The Black Valley is one of the finest examples of what draws us to the Emerald Isle. Ireland is lush, it is green, its landscapes are heavenly, the things that dreams are made of, it is God’s country.
There is no place on earth that is more heavenly than the Black Valley, located in County Kerry. The Natural beauty in this area is second to none.
I like to get off of the beaten path and follow the road less traveled. I had my Ireland itinerary set and ready to go. Then I saw a photo of the abandoned cottage in the Black Valley Kerry Ireland and knew I had to see it. It turned out to be one of my favorite spots in Ireland….make that favorite spots on planet earth!
If you are headed to Ireland you really should add this amazing place to your itinerary.
Use this guide to get the most out of your visit to The Black Valley County Kerry!
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Table of Contents
About The Black Valley Ireland
How long is the Black Valley? The Black Valley, or Cummeenduff (Irish: Com Uí Dhuibh, meaning “Black Glen”) is a narrow 7 mile long peaceful little piece of heaven that is located in the southern end of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain Range.
Until 1976 this remote area was completely in the dark, quite literally, as it wasn’t until that year that the area finally had electricity installed. It was one of the last places to get electricity in all of Ireland.
Last Place to Get Electricity
Why is it called the Black Valley?
Before the introduction of electricity in the 1970’s, sunlight had to really stretch its rays to reach the deep valley below, consequentially nights were black, perhaps where the name of the valley hails from? or possibly due to the fact that it remained without electricity for so long? My research hasn’t come up with a definitive answer.
What is the Black Valley Road Like?
Part of the Black Valley road is a narrow (not unusually so for Ireland) paved road where you will find Black Valley Lodge, Black Valley National School, and the church where you will park.
As you enter the valley the road becomes more of a lane than a road, and if you meet another car on this old road you are going to have a difficult time getting over so they can pass, another reason why you should explore the valley on foot. More on this later on in the “How to see the Black Valley” section.
Things you’ll see in the Black Valley
The greenest green you have ever seen, vibrant pink flowers as far as the eye can see, bleating sheep, majestic horses, the sounds of a babbling brook, the smell of the rain, the feel of the cool breeze on your face. This little paradise is a treat for the senses, and really, have you ever seen a more beautiful place? I’m not sure if I have ever been so truly relaxed in all my life.
There are 2 small idyllic lakes in the Black Valley. On the map it appears that there are three but the first of the lakes is divided by a narrow strip of land. This divided lake, the first of the lakes you will arrive at Lough Gummeenduff. The second lake is Lough Reagh. You will see the lakes in the map of the old abandoned cottage (Slate House / Molly’s Cottage) later in this article.
There were several friendly residents, of the four-legged variety. During our time in the Black Valley we saw these gorgeous majestic horses and plenty of friendly sheep.
The famous Black Valley Cottage
Probably the most recognizable image of the Black Valley is of the old abandoned cottage, known as Molly’s Cottage or the Slate House. If you’re walking from the church the cottage is a 6.5 km walk, so figure 13 km round trip (8 miles.)
How do you find the abandoned cottage in the Black Valley Kerry?
You can find the cottage on Google Maps under the name Slate Cottage, which is the simplest way of finding the cottage.
Just after Lough Reagh (lake) the path will split. Go right when the path splits.
Walking directions: Here’s a map to the Slate House (Molly’s Cottage) old abandoned Cottage, The Black Valley Ireland. (note the lakes along the route)
stunning scenery (and maybe a little rain)
The scenery in the Black Valley Kerry is second to none!
It’s very easy to forget this is actually a road that your walking on. Although it is secluded we did see one car during our time in the valley. Praise the good Lord for Irish roads!
Don’t forget your rain gear!
This turned out to be the rainiest day, on our ten days in Ireland. Honestly, the soft drizzle added to the magic. It’s Ireland, if you don’t already, learn to love the rain!
a babbling brook
one of the first things you’ll encounter as you head deeper into the Black Valley is this babbling brook!!!
Check out this video of this tranquil babbling brook located in the Black Valley. I could listen to this all day!
Where is the Black Valley located and how do I get there?
