A drive (or cycle) up to Ballaghbeama Gap is hands down one of the most overlooked things to do in Kerry.
It was on a mini Kerry road trip with the aul lad back in 2016 when I first encountered the almost other-worldly Ballaghbeama Gap.
We were staying in a B&B not far from Kenmare and when we went to check out, the lady running it asked us our plans for the day.
Before we had the chance to reply, she said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’d do, if it was me – I’d drop in next door and get a coffee to go and then I’d head for a drive up to Ballaghbeama Gap’.
The pair of us were puzzled but intrigued. We took the little map she gave us and went on our merry way. What followed was pretty damn special.
Some need-to-knows before visiting Ballaghbeama Gap in Kerry
Although a spin along Ballaghbeama Pass in Kerry is reasonably straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows.
The most important is safety – phone signal can be non-existent here. If you’re walking or cycling, try and travel with a pal and always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
You’ll find the Ballaghbeama Gap/Pass between Blackwater and Glencar, where it boasts breath-taking mountainous views and a landscape that feels like it hasn’t changed in hundreds of years (aside from the road, that is).
2. Where the drive starts and ends
So, your drive (or cycle) can start at point A or point B, as marked on the map below. Point A is around a 20-minute drive (60 minute cycle) from Kenmare.
3. How long it takes to drive and cycle
If you drive the Ballaghbeama Pass, it’ll take you around 25-30 minutes, if you don’t stop (allow 40-60 as you’ll want to stop at the viewing point). It’ll take between 60 and 70 minutes to cycle.
4. Where to grab a fine view.
If you look on the map below, you’ll see a pink pointer. This marks the ‘top’ of the Ballaghbeama Gap and it’s from here you can grab a mighty view. More on this below.
About Ballaghbeama Pass
The Ballaghbeama Gap drive is, in my opinion, one of the best drives in Kerry. I realise that plenty of people will read this and think, ‘Get away out of that – the best drive in Kerry is the Ring!’
And that’s fair enough. The Ring of Kerry is incredible. But a drive along the Ballaghbeama Pass is a different experience altogether.
Like something from another world
Ballaghbeama Pass cuts through the mountains smack bang in the centre of the beautiful Iveragh Peninsula. This route is isolated, unspoiled and feels almost other-worldly.
I’ve driven it three times over the years and the rugged landscape here never gets tiresome.
The road that slithers through the mountains is narrow, and you’ll need to pull in at certain points when you meet an oncoming car.
That being said, unlike Conor Pass in Dingle, it tends to be quiet here. Very quiet. On the three occasions that I’ve been here, I’ve only met a handful of cars and even fewer people.
Where to grab a mighty view at the Ballaghbeama Gap
Regardless of which side you approach the Ballaghbeama Pass from, you’ll start to drive upwards at some point.
From the Kenmare side, the viewing point becomes clear from a good bit back, as you’ll see it elevated ahead of you.
When you arrive at the brow of the hill, you’ll find some space to safely park, right next to a smallish grassy hill. Park up here.
Carefully climb the hill (takes less than a minute) and, when you reach the top, you’ll be treated to a breath-taking view out over the surrounding countryside.
Things to do near the Ballaghbeama Pass
One of the beauties of the Ballaghbeama Gap in Kerry is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Ballaghbeama Pass (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
2. Walks, walks and more walks
Ballaghbeama Pass is a short drive from a number of mighty walks. Here are some of our favourites along with the drive times:
- The Carrauntoohil hike (35-minute drive)
- The Torc Mountain Walk (50-minute drive)
- Cardiac Hill in Killarney (53-minute drive)
- The many Killarney National Park walks (55-minute drive)
FAQs about Ballaghbeama Gap
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from is Ballaghbeama Pass dangerous to how long it takes to drive it.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Ballaghbeama Pass really worth visiting?
Yep! 100%! The Pass is quiet, remote and home to magnificent scenery that you’ll likely have all to yourself!
How long does it take to drive and cycle it?
The Ballaghbeama Gap cycle should take you between 60-70 minutes, if you don’t stop (note: this will vary depending on pace). To drive it, allow 45 minutes (with stops).
Is Ballaghbeama Gap dangerous?
No! Is the road narrow? Too right it is! But don’t worry, the landscape here is open, so you’ll be able to see another vehicle approaching from a decent distance away.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.