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    National Parks of Ireland

    Intro to Ireland's National Parks

    Ireland is home to six national parks. Though the first park was only established in 1920, Ireland’s national parks are beloved by the Irish populations and visitors alike. These impressive places are home to a variety of landscapes from old-growth forests to soaring mountains, glistening lakes to exposed limestone landscapes.

    Housing everything from native trees to rare wildflowers, herds of red deer, nesting pairs of golden eagles, birds of every kind, as well as many other types of flora and fauna, Ireland’s national parks play an important role in protecting the island’s ecosystems and conservation efforts.

    Speaking of conservation, these parks protect more than just natural sites. They also protect Ireland’s culture and heritage from prehistoric times all the way through thousands of years to the present day.

    Read on to discover a little more about our favourite parks. Interested in learning more? Visit our guide to each national park to learn where to find it, all about its flora and fauna, geology, and heritage. Each guide offers suggestions for the best ways to visit the park, places of interest in the area, ideas for local activities and food and drink suggestions.

    Connemara National Park

    National Parks of Ireland - Connemara National Park

    Once described by Irish writer Oscar Wilde as a ‘savage beauty’, the Connemara National Park is a place of wild and expansive landscapes. One of Ireland’s most sparsely populated areas, Connemara has some of the most beautiful vistas and unspoilt scenery that Ireland has to offer. The region is a combination of vast bogland, sharp quartzite peaks, teacup-sized villages, pretty lakes and quiet shores. The remote location also means pockets of Irish-speaking communities fiercely holding on to Irish tradition and heritage.

    Connemara National Park is one of Ireland’s six national parks and is also one of the most visited, with the iconic Diamond Hill at its core. Amenities include a visitor centre, cafe and a small museum. Beyond the trails up Diamond Hill, the rest of the park is full of rugged hills. With no official trails through these peaks, the best way to explore these great places is with an experienced guide.

    Read on for our guide to Connemara National Park, full of information to help inspire your next visit to this beautiful place. 

    Connemara Guide

    Glenveagh National Park

    National Parks of Ireland - Glenveagh National Park

    In Irish, the name of the park is Gleann Bheatha, meaning “glen of the birches”. Glenveagh is the second largest national park in Ireland and was the third to be founded.

    Its remote location covers 66 square miles of rugged terrain at the top of County Donegal, encompassing mountains, bogs, waterfalls and of course the lake that lends its name to the park – Lough Veagh. Glenveagh used to be part of a hunting estate, complete with an idyllic castle and vibrant garden. Sitting on the shores of Lough Veagh amongst mountains and bogs, the turrets of Glenveagh Castle and its manicured garden contrast dramatically with the wild landscape of Glenveagh.

    Keep an eye out for the park’s herd red deer, diverse flora and even the rare golden eagles reintroduced to the park while exploring Glenveagh’s network of trails.

    Read our brief guide to Glenveagh National Park and learn about the park’s history, flora, fauna, hiking trails, castle and gardens.

    Glenveagh Guide

    Killarney National Park

    National Parks of Ireland - Killarney National Park

    Established in 1932, Killarney is Ireland’s first national park. Killarney is located in the southwest region of Ireland, sitting on the Iveragh Peninsula home to the well-loved Ring of Kerry.

    Acting as a safe haven for the many areas of wilderness, lakes and mountains, the vast Killarney National Park stretches for over 26,000 acres. Conveniently, the park reaches to the edge of town. Natural wonders include the stunning lakes of Killarney, the savage Gap of Dunloe and majestic peaks of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the mountain range home to Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain.

    The majestic Muckross House, farm and gardens are one of the focal points, and a beautiful reminder of country life in the 1920s, while the historic lakeside Ross Castle transports visitors back to the late middle ages.

    Read on for our guide to Ireland’s most popular national park.

    Killarney Guide

    Wicklow National Park

    National Parks of Ireland - Wicklow National Park

    Ireland’s premier long distance trail, The Wicklow Way is a 127km long route, starting at Marley Park in Dublin and finishing in Clonegal Co. Carlow that winds through some of the most majestic scenery of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Whether you decide to walk the whole trail or just a few sections, you can expect to soak in gorgeous panoramas of hills and valleys banked with heather, shores of enchanted lakes and fascinating historical sites.

    In the area around the Wicklow Mountains National Park, visitors will find Glendalough, an amazing monastic site that was once at the heart of learning in Ireland. The site is known for its important history as well as the stunning natural beauty of its surroundings including lush forests, jaw-dropping valleys and of course the lakes that lend the ancient monastery its name.

    A little further away is the luxurious Powerscourt House and its extensive gardens. Home to Ireland’s tallest cascade, it’s just a short distance from the park and sitting along the Wicklow Way. History Channel’s Vikings fans might like to know that the many “Norway” scenes were filmed here, notably at Lough Tay (also called the “Guinness Lake”), which was a stand-in for Kattegat.

    Wicklow Way Guide

    The Burren National Park

    National Parks of Ireland - the Burren National Park

    The Burren National Park is one of Ireland’s strangest spots. If it wasn’t for the spring wildflowers or the blue skies overhead, you might just think that you were looking at the Moon, or at least some fantastical faraway place. In fact, there are rumblings that fantasy giant J.R.R. Tolkien was inspired by this bizarre landscape.

    The Burren National Park is only a short distance kilometres off of the iconic Wild Atlantic Way, and just 30 kilometres from the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre.

    Whether you love wildflowers, are an amateur photographer looking for exotic shots, are a hiking and outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking for something a bit different, a visit to the Burren region of Ireland is sure to fascinate and inspire.

    Burren Guide

    Ballycroy National Park

    National Parks of Ireland - Ballycroy National Park

    The sixth and least well-known national park in Ireland is Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park. Tucked into a quiet corner of County Mayo, Ballycroy covers roughly 11,000 hectares of wild terrain. It comprises of vast stretches of blanket bog as well as rugged mountainous terrain. This place is an immense uninhabited and unspoilt wilderness, dominated by the Nephin Beg Mountain Range, the only hills of Ireland without a road going through them. The park is home to some very important ecosytems including the intact blanket bogs and many species of birds and insects.

    The most prominent feature of Ballycroy is the Bangor Trail, a 40 km long linear trail that crosses the Nephin Begs, once used as the main route for people to travel between the Bangor Erris region and Newport. There are other trails here too which are shorter in duration.

    We don’t currently have a guide to this national park, but we are always writing new guides to Ireland’s national parks, regions, peninsulas, cities and more, so check back soon!  

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