A day trip to Kerry: The Gap of Dunloe

It is safe to say that every tourist visiting Ireland knows about Killarney and The Ring of Kerry, yet majority have no idea about how much you can see in a single day if you drive a rental. There are two types of tourists: the ones who can come again, and the ones who can’t. In the following 2-3 blog posts I will give a timeline and a few tips, and even spare 3 hours for a bonus deviation to the Ring of Beara to those who are planning a trip of a lifetime. You won’t see everything, but you will be able to say ‘have been there’ about many places. This day will start shortly after 6 AM – it is a summer day I am talking about πŸ™‚ You will be able to have a proper meal in Waterville and return to your hotel after the sun goes down at about 10 PM. Sounds crazy, but doable. I added some extra time for the short walks and photography πŸ™‚ Just bear with me.

Our Kerry trip will includeΒ The Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, Kenmare, Glengarriff, Healy Pass, The Ring of Kerry, Killorglin and possibly the Ross Castle at the sunset πŸ™‚ All in one day.


The Gap of Dunloe is unique. Every visit is unique. I was very surprised when I didn’t recognize the road we traveled in 2002, but that was early spring and the rain-swollen lakes and River Loe changed the landscape. This time the black rocks dominated the vistas.

The video below shows the same route, but starting from the Molls Gap. My plan is to start at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. Why? 1. Because it is the most spectacular end of the route, andΒ if you don’t feel like driving after all, you can leave your car at the cottage, walk 1.5 hours and return. 2. Because it is the busiest end of the route and you want to be there as early as possible.Β The road is extremely narrow and can be quite busy ( you will see it in the pictures). Local people commute to work, tourists drive, walk, and take a jaunting car tour. It is quite a crowd. After 9-10 AM you are a nuisance to the other road users, and likewise they are a nuisance to youΒ lessening your chances to stop for a picture. They say that after 6 PM the road is quiet again, but you might want to check the position of the sun.

This video was posted by Retro Ventures Ireland. I chose it because of the map they feature.

 

The route of 20 km will take you an hour, but if you find a spot to park ( away from the road) you can hike a little.Β Anyway, I am giving you three hours to enjoy the route and hike around. On some stage there is a left turn to the lake (tourist route). It is where the organised tourists take a boat across the Lakes. We won’t turn there unless you are already hungry and want to stop at Lord Brandon’s Cottage for a bowl of hot soup. We keep driving through the Black Valley until there is a road sign to Kenmare (left). This road will take us to R568, where you turn left again and drive to the Molls Gap. There we find a place to park and take a breath. We will resume our trip in two weeks πŸ™‚

Driving tips: take it slowly, there are several 90-degree turns up and downhill; automatic transmission and a smaller car would be a bonus, but I have seen trucks and vans in this road too; don’t ever park in the passing places (pullouts), and if you stop there for just a photograph, watch the road and don’t cause problems to others; check the route in the Street View – there are several spots where you can actually park your car if the ground is dry – I parked in such spot for 4 hours, didn’t bother anyone; follow the common rules about driving up and down the hill, and don’t forget that if two vehicles meet on a narrow road, the person who advances first will be responsible for a damage to the other vehicle if something goes wrong.

Now I am sharing my pictures of the Gap of Dunloe πŸ™‚

This time I parked at the trail head of the Circular Trail, less than a mile from the Kate Kearney’s. There was only one car at that time, but when I returned at about 13.00, there were 8 cars parked on both sides of the road.

Beautiful sunny morning disappeared as I was getting closer to the Gap.

The rest of the world still enjoyed good weather.

Approaching the Wishing Bridge ( make a wish while crossing the bridge; it will come true )

Look back – view of the Coosaun Lough from the Wishing Bridge. Very little water this year – I cannot even spot the River Loe connecting all five lakes.

Drizzle won’t stop us.

Jaunting cars joined the hikers shortly after 9 AM.

A few words about the jaunting cars. There are hundreds of them around Killarney, and it is a fun (but not necessarily comfortable) ride. It can be costly in summer, and I wouldn’t book it online. Local coachmen (jarveys) have been taking tourists around Killarney since Victorian times, and the companies offer a number of standard 1-2 hour routes. If you are able to drive ( or walk ) through The Gap of Dunloe, I would advise you to do so and leave the jaunting car ride for later, at the National Park (next blog post). If you still fancy to take a ride, approach any jarvey at Kate Kearney’s.

Unemployed horse.

I love this atmospheric place.

My first bird today, and it is a Robin πŸ™‚

Rainbow sheep is a special breed πŸ˜‰ You don’t have to paint sheep all over to brand them. The only purpose of this art is to attract tourists.

I was busy admiring birds and sheep; meanwhile the car heading to the Gap just 15 minutes ago was on its way back.

