Killarney, or Cill Airne, means church of sloes- bitter black fruit from the blackthorn tree a form of wild plum. The earliest recorded Archaeological feature within the current town of Killarney is a Barrow. These features usually date to the Bronze age 2000BC-1800BC as does the copper mine on Ross Island. There are several holy wells of unknown date within the town.
Killarney featured in early Irish history with religious settlements playing an important part of its history. The monastery on nearby Innisfallen Island founded in 640 by St. Finian the Leper, which was occupied for approximately 850 years.
After the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, the Normans built Parkavonear Castle, at Aghadoe. The castle was perhaps intended as an early warning outpost due to its views of the entire Killarney valley and lakes region.
Killarney was heavily involved in the Irish War of Independence. The town, had strong republican ties, skirmishes with the British forces happened on a regular basis. The Great Southern Hotel, (currently the Malton Hotel) was taken over by the British, as an office and barracks, and to protect the neighbouring railway station.
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. A visit by Queen Victoria in 1861 gave the town some international appeal.
Killarney benefited from the coming of the railway in July 1853. The British trade directory noted that there were three hotels in the town in 1846 but by 1854, one year after the coming of the railway seven hotels were seen.