The Gap of Dunloe is an unbelievably scenic pass near Killarney, winding its way between Ireland’s largest mountain range – the Macgillycuddy reeks – and the purple mountain. It’s a landmark that must be visited on any trip to Killarney. If you ask me, this drive is more breathtaking than the nearby famous Ring of Kerry. Come on, a winding narrow road meandering its way through the mountains. You’ll pass over old stone bridges, you’ll see lakes, mountains and multi-coloured sheep (yep really), ginormous boulders strewn across the landscape and noisy streams. Ahhhh bliss wouldn’t ya say?! Visiting the Gap of Dunloe is a must on a trip to Kerry, and should take one of the top spots on your Ireland Bucketlist.
A bit about the Gap of Dunloe Killarney
How was the Gap of Dunloe formed?
As with a lot of Ireland’s famous landscapes, the steep valley was formed by giant glaciers moving between the Macgillycuddy Reeks and the purple mountains. You’ll see evidence of this as there are thousands of boulders left strewn across the area, dropped off and left behind by the glaciers as they passed.
Where is the Gap of Dunloe?
The Gap of Dunloe is just southwest of Killarney town in County Kerry. It is just the other side of Killarney National Park.
Getting to the Gap from Killarney
Getting to the gap may look far on a map but it really isn’t. It is so easy from Killarney and just a 15-minute drive to the “start” of the gap, which most people consider to be Kate Kearney’s cottage. at just 12.6 km from the town.
Head west out of Killarney on the Ring of Kerry route following the N72. Not far out the road, you will see a left turn for the gap of Dunloe and voila… you’re pretty much there!
What I’ve done in the past, is head south of Killarney on the N71 following the route around the entire national park, taking in all the beautiful sites of the national park and then coming back in by the Gap of Dunloe. Once big swooping loop taking in all the joys of Killarney.
The numerous ways you can see the Gap of Dunloe
Route to take
Kate Kearney’s cottage is the starting point for most people doing the gap. Alternatively, you can visit by driving the other way around and coming from Molls Gap or Lord Brandsons lodge. When visiting the Gap of Dunloe, this is the way I have gone most times in the past. I like going clockwise and taking the day going through all the attractions of Killarney national park – Muckross house, torc waterfall, ross lake, ladies’ View, and then coming back in by the gap. Of course, you could still do this going the opposite direction. Whichever you prefer.
The route through is about 11 km and there are a few ways you can take it in. Car, cycle, walk, or tour bus. Your choice! Some people choose to go with the horse and trap (jaunting cars) but I really don’t support this and hope you don’t either.
Walking the Gap of Dunloe
Some people walk the gap. I haven’t actually done that but I’d say it’s pretty tough at 11 km. Some tours will drop you off one side, you walk through and then pick you up the far side. There is also free parking at Kate Kearney’s cottage. Although I’d imagine if you parked and walked yourself you wouldn’t get to see the whole thing – 22km round trip on foot no thank you! I advise leaving at least 2.5 hours to walk it.
Driving the Gap of Dunloe
So far, I’ve only ever driven through the gap. Once in November and it was pretty quiet. The other times in the summer where it was pretty busy! I’ve seen lots of people advising very seriously not to drive through. I don’t get this, it IS a road after all!
If you are a confident driver and don’t mind narrow roads and constantly pulling in to allow other drivers to get by I don’t see the big deal. I’ve heard people warn that you’ll get glares from the jaunting car driver for taking up the road, however, if that happened to me I’d only glare back at them for exploiting horses!!
I really enjoy driving this route and it gives you more freedom to stop and pull over (when there is room) and take photos.
Be warned though:
- narrow windy road
- a lot of traffic in summer
- limited space to pull in
Cycling the Gap of Dunloe – the perfect way for visiting the Gap of Dunloe
Cycling the Gap of Dunloe is another popular one with tourists and I can see why. I have not done this yet but I am determined this is how I’ll see it next time (I do an annual trip to Kerry and look forward to it so much).
There are numerous bike rental shops in Kerry where you can rent a bike for a really affordable price.
See some bike rental places below:
- https://www.killarneybikerental.com – great reviews
Gap of Dunloe tours in Killarney
There are countless companies that offer tours of the gap of Dunloe if you’d rather sit back and enjoy the ride. Some will drive you the whole way through while others will drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other.
Kate Kearneys cottage
As I’ve mentioned, most people consider this the starting point from which to see the gap. kate Kearney’s cottage is a cottage (duh) named after a beautiful woman who lived in the early 1800s. She was famous for her potent Poitín . Kate sold this to travelers, despite it being illegal.
This tradition of hospitality lives on. Although you won’t find Poitín at the cottage, it now serves food, drinks and has some craft shops.
Visiting The Gap of Dunloe FAQ
Can I drive the Gap of Dunloe?
Yes yes and yes. As long as you are a confident driver and don’t mind the busy narrow roads I’d say go for it. In summer, be warned it will be crazy busy.
How do I get to the Gap of Dunloe from Killarney?
Just a 15 minute drive away. Take the N72 west out of Killarney. You will see a turn to the left just outside the town. Take it. It’s just a few minutes from here.
Where to park at the Gap of Dunloe?
Kate Kearney’s cottage has free parking. You can leave the car there and walk as far as you want before turning back again.
How long is the gap?
The route is about 11 km depending on where you start and finish. However, if you are doing the whole loop around the park and back to Killarney is 55.5 km
How long does it take to walk the Gap of Dunloe?
Although I’ve never done it, I hear it takes on average, 2.5 hours depending on how quick of a walker you are.
Visting The Gap of Dunloe – Things to do and see nearby:
The great thing about a trip to Killarney, is there is soooo many things to do and see in such close proximity. It is a great base to explore the entire county of Kerry. Here are some of the many places nearby:
- Killarney National Park
- Ross Castle
- Muckross House and lake
- Torc Waterfall
- Ladies View (one of my favourites)
- The Ring of Kerry
- Valentia Island
Other resources for vising Killarney/ the Gap of Dunloe:
So there ya have it! All you need to know to visit the Gap of Dunloe. Enjoy your trip! If you’ve already been, let me know what you liked most about it in the comments 🙂
If you are visiting Kerry, be sure to check out my other posts below:
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Visiting the Gap of Dunloe? Don’t forget to pin this post for later: