National parks are the designated and protected areas of natural beauty and are major tourist attractions to recreation enthusiasts. Currently, the Republic of Ireland has six national parks. The first park created in Ireland is Killarney found in Kerry county in 1932, and since then five more national parks have been created and the most recent ones being Ballycroy in Mayo county. The smallest national park in Ireland is the Burren National Park located in Claire County and has an area of 5.79 square miles.
6. Wicklow Mountains
The Wicklow Mountains National Park is an Irish protected area located in the Wicklow Mountains. The park stretches over an area of 79 square miles in the Wicklow County and small areas of Dublin County. The park consists of a variety of attractions visited by both local and international tourists together with history enthusiasts. The proposal for the park had been previously suggested for some years, but the establishment of the park was declared by Charles Haughey in 1988 at Glendalough but officially opened in 1991. Wicklow Mountains National Park is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. There are different flora varieties found in the park such as bluebells, woodruff, polypody fern, wood sorrel, and tree species such as the hazel mountain ash holly. Protected animal species of the park include rare otters, ten bat species and nine threatened bird species such as the whooper swan, hence harrier, and peregrine falcon.
5. The Burren
Burren National Park was established in 1991 and is the smallest park in Ireland by size covering an area of 5.8 square miles. It is located in County Claire. The Burren is popular for its unique variety of flora and fauna. The region is home to some Irish species some of which are endemic. There are 24 types of Taraxacum and 27 types of orchids found in the Burren. About three-quarters of flower species found in Ireland grow in the Burren with the existence of only two of the 30 butterfly and moths species found in the country. The Burren is also home to waters otters, porpoise, seven bat species, the European pine marten, and dolphins among others.
Killarney National Park, located in County Kerry, was Ireland's first national park making it the oldest park in the country. The park was established in 1932 when the Muckross Estate was donated to the independent Republic of Ireland. Since then Killarney has been expanded and currently encompasses an area of about 41square miles. The parks diverse ecology includes the yew and oak woodlands that are of international significance, mountain peaks and the Lakes of Killarney. Killarney is also home to the only indigenous herd of red deer and the largest forest remaining in the country. The park has high ecological significance due to the existence of quality, diverse habitats and a broad range of both plant and animal species some of which are unique and rare. Killarney was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 and forms part of a special area of conservation.
Glenveagh National Park located in County Donegal is the second largest park in Ireland covering an area of 66 square miles and was established in 1984. The Glenveagh is a natural habitat to the golden eagle which was formally extinct but reintroduced into the park in 2000, and it is also home to Ireland's largest herd of red deer.
The Connemara National Park located in County Galway was established in 1990. The park covers an area of 12 square miles which features heaths, forests, mountains, grasslands, and bogs. Connemara is most famous for been 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.
The Ballycroy National Park which was established in November 1st, 1998, and is located in County Mayo. The park covers an area of approximately 42 square miles and is a unique habitat for diverse species of flora and fauna. The main features of the park are river habitats, blanket bogs, and cliffs. The park is an important breeding, roosting and feeding place for many migratory birds species.