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GAP OF DUNLOE TOURS
HIKE, BIKE OR JAUNTING CAR?

Story and photos by

"The Gap of Dunloe is the best day trip from Killarney, Ireland," said Frank Walsh, our Go Ireland Ring of Kerry tour guide.

Signs for Kerry Way to Black Valley, Gap of Dunloe, Kerry Way to Killarney, Kenmare and N71, Lord Brandon's Cottage and Boats to Killarney. County Kerry, Ireland.
Signs for Kerry Way to Black Valley, Gap of Dunloe, Kerry Way to Killarney, Kenmare and N71, Lord Brandon's Cottage and Boats to Killarney. County Kerry, Ireland.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Where is the Gap of Dunloe? Located west of the Lakes of Killarney, the glacial valley runs north to south between the MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountains, on the west, and Purple Mountain and Tomies Mountain, on the east.

Lord Brandon's Cottage

What type of Gap of Dunloe tours are available? Some people rent bikes from O'Sullivan's Cycles, in Killarney, to bicycle through the Gap.

Other visitors jog, walk or hire a jaunting car (horse-drawn cart or pony trap) with a jarvey (driver/guide), who provides a colorful commentary. Jaunting car trips begin and end at Lord Brandon's Cottage, at the Gap of Dunloe south entrance, and Kate Kearney's Cottage, at the north end.

You can travel through the Gap in either direction. Our Ireland tour included a vintage bus ride from Killarney to Ross Castle, followed by a Killarney Lakes cruise to Lord Brandon's Cottage.

Hiking route

It takes about 2.5 hours to walk through the Gap of Dunloe. How long is the Gap? It's about seven miles (11 kilometers) in length.

Hikers on Gap of Dunloe path, Ring of Kerry
Hikers on Gap of Dunloe path, Ring of Kerry
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Gap of Dunloe road is paved and winding, with many ascents and descents. Hikers have to be careful to avoid the many jaunting cars and the droppings left behind by the horses.

The head of the Gap reaches an elevation of 2,625 feet (800 meters). Five lakes line the route. South to north, they are Black Lough, Auger Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Black Lake and Coosaun Lough.

Direction signs

A short walk from Lord Brandon's Cottage led us to an arched stone bridge over the Gearhameen River. Bilingual signs direct Kerry Way walkers to the Black Valley and Gap of Dunloe hiking trails.

The Gap of Dunloe's Irish/Gaelic name is Bearna an Choimin, which means "gap of the common land." Anyone in reasonable shape can walk through the Gap. One of our Go Ireland tour hikers was Isabella Barrass, a spry 84-year-old from New Zealand.

Hiking on trail and stone bridge near Killarney, Ireland
Hiking on trail and stone bridge near Killarney, Ireland
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Walking trail

From the head of the Gap, we overlooked farms, homes, a white church and Upper Lake. We would have made faster progress, if we hadn't stopped to snack on luscious wild blackberries, lining the road near the entrance to the Black Valley.

Bypassing the Black Valley, we followed the serpentine road up and down between craggy peaks overlooking green grass landscapes, strewn with boulders and wildflowers. Several arched stone bridges crossed the Loe River, which joins the lakes in the Gap.

We were happy that we had dressed in layers. As we climbed, we removed our jackets and sweaters. Whenever gusts of wind buffeted us, we put them back on again.

Drinks at Kate Kearney's Cottage.
Drinks at Kate Kearney's Cottage.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Kate Kearney's Cottage

The end of our hike (and the beginning of the Gap of Dunloe walk for hikers going north to south) was Kate Kearney's Cottage. Dating back to the mid-1800s, the white pub became famous for Kate's potent, and illegal, poteen (moonshine).

Nowadays, visitors who hike, bike or ride a jaunting car can quench their thirst with Guinness and Irish coffee. Our Go Ireland walking group relaxed with drinks at picnic tables in front of the pub.

Where is Kate Kearney's Cottage? It's located 12 miles (19 kilometers) west of Killarney. The O'Connor's Pub vintage bus, which Go Ireland hired to bring us to Ross Castle, brought us back to our Killarney B&B.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Gap of Dunloe Tours: www.gapofdunloetours.com

Go Ireland: www.govisitireland.com

Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Killarney Ireland Hiking Trail - Co. Kerry

Muckross Abbey - Killarney National Park Ireland

Muckross Traditional Farms Tour - Killarney Ireland

Muckross House Tour - Killarney National Park Ireland

Torc Waterfall to Ladies View - Killarney National Park Ireland