Want to learn more about the Gap of Dunloe? Here’s everything you need to know about this beautiful mountain pass!
During my road trip around Ireland, I was lucky enough to stay in a Bed and breakfast right where the Dunloe Gap started so it was an easy drive through the spectacular valley in a beautiful sunny morning.
On my second time in Ireland, as I am writing this, I couldn’t resist and had to go back and take some more amazing shots and drone footage which you can see in my dedicated video.
In this post, I will tell you all about this beautiful region in the Ring of Kerry and the best way to experience it.
The Gap of Dunloe at Glance
Nestled within breathtaking nature, the Gap of Dunloe is a great area where to immerse yourself in Nature and enjoy a nice walk in a surreal landscape.
Why is the Gap of Dunloe Famous?
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow pass famous for its awe-inspiring natural beauty and rich history with rugged mountains, sparkling lakes, and winding roads that offer a unique and breathtaking experience.
Specifically, the Gap of Dunloe offers panoramic views of dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and emerald green valleys, as well as several significant cultural attractions with folklore and legends, and tales of fairies and mythical creatures entwined in its history.
Additionally, the area is dotted with ancient archaeological sites, including standing stones and ruins of old cottages, providing a glimpse into Ireland’s past.
👉🏽 Why is it Called the Gap of Dunloe?
The Gap of Dunloe’s name originates from its geographical features and connection to the local area.
The term “Gap” refers to a narrow pass or cleft between mountains, which perfectly describes the landscape of this remarkable place.
The word “Dunloe” is believed to come from the Irish language. Specifically, “Dún” means a fort or stronghold, while “Lóch” means a lake. Therefore, “Dunloe” translates to a fortress by the lake.
Near the start of the route, you’ll find the Ross Castle, a medieval stronghold.
Hence, it is believed that the combination of the narrow pass and the fortress contributed to the name “Gap of the Dunloe.”
👉🏽 Where is the Gap of Dunloe Located?
The Gap of Dunloe can be found within the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in County Kerry and it’s a must-stop if you are doing the Ring of Kerry Drive.
The starting point of the Gap of Dunloe is near the town of Killarney, at the famous Kate’s Kerneys cottage, to be precise. From there, the route takes travelers through a spectacular winding road encompassing a series of lakes, including the famous Black Valley and the Upper Lake.
The journey ends near the enchanting Gap Road, which leads back towards Killarney.
📍 Gap of Dunloe Ireland map
Can You Drive the Gap of Dunloe?
Driving through the Gap of Dunloe is definitely a popular option for those who want to explore the area at their own pace.
However, make sure you travel slowly as the road is narrow and winding and you may find people walking or biking.
⏰ How Long is the Gap of Dunloe Drive?
The length of the Gap of Dunloe is approximately 11 kilometers long.
However, it is important to consider that the journey usually begins from Killarney and ends near Gap Road, making the drive distance about 20 kilometers.
Also, the road and traffic conditions, as well as the presence of cyclists or walkers, especially during peak tourist seasons, may affect the duration of the drive.
Therefore, it’s best to allocate enough time to fully appreciate the stunning landscapes and any potential stops you might have.
7 Must-Visit Stops at the Gap of Dunloe
1. Kate Kearney’s Cottage
One of the must-visit stops at the Gap of Dunloe is Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a 19th-century charming and historic cottage near the beginning of the Gap.
Steeped in folklore and history and named after the legendary Irish beauty Kate Kearney, known for her hospitality and entertaining nature, the Cottage is a welcoming stop for visitors to rest, refuel, and immerse themselves in the warm Irish hospitality.
So, indulge in traditional Irish food, sip on a pint of Guinness, and relax in the cozy atmosphere while marveling at the magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
I was staying in a hotel nearby and I went to Kate Kearney’s Cottage for dinner. I wasn’t impressed by the food, to be honest, but there was a joyous atmosphere with live music.
2. Head of the Gap of Dunloe
The next must-visit stop you shouldn’t miss is the Head of the Gap near the pass’ summit.
