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The Most Scenic Drive on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

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Behind us, a narrow, winding road and a lake. In front of us, a narrow, winding road and a lake. Gap of DunloeTo the left, MacGillicuddy’s Reeks, a mountain range that runs through County Kerry. To the right, a small burbling stream and the Purple Mountain. Dotted on said mountains were sheep with brightly colored marks, identifying the farmer to whom they belonged. We were on a horse cart, the clip clops of our horse’s hooves echoing from mountainside to mountainside.

You’ve heard that the Ring of Kerry is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. But did you know that in County Kerry, on the Ring of Kerry, there’s another, more scenic drive?

If you’re anywhere near County Kerry, you must view the Gap of Dunloe. A natural gap between two mountains, it’s a 10km narrow, winding road that winds past five lakes and the River Loe. You’ll see a few houses, lots of sheep – and the most beautiful landscape in Ireland.

Gap of DunloeStart at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a small roadside cafe just outside of Killarney. We booked our ride through Delos Tours in downtown Killarney, but you can arrange for transportation yourself, ride your bike or hike the Gap, or even drive (although the road is very narrow and you’ll need to watch for both horse carts and droppings).

The Gap of Dunloe is best experienced via pony trap ride with one of the Gap Poneymen and their horses. The Gap Poneymen are 32 men who have worked in rotation on this route – a historical rotation system that has been in effect since the 1920s, handed down within families. A pony trap is a four-person wooden cart. On the steep parts of the trek through the Gap of Dunloe, you will need to get out and walk if you can, to save the strain on the horse!

 

Gap of Dunloe 

 

Breathtaking, majestic, awe-inspiring – these words don’t even begin to describe the beauty of the Gap of Dunloe. It’s a quiet, peaceful, rugged beauty. The mountains throw shadows, as do the clouds, scattering patterns of light on the green grass and the black rocks. Being Ireland where it rains every day, you’ll probably see a rainstorm coming in, enveloping you, and then moving on. After reaching the highest part of the trek, you’ll descend into the Black Valley – the far end of the famous Ladies’ View. Near the end of the pony trap ride, pass through a gorgeous, overgrown forest and meander to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, a small snack bar. Here you can either take a pony trap ride back over the same route, or further your exploration of the area with a boat trip back to Killarney. The boat will take you (and some bikes, and a dog) through the Gearhameen River and three lakes (the Upper, Middle, and Lower Lakes). We startled several raptors and herons, who in turn startled us.

 

Gap of Dunloe 

 

This is a magical journey back in time – with a wooden cart with wooden wheels, and a horse that stops and whisks her tail, the pure essence of nature untrammeled, and the joy of being in Ireland.

 

Gap of Dunloe 

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About Dr. Jessie Voigts

  • Lifecruiser

    Oh, thank you so much for this article! Now I got to see it finally. When we went there, we got so severe fog that we couldn’t see a thing and the weather still was bad when arriving to Cliffs of Moher. Luckily our experienced guide took us to eat lunch while the fog disappeared, so we could walk up the cliffs to admire the gorgeous view!

  • http://www.WanderingEducators.com Dr. Jessie Voigts

    Lifecruiser – I am so glad you get to see it here. It is the most beautiful spot I’ve ever been to. The Cliffs of Moher ranks right up there, though, for majesty and grandeur. Ireland is so incredibly beautiful.