If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that we need to slow down, appreciate nature and respect our environment. So, in this latest blog we look at five exciting ways to explore the Gap of Dunloe without a car.
What is the Gap of Dunloe?
The Gap of Dunloe is a popular tourist attraction in Kerry. Formed by a glacier, ‘The Gap’ separates the Purple Mountain Range (part of Killarney National Park), from the MacgillyCuddy Reeks. With lakes, meandering streams, waterfalls, stone bridges, rugged scenery and plenty of colourful sheep, it’s a truly remarkable place. No wonder people flock to see it.
Where is the Gap of Dunloe?
The Gap of Dunloe is just off the Ring of Kerry in Beaufort. It’s approximately 15-minutes from both Killarney and Killorglin and is part of the Reeks District of Kerry.
There’s free parking in the car park near Kate Kearney’s Cottage. This can get busy but people come and go all the time. Please wait until a spot becomes available rather than parking on the roadside or using customer parking spots at Kate Kearney’s Cottage or Moriarty’s shop and restaurant.
Here are directions from Killarney
And here are directions from Killorglin
If you are lucky enough to be staying with us here are directions from Inveraray Farm. It’s a 4-minute drive or a 30-minute walk to Kate Kearney’s.
Exploring the Gap of Dunloe
For this blog, we‘re suggesting five ways to explore the Gap of Dunloe without a car.
Now, it’s not that you can’t drive through the Gap. You can. But we suggest you don’t for these reasons:
The single-track road is narrow and very winding in places. If you’re a nervous driver or you’re not used to driving on the left you won’t be able to relax and enjoy the scenery. Where’s the fun in that?
There are working farms in the Gap, as well as the local community living in the Black Valley. Too many extra cars on the road make it challenging for them to get on with their day-to-day lives.
Aside from local traffic you’ll be navigating past walkers, cyclists and jaunting cars (pony and trap). You could find it takes you a long time to get anywhere fast.
It’s much easier to take photos (which you WILL want to do) when you can stop whenever and wherever you like. You can’t always do that in a car.
It’s better for you and the environment. Plus it’s more enjoyable for everyone who is exploring The Gap. Could there be a better reason?
If you choose to drive through the Gap of Dunloe, go early (before 10 am) or late (after 7 pm), during the summer months.
If you want to experience what it’s like to drive through the Gap of Dunloe, this YouTube video by Odd and Ends is wonderful. Judging by the light and the lack of traffic, hikers and horses (not to mention people in shorts and t-shirts) this video would have been shot very early in the morning during the summer.
The Gap of Dunloe Walk – an obvious alternative…
It’s not that we don’t think walking is exciting. We do! But exploring the Gap of Dunloe by foot is the obvious choice after driving and so isn’t making our five. However, we highly recommend walking through the Gap of Dunloe. It’s one of our favourite things to do.
The walk from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to the Head of the Gap of Dunloe (the highest point before the road drops back down to the Black Valley) is 6km and takes around 1 to 2 hours depending on pace. The round trip is double that.
This way you’ll get to explore every nook and cranny in your own time. Heaven!
You don’t have to walk the whole thing. Even if you walk a small section (from Kate Kearney’s to the Black Lake/Wishing Bridge for example) it is still a wonderful walk and a great way to spend an hour.
Keen hikers might like to walk from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. Here are directions to Lord Brandons. You would then need to navigate the footpath near the lake that will take you through Derrycunnihy Woods to the main Ring of Kerry road via Muckross and back to Killarney. This is a big walk (around 25km). You may want to get a taxi back from Killarney to our B&B (if you are staying with us). The woods and falls are beautiful and well worth exploring. Watch this quick video of Derrycunnihy Woods on our Instagram. You could also cycle this route (see next section).
Our suggestions for five exciting ways to explore the Gap of Dunloe – without a car
1. Cycle through… and around
The Gap is popular with cyclists but be warned, the up-hills are challenging enough. Still, there’s no shame in walking your bike up the steeper sections, and what goes up must come down, right?!
Like the walk, you could cycle up to the Head of the Gap and back, or you could cycle around via Killarney and back. There are two routes. If you have a road bike you would cycle through the Black Valley up to Molls Gap.
Here are the directions for that route
If you were on a mountain bike or a hybrid you could cycle around by Lord Brandon’s Cottage and around by the upper lake.
Again, we’ve included directions to Lord Brandons. You would then need to navigate the footpath near the lake that will take you through Derrycunnihy Woods to the main Ring of Kerry road and back to Killarney.
Both routes will bring you back onto the N71 (Ring of Kerry) where you cycle through the National Park, around by Muckross House and Killarney and back to Beaufort.
As the N71 is a major road we would suggest this route for confident cyclists and not for young families.
One other option is to bring your bikes across on the boat from Lord Brandon Cottage or Ross Castle. More on that in the next section.
2. Try a pony and trap (+ boat)
The Gap of Dunloe is famous for its Jarveys (horsemen). From spring to autumn they spend their days bringing people through the Gap on Jaunting Cars. Pulled by sturdy ponies, the cars can take small groups up from Kate Kearney’s to the Head of the Gap or to Lord Brandon’s Cottage or vice versa.
