A trip to the famous Gap of Dunloe (Dún Lóich) is a must-do activity for anyone traveling to County Kerry, Ireland. The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass that stretches for about 11 kilometers and is located between the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and the Purple Mountain Group range in County Kerry. This ridiculously scenic narrow mountain pass offers breathtaking views of the area’s mountains, valleys, and lakes.
How to see the Gap of Dunloe
The best way, and certainly one of the most popular ways, to explore the Gap is by taking a Gap of Dunloe jaunting car ride (horse and cart.) Several tour companies allow you to combine a jaunting car ride with a boat trip on the Lakes of Killarney to fill out your day.
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The Gap of Dunloe Tour
The best Gap of Dunloe tour includes both a horse drawn jaunting car ride through the narrow road of the Gap as well as an open boat ride through the beautiful Killarney lakes on the return journey! A wonderful excursion in the great outdoors!
The starting point for this particular tour is at Ross Castle, so plan to tour the castle either before or after.
The tour company will then take you by coach to Kate Kearney’s Cottage. This is where you will catch your jaunting car through the gap.
Fun fact: The cottage is named after Kate Kearney who is said to have died of childbirth here at the age of 102! You’ve got to love those Irish legends!
Sights along the way include abandoned cottages, stone bridges, and a series of lakes.
Tip: if you want to hear the commentary from the knowledgeable guide, you better sit up front because I wasn’t able to actually hear anything from my seat in the carriage.
Within the u-shaped valley are five lakes (from north to south): Coosaun Lough, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake (Augher Lake), and Black Lake, Black Lough. These lakes are connected by the River Loe. (source: Wikipedia)
The Wishing Bridge, also known as the White Bridge, is a small stone bridge located in the middle of Dunloe Gap. According to local legend, if a person makes a wish while crossing the bridge and does not speak until they have crossed it, their wish will come true.
At the top of the pass, you may be required to get out for a short walk uphill to give the horses a break.
Your jaunting car journey will end at Lord Brandon’s cottage where you’ll be given time to have lunch (lunch not included in the price of the tour) before you catch your boat back to Ross Castle.
On the homeward journey, an expert oarsman will row you over the lakes. You’ll start out on the enchanting upper lake (Upper Lake Killarney), pass Old Weir bridge (the old arch bridge), Brickeen Bridge, and then on to Muckross Lake and then the lower lake (Lough Leane.)
Book this guided tour with Killarney Jaunting Cars – Tangney Tours on Get Your Guide
|10:20 AM – 3:00 pm. (March to October only, otherwise choose one of the other tours listed in this article)
|wooden bridge at Ross Castle
|24 hours in advance for a full refund (only on Get Your Guide)
|is strongly advised to avoid possible disappointment.
|Tour not suitable for:
|Pregnant women, people with mobility issues
|In this case you get a more favorable cancellation policy by booking through Get Your Guide.
Other tour operators
There are a lot of other tour operators who offer similar tours: (these are all walking tours, self-guided in most cases, with the OPTION to add a jaunting car ride at an extra cost)
- Gap of Dunloe Tour by Foot & Boat (includes round trip transportation from Killarney)
- Killarney: Gap of Dunloe Walking and Boat Tour (includes pick up service)
- Lakes of Killarney Boat Tour with Transfer
- Gap of Dunloe & Lakes of Killlarney Boat Tour by Deros Tour
- Combination Jaunting Car & Lake Cruise Tour -cruise the lake in comfort on this covered cruiser
Other ways to see the Gap of Dunloe
If you are a true “Do it Yourself,” type there are other ways to see the Gap.
Jaunting car WITHOUT a tour
You can make your way to Kate Kearney Cottage and hire a horse and cart there. (bring cash) Expect to pay €35 per person or for €140 per jaunting cart, you can have the cart all to yourself! The trip lasts approximately 1.5 hours.