The location of the Black Valley is south of the Gap of Dunloe, north of Moll’s Gap, and on the westside of Killarney National Park, a popular area with tourists, but on our visit to the Black Valley it was blissfully quiet.
How to get to the Black Valley Ireland
Through the Gap of Dunloe?
Google Maps, more times than not, recommends going through the Gap but in reality it isn’t your best choice, unless of course you just have the patience of Job.
Indeed, the SHORTEST route to the Black Valley is to drive through the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap is a public road and so it is technically permissible to drive the road BUT the road is frequented by the horse and traps ushering people through the gap.
The road is very narrow and you’ll be at the mercy of the trap drivers to “get over” and let you pass. From what I have witnessed, they aren’t very motivated to allow motor vehicles to pass. It’s a very slow pace, you might be able to walk it faster! You will probably be better served just to go a different route.
Try coming in from the South instead
I suggest this route instead: First set your GPS to take you to Moll’s Gap. THEN enter in the Our Lady of the Valley Church. Google ( or other GPS) will take you right to the area where you want to be.
address: Our Lady of the Valley Church, Killeenleagh, Mastergeehy, Co. Kerry, Ireland
If you take the route through Moll’s Gap, whether you’re coming from Kenmare, Killarney, or Killorglin Google Maps (or other GPS navigation) will avoid the Gap. (From Moll’s Gap you’ll go east on R568)
Map: getting to the Black Valley without having to drive through the trap congested Gap of Dunloe.
Click here for an interactive map of this route on Google Maps.
Distance to the Black Valley from nearby towns when taking the Moll’s Gap route:
- 35 km from Killarney town (where the Ring of Kerry begins and ends. This route takes you past Ladies View Scenic area so be sure to stop! )
- 22 km from Kenmare (less commercial than, Killarney, a great place to base yourself if you like things less crowded)
- 25 miles from Killorglin (want to get even further away from the crowds, Killorglin is a great options and where we chose to base ourselves in the area)
How to see The Black Valley
Can you drive the Black Valley? Yes you can technically drive the Black Valley road but it is little more than a path and if you are driving you are missing out on the amazing feel and sounds of the valley. The best way to experience the Black Valley is to walk!
walking the Black Valley
Yes, without a doubt, the absolute best way to see the valley is by foot!
Park the car and get out and breathe the fresh air, watch the resident animals as they go about their lazy day, spend some time letting the sounds of the babbling brook wash away your cares, and burn a few of those fish and chip calories!
Let’s keep the cars out of this area to keep it peaceful and unspoiled. There are so few places like that left anymore.
There may be cars driving down this road. For safety’s sake stay aware of approaching vehicles.
Parking in the area is at a premium, since there is no designated parking.
- DO NOT block anyone’s driveway or gates
- DO NOT park in lay-bys. (an area at the side of a road where vehicles may pull off the road and stop; a rest stop, in this case meant to allow vehicles to pass by one another on this single lane road)
Do park at Our Lady of the Valley Church, (Black valley church) a cute little white chapel located on the Black Valley Road just west of the Black Valley Lodge, and down the road a ways from the Black Valley Hostel.
Map of the best place to park in The Black Valley:
Use this link to find Our Lady of the Valley Church on Google Maps.
The best time to visit the Black Valley
I have no doubt that the valley is divine all year round but my vote goes to May! We were visiting in the month of May, and the rhododendron were all blooming.
On our Highlands/Loch Ness tour in Scotland (stay tuned for this one) we learned that to the Scots and Irish, rhododendron are an invasive plant. Boy are they beautiful though!
Best Places to eat near the Black Valley
Lord Brandon’s Cottage
Lord Brandons Lodge sits on the banks of the Upper Lake Killarney, just 2.4 kilometers to the east of the Hostel. It is a great place to get a light meal (soups, sandwiches, salads etc.)
Our tour of the Gap of Dunloe stopped here and we grabbed lunch before our boat took us back across the lake to Killarney National Park.