It is a viewpoint offering a breathtaking vantage point showcasing the true beauty and grandeur of the surrounding scenery.
Specifically, from here, you can marvel at the majestic peaks of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, surrounded by the lush valleys below.
Therefore, the Head of the Gap provides a perfect photo opportunity to capture the awe-inspiring landscapes that make this area so special.
Furthermore, it is the perfect spot to just take a moment and soak in the tranquility and serenity of one of Ireland’s most beautiful regions.
3. Black Lake
Once you arrive in the heart of the mountain pass, you’ll find the Black Lake, another must-visit stop.
The Black Lake is a stunning body of water reflecting the surrounding landscape like a mirror.
Surrounded by towering mountains and lush greenery, this tranquil lake creates a peaceful and serene atmosphere that is perfect for soaking in the Gap’s beauty and a relaxing break.
Whether you choose to admire the pristine calm waters from the shoreline or join a boating adventure, Black Lake offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
4. Auger Lake
Among the must-visit stops at the Gap of Dunloe, Auger Lake is an absolute gem that should not be missed.
Surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque landscapes, Auger Lake is a hidden gem offering a serene and idyllic setting perfect for immersing in the peacefulness of nature.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll marveling at the crystal-clear waters shimmering under the sunlight, or find a secluded spot to sit and admire the surroundings.
Whatever you choose, nature and photography enthusiasts will certainly be captivated by the untouched beauty and serenity of Auger Lake.
5. Wishing Bridge
Another must-visit stop along the journey through the Gap of Dunloe is the Wishing Bridge.
Located near the Black Lake, Wishing Bridge is an enchanting bridge holding a special place in Irish folklore and tradition.
According to local belief, anyone who makes a wish while crossing the bridge will have their wish granted.
So, this magical spot offers a moment of whimsy and wonder, allowing visitors to pause and reflect while immersing themselves in the enchanting atmosphere of the area’s natural beauty of the glistening lake and lush greenery.
6. Lord Brandon’s Cottage
When exploring the Gap of Dunloe, Lord Brandon’s Cottage should also be on your list of must-visit spots.
This 19th-century historic cottage, nestled in the heart of the valley, offers a glimpse into the past with its old-world charm and welcomes visitors with warm hospitality.
Furthermore, it’s a popular starting point for boat trips along the enchanting Upper Lake, providing an opportunity to immerse in the beauty of the surrounding landscapes from the peaceful waters.
Additionally, the nearby cottage offers a picturesque setting for a well-deserved break or a delicious meal at the cozy tearoom and restaurant.
7. Ross Castle
No visit to the Gap of Dunloe would be complete without a stop at Ross Castle.
This magnificent 25th-century fortress stands proudly on the shores of Lough Leane, near the beginning of the Gap.
Ross Castle is an excellent example of Ireland’s rich history and offers a captivating glimpse into its medieval past.
Explore the castle’s towers, chambers, and battlements and take a leisurely stroll around the castle grounds, adorned with beautiful gardens and a tranquil lakeside setting.
And if you’re seeking a deeper knowledge of the castle, guided tours are available, providing fascinating insights into its history and the surrounding area.
Best Ways to Visit the Gap of Dunloe
✔️ By Car
Visiting and exploring the Gap of Dunloe by car is one of the best ways since it offers flexibility and convenience in exploring this breathtaking region.
Start your journey from Killarney and follow the signs towards the Gap of Dunloe to enjoy a scenic drive along winding country roads.
Along the way, you can easily stop and admire the stunning viewpoints, such as the Head of the Gap and the Black Lake.
Additionally, having a car allows you to explore the surrounding areas, such as visiting Ross Castle or taking a detour to nearby attractions like the Ring of Kerry.
Just keep in mind that the driving route through the Gap itself is not suitable for regular vehicles, so it’s recommended to either park and hike or opt for alternative modes of transport, such as guided tours or hiring a local driver.
