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A lakes cruise is the ideal way to see the centerpieces of Ireland's Killarney National Park (Pairc Naisiunta Chill Airne in Irish/Gaelic). Our Ireland walking tour guide, Frank Walsh, pointed out the lakes on a Killarney National Park map.

Frank Walsh and group look at map by Lough Leane.
Frank Walsh and group look at map by Lough Leane.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The largest of the three Lakes of Killarney is Lough Leane, also called Loch Lein and Lower Lake. A short river joins it to Muckross Lake (Middle Lake). The Long Range, an elongated channel, joins Muckross Lake to Upper Lake, the smallest Killarney Lake.

Ladies View, on the Ring of Kerry, offers an elevated view of all three Killarney Lakes. Together, these lakes comprise nearly one-quarter of the area of Killarney National Park, 25,425 acres (102.89 square kilometers).

Killarney Lakes boat trip

The O'Connor's Pub vintage bus, bearing the sign: Gap of Dunloe & Lakes of Killarney Adventure, brought us to Ross Castle for the start of our cruise. We put on life jackets and boarded open wooden boats at Reen Pier, the departure point for Killarney Lakes cruises.

Our boatman steered the boat from Ross Bay into Lough Leane, which is 4,700 acres (19 sq km) in size. We stopped beside Innisfallen Island, located one mile (1.6 km) offshore from Ross Castle.

Innisfallen Abbey

The 6th to 7th-century ruins of Innisfallen Abbey overlook Lough Leane. During the Middle Ages, many people came to study at Innisfallen monastery. "That is why Lough Leane means Lake of Learning," explained Frank Walsh.

Innisfallen Abbey ruins and rowboat
Innisfallen Abbey ruins and rowboat
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Between the 11th and 13th centuries, monk scribes at the abbey wrote a Latin and Irish/Gaelic record of Ireland history called the Annals of Innisfallen. (They are now kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.)

The monks left Innisfallen Island in 1652, after Cromwell's English troops captured Ross Castle and demolished Innisfallen Abbey.

Muckross Lake

Our boat cruised under Brickeen (Bricin) Bridge into Muckross Lake. Also called Middle Lake, Muckross is the deepest Killarney Lake, with a depth of 241 feet (74 meters).

Crossing to Dinis Island, we got off the boat and walked by a former hunting lodge, Dinis Cottage, which now operates as a tea room. Following a woodland path, between mounds of heather, we crossed the island to Old Weir Bridge, which is 450 years old.

Boat enters Upper Lake during Three Lakes of Killarney tour.
Boat enters Upper Lake during Three Lakes of Killarney tour.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The three Killarney Lakes join here, at the Meeting of the Waters. Back on the boat, we cruised along the narrow Long Range Channel to Upper Lake.

Upper Lake

White-tailed eagles, which were reintroduced into Killarney National Park, soared overhead as we cruised into Upper Lake. Cormorants rested on rocks.

Looking up, we could see Ladies View lookout on the hills. We got out of our boat at the end of Upper Lake, the smallest and calmest of the Lakes of Killarney.

A short path led us to Lord Brandon's Cottage, where we had lunch, before hiking the Gap of Dunloe.


Killarney Lakes Cruise: www.gapofdunloetours.com

Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Irish Breakfasts at Ireland B&Bs

Killarney Ireland Hiking Trail - Co. Kerry

Muckross Abbey - Killarney National Park Ireland

Muckross Traditional Farms Tour - Killarney Ireland

Muckross House Tour - Killarney National Park Ireland