This article is part of our Trip Report, A Summer Holiday in Ireland & Scotland.
Of all the places Philly & I have visited, Killarney is at or near the top of our “favorites” list. It’s just the right size (population about 15,000), big enough to have a variety of hotels and places to eat, drink and shop, but small enough that it’s not overcrowded and it still feels like an authentic small Irish town. It’s a pretty area. The town is very walkable. We have found the people in Killarney to be very nice, and the town has a great vibe. And let’s just say that the locals there know how to party.
The town of Killarney is a very popular tourist location in southwest Ireland. It is the traditional start/finish point for people driving the well-known Ring of Kerry (see A Day’s Drive Around the Ring of Kerry). It can also be used as a jumping-off point if you want to visit/drive to the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Beara. Killarney is very popular with tour operators, who fill the town and its hotels with buses full of visitors, night after night during the high tourist season. It has (mostly) retained the feel of an Irish village, while having a critical mass of hotels and restaurants to accommodate a steady influx of visitors.
Where Is Killarney?
Killarney is in southwest Ireland. From the main gateways for Americans arriving into Ireland, according to Google Maps, the drive to Killarney is approximately 3 hours 30 minutes (317 km) from Dublin airport and about 1 hour 49 minutes (134 km) from Shannon airport.
Places in Killarney
We have visited a few places in Killarney that we’d like to share with you. Central Killarney is compact, so everywhere in town is pretty easily walkable.
Here’s a map to show you the relative locations of the places we’ll discuss in this article:
Hotels – The Killarney Plaza Hotel and the Fairview Hotel
We have stayed in two hotels in Killarney, the Killarney Plaza Hotel in 2012 and the Fairview Hotel on this trip in 2016. Either would be a good choice. The Killarney Plaza is a bit nicer and slightly better-located, but it’s also a little more expensive. You couldn’t go wrong either way. Here is our full review of the Fairview Hotel, and I won’t spend any more time talking about the hotels here as there’s detailed information in our review.
The Flesk Restaurant
We had a nice dinner at The Flesk restaurant after our long travel day visiting Skellig Michael and circling the Ring of Kerry. It had been recommended to us by the staff at The Fairview Hotel. The Flesk had a variety of dishes, so everyone in our party was able to find something they liked, which can be a big advantage if your group’s tastes are varied. The Flesk was very conveniently located in the middle of town on Main Street, just a few steps from the Killarney Plaza Hotel. We were in Killarney in early June and were able to walk in and be seated after a short wait. But if you’re there during a heavier tourist season such as July and August, you’ll want to call for a reservation.
I’d say The Flesk was solid although not spectacular. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need after a long day as a tourist.
Eddie Rocket’s City Diner
If you’re craving some good ol’ American-style burgers and fries while you’re in Killarney, you’re in luck. Eddie Rocket’s is the Irish cousin of the American diner chain Johnny Rocket’s (I’m not sure of the exact relationship, if any, between the companies). It has the exact same 50’s-style diner furnishings and feel. There are even mini-jukeboxes in each booth. And the burgers, fries and shakes will make you feel right at home. It’s American comfort food in Ireland … which you might be really craving after eating Irish food for a few days!
We had a great and very satisfying late dinner at Eddie Rocket’s after a long day at the Cliffs of Moher and driving from The Burren all the way to Killarney. Middle Age Miles says check it out.
Quills Woollen Market
We had a nice time shopping for Irish wool sweaters and hats at Quills Woollen Market in Killarney. Quills is the largest shop in town and had a great selection of Irish clothing. It’s centrally located in the middle of Killarney on High Street. We’d certainly recommend a visit there.
Checking the Quills website, it looks like they have 6 locations in County Kerry and County Cork (the Woollen Market and an Irish Gift Store in Killarney, and Woollen Market stores in Kenmare, Sneem, Glengarriff, and Bantry).
Quills describes itself as follows:
With more than 75 years’ experience in the hand-crafting of QUality and Unique Irish Sweaters & Irish Knitwear, we are the Number 1 shop store for oversea visitors and locals alike searching for a taste of Irish Heritage in their search for the Perfect Irish Sweater, at the best price. Aran Sweaters and Irish Sweaters, is our specialty and you are in safe hands knowing that we have our own local knitting ladies creating Irish Sweaters and Irish Knitwear that will not be found anywhere else in the world.
The Shire Bar
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, The Shire Bar in Killarney is not to be missed. We certainly enjoyed chasing our Fires of Mordor shots with our jars of Hobbit Juice. Our full write-up of The Shire Bar is in our review of the Fairview Hotel, as The Shire Bar is right next door to The Fairview.
Sheehan’s Pub at Killarney Grand
We didn’t visit Sheehan’s Pub on our trip to Killarney in 2016, but Philly & I spent a long night there on our first visit to Killarney in 2012.