✔️ Hiking and Walking
Hiking and walking are undoubtedly some of the best ways to visit the Gap of Dunloe, allowing you to intimately experience the breathtaking beauty of this natural wonder through the scenic trails that wind through the rugged mountains and lush valleys.
There are various routes to choose from, ranging in difficulty and duration, catering to both casual walkers and avid hikers.
Nevertheless, all pathways will reward you with stunning views of jagged cliffs, glistening lakes, and vibrant flora.
Along the way, you can also explore hidden gems such as the Wishing Bridge or Auger Lake, stopping to soak in the peaceful ambiance and capture memorable photographs.
Overall, walking through the Gap of Dunloe gives you the freedom to appreciate the sights, sounds, and serenity of this enchanting landscape up close, immersing yourself in Ireland’s natural wonders.
However, remember to wear appropriate footwear and prepare for changing weather conditions to make the most of your hiking or walking adventure in the Gap of Dunloe.
You can find the Gap of Dunloe walk map on All trails, a great app for walkers.
Cycling is undoubtedly one of the best ways to visit the Gap of Dunloe. It offers a thrilling and immersive experience through its stunning landscapes.
Rent a bike in Killarney and follow the winding roads and well-marked paths. All the routes are perfect for cyclists of varying skill levels.
So, feel the wind on your face as you navigate the twists and turns, passing by stunning views of rugged mountains, lush valleys, and picturesque lakes.
Furthermore, cycling through the Gap allows you to cover more ground than walking or hiking, giving you the opportunity to explore more of the surrounding area, such as Ross Castle or the Black Valley.
Therefore, stop along the way to marvel at the panoramic vistas and snap memorable photos.
Joining a boat tour is an exceptional way to visit the Gap of Dunloe. It offers a unique perspective of the stunning landscapes and serene waterways.
Start your adventure at Lord Brandon’s Cottage, where you can board a traditional wooden boat and venture on a leisurely journey along the enchanting Upper Lake.
As you sail across the calm waters, you’ll be surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains, cascading waterfalls, and captivating wildlife.
Therefore, the boat trip is a perfect way to appreciate the pristine beauty of the Gap and discover hidden gems like Auger Lake and the Wishing Bridge.
Furthermore, your experienced boatman will share fascinating stories and local knowledge, enriching your experience and deepening your connection to the area’s history and culture.
✔️ Jaunting Car
One of the most charming and traditional ways to visit the Gap of Dunloe is by taking a jaunting car ride.
Specifically, a horse-drawn carriage with a covered seating area provides a delightful and relaxing way of transport.
A jaunting car allows you to sit back and relax as you venture along the scenic route of the stunning countryside, with your knowledgeable driver entertaining you with tales of local history and folklore.
Furthermore, the jaunting car ride offers a unique vantage point and a sense of unhurried exploration, ensuring a memorable and enchanting journey that reminds us of the romantic days of old Ireland.
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Rather than trying to figure out how to plan everything yourself to explore the beauty of Ireland’s incredible natural landscapes, join a full-day tour of the Gap of Dunloe from Killarney.
This adventure-packed tour includes a scenic hike of seven miles with ample time for walking and exploring the awe-inspiring surroundings and attractions such as Ross Castle.
For those looking for a more relaxed mode of transportation, you can take a charming Jaunting Cart ride.
Additionally, you can relax and immerse in the area’s beauty with a boat trip on the Gearhameen River.
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One of the best ways to immerse in the region’s beauty is by going on an exciting and adventurous boat trip.
With the help of a knowledgeable guide, take a scenic boat ride on the stunning lakes of Killarney and learn about the area’s rich history and wildlife.
After the boat ride, you’ll have the chance to also take a leisurely walk in the famous Gap of Dunloe and explore the captivating sights of the Black Valley at your own pace.
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Immerse yourself in the beauty of County Kerry with this unique, multifaceted half-day tour.
Specifically, with the combination of bus, boat, and cart rides, you can enjoy the region’s breathtaking landscapes.
