Fortunately for visitors, an abundance of national parkland means much of Ireland’s scenic beauty is freely accessible. With thousands of acres open to the public, it is possible for everyone to explore the island’s attractions. Here you will find details of some of Ireland’s most popular national parks.
Muckross House, Gardens And Traditional Farms
Killarney National Park, Muckross, Killarney, Kerry
Listed among Ireland’s top tourist attractions, Muckross House is situated in the heart of the beautiful Killarney National Park on the shore of Killarney’s lower lake.
Built in 1843, Muckross House was a typical 17th century mansion. In preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861, some elaborate renovations were made, making the house the wonderful spectacle that it is today.
The rooms on public view are furnished in period style and demonstrate the elegant lifestyle of the 19th-century landowner class – the house’s last residents. The servants’ living quarters, in the basement, are also on view.
The house itself is surrounded by beautiful gardens, with visitors welcome to explore the fine collections of azaleas and rhododendrons, extensive water garden, and an outstanding rock garden constructed from local limestone.
The Burren National Park
The word Burren derives from Boireann, which means ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic – an apt name for this vast limestone plateau in northwest County Clare.
In the 1640′s Cromwell’s surveyor described it as ‘a savage land, yielding neither water enough to drown a man nor tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury.’
The Burren is a unique botanical environment in which Mediterranean and alpine plants rare in Ireland grow side by side.
Glaciation and wind and rain erosion have formed limestone pavements with deep crevices known as ‘grykes’. The porous rock is easily penetrated by rain water, which has gouged out an extensive cave system beneath the rocky plateau.
Renville, Oranmore, Galway
A 60-acre amenity park at Renville, Oranmore, lies at the eastern end of Galway Bay, affording some beautiful views over the Bay and the surrounding area. It is approximately 14km from Galway City by road and contains a castle, a gate lodge, a medieval tower house, estate farmyard, pasture, and woodland. A number of walking routes have been constructed throughout the estate, and there is an adventure playground, restaurant, and tea rooms in the park.
Killarney National Park
Muckross Road, Killarney, Kerry
Opened in 1932, Killarney National Park was Ireland’s first National Park. The park is situated in south-west Ireland, close to the most westerly point in Europe, and it encompasses some 10,000 hectares of mountain, moorland, woodland, waterways, parks, and gardens.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
The Wicklow Mountains National Park initially covered an area of 3,700 hectares centred on Glendalough, but it has been considerably extended since, and now covers an area of close to 20,000 hectares, including the internationally important Liffey Head Bog. The main park visitor facilities and Education Centre are still located in the Glendalough Valley.
The Park includes the beautiful Upper Lake at Glendalough and most of the glaciated valley in which it lies. It is famous for its woodlands and wildlife.
The most notable feature in the Glendalough Valley is the monastic settlement, which includes a cathedral, round tower, and St. Kevin’s Church. The foundation of the settlement is attributed to St. Kevin who died early in the 7th century, but most of the remains date from the 8th to 12th centuries. Another significant monument in the park is a prehistoric passage grave on the summit of Seefin Mountain.
Glenveagh National Park
Churchill, Letterkenny, Donegal
Henry Mc Ilhenny from Philadelphia created one of the most celebrated gardens in Ireland in a late 19th-century setting in a rugged and remote mountain valley in Donegal.
Woodland gardens, pleasure grounds, and an Italian terrace with antique sculpture and terracotta pots have all been skillfully interwoven against the wild and beautiful Donegal landscape.
Glenveagh National Park Visitor Centre, which is located at the end of Lough Veagh near the edge of the National Park, offers facilities including a restaurant, a car park, an audio visual display, and information on the various walking trails