We arrived at Sheehan’s Pub around 10:00 pm, after a great dinner at an Italian restaurant in Killarney (sadly, this restaurant, the Amalfi Coast, was closed when we returned to Killarney in 2016). The people there were so nice that one of the restaurant employees walked us over to Sheehan’s, made sure that we got in with no problem, and even stayed to have a couple of drinks with us. Sheehan’s was totally hopping, with a live band, a good crowd, and plenty of people dancing along to the music. We drank, we danced, we visited with the locals and tourists at the bar. For hours and hours. Finally, we were talking with a female American tourist and a younger Irish lad who was intent on courting her. One of the bar employees came around to our table and told us that lock-in time was coming in fifteen minutes. We checked the time and it was 3:15 am! Mind you, this was on a weeknight (a Wednesday night if I recall correctly). We didn’t have to leave, but they were about to lock the doors. If we didn’t leave, we’d have to stay inside Sheehan’s until sometime in the morning. I guess that’s a thing in Ireland – keep everyone “safe” inside the pub rather than having them out on the streets any later than 3:30 am. We had enough of our wits about us to get out and get back to our hotel. Fortunately, it was only a few steps from Sheehan’s back to our hotel, the Killarney Plaza. And last we saw, our Irish lad friend was in the hotel lobby, still trying to persuade his new American lady friend into continuing their night together 🙂
To give you an even better idea of what this place is like, I give you their own words on The Killarney Grand’s website:
Located in the heart of Killarney town centre, the Killarney Grand Hotel is a party hotel designed to appeal to people of all ages. The venue offers lots of in house entertainment 7 nights a week with bar exemptions nightly.
If you’re lucky, perhaps your visit to Killarney will coincide with the days of horse racing at Killarney Racecourse. Racing only takes place a few days a year – in 2018 the dates are May 13-15, July 15-19, and August 22-25. Killarney Racecourse is a little ways from central Killarney, on Ross Road. It’s long-walkable from the center of town but you might prefer to get a ride to the track.
Philly & I went to the races at Killarney Racecourse during our first visit to Killarney in 2012. I have been to many days of racing in America, but this was my first ever day to go to the races internationally. And it was Philly’s first day of horse racing ever!
Unfortuantely, our race day started a little slow. This was the day after our adventurous night at Sheehan’s Pub. First post time for the races was at 4:15 pm – so all we had to do was get up, shower, and get a bite to eat in time to be at the track by 4:15. We didn’t make it. We felt pretty good about getting ourselves to the track in time for the 3rd race 🙂
Once there, we had a good time exploring the track and making a few bets. Interestingly, there were two completely separate betting systems at Killarney Racecourse. One was a pari-mutuel system like we use in the US. You can bet into the regular pool, and payouts are determined by the relative amounts wagered on each horse. However, you could also bet with one of the on-track bookies. Betting was at fixed odds as displayed on a board alongside each bookie’s booth – some of them literally on chalkboards! The bookie booths consisted of a line of tents set up on the apron alongside the track. Philly loved this system of betting. She liked comparing the odds on the various horses at different booths (and there were indeed some differences in odds, as the various bookies tried to balance their risks). So for the first race we were there, we bet into the familiar pari-mutuel system, but after that we made all our bets with the bookies.
Also, at Killarney Racecourse, all races are on turf/grass – none on dirt like the majority of racing in the US. Some of the races are on the “flat” course (actually an undulating course), and some are steeplechases, over the jumps. On the day we went, there were 4 flat races and 4 steeplechases.
We actually came out winners at Killarney Racecourse. I’ll tell the story for the benefit of our race-loving readers: Our hero was a horse named Diplomat, who ran in the feature race of the day, a stakes race for older horses on the flat course. Diplomat had run very poorly in his previous race, so he looked somewhat ambitiously spotted in the featured stakes race. But he was trained by the great Irish trainer Dermot Weld, he was owned by successful American horse owners Ken & Sarah Ramsey, and many-time Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen had traveled to Killarney to ride Diplomat. At 10-1 odds, this was good enough for me. And Diplomat rolled to a solid victory, much to the joy of these American racing fans.
One More Small Funny Story
When Philly & I visited in 2012, I laughed when I saw a car parked in front of a “No Parking Day or Night” sign in Killarney, and I took this picture:
Google Street Maps took its views in Killarney in June 2017, and guess what? Yep, still a car parked there!
A Google Street View “Walk” Through Killarney
I always enjoy “walking” through places using Google Street View. Here is a link to Google Street View in Killarney, starting right in front of Sheehan’s Pub. Enjoy!
Have you visited Killarney? What did you enjoy? How did you like the places we’ve discussed in our article?