This also allows you to explore iconic landmarks, including the renowned Gap of Dunloe, the majestic Ross Castle, and the picturesque Old Weir Bridge, and appreciate the stunning natural scenery from the water.
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Hop on a comfortable bus that will transport you to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, the entrance of the Gap.
From there, you can either venture on a scenic walk through the pass or opt for a jaunting car ride for an additional fee.
Then, you’ll embark on a guided boat tour, gliding along the lakes and rivers of Killarney National Park.
Where to Stay When Visiting the Gap of Dunloe
When visiting the Gap of Dunloe, a fantastic place to consider staying in Beaufort.
This charming village is conveniently located just a short distance from the Gap, offering easy access to the area.
Furthermore, Beaufort provides a tranquil retreat away from the hustle and bustle of larger towns, allowing you to immerse in Ireland’s peaceful countryside.
The town offers several accommodations, including cozy bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, and traditional Irish cottages.
Therefore, with its scenic location nestled among rolling hills and picturesque landscapes,
Beaufort offers a serene and idyllic setting where you can relax after a day of adventure.
In addition, the village boasts delightful local pubs and restaurants serving authentic Irish cuisine and providing a taste of traditional hospitality.
Located just a short distance from the Gap, Killarney is one of the most popular places to stay.
It offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts to budget-friendly options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences.
Staying in Killarney is also near other attractions, such as Killarney National Park and Ross Castle, making it the perfect base to explore more of the region.
Additionally, this vibrant town is known for its lively atmosphere with boutique shops, restaurants, and traditional pubs, allowing you to enjoy a well-rounded experience during your visit.
🛏 Budget: Inveraray Farm B&B
Inveraray Farm is a family-run bed and breakfast with comfortable bedrooms and stunning views of the Gap of Dunloe, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, and the mountains of Killarney.
Furthermore, at Inveraray, you can start your day with a delicious breakfast served in the bright dining room, where you can choose from a full Irish breakfast or lighter options, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices.
Inveraray also features a guest lounge with a TV and books about the local area, providing a space for relaxation and socializing.
For families, there is an outdoor play area with a merry-go-round, trampoline, and swing ball set.
Lastly, there are golf courses nearby where tour bookings can be arranged for guests.
🛏 Midrange: The Ferris Wheel B&B
This is where I stayed and I enjoyed my cozy room. The only critique I have about this B&B is the instant coffee they have for breakfast and the small room that’s not enough for all the guests.
Other than that, the owners are lovely and they offer many useful information on hikes and things to do to make your stay more enjoyable.
Located just half a kilometer from the renowned Gap of Dunloe mountain pass, The Ferris Wheel B&B offers a prime location and a range of amenities and services.
For instance, the B&B can arrange scenic jaunting car tours of the Gap, allowing guests to fully immerse themselves in the area’s beauty.
From here, Killarney’s center, train station, and bus station are just a 15-minute car ride away.
For entertainment and dining options, Kate Kearney’s Cottage, which offers delicious Irish cuisine with live traditional music and Irish dancing, is just a five-minute walk away.
Lastly, the stunning Lakes of Killarney and two golf courses are only a 10-minute drive from The Ferris Wheel B&B.
🛏 Luxury: The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens
The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens is a luxurious 5-star hotel offering panoramic views of the Gap of Dunloe and exceptional amenities, such as a 25-meter pool, sauna, steam room, an indoor Nintendo Wii games room, horse riding, and indoor tennis.
Furthermore, the hotel features spacious rooms, with many offering balconies overlooking the gardens or countryside and a restaurant offering an à la carte menu and a selection of wines from their own vineyard.
As for entertainment, from here, boating on the River Laune and visiting Rossbeigh Beach are easily accessible.
Additionally, the hotel is set within 64 acres of parkland, and its sub-tropical gardens house the ruins of an old medieval castle, adding a touch of historical charm to the natural splendor.
What is the Best Time to Visit the Gap of Dunloe?
The best time to visit the Gap of Dunloe is in spring, summer, and early autumn.
