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The Gap of Dunloe Walk, Drive + Jaunty Guide

The Gap of Dunloe Walk, Drive + Jaunty Guide

In this guide, you’ll find a map of the Gap of Dunloe walks, info on the jauntys, why driving it is a bad idea and how it was formed.

Tucked away between the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain, the Gap of Dunloe was formed over 25,000 years ago during the last ice age of Ireland.

There are three main ways to see the Gap of Dunloe (I’ve done each in recent years – 1 is best if you have a car and 3 is best if you don’t):

  • Option 1: The 10km there-and-back walk
  • Option 2: Rent a bike in Killarney and cycle it
  • Option 3: Drive it in the early morning before crowds arrive
  • Option 4: The tour that drives you to the start and takes from the end via boat back to Killarney

Some quick need-to-knows about visiting the Gap of Dunloe

Although a visit to the Gap of Dunloe is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit smoother. Pay particular attention to the point about the Gap of Dunloe drive!

1. Location

You’ll find the most popular start-point for the Gap of Dunloe (Kate Kearney’s Cottage) 12km west of Killarney Town (roughly a 15-minute drive away). 

2. Parking

The main Gap of Dunloe parking area is located beside the brilliant Kate Kearney’s Cottage (here on Google Maps). There’s ample parking here but note that it gets busy during summer.

3. Getting there without a car

Unfortunately, there is no public transport that takes you from Killarney to the Gap of Dunloe. This tour (affiliate link) is a good option – you get taken from Killarney to the Gap, climb aboard one of the jaunting cars and then get taken from the ‘end’ of the Gap via boat back to Killarney.

4. The walks

There are two versions of the Gap of Dunloe walks (both liner – maps below):

  • The short walk: 2km /40 minutes
  • The long walk: 10km / 4 – 5 hours

5. Gap of Dunloe drive (warning)

The Gap of Dunloe is a public road and therefore it is legal to drive on it. However, I’d strongly advise against driving it. The reason for this is that the narrow road through it will be packed with walkers and jaunting cars. At worst, you could spook the horses. At best, you’ll be stuck behind them for a long aul time.

About the Gap of Dunloe

gap of dunloe walk

Photos via Shutterstock

Situated between two stunning mountain ranges (the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain), the Gap of Dunloe is a fine place to whittle away an afternoon.

Best explore by foot or on bike, the Gap of Dunloe is one of those places where you kind of feel like you’ve stepped back in time, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

How it was formed

The Gap of Dunloe was created 25,000 years ago during the last ice age of Ireland.

A glacier situated in the Black Valley, which was estimated to be over 500 metres deep and part of the Templenoe Icecap, broke off into the Head of the Gap, slowly pushing northward which eventually resulted in a carved out U-shaped valley.

Lakes and appearance

The stunning glacial lakes, which are all connected by the river Loe, were also created when this huge glacier broke off.

This glacial breach is also the reason why the mountains in the Gap are characterised with their distinct, jagged appearance.

The meaning of the name

The name Dunloe is thought to be the Anglicization of “Dún Lóich” which means fort or stronghold of Lóich.

Deala Mac Lóich was  the first leader of the powerful Fir Bolg (“men of bags”) clan and the father of five mighty chieftains that conquered Ireland and divided the country into five provinces, each ruled by one brother.

The different ways to see the Gap of Dunloe

gap of dunloe drive

Photos via Shutterstock

There are several ways to explore this place. Arguably the most popular amongst visiting tourists is via one of the Gap of Dunloe tours.

Personally, I prefer the shorter walk, but I’ll pop down the ‘main’ options you have below.

Option 1: The Gap of Dunloe walk (short and long version)

The Gap of Dunloe hike is one you need to dress well for as the wind whips through the valley. There are two versions (see map above).

The short Gap of Dunloe walk is 2km in length and takes around 40 minutes in total. It takes you from Kate Kearney’s to the Wishing Bridge and back again.

The long Gap of Dunloe walk is 10km and takes 5 hours in total to complete (roughly 2.5 hours each way).

Option 2: A boat, jaunting and bus combo

gap of dunloe jaunting car

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the more popular Gap of Dunloe tours is this one (affiliate link) which has racked up rave reviews online.

It’s a 5 hour tour that meets in Killarney Town and then brings you to Kate Kearney’s Cottage by bus.

From there, you’ll climb into a Jaunting Car and trot up through the Gap of Dunloe, soaking up the views and plenty of stories along the way.

You’ll then get into a boat near Lord Brandon’s Cottage and take a 2-hour spin around the Lakes of Killarney where you’ll be given a unique perspective on one of the most scenic corners of Kerry.

Option 3: Cycling the Gap of Dunloe

If you have a bike, you can take a 56 km loop cycle where you can enjoy the Black Valley, Molls Gap and many other visual treats.

