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When it comes to must-see things on the Ring of Kerry, the Gap of Dunloe is a must. This narrow pass through the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain is incredibly scenic. During my Ireland road trip, the afternoon spent visiting the Gap of Dunloe stands out as a highlight.

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

While many people do the entire Ring of Kerry from Killarney, one of the closest things to see is The Gap of Dunloe in County Kerry. I can’t describe it other than what may be one of the top drives in Ireland — it’s short but packs a serious scenic view at every turn.

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

Part of what makes this narrow mountain pass unique is the mossy green pastures leading into towering mountains. The river Loe flows through where once glacial flows carved out this valley. Today, it’s a must-see sight and there are several ways to experience the Gap of Dunloe.

So if you’re planning any time on the Ring of Kerry or nearby places like Kinsale, Killarney, or Dingle Peninsula, I’d put Gap of Dunloe at the top of the list. You really could see it in a short afternoon or consider a longer excursion — more on that below.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels and Tours for Visting the Gap of Dunloe:

Hotels

  1. Great Southern Killarney, for the best overall hotel
  2. The Killarney Park, for the best luxury hotel
  3. The Lake Hotel, for the best family-friendly lakefront hotel
  4. The Ross, for the best in-town boutique hotel

Tours

  1. This full-day tour includes a jaunting car ride and boat ride to/from the Gap of Dunloe
  2. This popular half-day tour includes a boat ride from Lord Brandon’s Cottage after trekking through the valley

For more Ireland resources, don’t miss my travel guides to Kinsale, Killarney, and Dingle Peninsula!

Travel Tip: The best way to explore Ireland is by driving yourself. We use Discover Cars for our rental cars in Europe, choose full coverage insurance, and opt for trusted companies like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt. Renting a car in Ireland is quite easy, and while you drive on the opposite side, you’ll get used to it quickly. Book your car with Discover Cars here.

Guide to Visiting the Gap of Dunloe


What to Know Before Visiting the Gap of Dunloe

How to Get to the Gap of Dunloe from Killarney

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

If you take a look at the map, it may seem like the Gap of Dunloe is quite far from Killarney, but it’s pretty close. About a 15-minute drive gets you to the beginning part at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. This is the most popular starting point for the jaunting car tours, the parking lot, and where there is food. The Gap of Dunloe is also on the Ring of Kerry, so it’s right off the N72.

If you want to explore more, you could continue through the mountain range over to the Black Valley. This sits south of the Gap of Dunloe and north of Moll’s Gap.

How Much Time Do I Need to Visit the Gap of Dunloe?

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

The amount of time you need is entirely dependent on how you choose to visit the Gap. I would recommend a proper afternoon if you plan to walk/bike, or an hour or so if you drive. I found that the best experience was being able to take our time to see all the views.

Is the Gap of Dunloe Worth It?

Yes, absolutely. I would put this at the top two things we saw during our Ireland road trip in addition to our day on the Dingle Peninsula. There is something seriously otherworldly about this gap.

Why is the Gap of Dunloe Famous?

I think it’s a variety of reasons from the natural landscape to just how beautiful it is in person. No photos do justice to the sheer size of it and feeling once there.


The Best Way to Visit the Gap of Dunloe

There are a few distinct ways to visit the Gap of Dunloe, each offering a unique experience. You must know that it gets very busy mid-day, and the road is essentially a single lane with several hairpin turns and limited spots to pull over.

Walk the Gap of Dunloe

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

This is the most popular and for good reason. You ditch the car at the lot at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and then embark on the Gap of Dunloe walk. There are two walks to consider taking, a short walk which can take up to an hour, or you do a longer one budgeting about 4-5 hours. The shortest walk (2km in length) would go only to the Wishing Bridge (famous stone bridge), so you’d get a sense of the valley.

For the best views, the longer walk (10km in length) to the Head of the Gap of Dunloe would give you a full experience. This is the best option if you want to get to the top of the valley. But prepared it can be steep towards the end of it. The entire way you are on a paved road, so mind the sheep, cars, and jaunting carts.

The Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe Drive

I chose to drive the Gap of Dunloe as we were short on time and arrived quite late in the afternoon. I would not consider this if in the mid-afternoon— driving is only recommended early am or late afternoon. We were able to see the entire valley up to the Head of the Gap of Dunloe which has the best views. It takes about 15 minutes to drive, but we pulled over once or twice. I enjoyed the drive as I felt like we got to see so much and the route is stunning. We ended up spending almost 1-hour doing the drive as there was so much to take in. There are not many spaces to pull over so you’re not able to linger as much.

Travel Tip: The best way to explore Ireland is by driving yourself. We use Discover Cars for our rental cars in Europe, choose full coverage insurance, and opt for trusted companies like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt. Renting a car in Ireland is quite easy, and while you drive on the opposite side, you’ll get used to it quickly. Book your car with Discover Cars here.

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

Rent a Bike and Ride Through the Gap of Dunloe

Many people rent bikes in Killarney and then take them to The Gap of Dunloe as this allows a much easier way to see the valley. The downside is budgeting time to get gear, and do know it’s a proper hill to go up once at the end of the valley. Several suppliers rent bikes for Gap of Dunloe in Killarney, though you’ll need to bring the bike yourself.

Jaunting Car Tour Through the Gap of Dunloe

Another popular experience is a jaunting car ride through the gap which starts at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. A jaunting car is a traditional horse-drawn wooden carriage. You will have to get out at some points where it is steep and windy. You can book these at the entrance of the valley or as part of a larger tour I mention below. A lot of people get private transport to the valley and then do a jaunty.

The Gap of Dunloe Tours

Some amazing combination tours take off out of Killarney which provide an array of experiences. This popular half-day tour includes a boat ride from Lord Brandon’s Cottage after trekking through the valley. This full-day tour includes a jaunting car ride and boat ride to/from the Gap of Dunloe. I think either of these would make for an epic day out and can be paired with Killarney National Park.


Other Things to Do

Take a Visit to Kate Kearney’s Cottage

Visiting The Gap of Dunloe

If you’re looking for a bite to eat, the most popular spot is Kate Kearney’s Cottage. It’s a bustling pub right at the entrance of the gap, where live music plays often. We came in for a quick bite to eat. It’s nothing fancy but good for a meal after being out. Your only other option for food would be to drive from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandons Lodge, which is quite far in the valley.

Spend Time in Killarney National Park

Since you’re right there, I would consider pairing this with a day in the park. Visit sites like the Muckross House and Ross Castle. It’s easy to do several of these all in one day and can be combined with a visit. Many of the boat tours that take you to the back end of the valley also leave from Ross Castle. When planning your visit, consider the weather if you plan to hike or be on foot.


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I use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

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Xx,
Jessica

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