Massive, glacial rocks form the sides of this narrow mountain pass that stretches for 6½ km (4 miles) between MacGillicuddy's Reeks and the Purple Mountains. The rocks create strange echoes: give a shout to test it out. Five small lakes are strung out beside the road. Cars are banned from the gap, but in summer the first 3 km (2 miles) are busy with horse and foot traffic, much of which turns back at the halfway point.
The entrance to the Gap is 10 km (7 miles)
west of Killarney at Beaufort on the N72 Killorglin Road. If you drive or are on a tour bus, stop here and either hire a pony and trap or opt to walk. One advantage to an organized tour—and a popular option—is that, without the need to get back to your car, you can amble through the parkland as far as Lord Brandon's Cottage, then get a boat back to Killarney town.
Kate Kearney's Cottage. At the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe, Kate Kearney's Cottage is a good place to rent a jaunting car or pony. Kate was a famous beauty who sold illegal poitín (moonshine) from her home, contributing greatly, one suspects, to travelers' enthusiasm for the scenery. Appropriately enough, Kearney's is now a pub and restaurant, and a good place to pause for an Irish coffee. Gap of Dunloe. 064/664–4146. www.katekearneyscottage.com. Daily (but not open until 6 pm Mon.–Thurs., Jan.–mid-Mar.).
Lord Brandon's Cottage. The Gap of Dunloe's southern end, 7km (4½ miles) west of Killarney, is marked by Lord Brandon's Cottage, a basic tea shop serving soup and sandwiches. From here, a path leads to the edge of Upper Lake, where you can journey onward by rowboat. It's an old tradition for the boatman to carry a bugle and illustrate the echoes. The boat passes under Brickeen Bridge and into Middle Lake, where 30 islands are steeped in legends, many of which your boatman is likely to recount. Look out for caves on the left-hand side on this narrow stretch of water. Gap of Dunloe. May–Sept., daily 10–dusk.
N72 Killorglin Rd., Beaufort, Co. Kerry, Ireland