From Killarney town centre, start on the Ring of Kerry towards Killorglin until you see “the Gap Rd” and head down the country road leading to Kate’s Kearney’s.

From there, you can go down the Gap, descend into the Black Valley and after 30km, you will enter Moll’s Gap.

From Moll’s Gap, take the N71 Rd back to Killarney and you will come across Ladies View on the way, ideal for a refuel and enjoy amazing views.

Need a bike? There’s plenty of places to rent every kind of bike in Killarney Town!

Things to see near the Gap of Dunloe

best things to do in Killarney Ireland

One of the beauties of the Gap of Dunloe is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Killarney and beyond.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Gap of Dunloe (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

  1. Killarney for food (15-minute drive): There’s plenty of restaurants in Killarney for a post-walk feed
  2. Ross Castle (20-minute drive): A 15th century tower house located on the edge of the beautiful Lough Leane
  3. Muckross House (22-minute drive): A Tudor-style mansion with extensive gardens
  4. Muckross Abbey (26-minute drive): A beautiful abbey now in ruins formed around 1448
  5. Torc Waterfall (25-minute drive): An impressive falls in the national park
  6. Ladies View (40-minute drive): One of Kerry’s stand-out viewpoints

Frequently asked questions

I’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether or not you can drive the Gap of Dunloe to how long the walk takes.

In the section below, I’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that I haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How long is the Gap of Dunloe walk?

The short version is 2km and takes 40 minutes. The longer Gap of Dunloe hike is 10km and takes around 5 hours in total.

Can you drive up the Gap of Dunloe?

Yes. The Gap of Dunloe is a public road. With that being said, I’d advist against driving it. The reason for this is that the road is very narrow and it is used by jaunting cars, walkers and cyclists.

Can you hire a jaunting car at Gap of Dunloe?

You can hire a jaunting car from Kate Kearny’s or from the Head of the Gap. They can take 4 people and usually cost around €140/€35 per person.

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Thursday 15th of February 2024

If you had to pick between the gap of dunloe jaunty and boat tour and the cliffs of kerry, which would you suggest/choose?

Keith O'Hara

Thursday 15th of February 2024

Hey Alilison - I'd go for the Kerry Cliffs without a doubt.


Friday 24th of March 2023

Hi there! Would you recommend hiking the Gap of Dunloe or taking the jaunting car? Is there an option to both through the "Get Your Guide" tour that you recommended? We're having trouble deciding and just want to make sure we can see the most of this beautiful National Park in the best way possible!! Thanks :)

Keith O'Hara

Monday 27th of March 2023

Hey Liz! I walked it on a fine day with my dad and loved it. The only thing I wasn't mad about was that its a liner trail!

If you want a unique experience, give the jaunting car a bash! You could also get a boat across from ross castle!

Peter Morley

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

After walking up Torc Mountain we went to Kate Kearney's and walked to the top of the gap and back. This took us 2 hours 15 minutes. It wasn't really worth walking the last steep section up to the top of the gap as the views weren't special. We started our walk at 3.30 p.m. as we wanted to avoid the crowds and it wasn't too busy then.

We didn't think that the walk was very special and the nearby Torc Mountain walk is far superior. I would rather have driven the gap and the road didn't seem bad. However, I live in Cornwall and am used to narrow lanes.


Sunday 26th of March 2023

If anyone is reading this we've just got back from the Gap of Dunloe. Off season and we drove through. Absolutely gorgeous valley but there's no way I would recommend driving in the holiday season. I'm used to the narrow hilly and windy roads of West Cork but the combination of an extremely narrow road with very tight corners, along with the proximity of rocks and water puts it on another level. The road surface is really good and if you keep your eyes open you can pull in to the rare passing places for oncoming cars. But I wouldn't like to be reversing along there especially if you're from a European country used to driving on the right. Ok if you're determined, then go at the crack of dawn, otherwise for a stress free trip, do look up the various companies offering guided tours on foot, bike or the jaunting cars. Definitely get on the boat ride as part of the tour.


Monday 18th of July 2022

Hi There… headed to Ireland in a few weeks and we want to walk from Kate Kearney’s to Lord Brandon’s early in the morning…do you know if there are jaunting carts at Lord Brandon’s that we could hire to take us back? Thanks I’m advance!

Keith O'Hara

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Hi Lisa, my understanding is that they're generally located at Kate Kearney's, as people tend to get them from there up through the Gap. However, there may well be some near Lord Brandon's, as boat tours from Ross Castle take people over near this point, but I'm not sure. It'd be worth emailing a few of the companies that arrange the jaunting tours.


Friday 15th of July 2022

Any short bike route to visit the gap of dunloe

Keith O'Hara

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Hey Wei! Not really, to be honest. It's a good hour cycle from Killarney to the Gap. You could get one of the boat tours from Ross Castle over to the Gap with your bike and cycle it from there, but you'd need to check if the tour takes you back via boat, or if you need to cycle back to the drop off point.

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