You can turn up with no arrangement to arrange a trip. Expect to pay around €100 for a car (which fits 4-5 adults) and bring cash. For single travellers or couples, consider sharing with others to split the cost.
You could incorporate this with a boat trip across the Lakes of Killarney to, or from, Ross Castle. A ticket for the boat and bus costs €45 per person (2023 price). The entire round trip takes around 5 hours from start to finish and is a holiday highlight for many. Talk to the good people at Gap of Dunloe Tours (and tell them Inveraray Farm sent you…). If you’re staying with us we can organise this for you.
If you decide to do the boat trip via the Gap you would need to either walk, cycle or get the jaunting car to Lord Brandon’s cottage before 2pm. This would mean leaving Kate Kearney’s around 10am to allow plenty of time (perhaps a bit later if you’re cycling). We suggest reaching Lord Brandon’s by 1pm so you can grab a bite to eat in the cafe (cash only) and using the toilets before getting on the boat. If walking, the distance from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandon’s Cottage is approximately 11km and would take between 2.5 hours and 3.5 hours depending on pace.
Once you arrive at Ross Castle the tour bus can take you back to Kate Kearney’s cottage, or you can make your own way back if you wish.
The video below shows our own trip through the Gap to Ross Castle. It really was such an amazing day!
3. Hike the Kerry Way
If you’re up for a proper hike rather than a walk you could look to do part of the Kerry Way. A section runs from the Climbers Inn in Glencar, via the Bridia Valley to the Black Valley. From here you can head through the Gap of Dunloe to Kate Kearney’s Cottage or vice versa.
You can find details of the hike on Kamoot. This would take approximately 8 hours and requires good overall fitness. but it’s well worth it. You’ll pass through some of the most remote and unspoilt landscape around. Enjoy a well deserved drink and a bite to eat in either of the pubs where you finish.
You would have to do a little logistical planning with how you would get to the start of the walk or how you would pick up your vehicle at the end but Marie O’Connor 087-692-2288 or Johnny O’Sullivan 087-825-7182 can help with a taxi.
4. Opt for a rock climbing adventure
For a truly unique and thrilling experience why not try rock climbing? It’s a great way to get the adrenaline pumping and you’ll get a very different perspective of the Gap from most other visitors.
Kerry Climbing run full day, half day and evening climbs in the Gap of Dunloe from April until September.
5. Climb Strickeen
Strickeen (Struicín) translates as ‘Little Peak’ and when you view the Gap from Beaufort Strickeen can be seen in the foreground. We actually have a lovely view of it from Inverarary Farm.
It’s an accessible climb for people of all ages. Even our youngest (who was three and a half at the time) managed to get to the top – though sometimes it is too much for her. The round trip is approximately 5km and can take 1.5 to 3 hours depending on pace.
When you start walking through the Gap from Kate Kearney’s you should come across the path to Strickeen on your right after about 500m. There’s a parking bay and a rocky outcrop as well as signage and a gate so you shouldn’t miss it.
On the whole, the path is very good but the last bit of the climb can be a bit wet and boggy, especially after rain or in the winter. Wear sturdy boots and watch where you tread. There’s a tree about 2/3 of the way up which we call the lonely tree (you should be able to see why from the image below). This is a great place to stop and take photos. Younger children may have had enough by this point. If you do turn back from here don’t worry, you’ll still have enjoyed some marvellous views.
If you do get to the top the scenery is breathtaking. Not only with you get arial views of the Gap at the start of the climb but you have uninterrupted views of the Macgillycuddy Reeks to the South West, a view out across Castlemaine Harbour and the Dingle Peninsula to the West and Lough Leane and Killarney to the East.
Amenities in the Gap of Dunloe
There is free parking at the base of the Gap near Kate Kearney’s Cottage and there are also public toilets. Public bins are lacking at the car park so please, take your rubbish home with you.
Eating and Drinking in the Gap of Dunloe
Kate Kearney’s Cottage
Kate Kearney’s Cottage is pretty much legendary. Friendly and relaxed they do reasonably priced pub food and pizza which never fails to hit the mark. It’s a great place for families and they also have traditional music and dancing during the summer months.
The Coffee Pot
The Coffee Pot is great for refreshments and home baking. A nice cosy spot where you can get delicious soups, sandwiches, salads, pancakes and more.
Some of our industrious Jarveys made the most of the quiet period of the pandemic and upcycled horseboxes into mobile cafes, namely Black Stream Coffee Box and Gappuccino Coffee Box. You can now get delicious coffee on-the-go at a couple of different locations up the Gap. Remember to bring your Keep Cup to keep the waste to a minimum.
Inveraray Farm is a friendly and welcoming family-run B&B in Beaufort, County Kerry. We have spectacular views of the Gap of Dunloe and the MacGillycuddy Reeks. We’re also a 4-minute drive from The Gap.