Gap of Dunloe walk
For those who prefer to explore the area by foot and take in the spectacular scenery at their own pace, it is possible to walk the Dunloe Gap. At the Head of Dunloe ( the full head of the Gap) things start to get “less scenic” so it’s a good spot to turn around and walk back to your car. One advantage to walking is you get to see the Gap from both directions!
|This hike is rated easy/moderate (suitable for most fitness levels)
|duration: (round trip)
|7.54 miles (just over 12 km)
|650 ft (uphill) 50 ft (downhill)
|The main Gap of Dunloe parking area (free parking) is located at this famous cottage. The parking lot is fairly small, so visitors are advised to arrive early to secure a parking spot.
Some prefer to experience the Gap by bike. Bike rentals are available in Killarney town, which is located approximately 12 kilometers away from the Gap of Dunloe. There are several bike rental companies in the area that offer a variety of rental options, including hourly, daily, and weekly rates.
There are even companies that offer bike-on-boat tours of the Gap.
Here are some options:
Map: whether hiking or biking, you can use this interactive biking and hiking map of the Gap of Dunloe to get your bearings.
Gap of Dunloe Drive
Can you drive the Gap? If you have a rental car, you may be wondering if you can drive through the Gap. The narrow road that runs through the Gap is a public road and you technically can drive it, but it is discouraged. Here’s the deal: the road is very narrow, and you’ll be at the mercy of the trap drivers to allow you to pass. From what I have witnessed, they aren’t very motivated to allow motor vehicles to pass. In fact, it seemed to me that they did what they could to NOT allow vehicles to pass.
On top of this you will be dealing with bicyclists and pedestrians. The easiest way is to either take a tour, bike, or walk. If you are determined to drive, start as early in the morning as possible, and rather than going back through the pass make your way out of the valley via Molls Gap (one of the best scenic drives in the area.)
How to there
Nearest airport to Killarney Ireland:
Kerry Airport (KIR) which is located only 15-minute drive from Killarney town.
Killarney Distance from:
Cork (90 km)
Kenmare (43 km)
Dingle (64 km)
Tralee (34 km)
If your tour is meeting at Ross Castle
Ross Castle Address: Ross Rd, Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry
GPS Coordinates: 52.04184333172816, -9.531244978375168
Parking: There is a large parking area located adjacent to the castle.
If you are headed to the gap on your own:
Kate Kearny’s Cottage GPS coordinates: 52.04079883394405, -9.631519658024162
Parking: free small lot at the cottage
By train or by bus to Killarney
Trains from Dublin (some change in Mallow) total travel time, about 4 hours, bus travel takes slightly longer. Bus and trains coming from Cork take about 1.5 hours (so a great day trip option) To seamlessly plan your public transportation options use the Rome2Rio website or app. From Killarney you will need to either drive, take a taxi, or arrange a tour to the Gap.
Things to consider when touring the Gap of Dunloe
What to wear/what to bring
Wear sensible shoes. Tours go rain or shine…It’s Ireland! So, bring your rain gear and learn to dance in the rain!
Consider your fitness level
One important thing to note is that the Gap of Dunloe can be quite challenging for some visitors, especially those with mobility issues.
How much time do you need?
That depends on what you plan to do. Walkers: The round-trip journey can take around three hours. Bikers: can do it in less time but you’ll be biking from Killarney town, which will add time to your day. The recommended “tour” is 5 hours so plan for a full day. You can fill in your day with some of the park options listed in this article.
There are bathrooms at Kate’s Cottage so use them while you can! You’ll get another opportunity when you get to Lord Brandon Cottage. (distance between bathrooms, 11 km)
You may need cash for purchases at the cottages and if you plan to hire a jaunting car you may need cash.
when to visit
The gap is one of Kerry’s most popular tourist destinations so expect crowds. If you have your heart set on a tour, you should book ahead.
Tours can be booked year-round. The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before planning your visit but tours go rain or shine so dress for the weather and go enjoy the beautiful scenery! We visited at the end of May when all of the Rhododendrons were in bloom!
