rainbow sheep

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 🙂 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 🙂 Just bear with me.

Our Kerry trip will include The Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, Kenmare, Glengarriff, Healy Pass, The Ring of Kerry, Killorglin and possibly the Ross Castle at the sunset 🙂 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, and 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. 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 you 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. 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

Rainbow sheep is a special breed 😉 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.

 Have a wonderful weekend!