The Parks are governed and regulated by the National Parks and Wildlife Trust. In total there are six national parks in the Republic. There are at present none in Northern Ireland, but there is a controversial plan to turn the Mourne Mountains into a National Park.
One of the most famous and visited National Parks in Ireland is the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
of Killarney National Park in County Kerry. The park includes the internationally renowned lakes. Leane, middle and upper. These lie in a mountain pass which include the county’s highest mountain at 3406 ft, Carrauntoohil. Wildlife here includes the only wild red deer in Ireland. Other attractions include Muckross House and Muckross traditional farm.
Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal, nestled spectacularly in the Derryveagh Mountains is a detached park, the centrepiece being the Victrian castle and highly regarded gardens. There is also a good visitor centre with food, drink and information.
The only one of the National Parks in Ireland to be situated on the East coast is Wicklow Mountains National Park . It takes up most of County Wicklow, and has around 1 million visitors every year. It has tremendous emphasis on conservation. Glendalough Valley is by far the most popular place for visitors as it includes the ancient settlement of St. Kevin. Unlike some of the national parks it is very easy to find solitude and isolation in the blissful surroundings.
The newest of the National Parks in Ireland is Ballycroy , County Mayo and is one of the largest stretches of peatland in the continent. It is also a popular retreat for birdwatchers as some of the rarest birds in the country migrate here. They include the Greenland white fronted goose. Birds such as peregrine falcon and corncrake are also found here.
Galway’s park The Connemara , opened in 1980 has beautiful mountain views, bogs, heaths grasslands and forested areas. There are attempts to re-introduce red deer into the park.
The Burren, County Clare is completely different from any of the other national parks. Predominantly the park is a limestone plateau and has a mix of plants, not usually prominent in the country. The area is awash with historical and archaeological remains, with over 90 megalithic tombs. Aside from the lunar landscape, the park also has mountains, lakes, castles, cliffs and valleys to entice visitors.
If you are planning to visit any of the National Parks in Ireland, please be sure that if you intent to explore alone that you prepare fully and take the right equipment, clothing and let others know of your planned whereabouts.