Behind us, a narrow, winding road and a lake. In front of us, a narrow, winding road and a lake. To 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.
Start 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!