The general rule of thumb for avoiding the worst crowds at popular tourist attractions are:
- Visit early morning or late in the day (i.e., the first or last tour of the day)
- Weekdays are often less crowded than weekends.
- Travel in the shoulder or off season: Summer months are peak season / high season, spring and fall are considered shoulder seasons, and winter months are off season in Ireland, but you will want to check to be sure that attractions will be open.
Jaunting Car and boat rides are not suitable for pets. I recommend finding a nearby groomer and dropping your furry friend off for a spa day!
Heather Restaurant is located just to the north of Kate Kearny’s.
Kate Kearney Cottage is a popular spot to grab a bite to eat before or after their journey through the Gap. The restaurant serves traditional Irish fare, including stews, soups, and sandwiches. They also serve both hot and cold drinks. If you are doing the recommended tour, you’ll need to grab something to go because after the bus drops you off you don’t have much time before you head into the Gap.
Lord Brandon’s Cottage serves a variety of quick bites such as soups, salads, sandwiches, drinks and other refreshments. Tours give ample time to grab a quick lunch, use the restrooms, and explore the area a bit.
Here are a few of my stand-out best places to stay:
The park is located just minutes from Killarney Town, so it’s a great home base. I am really hooked on boutique hotels right now and there are some REALLY nice one’s in Killarney! Here are my favorites! (just click on the link for photos!)
- Killarney Towers Hotel & Leisure Centre
- Killarney Randles Hotel
- Killarney Dromhall Hotel
- The Fairview Boutique Hotel
- Killarney Plaza Hotel & Spa
- Killarney Avenue (Hotel)
- Muckross Park Hotel & Spa (this one is a bit of a splurge but still reasonable!)
- The Killarney Park (big splurge… 9.2 guest rating!)
- Great Southern Killarney (elegant splurge!)
- Cahernane House Hotel (splurge with a castle or estate feel)
- Killarney Royal Hotel
- Arbutus Hotel
- Parknasilla Resort & Spa: 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! distance: 37 km (Black Valley) 52 km (Ross Castle) book it here on Booking.com!
- The Rose Suite Kenmare: mountain views and Kenmare is less commercial than Killarney. Distance: 27 Kilometers (Black Valley) 33 km (Ross Castle) book it here on Booking.com!
We based ourselves in Killorglin. It’s a quiet town where you can escape the hordes of tourists that flock to this area. It’s a great home base that is central to many of the sites in the area. Were central to 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 hotel.
- The Bianconi Inn: This hotel is on the newer side and SUPER nice! You won’t regret staying here! Distance: Ross Castle (25 km) book it here on Booking.com!
want to stay in a castle???!!!
Other things to do in the area
There are lots of things to do in the Iveragh Peninsula / Gap of Dunloe area and adjacent Killarney National Park. Here are some of the best things to do in the area:
Enjoy the lake
- Killarney Fishing Tours
- Killarney Kayaking
- Lakes of Killarney: Boat Cruise by Killarney Jaunting Cars – Tangney Tours. Discover the lakes of Killarney in a heated cruiser. (The boat tours typically start from Ross Castle and take visitors through the three main lakes of Killarney. These tours are a great way to get out on the lake for a relaxing excursion!)
Explore the park
- Guided Horse Riding Tour in Killarney National Park, explore the park on horseback!
- Killarney National Park Private Tour (a private tour of the park includes a horse-drawn carriage ride through the beautiful Killarney National Park
- Killarney on Horse & Carriage: 1-Hour Jaunting Car Tour leaves from Killarney town and takes you through the national park.
- Guided Tour of Killarney National Park with Afternoon Tea
- Jaunting Car Tour through the national park with Craft Brewery Visit (this unique tour includes a visit to a brewery!
Muckross House is a historic 19th century mansion located inside the park. The mansion is surrounded by beautiful gardens and scenic landscapes. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house. The house also has a restaurant and gift shop, as well as access to hiking trails.
