return one day and explore. Killarney Castle looks so stunning and I’ve wanted to try kayaking for ages anyway 🙂

  • Erin Hardie

    What a great read with so many interesting gems of information! I would love to try the Hobbit Juice and the Irish Twist! And I can’t believe a horse and cart is just as/ more so a viable transport option than a taxi in Kilarney – mind blown!

  • Lisa Rivera

    I was there at TBEX too! Shame we didn’t get to say hi. I absolutely love Killarney, and you’re so right about the people, they were wonderful and hilarious too! I heard ‘grand’ so often, and would love to go back for some kayaking next time – I missed it by a day!

    • Such a shame we didn’t meet! SO many people though, so many new connections. What a wonderful event. Hope you can go kayaking next time! See you at another TBEX hopefully!

  • Sara Essop

    Wow, Killarney is so charming. It looks just like a set from a Jane Austen movie. By the way, there’s an upmarket suburb in Johannesburg called Killarney. It must have been named after this Killarney.

  • Sharon Odegaard

    This does look like a magical place! Especially Ross Castle and the abbey. Pinned for future planning (hoping to go!)!

  • Lois Alter Mark

    Every time I visit Ireland, I fall in love all over again. Killarney, like so much of the country, seems to hold the perfect balance of old charm and modern comfort. Definitely missing the kind people and their joyous ways. Plus, those dance moves!

    • Ireland is gorgeous! I hope to go back to explore more. And I LOVE the people. And the dancing of course!

  • Ireland is a beautiful place. We visited this magical land for the first time in 2014 and were so impressed by it that we moved here for good in 2017. You should listen to the accent in Limerick and Cork, it’s just amazing. I hope you keep coming back to this beautiful place on earth. Cheers

  • Horses are still a legitimate mode of transport there? It is really nothing short of wow! I would love to ride on a proper European horse carriage. Way back in 2014 I had my share of experience of riding on a horse carriage, but it was very bad one. The horse was almost tormented, the carriage was hardly a carriage to say the least.

    • Crazy, huh! Ooh that sounds like an awful experience – I hope if you do it again it is much better for both you and the horse.

  • Hail your horse and embark on a trip back in time, or just away in some magic space! What a GRAND destination 🙂

  • Kaylene Chadwell

    I’d really like to visit Killarney! I love how much outdoorsy things there are to do! And I’d love to experience the Irish music scene there! I’ve only been to Ireland once, but I had a wonderful time and would love to get back again soon!

    • It’s gorgeous Killarney! And heaps to do – especially the vibe with the music, it’s just wonderful!

  • Sarah Ebner

    I loved Ireland when we visited, but we didn’t make it to Killarney and it looks incredible! Love the laid back vibe, natural scenery, the idea of hobbit juice and Ross Castle, which is right up our street. Sounds like a place we’d really love.

    • Killarney was definitely a highlight but I’ve got so much more explore on my next trip to Ireland! Hobbit Juice was super tasty 🙂

  • Beautiful photography. We wanted to go to TBEX. We were that close to meeting IRL. I love all of the outdoor adventures there. Biking through Ireland has been on our list for a long time.

    • Thanks guys! A shame you couldn’t get to TBEX but another time – and hopefully we can finally meet there!

  • Kavita

    Killarney is such a charmer of a place isn’t it? Love that the clippity-cloppity horse hooves is the sound that summed up the trip for you! And you are spot on about how friendly and chatty the locals are in this part of the world! Gift of the gab is right!! Love the look of Muckross Park Hotel btw, looks lush!

  • Ha

    This place looks so beautiful! I’m in love with the sunset and the 15th-Century Ross Castle. I would love to visit Ireland one day, especially the trip to Killarney.

  • Kayla Jones

    Wow, I have visited Killarney, but I’ve never heard of kayaking around the castle! I looked at your post about that, and I am definitely pinning it for the future!

  • The castles around Killarney look amazing. I think Irish castles are under noticed and over shadowed by their castle neighbours across the channel. It looks like fun fishing by Ross castle. Do you know what type of fish they catch their?

    • The castles are incredible! And yes somehow they live in the shadows of others. Nope – sorry, no idea what kind of fish they caught!

  • Kenny T.K. Chow

    Such a nice place to visit!! Unpredictable weather, horses, historic castle, nice people and the charming Muckross Park Hotel… Can’t wait for my next trip to Ireland 😊 @ knycx.journeying

  • Lara Dunning

    So enjoyed reading your post and remember my time in Ireland. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much time in Killarney to explore during TBEX, and its good to know what things to put on my list when I return.

    • Glad you enjoyed your time in Ireland, I would have loved to have spent more time exploring. But TBEX was very full on!

  • Clare Thomson

    What beautiful photos you’ve taken! Kayaking around a castle sounds so cool – I have to do it. This part of Ireland looks stunning. I really need to plan an Irish holiday. Thanks for inspiring me on #FarawayFiles

  • Love your photos, Juliette! I believe we met at the Kayaking and Walking Tour during TBEX Killarney. We had a wonderful time too, and absolutely loved everything about Killarney! We visited the Killarney Brewery as well, where we had a lovely evening. They serve great beers and pizza btw! 😉 Apart from that, I guess you covered everything.

  • Yes to the kayaking! What a wonderful way to get a difference perspective on the classic Irish castle! Fab pics and fun post. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

  • Punita Malhotra

    This is one of the few posts on ireland which has kindled mu interest in the country. I love to get a flavour of local culture and will make sure to witness one of the Irish dances that you mention. “Expect to nod a lot” made me smile so wide!

  • Kevin del Prado

    This is one helpful post. I think you’ve covered almost everything about Killarney. I wish I could go to Europe very soon so I can witness this amazing place. And also try that LOTR themed cafe

  • What a great post! Killarney definitely captured our hearts and imaginations, as did all of the Emerald Isle. We love your quick guide – lots of good advice and great pictures. It made us eager to get back and show Killarney a little more love! 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  • You are so right. The first few paras and your pictures are so out of Pride and Prejudice. I feel as if Mr. Darcy will come out of those woods, trotting away. This place is quite lovely, with those Abbeys and water sports – Kayaking being my favorite. Hope to visit some day

  • Vyjay Rao

    Loved the way you started the post. Could almost hear the sound of the hooves of the horses. Killarney comes across as an enchanting place and something we would definitely love. I love the old world charm which comes out so elegantly in the post through your pictures as well as the lyrical text.

  • Joseph Humphreys

    Hahaha, yeah, the ‘grand’ thing does cause some confusion! I know enough Irish people, as someone who lives in neighbouring UK, to be used to it by now. Some great stuff to check out in Killarney it seems, one for me to check out when I next go to Ireland 🙂

  • Justine Jobelle M. Kimoden

    A room fit for a princess and smells like lemon grass?! yes please! and definitely get me some of that hobbit juice!!! Love Ireland!

  • I haven’t been to Killarney since I was 13. Visited Mucross house and loved it. I don’t live far away so I have no excuse for not visiting. I’m Irish and I find it difficult to understand the Kerry accent 😂

  • Amit Sharma

    You know It’s funny how I’ve traveled all over the world but I’m yet to hop over the pond and travel through Ireland. I’ve actually heard quite a bit about Kilarney as a few of my friends are from there. However in saying that I would still love to experience it for myself, Kayaking around the castle would be amazing, although I might have to wait until summer to do that haha. -This was a really great read and will reference it again when I eventually hop over 😀

  • Ritika Singh

    i havent visited Ireland yet but every now and then i see something on insta or blogs taht completely takes my breath away from Ireland…i wish to visit soon..thanks for such detailed guide…have bookmarked it..and yeh will pack for all the seasons.. 🙂

  • Medha Verma Bector

    Hailing a horse and kayaking around a 15 century castle are two things that really make me go WOW. Killarney sounds amazing and I’ve read a few other posts recently that also talk about how charming the place is, straight out of a storybook and also the people are really friendly. I love your pictures!

  • I was recently in Ireland myself, over on the west coast in a village called Bundoran – it was beautiful, with a lovely wide sandy beach (unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of that though, being winter and all!). If I’m ever back in Ireland I’ll have to try to visit Killarney, as it looks and sounds beautiful x


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