There’s no place like an Irish national park — the scenery, the views, and the atmosphere are an unforgettable experience for any visitor. Ireland’s six national parks will give you everything from quiet walks through rolling hills to tours of 150-year-old castles.
Ballycroy National Park
Ballycroy, County Mayo
Ballycroy National Park hosts one of the only remaining active blanket bog systems in western Europe, making the park not just a beautiful scene, but also an important scientific one. Ballycroy was designated a national park in 1998 specifically to protect its habitats and species, which include grasslands, lakes, rivers, and geese, grouse, and otters. Several walking trails promise beautiful views, interactive educational experiences, and the perfect escape into nature.
Burren National Park
Corofin, County Clare
Located in West Ireland, Burren National Park was opened in 1991. Despite being the smallest of Ireland’s national parks, it’s known for its diversity of habitats. Within its 3,700 acres of land sit grasslands, woodlands, lakes, bogs, and caves. There is also exposed limestone throughout the park, leading to its name, Burren, from the Irish word Boireann, meaning “a rocky place.” There are walking trails throughout the park, which visitors can tour solo or with a guide, and experience the park’s beautiful landscapes.
Editor’s Note: Here are more things to do in stunning County Clare.
Connemara National Park
Letterfrack, County Galway
For tourists craving a day in Ireland’s countryside, Connemara National Park is the perfect escape. This park’s mountainous landscape contrasts with its bogs and grassy valleys, offering flat, easy trails or sharply angled climbs up the Twelve Bens mountain range. Formerly private property, the park has remnants of its past inhabitants, including Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Gardens, both of which are open for tours. Nothing compares to the wonderful views of Connemara.
Glenveagh National Park
Letterkenny, County Donegal
Everyone enjoys a stroll through a garden, but rarely do people get the opportunity to experience one that is nearly 150 years old. At West Ireland’s Glenveagh National Park, the Glenveagh Castle Gardens, constructed in the 1880s, are “one of Ireland’s outstanding horticultural masterpieces.” The park prioritizes conservation and aims to protect the country’s biodiversity. The stunning gardens have the backdrop of the rest of the national park, which includes walking trails, mountains, and the Glenveagh Castle.
Killarney National Park
Killarney, County Kerry
Killarney National Park was Ireland’s first national park, established in 1932. The park features McGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain Range, including Carrauntoohil, the tallest mountain in Ireland. Killarney is also known for its incredible diversity in wildlife, home to otter, red deer, bats, badgers, foxes, red squirrels, and a collection of wild birds. The park also features three beautiful former houses, all open for exploration and guided tours. Beautiful lakes, mountains, wildlife, and buildings make Killarney National Park a must-visit.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Powerscourt Mountain, County Wicklow
Wicklow Mountains National Park, the country’s only national park not located on the west coast, is sure to be the adventurer’s favorite park in Ireland. Wicklow Mountains allows for walking, hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, rock climbing, scuba diving, cycling, off-road motoring, hang gliding, and paragliding. In addition to these exciting activities, the park prides itself on its biodiversity and conservation initiatives. An educational center provides fun, interactive lessons on Ireland’s history and heritage.