The Gap of Dunloe, located in County Kerry, is an experience of sheer, raw Irish beauty at its finest. This narrow mountain pass, stretching approximately 11 kilometres between MacGillycuddy's Reeks and Purple Mountain, offers one of the most stunning natural landscapes in all of Ireland.
The Gap, named from the Irish 'Dún Lóich', meaning 'Lóich's stronghold', is steeped in both natural splendour and intriguing folklore. A journey through the pass is a journey through an awe-inspiring, glacially carved valley that unfolds amidst some of Ireland's highest peaks.
The route, best experienced on foot, by bicycle, or via a traditional horse-drawn 'jaunting car', begins near Kate Kearney's Cottage. This 150-year-old establishment, named after a legendary beauty of the 19th century, is a perfect starting point, offering refreshments before you embark on the trek.
As you traverse the winding path, you'll encounter five captivating lakes, each with their own unique charm: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough. These are interconnected by the River Loe, from which the Gap gets its name. Between the first two lakes, you'll cross the Wishing Bridge, where it's said wishes made are destined to come true.
Wildlife enthusiasts will be thrilled by the sight of red deer, hares, or otters, while birdwatchers can look out for rare species such as the peregrine falcon. The Gap's biodiversity also includes a stunning array of plants, from delicate wildflowers to hardy mountain heath.
The journey culminates at Lord Brandon's Cottage, where you can indulge in some well-earned refreshments while absorbing the serene surroundings. Many choose to return by boat via the Upper Lake and the beautiful Lakes of Killarney, making the journey not just a trek, but a circular tour through some of Ireland's most exceptional scenery.
The Gap of Dunloe, with its spectacular beauty and peaceful solitude, provides a tranquil escape from the modern world, offering a journey that is, quite simply, an unforgettable experience.