Killarney won the Best Kept Town award in 2007, in a cross-border competition jointly organised by the Department of the Environment and the Northern Ireland Amenity Council. In 2011, it was named Ireland's tidiest town and the cleanest town in the country by Irish Business Against Litter.
Killarney has featured prominently in early Irish history, with religious settlements playing an important part of its recorded history. Its first significantly historical settlement was the monastery on nearby Innisfallen Island founded in 640 by St. Finian the Leper, which was occupied for approximately 850 years.
Innisfallen or Inishfallen (from Irish: Inis Faithlinn, meaning "Faithlinn's island") is an island in Lough Leane; one of the three Lakes of Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland. It is home to the ruins of Innisfallen Abbey, one of the most impressive archaeological remains dating from the early Christian period found in the Killarney National Park. The monastery was founded in 640 by St. Finian the Leper, and was occupied for approximately 850 years. Over a period of about 300 of these, the monks wrote the Annals of Innisfallen, which chronicle the early history of Ireland as it was known to the monks. The monks were dispossessed of the abbey on 18 August 1594, by Elizabeth I.
The location of the monastery on the island is thought to have given rise to the name Lough Leane (Irish Loch Léin), which in English means "Lake of Learning". According to tradition the Irish High King Brian Boru received his education at Innisfallen under Maelsuthain O'Carroll. Maelsuthain has been credited as the possible originator of the Annals.
It is possible for tourists to visit the island during the summer months, with boats leaving from Ross Castle throughout the day.
Aghadoe, the local townland which overlooks present day Killarney, may have begun as a pagan religious site. The site has also been associated with the 5th century missionary St. Abban, but 7th century ogham stones mark the first clear evidence of Aghadoe being used as an important site. According to legend, St. Finian founded a monastery at Aghadoe in the 6th or 7th century. The first written record of a monastery dates from 939 AD in the Annals of Innisfallen where the Aghadoe monastery is referred to as the "Old Abbey."
Following the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, the Normans built Parkavonear Castle, also at Aghadoe. The castle was perhaps intended as an early warning outpost due to its views of the entire Killarney valley and lakes region.
Ross Castle was built on the lake shore in the late 15th century by local ruling clan the O'Donoghues Mor (Ross). Ownership of the castle changed hands during the Desmond Rebellions of the 1580s to the Mac Carty Mor.
Muckross Abbey was founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary for the Observantine Franciscans by Donal McCarthy Mor. The abbey was burned down by Cromwellian forces under General Ludlow in 1654, and today remains a ruin.
Killarney was heavily involved in the Irish War of Independence. The town, and indeed the entire county, had strong republican ties, and skirmishes with the British forces happened on a regular basis. The Great Southern Hotel, (now renamed as the Malton Hotel) was for a while taken over by the British, both as an office and barracks, and to protect the neighbouring railway station. One notable event during the war was the Headford Ambush when the IRA attacked a railway train a few miles from town.
However, divisions among former colleagues were quick to develop following the truce and treaty, and Killarney, like many other areas, suffered in the rash of increasing atrocities during the Civil War. A day after the Ballyseedy Massacre, five Republican prisoners were murdered in Killarney in retaliation.
Killarney's tourism history goes back at least to the mid 18th century, when Thomas, fourth Viscount Kenmare (Lord Kenmare), began to attract visitors and new residents to the town. The date of 1747 was used in recent 250-year celebrations to honour the history of Killarney tourism. A visit by Queen Victoria in 1861 gave the town some international exposure.
Killarney benefited greatly from the coming of the railway in July 1853. British trade directory publisher Isaac Slater noted that there were three hotels in the town in 1846 but by 1854, one year after the coming of the railway, James Fraser named seven hotels and described their locations:
the Railway Hotel opposite the Railway Station; the Kenmare Arms and Hibernia which are on the main street and immediately opposite the church... the Victoria which is about a mile to the west of the town on the shores of the Lower Lake; the Lake View which is about the same distance to the east of the town and also on the shore of the Lower Lake; the Muckross about two and a half miles away and near the Muckross Lake and the Torc which occupies an elevated site about a mile and a half from the town on the hill which rises immediately over the Lake Hotel.
