Ireland's Gap of Dunloe: What to See, Do, Where to Stay and More!

Sheep walking down road in Gap of Dunloe, Ireland

Welcome to your guide to exploring the Gap of Dunloe, one of Ireland's most enchanting landscapes. Nestled in the heart of the Emerald Isle, this breathtaking valley is a tapestry of towering mountain peaks, sparkling lakes, and enchanting folklore. Whether you're a seasoned traveler seeking your next adventure, or you're simply enamored by Ireland's magical landscapes, the Gap of Dunloe offers an unforgettable journey through the very soul of this captivating country.

Looking for something specific? Jump to a section using the links below.

Where is the Gap of Dunloe?

The Gap of Dunloe is situated in County Kerry, southwest Ireland. It's a narrow mountain pass forged between the MacGillycuddy Reeks (west) and Purple Mountain (east) by glacial flows. This mystical place is approximately 11 kilometers from Killarney town and can be accessed via the N72 and R562 roads. Known for its natural beauty, the Gap of Dunloe offers picturesque views, making it a must-visit spot for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

Killarney to Gap of Dunloe: 12 km | 17 min | Google Maps

Dingle to Gap of Dunloe: 60 km | 1 hr 4 min | Google Maps

Dublin to Gap of Dunloe: 309 km | 3 hr 46 min | Google Maps

Lake and river in the Gap of Dunloe
Lake and river in the Gap of Dunloe

Brief history of the Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe, also known as Bearna an Choimín in Irish, has a rich history spanning millennia. This enchanting valley was carved out by slow-moving ice over 25,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, creating the dramatic landscapes we see today. Over the centuries, the Gap of Dunloe has been a silent witness to Ireland's unfolding story, steeped in folklore and local legend. The valley is also dotted with ancient archaeological sites, including standing stones and prehistoric rock art, adding to its cultural allure. Today, it stands as an enduring symbol of Ireland's mystical past, drawing explorers from around the world to its unparalleled natural splendor.

Why visit the Gap of Dunloe?

The Gap of Dunloe is a must-see for anyone visiting Ireland, as it perfectly encapsulates the country's rich heritage and stunning natural beauty. This magnificent valley offers visitors a unique blend of awe-inspiring landscapes, fascinating history, and vibrant culture. As you traverse the winding paths, you'll come across shimmering lakes, rugged mountain terrain, and quaint cottages that lend the area a timeless charm. The Gap of Dunloe is not just a journey through an extraordinary landscape, it's an immersion into the heart of Irish folklore and tradition. Every turn unfolds a new scene that seems to come straight from a storybook, making it an unforgettable destination for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and adventure seekers alike.

Country road through Gap of Dunloe
Country road through Gap of Dunloe

When to visit the Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe offers a unique beauty throughout the year, each season painting the landscape with its distinctive hues. However, the ideal time to visit is from late spring to early autumn, typically between May and September. During these months, the weather is typically mild and the days are long, offering ample opportunities to explore the valley's many wonders. The lush greenery of spring and summer, juxtaposed against the crystal-clear blue lakes, creates a mesmerizing panorama that's perfect for hiking, boating, or cycling. Autumn graces the Gap with a vibrant array of colors, as the foliage turns from lush green to fiery hues of red, orange, and yellow. While winter visits can be enchanting, they require careful planning due to Ireland's unpredictable weather and shorter daylight hours.

What's the weather like in this area of Ireland?

Ireland's weather can be quite unpredictable but is usually mild. The Gap of Dunloe, situated in the southwestern region, experiences a maritime climate characterized by cool summers and mild winters. During the recommended visiting months (late spring to early autumn), you can expect temperatures to range from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F). Rain is a common occurrence throughout the year, so always keep a waterproof jacket or umbrella handy. Winter months see shorter days and colder temperatures, often dropping to around 4°C (39°F). The area can also be quite windy at times, especially near the lakes, so layered clothing is advisable. Remember, the key to enjoying Ireland's weather is to be prepared for a bit of everything!

Infographic courtesy of The Weather Network

Packing List for the Gap of Dunloe

When venturing to the Gap of Dunloe, it's important to ensure you're well-prepared for the varying weather conditions and the nature of the activities. Here's a handy packing list to help you on your trip:

  1. Garmin InReach Mini 2: This compact satellite communicator is essential for any outdoor excursion, especially in the rugged terrain of the Gap. It allows you to send and receive messages, track your route, and even call for help in case of an emergency.
  2. Waterproof Jacket: Given the frequent rain in Ireland, a waterproof jacket is a must-have to stay dry.
  3. Comfortable Walking Shoes: For the hiking trails and cobblestone paths, ensure your shoes are comfortable and offer good grip.
  4. Warm Clothing: Layer your clothing to adapt to the changing temperatures. Don't forget a warm sweater or fleece.
  5. Sun Protection: Even though Ireland is not known for its sun-soaked weather, sun cream, sunglasses, and a hat are still recommended for those brighter days.
  6. Water Bottle: Stay hydrated during your treks. Ireland's tap water is safe to drink, so you can refill as you go.
  7. Camera: You'll want to capture the stunning landscapes, so don't forget your camera or smartphone.
  8. Portable Battery Charger: Given the long days of exploration, a battery charger for your devices might come in handy.
  9. Snacks: Pack some snacks for energy during your hikes.
  10. Emergency Contact Information: Have the local emergency numbers saved or written down, just in case.