From April to October, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, providing ideal conditions for exploring the picturesque landscapes of the Gap.
Furthermore, during this time, the hills are covered with vibrant greenery and wildflowers, and the lakes shimmer under the sunlight.
Summer, in particular, offers longer daylight hours, allowing you plenty of time to immerse in the area’s natural beauty, as well as explore cultural and historical sites.
However, the Gap of Dunloe can be busy during peak season, so visiting in the shoulder months of April, May, September, or October might offer a slightly quieter experience.
Still, no matter which period you prefer visiting, always be prepared for changeable weather and check the local forecast before planning your visit.
The Gap of Dunloe Tips
If you want to enhance your experience, here are a few tips:
📌 Firstly, come prepared for outdoor exploration. Wear comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots, as some paths can be uneven or muddy. Dress in layers and bring a waterproof jacket, as the weather in Ireland can be unpredictable.
📌 Secondly, plan your visit during weekdays or off-peak hours to avoid crowds, especially in summer. Furthermore, consider starting your journey early in the morning to avoid hurrying.
📌 Thirdly, since there are limited dining options along the route, bring some snacks and water. However, don’t miss the opportunity to stop at Lord Brandon’s Cottage for a hearty meal or refreshments.
📌 Lastly, if you hike or walk through the Gap, ensure that you have a map or follow a guided route to avoid getting lost. And if you’re taking a boat or jaunting car, be mindful of the departure times to ensure a smooth journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Gap of Dunloe Worth it?
Absolutely! The Gap of Dunloe is considered one of the most stunning and picturesque areas in County Kerry and the Ring of Kerry.
So, it is indeed worth visiting due to its natural and rural beauty and the opportunity to explore the region either by hiking, cycling, or taking a jaunting car ride.
How Long Does it Take to Do the Gap of Dunloe?
The time it takes to complete the Gap of Dunloe depends on the mode of transport you choose and your pace.
For instance, if you’re hiking or walking across the Gap, it might take around 3 to 4 hours.
If you’re cycling, it will take approximately 2 hours to cross the narrow pass, while a jaunting car takes about 2 to 3 hours to traverse the route.
But you should also consider any potential stops you might take while crossing the Gap.
Where Does the Gap of Dunloe Start?
The most popular starting point to the Gap of Dunloe is Kate Kearney’s Cottage, which is around 7 kilometers from Killarney town.
Can You Walk Through the Gap of Dunloe?
Yes, you can walk through the Gap of Dunloe.
In fact, walking across the narrow pass is the most popular activity for nature lovers and hikers visiting the Ring of Kerry.
How Long Is the Gap of Dunloe Walk?
The Gap of Dunloe is about 11 kilometers long and usually it takes walkers about two to two and a half hours to finish.
Where is the Best Place to Park at the Gap of Dunloe?
Since Kate Kearney’s Cottage serves as the starting point of the Gap of Dunloe, it is also the best parking area.
Final Thoughts: The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe in Ireland is a true gem that will surely capture your heart with its breathtaking beauty and rich history.
So, use this ultimate to explore by hiking, cycling, boating, or riding the traditional jaunting car, and be prepared for an unforgettable adventure across the majestic mountains, the tranquil lakes, and the serene valley that make up the Gap of Dunloe.
Before You Go…
Here are some useful posts that you may be interested in:
- Ballaghbeama Gap (2023): Going off the Beaten Path on the Ring of Kerry
- 7-Day Ireland Itinerary – The Perfect Road Trip
- Ireland in November for Weather and Things to Do
- Driving in Ireland: 18 Must-Read Tips Before Renting a Car in Ireland
- 18 Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Dublin Ireland (2023)
About the Author, Founder & Editor
Hello there! This is Isabella, the author of this blog, and a cat lover and restless traveler. I am an Italian expatriate in Mexico, but I am now traveling full-time in and out of Mexico. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my fancy job and explore the world, at a slow pace, one country at a time. Among my favorite countries so far, besides Mexico of course, are Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Ireland, Portugal, Norway, and the list goes on…