The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow, scenic mountain pass between MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain just outside Killarney National Park in Ireland’s County Kerry. It is a spectacular 11 km serpentine road (paved), but the terrain that is passes through is more like a hiking trail (narrow and steep) than a road. Every turn opens to another idyllic farm scene or dramatic mountain view. One can travel through the Gap of Dunloe by car, bicycle, or horse & cart.
“Jaunting cars” tours (horse and cart) is great way to step back in time to enjoy the trip for those who are not up to a longish walk or bicycling. Killarney Horse and Carriage Tours has about 25 carts and operates seven days a week. They’re said to have the oldest jarvey (jaunting car operator) in Killarney, and the carts and horses are guided by men from local families, using a rotation system to determine who takes the next customers. They’ve used this “turn” system since the 1920s, passing it on through generations.
After we drove through the Gap, we came up to “Ladies View”, which is the panoramic view that enchanted Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting in 1861. One of the ladies was so taken with the sight of steep cliffs, ravines and clear lakes, she declared it “the finest view in all the realm.”
On the descent from the mountain pass, we pass through Black Valley, so named because the valley remained in the dark without electricity. It was not until 1976 that the homes in this valley were connected to the grid, making it the last outpost in Ireland!