The Lakes of Killarney

Lough Leane, the Lower Lake, is the largest of the three famous Lakes of Killarney, the other two being Muckross Lake (the Middle Lake) and the Upper Lake. Killarney town centre is about a mile from the shores of Lough Leane.

To get to the lake itself, take the Muckross Road towards Kenmare and turn right into Ross Road, down past the Killarney Racecourse and on to Ross Castle. Dúchas, the Irish heritage department, did a lot of restoration work to the castle during the late 1990s, and now offers guided tours through the main apartments.

Ross Castle

Ross Castle, on the shores of Lough Leane, was built in the15th century by the O’Donoghues. One of the most photographed of all Irish castles, this picture was taken from the boat at the start of the lake tour.

Ross Castle was the last stronghold in Ireland to be taken by Cromwell’s army, finally falling in the 17th century. On hearing the legend that the castle could never be taken by land, the army approached the castle by boat across the lake and the castle guards surrendered without a battle.

After visiting the castle, take a tour of the Lower Lake on one of the water buses, which do not have to be booked in advance for the casual visitor. A recorded commentary is available in several languages, or listen to the captain’s own version – much more interesting!

The lake tour

Boats tied up near Ross Castle, waiting to take passengers on a fishing trip or a tour of the lakes.

Various agencies in Killarney can arrange a full tour of the Lakes and the Gap of Dunloe. This is a full-day trip, leaving Ross Castle in the morning and travelling by open boat for 14 miles through all three lakes, stopping for lunch at Lord Brandon’s cottage at the top of the Upper Lake and then taking a pony and trap for another 7 miles over the mountains and through the Gap. Alternatively, most of the lake shore is accessible on foot to those who enjoy exploring for themselves.

Inisfallen Abbey

The original abbey on Inisfallen Island was built in the 7th century and for 1,000 years was a reknowned seat of knowledge, giving its name to Lough Leane (the lake of learning). Brian Boru is said to have been one of those educated here. The present ruined church dates from the 11th-12th century.

Bricín Bridge

“The bridge of the little trout”, through which boats pass between Lough Leane and Muckross Lake.

The Old Weir Bridge

When the water level in the lakes is low, passengers have to disembark and walk a short distance through the woods, meeting the boat on the other side of the bridge.

Dinis Cottage

Originally a hunting lodge on the lake shore near the Old Weir Bridge, Dinis Cottage was, for a time, a small restaurant.

Safe Passage

After negotiating the narrows under the bridge, one of the tour boats heads for the jetty to pick up its passengers again.

The Meeting of the Waters

This photograph was taken from the boat, after re-embarking.

Torc Mountain

This lucky photograph was taken one morning, as a rainbow appeared over Castlelough Bay, Lough Leane. Torc Mountain can be seen in the background.


Shamrocks really do grow in Ireland! These were seen in the woods at the foot of Torc Mountain.

Torc Waterfall

One of the most popular tourist attractions, Torc waterfall can be seen after a short walk through the woods from the main Killarney to Kenmare road.

Woodland Scene

This shady pool can be seen in the woods along the shore of Lough Leane. Deer coming for an evening drink had left tracks around the edges of the pool.


The Killarney National Park covers the whole of the lakeland area and up into the mountains. Wild red deer roam through the park, together with the smaller Sika deer, a 19th century introduction. This little deer was was captured on camera while taking a morning stroll beside the lough.