The Most Visited and Loved National Parks in Ireland

Ireland has just six national parks. Killarney National Park, which is located in the southwest County Kerry is the oldest, being founded in 1932. Burren National Park in County Clare is the smallest national park at under six square miles. Glenveagh National Park was founded in 1984, and the remainder were all established in the 1990s to conserve and protect biodiversity. As national parks, they are protected areas of natural beauty and at the same time major tourist attractions.

Wicklow Mountains / Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin

Wicklow Mountains national park.

Located in the picturesque Glendalough Valley south of Dublin, Wicklow Mountains National park is the largest in Ireland, covering more than 50,614 acres. There are three roads that traverse the park offering scenic routes. The north-south route includes the source of Dublin’s River Liffey and Glenmacnass waterfall, and the two east-west roads’ highlights include excellent viewpoints over Lough Tay and at the top of Wicklow Gap. It is also possible to explore part of the Glendalough valley on foot, from short walks around historical sites to treks around the valley, several hill walks through wild bogs and health fields up to the peaks or a multi-day trek along the Wicklow Way. You will likely spot sika deer, wild goats, and rare peregrine falcons buzzing over the oak and pine forests.

The Burren / Boireann

The Burren national park.

Established in Co. Clare in 1991, the 3,707-acre Burren National Park, is an area full of exposed limestone from which it gets its name since Burren comes from the Irish for “a rocky place.” Whilst it is the smallest national park in Ireland, you can tour the karst hills of the region, which are rich in historic and archaeological sites, including several megalithic tombs, portal dolmens, and the nearby Corcomroe Abbey. The area is also popular for its unique variety of flora and fauna since it is home to 75 percent of all the flower species found in Ireland.

Killarney / Cill Airne

Killarney national park.

The three Lakes of Killarney and the mountains and woods that surround them make up this beautiful national park in County Kerry. Established in 1932 when the Muckross Estate was donated to the independent Republic of Ireland, it has since expanded and now covers almost 25,000 acres, which includes oak holly and yew woodlands which are of international significance. It is also home to the only indigenous herd of red deer who roam around the ancient ruins of Innisfallen Abbey, once a leper colony.

Filled with waterfalls, countless lakes, dramatic mountains, forests, and even castles, Killarney was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 due to its diverse habitats and its unique and rare plant and animal species.

Glenveagh / Gleann Bheatha

Glenveagh national park.

Glenveagh National Park located in County Donegal is the second largest park in Ireland covering an area of 42,240 acres and was established in 1984 after being presented to the Irish nation in 1981. The estate was established by John Adair, who wanted a castle and estate that would be an improvement on Queen Victoria’s retreat in Scotland, Balmoral. Instead, he became infamous for evicting 244 of his tenants and clearing the land so they would not spoil his view of the landscape.

The Glenveagh includes exotic plants from Tasmania, Chile, and Madeira, sheltered by pine trees. A natural habitat to the golden eagle which reintroduced into the park in 2000, it is also home to Ireland's largest herd of red deer.

Connemara / Conamara

Connemara national park.

Established in 1990, Connemara National Park in County Galway covers an area of 7,680 acres which features heaths, forests, mountains, grasslands, and bogs. Connemara is most famous for being a natural habitat for a diverse variety of birds, including common chaffinches, common kestrel, and common snipe among others. There are few mammal species in Connemara National Park with the largest mammal being the Connemara pony. You can drive through it taking in the beauty surrounding you, stopping when you feel like it to take pictures. There are three walks available, ranging from 30 minutes to 90-120 minutes.

Ballycroy / Baile Chruaich

Ballycroy national park.

Established in 1998, the Ballycroy National Park in County Mayo covers an area of approximately 27,500 acres and is a unique habitat for diverse species of flora and fauna across its river habitats, blanket bogs, and the cliffs of the Nephin Beg mountain range. The park is an important breeding, roosting and feeding place for many migratory species of birds and has the largest expanse of peatland in Europe.

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