Remember, it's always best to pack light and only bring what you need. Happy journeying!

Girl in yellow rain jacket in Ireland
Sara in a rain jacket in the Gap of Dunloe - a must have!

What to do at the Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe offers a variety of activities for all types of travelers. Here are a few suggestions for things to do during your visit:

Drive the Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe is a scenic mountain pass that carves its way through the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountain range, offering breathtaking vistas at every turn. A leisurely drive through the Gap is a popular activity, allowing visitors to take in the stunning landscapes at their own pace. As the narrow, winding road meanders through the valley, you'll be treated to sights of emerald green fields, rugged cliffs, serene lakes, and charming farmhouses. Do remember, the road is shared with walkers, cyclists, and horse-drawn traps, so take care to respect all road users. With plenty of designated spots to stop and marvel at the scenery, a drive through the Gap of Dunloe is a feast for the eyes and a memorable part of any trip to Ireland.

Note: Driving in Ireland can be quite tricky, especially if you're like us and from a country that drives on the right side of the road. Irish roads are very narrow so do be careful!

Red rental car driving through the Gap of Dunloe
Our rental car driving through the Gap

Hike through the Gap

Hiking is perhaps the best way to truly appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the Gap of Dunloe. As you navigate through lush greenery and rugged mountainous terrains, you'll encounter stunning vistas that are iconic to this region of Ireland. The phenomenal landscapes, along with the peaceful ambience of the area, make hiking here an immersive experience that allows you to connect with nature on a profound level. There are a lot of different hiking options in this region of Ireland and this guide is the perfect place to get suggestions for the best hikes near the Gap of Dunloe. Remember, the weather can change rapidly in this region, so prepare accordingly. It's also important to stay on designated paths to respect the local wildlife and environment.

Guy hiking in Gap of Dunloe, Ireland
Chris taking in the views while hiking at the Gap of Dunloe

Boat trip on the lakes

Venturing on a boat trip across the five lakes of the Gap of Dunloe is another immensely popular activity for visitors. This unique experience lets you appreciate the beauty of this Irish jewel from a different perspective. As your boat glides peacefully across the serene waters, gaze upon the rugged mountains that surround the lakes, the tranquil greenery, and the diverse range of local wildlife. Whether it's the calm of the early morning or the golden glow of the evening sunset, this journey offers a sense of tranquility that's hard to match. Boat rentals are available at various points, and guided tours can also provide you with fascinating insights into the local folklore and geographical features of this enchanting area.


Lake in the Gap of Dunloe
One of the five lakes in the Gap

Visit the Wishing Bridge

The Wishing Bridge is a must-visit landmark when exploring the Gap of Dunloe. Steeped in local lore, it is believed that wishes made on this quaint stone bridge come true. As you walk over the bridge, take a moment to admire the panoramic views of the tranquil lakes and towering mountains that serve as a stunning backdrop. From here, you can observe the remarkable geological formations that make this area such a fascinating place to visit. Don't forget to make a wish and immerse yourself in this magical Irish tradition. It's not just the scenery that will take your breath away, but also the rich cultural heritage that is deeply rooted in this picturesque corner of Ireland.

The Wishing Bridge in the Gap of Dunloe
The Wishing Bridge in the Gap of Dunloe

Explore Kate Kearney's Cottage

Situated at the entrance of the Gap of Dunloe, Kate Kearney's Cottage is a 150-year-old establishment that is a must-visit for anyone journeying to this region. The cottage, named after its original owner, is a traditional Irish pub that serves delicious local cuisine. Here, you can enjoy a hearty Irish stew or a refreshing pint of Guinness while immersing yourself in the rich local culture. The establishment also often hosts live traditional Irish music, adding to the authentic atmosphere. Beyond its walls, the surrounding area offers picturesque views of the lush countryside, making your visit to Kate Kearney's Cottage a delightful blend of gastronomic indulgence and visual treat.

Address: Google Maps

Bike the Gap of Dunloe

Cycling is an excellent way to explore the Gap of Dunloe. By bike, you have the freedom to set your own pace and take in the jaw-dropping surroundings as the wind whistles past. The route offers a unique blend of invigorating physical activity and tranquil sightseeing. As you pedal through the verdant valleys and past the serene lakes, you'll be able to pause at your leisure to capture photos or simply soak in the views. The challenging climbs are rewarded with exhilarating descents and sweeping views of the Irish countryside that stretch on for miles. Bike rentals are available in the area, ensuring that even those without their gear can enjoy this unforgettable experience. Be aware that the weather can quickly change in this region, so be sure to bring appropriate gear, including rain protection.