I won’t be as fast…

I stop to watch the young Pipit’s antics and to take a breath.

A look back. I feel like it has been a mile, but you can find these two rocks in my previous picture…

My favorite view.

I didn’t stop at the Iron Bridge but kept climbing. The road was getting busier. Jaunting cars are quite jumpy, and I hope the lady traveling with her grandchildren took some decent pictures.

Another bridge. A Broadband company van soon joined the queue, and two cars approached the bridge from the other side. A traffic jam, Dunloe style.

By the time I came closer to the bridge, the traffic had cleared. The weather improved and I took a few pictures of two bridges and a tiny ‘waterfall’ – a proof that River Loe hadn’t dried out after all.

This was my turning point. I ate my snack, watched birds in the trees and made a note to myself that I would leave my car here on my next trip.

Walking back was as fun.

At the Iron bridge the traffic was so busy that I sat on the rock and waited for them to clear off. On the other side of the bridge there is the place where two tourists were killed back in April. Pony got scared and bolted, and the couple were catapulted from the carriage into the rocky ravine.

The traffic started to thin out and I finally crossed the bridge. I wouldn’t drive at this time of the day – neither would I take a pony ride. Well, only to save my life, may be.

One last glance at my favorite view…

… and one more traffic jam.

This jarvey doesn’t waste his time while waiting in the passing place, and continues his lecture. Many jarveys are quite knowledgeable.

Winding road along the Augher Lake.

The rock is waiting…

And here are the rainbow sheep again.

It is not easy to focus if you have to give way to the traffic coming from both sides.

Another snap.

I discovered that this gnarled tree is a home to a Goldcrest family.

Enjoyed watching the cutest baby Goldcrest, and took a hundred pictures of him.

It wasn’t as easy to photograph his daddy who was fast like quicksilver and hid himself behind the leaves and branches. I am sure it is a daddy because he has a bright orange stripe on his yellow cap. After taking this picture I packed my camera and walked to my car as I had many other places to visit.

Thank you for walking through the Gap of Dunloe with me. See you in two weeks.

Β Have a wonderful weekend!

105 comments

  1. Such a beautiful, magical place, Inese! Your photos are stunning as always! And I just love those rainbow sheep!! πŸ˜„ And your bird pics are so enchanting, as are the atmospheric landscapes! Xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You ought to publish a guidebook, Inese! I’ve so enjoyed that tour. I wonder what those psychedelic sheep think of each other. Do sheep see in colour? They appear oblivious to their tourist-attracting fleeces. That mist looks very cold … brrrr. I love the little birds. I’m not sure I’ve seen a pipit or goldcrest where I live. That baby goldcrest is adorable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re always the adventurer, dear Inese! From 6am? You certainly start your day very early. What a treat to see cotton candy sheep and the views are spectacular! I loved how you’re such a courteous traveler and treat everyone kindly. Perhaps you can teach our β€œpresident” some manners? I, for one, believe it’s too late, but you do work your magic so well. 🌹❀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah, I didn’t start the trip @ 6am. I started it @5am when I left home. It is a three hours drive for me.
      Not having manners can give a short-term advantage, but on the long run it will only get one in trouble. I am reluctant to teach presidents of other countries since we have our own load of … matter to address. I didn’t vote for your president, people, but I did understand your difficulties that year… Just let time work things out. Don’t think other countries have a grand government – they simply have less publicity and their woes are more provincial πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is just a stunning place and now I most definitely want to visit! Thank you for this gorgeous guide! I loved the contrast of the beautiful greenery against the darkened skies (and I chuckled about the painted sheep πŸ™‚ ) Thank you! ❀ ❀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ You must come to Ireland some day πŸ™‚ There is a lot of confusion regards this road. I just added my personal impressions – one can drive through the Gap but has to be aware of the hazards. Walking is the best and safest way to explore the area, but riding the jaunting car is the most exotic and memorable πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  5. The gap is quite scenic, but considering the road I’m not surprised our tour passed it up. Guess I’ll need to be that other kind of tourist to see it. Those sheep were colorful, but for some reason I couldn’t figure out the code. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave, if your trip includes Killarney, there is a number of day tours they offer, and some include a jaunting car trip through the Gap of Dunloe (sans the Black Valley). What I am doing here is sharing the way to fit three day tours in one day for those who want to see everything but don’t have enough time πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It is what we have here πŸ™‚ Once I was in the bus and a fellow passenger asked me to change seats with her since she was panicking when another bus or truck went by πŸ™‚ Funny, I am panicking when a road is too wide πŸ™‚

