Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, Ireland
On my trip to Ireland in November I had 24 hours by myself in Killarney National Park, and so I decided to drive across Gap of Dunloe! I had only seen a few photos of this place online, and most were from people doing the traditional horse and carriage ride over the mountain pass. But everything I found online said that the road was paved and open to cars, if one was daring enough, and so I dared.
When I got to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, the 150 year old pub that marks the entrance to Gap of Dunloe, I was stopped by an old man standing in the middle of the road. He asked if I was looking for a horse and carriage ride, but I explained that I was driving. He got visibly annoyed, and told me the road was banned for traffic. I told him that I had looked up the rules online in advance, and knew that it was legal this time of year. (The road is closed for cars in summer.) He told me I was stupid for heading up there, that the road was “stunt driving,” and that I better not get stuck because I wouldn’t be getting any help getting down. Not exactly the most helpful attitude, but I had read online that the horse and carriage drivers are against cars driving the road – and even once attacked a man who drove up there.
Anyway, I have been driving crappy dirt road mountain passes in Colorado for years now, and have complete faith in my driving abilities, so I kept on going. And the further up the road I got, the more ridiculous the old man seemed. The road may be narrow and winding, but it’s really not hard to drive if you take your time and go slow around corners, are respectful of hikers and runners along the road, only stop in proper pulloffs, and use common sense.
I drove the Gap of Dunloe on a day when it was closed to the horse and carriage rides because of a road race, and I do think that was a huge help in me having a good experience up there. I’ve read stories of carriages refusing to yield to cars, and almost pushing them off the road to get past, so be careful if you choose to drive up here on a “normal” day.
There were so many gorgeous places along this mountain pass where I kept thinking “ohmygod I need to bring a couple here for an elopement one day!” When I travel, my elopement location scouting mode goes into overdrive, and this was one of those places where you really can’t find a bad view or angle.
I’m hoping to make it back here one day to photograph an elopement, so if you want to elope in Ireland and need a photographer who can handle some stunt driving on the wrong side of the road, get in touch and let’s make it happen!