Black Valley area accommodations
The Black Valley
why book it: This one is right in the Black Valley, you walk right past it on the described walk! If you want to really relax and soak up the area this is a great stay.
address: Killarney Derrycarna, Black Valley, Gap of Dunloe, V93V0H2 Derrylea, Ireland
Parknasilla Resort & Spa
why book it: It’s a bit of a drive but this place is worth driving for! mountain views, looks a bit like a castle, luxury for around $200 per night!
address: Derryquin, Co. Kerry, V93 EK71, Ireland (51.81684477966097, -9.87402261547064)
distance from The Black Valley: 37 km (23 miles) 1 hour
The Rose Suite Kenmare
why book it: mountain views and Kenmare is less commercial than Killarney
address: Killaha West, Lower Reen, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Distance from the Black Valley: 27 Kilometers (16 miles) 45 minutes
We based ourselves in Killorglin. It’s a quiet town where you can escape the hoards of tourists that flock to this area. It’s a great home base that is central to many of the sites in the area.
The Bianconi Inn
address: Annadale Road, Killorglin, Ireland
Distance from The Black Valley: 55 km (35 miles) 1 hour 20 minutes
(it’s a bit of a hall but we were arriving from the Dingle Peninsula, visiting Skellig Michael, the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park so we opted to stay in one place for 4 nights instead of moving hotels)
want to stay in a castle???!!!
Be sure to check out my affordable castles to stay at in Ireland article!
More lovely trails in the area
This area of Ireland is just pretty! so you won’t be surprised to hear that there are some other worthwhile trails close by.
Bridia Valley Walk
The Valley is also beautiful from the Bridia end. Next time I’ll park in the Bridia Valley and return to my car. However, you can walk through from the Black Valley to the Bridia Valley. The walk is 10 km and will take you 3 hours and 45 minutes. This walk is rated difficult.
Carrauantoohil Mountain trails
I’m a valley dweller, there’s is just something so comforting about being enveloped by towering mountains but some prefer the view from above! The Black Valley just happens to be in the shadow of Carrauntoohil Mountain. Carrauntoohil is not only the highest mountain in the Macgillycuddy Reeks Range, it’s Ireland’s highest Mountain! The trail leaves from Cronin’s Yard. Here’s a good place to explore the different trails on Ireland’s highest peaks!
This trail has been described as a walk through a Fairy Forest with a waterfall by the name of O’Sullivan’s Cascade, which I have heard described as “even better than the Torc Waterfall” at Torc Mountain, although not as easy to access. According to legend this waterfall once ran with whiskey instead of water. Here is a very good guide to exploring Tomie’s Wood.
The Kerry Way
The Black Valley is part of the Kerry Way, a 214-kilometer lopped walking trail that begins and ends in Killarney. It is also part of a 55–kilometer walking loop thank includes the Killarney–Gap of Dunloe–Black Valley–Moll’s Gap area. Check here if you’re looking for more information on the Kerry Way
Gap of Dunloe Tour
If you haven’t yet you definitely should add a tour through the famous Gap of Dunloe (Bearna an Choimíno) a ridiculously scenic mountain pass, to your itinerary.
The Gap of Dunloe tour that we chose included a horse and jaunting car ride through the Gap and then a rowboat ride back across the Lakes of Killarney Not all tours include the boat ride and it was a great addition. (small bus ride to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, jaunting car through the gap to Brandon’s Cottage, boat ride back to the starting point at Ross Castle!)
Killarney Jaunting Cars is the company that we used. You can get more information at their website here.
a few last words
The name, Black Valley, but other fitting names might be Green Valley, maybe Rhododendron Lane? I like to call it HEAVEN. This beautiful paradise is in the area of one of the most visited locations in Ireland. Yet just a short distance down the road, you can find a bit of seclusion, and possibly, have a bit of paradise all to yourself!
I hope this article has inspired you to venture off the beaten path and seek out your own little divine corners on the road less traveled. Get out and Explore the back roads and nooks and crannies of Ireland and who knows what you might find!
Make your trips the things that dreams are made of by going the extra mile with your trip planning. In my “How to Plan your Dream Trip in 6 Simple Steps” article I’ll give you some tips on how to dig a little deeper with your trip planning so that your next trip with be your best yet!
2 weeks Ireland Scotland England
We visited the Black Valley as part of a whirlwind 14 day trip that included highlights in Ireland, Scotland and England! Get our free itinerary here! and take the work out of planning great vacations!
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