In 1858, Irish born Victorian journalist, Samuel Carter Hall named O'Sullivan's Hotel and the Innisfallen rather than the Hibernia and Torc, but Isaac Slater also named the Hibernia in 1846. At the time he was writing, tours of the Ring of Kerry were already an industry and Killarney was considered the starting point of the hundred and ten mile circuitous route. He was fascinated by the horses' endurance on the two-day trip, and leaves clear advice for other travellers;
It is a common and wise custom of those who make this tour, and are not pressed for time, to hire the carriage at the hotel in Killarney and continue with it 'all the way round.' It is absolutely marvellous what these mountain bred horses can get through "thinking nothing" of thirty miles for days together or even fifty miles in a single day.
As part of the trip, he noted that there were hotels in Glenbeigh and Waterville along with a "comfortable inn", which is now The Butler Arms Hotel.
Killarney is served by National Primary Route N22 (north to Tralee and Castleisland and east to Cork); the National Secondary Routes N72 (west to Killorglin) and the N71 (south to Bantry).
Killarney railway station (operated by Iarnród Éireann) has direct services to Tralee, Cork and Dublin, with connections to the rest of the rail network.
Bus Éireann provides bus services to Limerick (and onwards to Dublin), Tralee, Cork, Kenmare and Skibbereen.
Kerry Airport (17 km), in Farranfore between Tralee and Killarney, provides a number of air services with connecting trains running from Farranfore railway station to Killarney railway station. Cork Airport (89 km), easily accessible by bus or rail, also serves the Kerry region.
Killarney has three soccer clubs—all of which compete in the Kerry District League.
Killarney Athletic A.F.C
Killarney Athletic A.F.C. was founded in 1965 by Don Harrington, a young Garda who hailed from Cork City and was stationed in Killarney. Don founded the club after observing youngsters from various parts of Killarney playing soccer on the streets at that time. The club played its first competitive game in the Desmond League as a youth team and entered a junior team at the start of 1966.
When Don Harrington left Killarney in 1969, the late Brian Gilhooley took over as manager with Big Jim O’ Sullivan, Sean O’Donoghue, Joe Grant and Donagh Gleeson as officers of the Club.
In the early 70s, a fresh and vibrant young club emerged, becoming a founding Club of the Kerry District League (KDL). The nucleus of the team was formed with some of the old guard and a large number of the Franciscan Youth Club team under the guidance of Brian Gilhooley and Fr. Vivian Molloy.
The club entered its first youth and B teams into the KDL in 1975 and presently has two senior teams and a youth team competing in the league.The club was also a founding member of the Kerry Schoolboys League in 1984 and currently fields teams across the age groups from under 10s to under 16s boys and girls.
The club has actively contributed to Kerry soccer providing officers for both leagues. Originally the club played in the centre of Killarney, but have since moved to a modern facility (with two pitches) in the Woodlawn area of the town.
Killarney Celtic was founded in 1976. The club purchased their own ground in 1993 and have invested in their facilities since then. There is a grass pitch and a FIFA 1-star full-size synthetic all-weather pitch (both floodlit to match standard), a 50 x 80 meter grass training pitch and a 70 x 35 metre synthetic training pitch which is also fully floodlit.
Cedar Galaxy was formed in 2011 and play in the Kerry District League Division 2B. The team spent two seasons improving their game in Division 2B before achieving promotion to Division 2A for the 2013/14 campaign.
The Ring of Kerry Cycle, a charity cycle around the Ring (175 km) takes place every first Saturday in July. In recent years the numbers taking part have risen to 12000 and the event has raised millions for local charities. There is also a club in Killarney called Killarney Cycling Club and is very successful in Road and Mountain Biking. The club has a strong youth side and adult side and competes regularly. The club had a team in the An Post Rás in 2014 and features every year in the Rás Mumhan. On the mountain biking side, they had a national championship winner in the youth and adults.
