Summer outside? Discover Ireland’s six national parks

Ready to spend some time in the great outdoors this summer and connect with nature?

Ireland’s six national parks offer ancient forests, diverse flora and fauna, historic sites, and stunning mountain and lake views.

1. Killarney National Park
(Killarney, County Kerry)

Ladies View in Killarney National Park in Co Kerry. Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Killarney National Park was the first national park established in Ireland. The park was established when the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932, and Muckross House and Gardens remain a focal point of the park for many visitors.

Located in the southwest of the country, the park covers 41 square miles and includes the largest area of ​​ancient oak trees in Ireland. At the foot of Macgillycuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range, are the famous Killarney Lakes, which make up about a quarter of the park. The Ring of Kerry crosses the park.

In 1981, Killarney National Park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

2. Wicklow Mountains National Park
(Glendalough, County Wicklow)

Wicklow Mountains National Park.  Credit: ICP

Wicklow Mountains National Park. Credit: ICP

At 85 square miles, the Wicklow Mountains are Ireland’s largest national park and also the most visited, due to its proximity to Dublin. It is also the only national park on the east coast of the country.

The park, which has two nature reserves within its boundaries and nine hiking trails, is a popular spot for wilderness camping, according to Lonely Planet.

Its most historic site is Glendalough, a medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin.

3. Glenveagh National Park
(near Gweedore, County Donegal)

Glenveagh National Park.  Credit: ICP

Glenveagh National Park. Credit: ICP

Glenveagh, at 66 square miles, is Ireland’s second largest national park.

The park, known for its wildlife, is home to Ireland’s largest herd of red deer as well as the golden eagle, which was hunted to local extinction in the 19th century but was reintroduced in 2000.

The park developed from the estate once owned by John George Adair, who evicted its 244 tenants in 1861 because their presence obstructed his view of the landscape. Glenveagh Castle and Gardens were donated to the Irish State in 1981 by Henry P. McIlhenny of Philadelphia who purchased the estate in 1937.

4. The Burren National Park
(Mullaghmore, County Clare)

The Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren National Park.  Credit: Getty

The Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren National Park. Credit: Getty

The Burren, just 5.8 square miles, is Ireland’s smallest national park and is located just a 35-minute drive from the Cliffs of Moher.

It takes its name from the limestones on display throughout the park, reports. Burren, comes from the Irish word Boireann, which means “a rocky place”.

The park is known for its extraordinary flora, the megalithic Poulnabrone dolmen (Ireland’s most photographed ancient monument) and Dromore Wood, which includes 17th century O’Brien Castle and two ring forts.

5. Connemara National Park
(Letterfrack, County Galway)

Connemara National Park.  Credit: Tourism Ireland

Connemara National Park. Credit: Tourism Ireland

Connemara National Park, which spans 2,000 hectares of mountains, bogs, moorlands, meadows and forests, is known for its diversity of birds.

Songbirds that can be seen in the park include meadow pipits, skylarks, European stonechats, blackbirds, and wrens. Native birds of prey, such as the kestrel and hawk, merlin and peregrine falcon can also be spotted. In winter, native birds like song thrush and woodcock can be seen, as well as migratory birds from northeastern Europe.

Much of the park’s grounds, which opened to the public in 1980, were once part of the Kylemore Abbey estate.

The Twelve Bens mountain range is also located within the park.

6. Ballycroy National Park
(Ballycroy, County Mayo)

Peat field, Ballycroy National Park.  Credit: Getty

Peat field, Ballycroy National Park. Credit: Getty

Ballycroy National Park, established in 1998, is Ireland’s newest national park.

The park includes the largest expanses of peat bogs in Europe, that is 117.79 square kilometers of Atlantic cover peat bog. Its unique habitat presents a diversity of flora and fauna.

The park is also considered a great place for stargazing and on a clear day you will be able to see over 4,500 stars.

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