The Gap of Dunloe

The town of Killarney is either a starting or stopping point for any trip around the Ring of Kerry. It’s a vibrant place as befits a town which has been catering for tourists for the last 250 years. There are upmarket hotels and restaurants and a wide selection of pubs, the most amazing of which is John M Reidy.

This was once a sweet shop and it’s a fantastic collection of little tucked away rooms and courtyards. Many of the pubs put on live music in the evening and we spent a happy few hours going around town one evening. Everywhere you could hear competing tunes issuing from the watering holes and we propped up the odd bar with a pint of Guinness in hand.

Right on Killarney’s doorstep is the Killarney National Park so it’s easy to escape the hustle and bustle of the town. The park is surrounded by mountains and features not only a grand house and gardens (Knockreer) but also the Ross Castle, Inisfallen Island and the Muckross Estate. Much of the park is occupied by several loughs and it can be a great place for wildlife watching. We took a walk away from the main crowds down to Dinis Cottage, built in the 1700’s and now a cafe. The windows of the cottage feature many names of people who carved them with their expensive diamond rings. The earliest name dates back to mid 1800.

The weather was not particularly great for our walk and although we did see a small herd of wild goat we failed to see any of the native red deer which live here. It’s also a good place for spotting White-tailed Fish Eagle but, again, the weather was against us.

Further on from here the narrow, twisty road winds up into the mountains and it’s possible to cross over onto the coast via Moll’s Gap.

But we wanted to explore the Gap of Dunloe instead. This route takes you into the Macgillycuddy Reeks, the range of mountains we could see from our large and comfortable cottage just outside Beaufort.

The Gap is a narrow tarmaced road which leads to the rather sinisterly named Black Valley. Tourists are discouraged from driving it, largely because the locals want to take you, for a fee, on their pony and jaunting cars. Our landlady, Colleen, who, despite the name was born and raised in Australia and who spoke ‘strine, suggested that we should instead take the path to the summit of Strickeen Mountain, off to one side of the gap.

Beaufort is very close to the start of the Gap at Kate Kearney’s Cottage so we were able to make an early start and found ourselves virtually alone on the hillside

A very good path led us up onto Strickeen where we got some fabulous views of the Reeks. Carrantuohil is Irelands tallest peak at 1038 mtrs and it is climeable but we contented ourselves with sitting and having a picnic whilst looking at it.

Descending back to the road we thought, well why not wander up into the gap a little way. In the end we ‘wandered’ almost all the way whilst chatting to a couple visiting from New Zealand. We had a lot to talk about!

I confess that by the time we turned around and headed back to the car, eschewing a lift from a jaunting cart, we were just a little bit tired and just about had enough energy to go into Jack’s Bakery in Killorglin to get something to eat for that evening. But we did enjoy having used shank’s pony instead of using a four legged friend.

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