In 2011 Killarney was due to a host a round of the UCI Mountain Bike European Championships but unfortunately the construction of the venue never started due to complications. Construction of the proposed €430,000 trail which is a joint initiative between Kerry County Council, Cycling Ireland and local landowner Mr Con O’Donoghue was then pushed back to December 2012, as of December 2015 no construction has started and the original planning permission has expired. The fate of the project is unknown.
The Kerry GAA branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1888. Kerry have been the most successful team in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship with 37 titles. THe team plays at the Fitzgerald Stadium, opened in 1936, which as capacity for 43,180 spectators.
Killarney has three Gaelic football clubs: Dr Crokes, Killarney Legion and Spa. The rural hinterland has a large number of football teams, such as Kilcummin, Fossa, Firies, Glenflesk and Gneeveguilla. All these teams compete in the Kerry County league and the East Kerry Senior Football Championship (O'Donoghue Cup) and league.
Dr. Crokes is the most successful of these teams, with the most notable triumphs being the capture of the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship in 1992 and the Munster Senior Club Football Championship in 1991 1990 and 2007. The club has also won the County Championship on 7 separate occasions, the last being in 2010.
Dr. Crokes is the only club in Killarney with a hurling team, which has had some important successes, most recently winning the Kerry Intermediate Hurling Championship in 1999 and 2001.
There are six active rowing clubs in the town, who share a common history in Ireland's oldest surviving regatta, the Killarney Regatta, which is held annually on the first or second Sunday in July. The six clubs are Commercial RC (Killarney), Flesk Valley RC, Fossa RC, Muckross RC, St. Brendan's RC and Workmen RC. The style of rowing seen at the regatta is traditional, fixed seat rowing in wide, wooden six-person boats. Since the eighties, a number of the clubs have moved toward coastal type rowing and modern 'slide' or Olympic style rowing.
Muckross Rowing Club is the largest and most successful of the clubs, having developed into a full-time 'sliding' club with 32 National Championships (since 1996) at various levels from Junior to Senior. A number of members of the club have also been selected to row for Ireland and have competed successfully at the Home International Regatta, Coupe de la Jeunesse, World Rowing Championships and Olympic Games. Paul Griffin, Sean Casey and Cathal Moynihan members of Muckross Rowing Club, are Olympic and Irish World Championship rowers. Paul Griffin, racing in Irish Men's Lightweight Four, finished sixth at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, won a silver medal at the 2005 World Championships and a bronze at the 2006 World Championships. As a member of the Lightweight Four, Paul was overall category winner of the 2006 World Cup Rowing series. Sean Casey represented Ireland in the Men's Heavyweight Four at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In the same crew, Sean also won the 'B' final (seventh overall) at the 2006 World Championships and won bronze at the 2006 Munich World Cup Regatta. Cathal Moynihan joined Paul Griffin in the Irish Lightweight Four, which raced at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Cathal made his international Senior début in the Men's Lightweight Four at the 2007 Linz World Cup Regatta in Austria and went on to row as part of the Irish Men's Lightweight Four at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing - the same boat as clubmate Paul Griffin.
Killarney RFC play in the Munster Junior League. The club's 1st XV won promotion to Division 2 in 2009-10,. while the same season the club fielded a 2nd XV for the first time. The club has also a large youth and underage set-up catering for all young enthuasists from the town and surrounding areas.
Killarney Judo Club has been active in Killarney since the late 1960s. The club has had numerous All Ireland winners in its history along with international competition winners. The club caters to people from the town and surrounding areas for everyone over the age of 6.
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club attracts various national competitions such as the Irish Open. The Ross Golf Course is a 9-hole golf course less than one mile from the centre of the town.
Killarney Racecourse is located just outside the town and holds flat and national hunt meetings.
Killarney is the home of Irish floorball.
At the beginning of the 20th century, when music-hall songs in England about "Good Old Ireland" were all the rage, a number of these songs included reference to Killarney, notably "My Father Was Born In Killarney - Don’t Run Down The Irish" (1910), "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral" (1914), "For Killarney and you" (1916), "My little cottage home in sweet Killarney"(1917), "Oh my Lily of Killarney" (1917).
