The Gap of Dunloe is one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of County Kerry and indeed Ireland. Stretching through the MacGuillicuddy Reeks mountain range, this beautiful glacial valley simply must be experienced to be appreciated.

Geographically, the Gap of Dunloe is outside the Killarney National Park, but most people include it in their visit to the park. The land is ruggedly beautiful, and fast-changing weather conditions add drama. In the winter, it`s an awe-inspiring mountain pass, overshadowed by Purple Mountain and Macgillycuddy`s Reeks. In high summer, though, it`s a bottleneck for the tourist trade, with buses ferrying countless visitors for horse-and-trap rides through the Gap.

The Gap of Dunloe (from Irish: Dún Lóich, meaning `Lóich`s stronghold,`) otherwise known as Bearna an Choimín (meaning `gap of the common-land`) is a narrow mountain pass between MacGillycuddy`s Reeks (west) and Purple Mountain (east) in County Kerry. It is about 6.8 miles from north to south. Within it are five lakes: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough (north to south). These lakes are connected by the River Loe. Between the first two lakes is an old arch bridge called the `Wishing Bridge` so named because it is said that wishes made while upon it are destined to come true.

In the south, surrounded by lush, green pastures, Brandon`s Cottage is a simple old 19th-century hunting lodge with an open-air cafe and a dock for boats crossing the Upper Lake. From here a narrow road weaves up the hill to the Gap. Heading down towards the north the scenery is a fantasy of rocky bridges over clear mountain streams and lakes. At the northern end is the 19th-century pub Kate Kearney`s Cottage, where many drivers park in order to walk up to the Gap. You can also rent ponies and jaunting cars here (bring cash). Continuing north to the N72, you`ll reach a charming 1851 stone pub housing the Beaufort Bar & Restaurant. Its gleaming timber dining room is refined, intimate and relaxed.

The road through it is narrow, winding and is difficult for larger vehicles. A popular form of transport for tourists is the horse-drawn trap, a cart where up to four occupants sit facing each other. There are also riding ponies for hire. The trap and ponies are guided by men from families that live in and around the Gap. These poneymen use a rotation system called the Turn which determines who takes the next customers. The Turn has been in existence since the 1920s and is passed down in the families to the next generation. Bikes can also be rented in the town of Killarney and ridden through The Gap.