Historic Ross Castle
Ross Castle is a 15th-century castle located on the shores of Lough Leane. Visitors on a visit to Ross’s Castle can take guided tours of the castle. Boat tours leave from the castle.
Innisfallen Island is a small island located in Lough Leane and is home to the ruins of the 7th century Innisfallen Abbey. The island is accessible only by boat. It is said that Brian Boru, the famous Irish King who ruled from the Rock of Cashel studied at the monastery here.
Torc Waterfall (literal translation wild boars)
Torc Waterfall is a 20-meter-high waterfall located in Killarney National Park. Visitors can access the waterfall via a short 10-15 minute hike through the park.
Ladies View scenic viewpoint is situated on the N71 road that runs through the park and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the nearby lakes and mountains. Queen Victoria visited here in 1861 and the viewpoint is named after Queen Victoria’s Ladies-in-Waiting. Stop at Ladies’ View Gift Store Cafe Bar & Roof Terrace for refreshments.
Explore the Ring of Kerry and nearby Dingle Peninsula day tours
Join up with one of the local guides and tour groups to see the area:
- Ring of Kerry: Lakes of Killarney Scenic Coach Tour
- From Killarney: ‘Ring of Kerry’ Mountain Road 1-Day Bus Tour
- Ireland: Dingle Peninsula Day Tour
Get more information: Want to do it yourself? ALL of the best stops on the Dingle Peninsula / Slea Head Drive can be found in this article!
Area hiking opportunities
This area of Ireland is just pretty! other worthwhile trails within these mountain ranges include:
- The Black Valley: Is a little piece of Heaven on earth! This is one of my favorite hikes of all time! I’d say this hike is an easy one but long. However, feel free to turn around at any time! Get more information: Find out everything you need to know about hiking the Black Valley!
- Bridia Valley Walk: The Black Valley is also beautiful from the Bridia end. Next time I plan to start on the other end. However, it is possible to walk from the Black Valley to the Bridia Valley. The walk is 10 km and will take you 3 hours and 45 minutes. (rated difficult)
- Carrauantoohil Mountain trails: I love being hemmed into a valley 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 point in the Macgillycuddy Reeks Range, but also Ireland’s highest Mountain! The trail leaves from Cronin’s Yard.
- Tomies Woods: 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” although not as easy to access. Here is a very good guide to exploring Tomie’s Wood.
- The Kerry Way: The Black Valley is part of the iconic Ring of Kerry Way, a 214-kilometer lopped walking trail that begins and ends in Killarney. It is also part of a 55–kilometer walking loop that 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
more ways to fill your day
- Golf: there are several golf courses in the area
- Rock climbing: for those who are looking for adventure this area is a popular spot for rock climbers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Gap of Dunloe famous? And Is the Gap of Dunloe worth it?
The Gap of Dunloe is known for its breathtaking scenery and outstanding natural beauty and yes, the Gap of Dunloe is definitely worth visiting. Visitors to the Gap will experience the best of Ireland’s natural landscapes, including the five lakes and the rugged mountain scenery. Visitors can fill out an entire day with a pony and trap ride, hiking, biking, or taking a boat tour out on the adjacent lakes. In addition, the surrounding Killarney National Park provides ample opportunity for activities to fill your day.
How long is the Gap of Dunloe walk?
Around 7 miles from the free parking area at Kate Kearney’s Cottage to the Head of the Gap and back.
How long does it take to drive the Gap of Dunloe?
This depends on how many horses and traps, pedestrians / walkers, and bikes that you must maneuver around. From Kate Kearney’s Cottage, considered the beginning of the Gap, to the entrance to the Black Valley is around 8 km. However, you’ll be driving at a snail’s pace. And don’t expect to be able to fully take in the scenery. You’ll need to keep your eyes on the road, so you don’t hit anyone. It’s better just to either walk or schedule a jaunting car ride or get started very early so you can finish the route before the crowds arrive.
Here are some free Ireland itineraries that include the Gap of Dunloe Ireland:
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