Explore and Discover 3 of our much-loved National Parks
Why not get out in the open spaces of our national parks, breathe the pure air and enjoy a great day in the outdoors. Whether you prefer to stroll, ramble or hike there is a park for you. Here are three of our very popular national parks that attract vast numbers of visitors each year: Wicklow National Park, Glenveagh National Park in Donegal and Killarney National Park in Kerry.
Hidden in our national parks are some unusual and sometimes surprising items to see.
Do you know where you can find these in our national parks?
- A herd of Red deer that dates back to Neolithic times.
- Balinese statues.
- An elusive slug.
- A bug trail.
- Feral goats.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
This park is close to city life but even closer to nature. Over 20,000 hectares of rugged mountains and untamed land make this a top destination for hillwalkers and for a family day out.
Whatever your level of fitness, this national park has something for you and your family.
If you would like to get a sense of the park before you leave home, here is a link to the story map which gives a great introduction to this park.
The Walking trails of Glendalough
Take advantage of some of the 9 Walking Trails with a one-way system in operation in the park. Here is a brief outline of some of the walks.
|Name of walk||Approx.Time||Distance|
|Poulanass and St Kevin’s Cell||½ hour||1km|
|Green Road Walk||50mins||3km|
|Woodland Road||1 ¼ hours||4km|
|Miner’s Road Walk||1 hr 10mins||5km|
|Derrybawn Woodland Trail||2hours||8km|
|Spinc and Glenealo Valley||3 ¼ hours||9.5km|
Full information on the above walks and can be downloaded from the Wicklow National Park website. Here is the link.
If you would like something less energetic and more family friendly, then you could try some of the Nature Trails.
Why not investigate some of these trails which children will love to explore.
- Little children delight in this trail and have plenty of fun finding the bugs in the wild areas. You might even see the pretty Peacock butterfly or the Damselfly.
Mammal Tracks Walk.
- As the mammals can be shy, you can see their tracks on this walk. Can you recognise the footprint of a deer? It resembles an upside-down heart shape. Also, as you walk around remember to watch out for the feral goats, originally farm animals, who love climbing rocks.
- You can spot some of the 100 species of birds in the park on this walk. Watch out for the tall, large, long legged, Grey Herons which can be seen standing in water.
Full information on the nature trails can be downloaded and here is the link.
Glendalough sites not to be missed.
No visit is complete without seeing the monastic ruins and round tower in the misty setting of Glendalough. Follow this link for more information on the site.
Maps for the area.
You can explore more of this area with the three Adventure maps of Wicklow.
- Wicklow Central – Lugnaquillia, Glendalough and the Devil’s Glen.
- Wicklow North – Blessington, Kippure and The Great Sugar Loaf.
- Wicklow South – Tinahely, Annagh Hill and The Vale of Avoca.
These maps can be purchased from the online store. Here is the link.
Glenveagh National Park
If you are looking for a tranquil and secluded location, Donegal’s Glenveagh National Park is the place to visit. Mountains, lakes and waterfalls covering 16,000 hectares fill this wonderful wild park. It is the second biggest national park in Ireland.
Looped Walks in the park
You can experience some of the easy walks along with more challenging trails which are available in the park. Here are 3 of the easier looped walks.
|Name of looped walk||Approx. time||Distance|
|Derrylahan Nature Trail||45mins.||2km|
|Garden Trail||I hour||1km|
|View Point Trail||35mins.||1km|
If you would like a longer walk you could try the Glen (Bridle Path Walk) which is 8km and takes about 2 hours.
For more details on all the walks please follow this link.
Before you visit this park, make your way through the very informative and easy to navigate story-map. You can see plenty of photographs and can pick out interesting places to visit in the park.
Here is the link to that story map.
Glenveagh sites not to be missed in the park
- Donegal has some beautiful waterfalls so don’t miss this 115metre-high waterfall which is at the base of the Derryveagh Mountains. It runs into Lough Beagh and is part of the Upper Glen walk.
The Derryveagh Eviction site.
- From this site, near the shores of Lough Gartan, 244 people were evicted over a number of days in 1861. Those that could not find shelter with anyone emigrated to Australia.
You might also like to see a High Cross which was erected in memory of these people and is located in a separate section of the park.
Unexpected and unusual items to see
- A pineapple topped pillar is not something you would expect to find in this rugged park. The Pineapple pillar is nestled in the trees; the fruit being a symbol of hospitality. It is near Lough Beagh and you can check the location of the story map above.
- The second surprising item is located nearby. There are 2 Balinese statues, from Indonesia, of mythical creatures. These are unexpected and fearsome sculptures of Balinese statues with knife like teeth. Their purpose was to keep out evil characters.
As you make your way around the park, remember to watch out for the Golden Eagles overhead which were reintroduced in Donegal.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National park welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and the area has always been a top attraction for visitors with the dramatic beauty of the area. Around 4,000 years ago settlement began in this area and today Killarney remains a firm favourite with visitors flocking to the region.
You can enjoy the wide open spaces, a historic castle, gardens, a beautiful waterfall, a wide variety trails plus plenty of wildlife within the park.
To help you pick the most suitable trail for your walk, the trails are clearly divided into five categories from Multi-access up to very difficult trails.
The Multi access trails, which are smooth and even ground, are suitable for almost everyone and the park has several trails at this level.
Here are two of the Multi-access trails.
|Knockreer Circular walk||2 Hours.||5km|
|Dundag to Torc path||45 mins.||2.5km return|
Nature and wildlife all around
In Killarney National Park you will be surrounded by nature and wildlife.
Two herds of deer, The Kerry Slug, Kingfishers, are just a small selection of what you can see in the park.
Two separate Deer herds
- Many visitors to the park love seeing the two different herds of deer. The largest, which has about 1,000 animals, is a historic herd of remarkable Red deer. These deer can weight up to a massive 220Kg and are one of the largest deer species. This herd has a long history and has been in the park since Neolithic Times. You can also see a second herd of deer in the park. These smaller Japanese Sika deer were introduced to the park in the 1800s.
The Kerry Slug
- You might catch sight of the wonderfully titled Kerry Slug, which hides under the bark of trees when there is no rain.
- When you are down by the waterside you could catch a glimpse of the Kingfisher. If you have never been lucky enough to see a Kingfisher, you could be in luck in this park which has several pairs. These birds are brightly coloured, with large heads, long bills and they fly low over the water.
Not to be missed Torc Waterfall
The beauty of the waterfall never fails to please the countless visitors to the park and whenever there is lots of rainfall, this is a good time to head out to see the famous Torc waterfall.
Canoe and Kayaking
Why not plan an extra activity during your visit to this park. If you would like to use your canoe or kayak in the park you must obtain a permit well in advance from the Ranger base. See this link for full details regarding the permit.
Maps for the area
- The Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Killarney National Park Adventure map is available for this area.
- Discovery sheet 78.
These maps can be purchased from the online store. Here is the link.
Always check the weather forecast when planning a day out. Here is the link