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  6. This travel guide post is done so professionally! It reminds me of a book I have that is a guide for walking tours. What beautiful yet simple country! I wasn’t sure what jaunty cars were but then smiled when I saw they were horse drawn. I’ll take a car! Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! πŸ™‚ This type of carriage is called jaunting car here in Kerry. If you call it different, you get a look that reads ‘another clueless tourist’ πŸ™‚ However, in my opinion, they should worship the ‘clueless’ tourists since they are the main source of income. People are commuting to Killarney from Tralee and other smaller towns to get a seasonal job.
      If you take the car, you might want to use that little travel pillow you have in your luggage bag πŸ˜‰

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    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ I posted the traffic jam pictures to illustrate my advice about visiting the Gap in the early hours when the horses are not in the road yet. Narrow as it is, the road is the only way to get in and out the Black Valley where people are still living. They might have an emergency!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a picturesque & bucolic journey you took me on. I love everything. Of course those sheep are the highlight, the stars of this post. We need some of that rare breed of coloured sheep over here in Canada. I’m surprised we haven’t imported any, yet.
    Looking forward to part 2. Will there be more sheep in different colours? xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Inese, thanks for that beautiful walk through the Gap of Dunloe in Killalrney. My knees are not as strong as they once were for an uphill walk, so I would have to opt for a jarvey ride. Sorry to learn about the two tourists whose holiday trip ended in tragedy.

    I love your “atmospheric place” of the house nestled among the trees near a bend in the road. It reminded me of a John Constable landscape painting.

    We-humans have been blessed with so much natural beauty. We cannot give up our struggles to preserve and conserve our sacred and beloved spaces.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you drive this road you will never forget it since it is a one-vehicle route, and you have to watch the road because you don’t want to drive in reverse to the passing place πŸ™‚ I hate it! There is another road, quite narrow but not that bad – through Glencar straight to Waterville. It is also beautiful and not that busy. After that you can do a half-ring – I usually do the Dingle Bay half. This time I went to Kenmare and The Ring of Beara. Full Ring of Kerry takes me 6 hours with a few stops, no sweat.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it is a special place indeed. I don’t know why they didn’t restore the household. In fact, there are only a few abandoned houses – people still live in the Gap and Black Valley, and I am jealous πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The landscape is indeed atmospheric, Inese. So dramatic and full of magic and ghosts. The cloudy skies seem to add to the beauty in your photos. The painted sheep made my eyes pop as they didn’t seem to fit with all the natural beauty. But if the tourists like them… Ha ha. Thanks for sharing the beautiful vistas. ❀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for walking with me, Diana! The clouds could go elsewhere, I wouldn’t mind, but such is Kerry weather. The sheep surprised me too πŸ™‚ I remember seeing similar painted sheep in Wales, but never in Kerry ❀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, amazing! I will look up the novel. Kerry is a long drive from where I live. A rare treat πŸ™‚ You won’t like the changes – I rather enjoyed the narrow roads with no barriers πŸ™‚ The Ring of Kerry is too touristy for my liking. The industry took away all the beauty.

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  10. Love the images and the birds are wonderful, as usual. I am surprised it was so busy – it seems like too many tourists can ruin a visit if you are not careful and plan your visit carefully. Is it a lot busier in the summer?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I posted the traffic jam pictures on purpose. The road is a little bit wider in the beginning, but when you reach the Gap, it is only wide enough for one vehicle. Yes, it is a lot busier in summer. I went there in the end of July and it was crazy. Even walking is not that enjoyable. It is why I advise to start as early as the light permits.

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    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ But you will have to start at the sunrise if you go in summer. We drove through the Gap in early March, and it was so much fun. This time I went there in August, and enjoyed a four-hour walk. Did you hire a jaunting car for a whole day? I certainly wouldn’t πŸ™‚

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        1. Do it, you can get everywhere by car, then park and walk. I went there for a whole day to write these blogs. It is amazing how much you can see in just one day. And I didn’t rush at all.

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  11. Wow, that road in the video certainly is narrow. Probably nerve-wracking at times. The sheep are quite a show and the birds lovely. Unfortunate about two people losing their lives. We never know what can happen. Love the gnarly tree. Your post always shows an exuberance shining through. You can glean that you really enjoy your outings. Thank you for taking me through another beautiful journey of your life. The Gap of Dunloe is appealing and I am sure there are probably more photos to show but one only has so much space in a post. I hope you are well. Hugs.

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  12. Lovely photos, Ines! I always advise people not to drive the Gap in the summer. A car just creates hazards. But it’s a good way to go in the winter when there few or no horses and the colours are amazing on a fine day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely agree. After 9 AM a car would be a big nuisance in the road between Kate Kearney’s and Brandon’s. It is why I advise to start the journey at 6 AM and finish by 7, and it is only for those who have a very restricted time. Walking is the way to enjoy the Gap πŸ™‚

      Like

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