"There's Only the One Killarney" is a song that was written by Irish songwriter Dick Farrelly and recorded by Irish tenor Patrich O'Hagan. Killarney also appears in "How Can You Buy Killarney," written by Kennedy, Steels, Grant and Morrison, and recorded by Joseph Locke, among others. Killarney is also mentioned in "Christmas in Killarney" (written by Redmond, Cavanaugh and Weldon) and "Did Your Mother Come From Ireland?" (written by Kennedy and Carr), both most notably recorded by Bing Crosby. "Some Say the Devil Is Dead" by Derek Warfield contains the line "Some say the devil is dead and buried in Killarney/ More say he rose again and joined the British Army." In the chorus of Celtic rock band Gaelic Storm's song Raised on Black and Tans, the singer declares his Irish heritage by saying "my mother’s brother’s sister’s cousin’s auntie’s Uncle Barney’s father’s brother had a cousin from Killarney."
In James Joyce's story "A Mother", one of the entrants at a singing competition sings a song about Killarney.
Lord Kenmare founded linen mills in the 1740s as part of his efforts to increase the population and economy of Killarney.
Hosiery manufacturing and shoe making were major industries in the town during the last century but have since seen decline.
Liebherr Cranes have had a presence in Killarney since 1958, with a combined manufacturing/research and development facility in the town manufacturing container cranes. In honor of its founder, a street was named Dr. Hans Liebherr Road.
Tricel formally known as Killarney Plastics was started in 1973 by Anne & Con Stack. This successful multinational has operations in 5 countries and employs 380 people globally with 145 people based in Killarney.
Dollinger-SPX, a filtration products firm, have production facilities in the local IDA Industrial Estate. Indigenous firms such as Torc Engineering and National Organic Products have established small industries in Killarney.
Monex Financial Services operate a facility specialising in the processing of Credit Card Payments worldwide at Killarney Technology Park.
Muckross Pottery and Muckross Weavers based beside Muckross House have a small tableware and woolens business aimed at the tourist market, a neighbouring bookbinding facility carries out book and manuscript restoration and binds high quality books for universities, publishers and libraries.
Kerry Woolen Mills is a family firm that manufactures hats, gloves, sweaters, women's fashion, blankets, scarfs and stockings at their premises near Beaufort.
The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism have also moved to Killarney, a key beneficiary of the decentralisation of Civil Service departments outside the capital, Dublin. Certain sections of the Department of Justice have been situated in Killarney for a number of years.
Tourism is by far the largest industry in Killarney. With the exception of Dublin, there are more hotel beds in Killarney than in any other Irish town or city. The tourist population is increasingly diverse, but most of the tourists come from the United States, Ireland, the UK, Germany and other European countries.
In the summer months, Killarney is busy with tourists visiting the town's numerous shops and tourist attractions. Many shops are tourist-oriented, with many gift shops around the town. The town centre also offers a wide range of hotels, pubs and restaurants. Killarney is famous for its jaunting cars (horse-drawn carts) operated by local jarvies.
Sporting events during the festival include the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, the Killarney Regatta, the 5 km SummerFest Fun Run and the Killarney Races.
The INEC (Ireland's National Events Centre) Killarney convention centre has a capacity of 2,500 and has hosted many major conferences and events since its opening in 2001. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party have had their annual conferences in the INEC as have the main trade unions and associations. Google, IBM, GSK have used the centre for major events. The venue has also hosted major sporting events, incl Tae-Kwon-Do, snooker, boxing, and concerts with major national and internationally renowned artists including Willie Nelson, Cliff Richard, The Script, Snow Patrol, Bob Geldof, Billy Connolly, Kenny Rogers, and José Carreras.
Killarney is a popular destination for partygoers. Killarney's nightspots are often busy seven days a week during the summer months and weekends throughout the year when the population of the town and the surrounding area increases significantly. The INEC hosts major domestic and international artists.
Until the early 1980s, Killarney was the destination of the Circuit of Ireland Rally, which was held every year over the Easter holiday weekend. Nowadays, on the first weekend of May each year, the town plays host to the International Rally of the Lakes.