The good people of Ireland s County Kerry call their region the kingdom, and if that s the case, then the town of Killarney must be the realm s crown jewel.
The three Lakes of Killarney have been immortalized in song and story for their breathtaking beauty. Even England s Queen Victoria and her court were mesmerized by a panoramic vista from a hilltop point that would forever be known as The Ladies View.
And while the beauty of the lakes is reason enough to visit this small town in the Southwest of the Emerald Isle, Killarney has a number of additional charms that make a trip to Kerry a must for any traveler to Ireland.
You can start your scenic journey at Killarney National Park , which has 26,000 acres of some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. Here, you re free to roam, hiking, biking, fishing, or horseback riding in parklands, lakes, beaches and mountain trails.
Towering over the lakes and easily accessible from a main road is Torc Mountain, where you can take a vigorous, though not too taxing, trail to the top. Here you can admire the spectacular view of Killarney s lakes, while taking in on the way a wonderful waterfall.
Beside the Lower Lake is sturdy Ross Castle, a restored 15th Century fortress from which boat trips can be taken during the summer to the lake s lovely Innisfallen Island. Not far from the castle is Muckross House, a Victorian demense, now open to commoners, with costumed interpreters showing daily life on a landlord s estate. Here you can enjoy exquisite gardens and see a traditional working farm. Nearby is Muckross Abbey, the ruins of a 15th century Franciscan Abbey, mute testament to the faith of the Irish amidst wars and persecution.
Perhaps the most famous tour in Ireland, the Gap of Dunloe full-day trek, takes you to historic Kate Kearney s Cottage, from which you can go on foot, horseback, or jaunting car (horse drawn carriage), through the mountain pass, and then take a boat ride on Killarney s three lakes to Ross Castle.
Golfers will also find a paradise in Killarney, which has some of the finest golf courses in the world, and that s not even considering the scenery. Courses in Killarney itself include the Dunloe Golf Course and the Castlerosse Golf Club. Within a relatively short driving distance are the legendary Ballybunnion Golf Course and the Waterville Golf Club.
For a small town, a village really, Killarney also has some of the most sophisticated gourmet dining choices in the world, and of course with its location near Ireland s Southwest Coast, deliciously fresh seafood. And you musn t forget that one of the grand experiences of a trip to Ireland is enjoying a night of song, mirth, and camaraderie in one of Killarney Town s singing pubs. My wife and I topped off a visit to Killarney with a memorable night in a vivacious singing pub.
Wonderful accommodation choices abound in Killarney, from hospitable B&Bs; to luxury five star hotels, such as the Killarney Park and the Aghadoe Heights Hotel and Spa. A welcoming four-star hotel near Muckross House and Ross Castle is Randles Court.
For additional information, and help in planning your trip, you can access the Killarney Town official website at www.killarney.ie, or you can contact Tourism Ireland at (212) 418-0800 or online at www.discoverireland.com. With the downturn in tourism, Aer Lingus, Ireland s official airline, is offering discounted rates, so this may be the time to go.
For those who can't get to the Emerald Isle this spring, there are a number of local Gaelic-themed events during the St. Patrick's Day season that will help you get your Irish up. Balladeers Jim Hawkins and Greg Ryan will regale audiences with Irish songs and stories Saturday, March 14, 2 PM at the Deer Park Library, and Sunday, March 15, 2:30 PM at the Freeport Library. They will also sing on Tuesday, March 17,
4 to 8 PM at the MacArthur Park Restaurant in Rockville Centre, and again at MacArthur Park on Saturday March 21, from Noon to 4 PM, following the Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Parade. Also, the Jeanne Rimsky Theatre of the Landmark on Main Street
in Port Washington brings you Dublin's Traditional Cabaret on Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 PM. For information, go to