Curvy and steep road through the Gap of Dunloe, Ireland
Curvy and steep road through the Gap of Dunloe


Without a doubt, the Gap of Dunloe is a photographer's paradise. The raw, untamed beauty of this region provides endless opportunities for capturing stunning landscapes - be it the emerald green valleys, the sparkling lakes reflecting the sky above, or the rugged mountainous terrains that tell a story of the ancient geological processes. The early morning sunrise or the evening's golden hour casts a magical light on the landscape, creating perfect conditions for some truly enchanting shots. Remember to respect the local environment when seeking out the perfect shot, and always stay on designated paths. Whether you're an amateur hobbyist or a seasoned professional, photography in the Gap of Dunloe is an experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories and tangible reminders of the beauty of Ireland.

Looking to upgrade your camera gear? Checkout our favorite gear here!

Bird watching

For nature enthusiasts and bird lovers, the Gap of Dunloe provides an unparalleled bird watching experience. This area is home to a diverse range of avian species, each adding a unique melody to the symphony of the wild. Remember to bring your binoculars and a bird identification guide to fully appreciate this bird watching paradise. Whether it's the chorus of birdsong that fills the morning air or the sight of a rare bird in flight, this experience is sure to leave you with a renewed appreciation for nature's splendor.

Guy looking at lake in Ireland
Chris looking at lake while driving the Gap

Watch en epic sunset in the valley

One of the most memorable ways to end a day of exploration in the Gap of Dunloe is to watch the sunset paint the sky with hues of orange, pink, and gold. As the day gives way to twilight, the valley transforms into a magical, ethereal landscape. The best spot to witness this breathtaking spectacle is from the Lakes of Killarney. There, the setting sun's reflection dances on the serene surface of the water, adding a layer of beauty to the already stunning scene. The serene ambiance, coupled with the soft murmur of nature settling for the night, makes this experience a must-have when visiting this Irish wonderland. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture this magnificent show put on by nature. The sunsets in the Gap of Dunloe are not to be missed and will surely be a highlight of your visit.

Sheep walking down road in Ireland
Rush hour in Ireland

Where to stay near the Gap of Dunloe

When it comes to accommodations near the Gap of Dunloe, you're in for a treat. This region offers a variety of delightful places to rest after a day of adventure. Whether you prefer the luxury of a high-end hotel, the coziness of a traditional bed and breakfast, or the freedom of a self-catering cottage, the options are plentiful. Here, we've handpicked some of the best places to stay that combine comfort, convenience, and of course, stunning views.

The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens

The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens is a luxurious 5-star establishment nestled amidst the scenic beauty of Beaufort, Killarney. Offering stunning views of the Gap of Dunloe, this hotel is renowned for its exceptional service, spacious rooms, and gourmet dining experiences. Enjoy a warm Irish welcome and immerse yourself in comfort and elegance at this charming retreat.

Address: Dunloe Lower, Beaufort, Co. Kerry, V93 E029, Ireland | Google Maps

Inveraray Farm

Experience the warmth of Irish hospitality at Inveraray Farm, a delightful bed and breakfast located near the Gap of Dunloe. This family-run establishment offers cozy, comfortable rooms and a hearty Irish breakfast. The location is perfect for those looking to explore the area's natural beauty.

Address: Coolmagort Beaufort, Killarney, Co. Kerry, V93 A066, Ireland | Google Maps

Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa

Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa is a slice of paradise for those seeking a blend of relaxation and luxury. Located in the heart of Killarney, this 5-star hotel offers panoramic views of the Lakes of Killarney and the majestic peaks of Macgillycuddy's Reeks. With its state-of-the-art spa, gourmet dining options, and elegant accommodations, Aghadoe Heights promises a stay that is as indulgent as it is memorable.

Address: Lakes of Killarney, Parkavonear, Killarney, Co. Kerry, V93 DH59, Ireland | Google Maps

White cottage in the valley at the Gap of Dunloe, Ireland
White cottage in the Gap of Dunloe, Ireland

Final thoughts

The Gap of Dunloe is an Irish gem that offers a harmonious blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and endless adventure. Whether you're traversing the enchanting landscapes, indulging in local gastronomy, or immersing yourself in the age-old traditions, the experiences you'll encounter here are sure to leave lasting impressions. From the first rays of dawn painting the valley to the last hues of twilight fading into the mountainous silhouette, each moment in the Gap of Dunloe is a feast for the senses. This captivating corner of Ireland awaits, ready to reveal its secrets and weave its magic around every traveler who embarks on this journey. Don't wait any longer - discover the Gap of Dunloe, and let Ireland's timeless charm take your breath away.

Like this article? Check out these other Ireland travel guides!

How to Visit Ireland's Gap of Dunloe

You May Also Like

Hi! We're Chris and Sara a husband and wife video making, storytelling, travel loving duo with a passion for sharing travel tips, tricks, and inspiration with others.
Throughout our website you’ll find affiliate links for various products and services. Affiliate links are a way for us to earn a small commission when you purchase through our links at no additional cost to you. For more information about what affiliate links are or want to know why we use affiliate links, you can read more over at our affiliate page HERE.

We're Chris and Sara

A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!
 © Chris and Sara 2022 | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED