72 Hours of Irish Country Charm

Scenic hiking trails, whiskey tours and a twist on the classic Irish pub in Killarney.  
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The grounds once part of the 15th-century Ross Castle now form the Killarney National Park. Photo by: Adam Machowiak/shutterstock

Day 1

Settle in, Shop, and Stroll

9 a.m. Gobble a Gourmet Breakfast

The Irish are proud of their produce for a reason. In Killarney, this is evident in the quality of ingredients used by Der O’ Sullivan, a family-owned bakery and deli. Pick from treats like Irish soda bread, Atlantic seafood pie, or an assortment of quiches and traditional potato cakes stuffed with cheese. The handmade bread selection here is free from salt, sugar, and yeast.

Der O’ Sullivan is on the town’s main street. Along with a nourishing meal, it allows visitors to get a glimpse of
the town milling about its life. Outdoor seating, regardless of weather, is highly recommended. (12 Main Street; 9 a.m.-5.30 p.m.; meal for two €12-18/Rs973-1,460.)

12 p.m. High-street Ambling

It would be unwise to not wrap yourself in the high-quality wool on offer in Killarney, with prices lower than Dublin. Stop at Aran Sweater Market, which stocks locally made versions of everything you may need. The styles of clothing and accessories here are charming and traditional. In particular, pick up colourful scarves weaved from merino wool, often reflecting the Irish country with shades of green, blue, and orange.

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High-quality wool, available in the shops on Killarney High Street, is one of the town’s best offerings. Photo by: gabriel12/shutterstock

Drop into a cosy local pub like the Caragh Restaurant & Bar for lunch to sample the lamb shank or shepherd’s pie, assorted local seafood, or boxty, a potato-based Irish pancake with a stuffing of your choice. The restaurant also has a dedicated vegetarian menu, a rarity in these parts. (Aran Sweater Market, College Square; 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Caragh Restaurant & Bar, 106 New St.; noon-8 p.m.; meal for two €25-40/Rs2,026-3,242.)

3 p.m. Knocking It Out of the Park

There is a lot to see within the Killarney National Park. Walk around the grounds, spread over 26,000 acres, and take in views of Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s tallest mountain. There is a charming winding path through the woods leading to the lakeside Ross Castle, a 15th- century watchtower with a significant place in Irish history.

Home to the red deer, the park is a fantastic space to gaze at them from behind a fence, or serendipitously encounter them on a stroll. The park also houses three distinct but linked lakes, called Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake. They come together at the Meeting of the Waters, a popular spot among visitors (daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; entry is free).

 

Day 2

Architecture, Fish, and Irish Whiskey

10 a.m. Finding Jesus

Possibly Killarney’s best-known architectural landmark, St. Mary’s Cathedral was constructed over several decades, with its last additions completed in 1907, over half a century after it opened. The imposing church features lancet-shaped windows covered in stained glass on its east and west ends, and a raised, ornate platform for organ music. Its low entrance is considered a feature typical to Irish church architecture.

St. Mary’s Cathedral is removed from the town it serves by some distance, occupying a generous field. Built from grey and brown stone, its last restoration in 1973 was considered controversial for removing Victorian plasterwork, among other additions. (St. Mary’s Cathedral, New St., Inch; Sunday mass 8.-10.30 a.m., and noon; entry is free.)

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Many of Killarney’s pocket-friendly hostels have unique stories, such as the Súgán Hostel, which was built in 1795 as a home for estate workers and stands next to a Lord of the Rings themed pub. Photo by: mathildeb52/shutterstock

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; A unique way to experience Killarney National Park and lakes is on a jaunting car. Photo by: Walter Bibikow/agefotostock/Dinodia Photo Library

 

1 p.m. Something’s Fishy

Quinlan’s Seafood Bar is one of the best stops for fish and chips in town. The staff at this compact split-level outlet manages to keep things moving without letting the customers feel the rush. Pick from salmon, haddock, seafood chowder, pan-fried sea bass, and even crab claws, all served in generous portions. (Quinlan’s Seafood Bar, 77 High Street; daily noon-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday open until 9 p.m.; meal for two approx €58/Rs4,700)

5 p.m. A Taste of Local Tipple

One of the latest entrants to Ireland’s distillery landscape is a company named Dingle, located in an eponymous neighbouring town. There’s a degree of finesse and flavour to be found in the country’s local whiskies, often not seen in more commercially successful brands. Sample varieties like Red Breast, Tullamore Dew, and Kilbeggan at the Irish Whiskey Experience. The staff and bartenders have an encyclopedic knowledge of the liquor, and are friendly and approachable. (Irish Whiskey Experience, 93, New Street; noon-7.15 p.m.; from €15/Rs1,200.)

 

Day 3

See Ireland’s Highs

8 a.m. Climb Carrauntoohil

The tallest mountain in Ireland stands at a rather stout 3,410 feet. What it lacks in height, it makes up for with unpredictable weather, bushy and rocky, and curiously surreal changes in landscape caused by the sun and clouds flirting in the sky.

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Carrauntoohil, translated from the Gaelic “Corrán Tuathail” meaning “inverted sickle,” is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks range and Ireland’s highest. Photo by: Timaldo/shutterstock

Carry top-notch trekking shoes, necessary for the tricky mountainous terrain and reach the highest point in the island country. Relentless gusts of wind and a towering Catholic cross await. (Kerry Climbing is a popular company; www.kerryclimbing.ie; from €65/Rs5,260 depending on route.)

8 p.m. A Sweet, Sweet Pub

John M. Reidy is one of the newest pubs in a country whose primary cultural export is pubs. The former sweetshop is best described as a series of enclaves, each with distinct decor and bar counters serving up different drinks. Separately, these include a cocktail bar deep inside, and the bar by the door serving just the fuss-free basics.

This build-your-own-experience architecture lends John M. Reidy the quality of a maze, where one can pick their path, their drinks, and precisely the sort of evening they want to have. While cosying up in a booth is tempting, one could also be caught singing along with friendly locals and the talented musicians performing live Irish music each night. (4 Main St.; Mon-Sat 9-1 a.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-midnight; cocktails from €7/Rs570.) 

Essentials

Killarney is a 20-min drive from Kerry International Airport, which has regular flights from Dublin. All major airlines fly from Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai to Dublin.

  • Sarvesh Talreja divides his travel time between bustling cities and meditative dive sites. He's occasionally spotted by mountains too.

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