Muckross Abbey is a must-see location for many that visit Killarney National Park. Fortunately, in order to access the historic ruins, you have to go through some of the best loved parts of the Park. By veering off the beaten track ever so slightly, you can find a lovely looped walk that combines splendour and solitude with a bit of adventure in between.
How To Get There
Muckross Abbey is situated 4 km south of Killarney town on the main N71 road towards Kenmare. There is a path for pedestrians, jaunting cars and bicycles that starts just on the outskirts of the town that will take you directly to the Abbey and beyond. The local shuttle and ‘hop on, hop off’ buses LINKS will bring you to our starting point. If you are driving, there is a convenient car park close by. It is from this car park that we will start and finish the walk.
The ‘New’ Entrance
The car park is a traditional spot for the local jaunting cars to ply their trade during the summer season. Situated directly across the road from the car park is a gated entrance to Killarney National Park still known to some locals as the “new entrance”, despite being over 150 years old. We tend to do that a lot around Killarney – New Street and New Road in the town have been around a while now! As you go through the entrance, you may not notice the lovely gate lodge on your right hand side because you will be drawn to the view in front of you.
Here Comes The View
Before you is one of the most iconic vistas of Killarney National Park. It has featured in movies, magazines, postcards and even as a sleeve cover in a feelgood pop-punk anthem. If you are coming from the town on the cycle/pedestrian track, you will emerge from the trees to this stunning view. Lough Leane is beautifully framed against the backdrop of the McGillycuddy Reeks. From the slightly elevated vantage of the path, you are treated to a spectacular view that never fails to inspire awe on each visit.
The Path To The Abbey
You have an option here to remain on the tarred path or venture closer to the lake shore on the lower path. If you are cycling or you visit during the winter months, you may be better off on the main path. The lakeshore trail continues all the way to Muckross House if you want to include that walk as an option. The main path crosses over a bridge inscribed with “H.A.H.” – in memory of Henry Arthur Herbert who built the current Muckross House.
As you proceed along the path, you may spot a few deer in the meadows either side of the path.
They tend to shy away from this area during the busy season but they have been spotted here early in the morning, so keep your eyes peeled. With the lakeshore and the Reeks to your right, you may not notice Muckross Abbey appearing on the left hand side up ahead.
Take a left at the junction to amble over to the Abbey. As you approach the Abbey entrance on your left, you will see the main pathway continuing on straight ahead of you. (If you were to follow this path, you would exit the Park at the Muckross Park Hotel. From there, you could pop over to the Blue Pool Trail)
|Car Park to Abbey||1 km||Paved road, option to use lakeshore trail. Stay on road in winter|
|Abbey to main road (via woodland)||1 km||Sheltered, quiet. Narrow path, may be muddy in winter.|
|Abbey to Car Park (via woodland)||1.5km||Sheltered, quiet. Narrow path, may be muddy in winter. Roadside for 400m|
For now though we are going to head into towards the Abbey.There is plenty to see and do in and around the ruins so you could spend a bit of time here if you wish. Even if you are tight on time, a stroll around the well preserved cloisters that surround the famous Yew Tree is well worthwhile. The Franciscans that once lived here later relocated to Killarney town where the Friary now stands. The cloisters and Yew Tree were also incorporated into the design there and remain intact to this day.
Into The Woods
As you circle around the ruins, head to the side opposite the cemetery and you will see a small archway leading to a path down some steps. This is the part of the trail that will lead you back to the car park via a different route. Follow the path as it winds along through rhododendron and ferns. You will shortly cross over a little bridge and continue along until you meet the main N71 road again. At the main road, turn left and follow the path along the edge of the road. The car park where you started is only a few hundred metres away.
Lakeshore trails, stunning views, medieval ruins, babbling brooks and woodland solitude – not a bad return for just over 2 kilometres worth of walking.