Ranking high on Ireland’s list of natural wonders, the Gap of Dunloe (meaning “Lóich’s stronghold”), is one of the best places in Western Europe to experience a glacial valley, and it’s hard not to be enamored by the glittering river and immense rocky landscape. The gap, a narrow pathway jutting through the McGuillycuddy Reeks Mountains, formed some 2 million years ago by slow-moving ice dammed up between the mountain and runs for 11 km, winding between the Purple Mountain and the neighboring Bull Mountain. Most spectacular are the gap’s 5 lakes, including the Coosaun Lough and Black Lake, joined together by a ‘wishing bridge’ so called for its legendary ability to bring wishes to fruition.
With its stunning scenery and tranquil, car-less location, the Gap of Dunloe makes a great hiking route and the easy walk takes around 90 minutes from the starting point at Kale Kearney’s Cottage to the end at Lord Brandon’s Cottage, from where boats run back up to Killarney. Active types can also opt to explore the gap and the surrounding regions by bicycle or horseback – both activities start out from Killarney – and the gap’s red sandstone cliffs are fast becoming a popular destination for rock climbers, with numerous climbing routes available.
By far, the most popular way to experience the gap’s unique scenery is a leisurely jaunt on a traditional pony trap, run by the legendary local Gap Poneymen and escorting up to four people in the cart, where you’ll be treated to the folk stories and insider info along the way.