Getty Images

Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe is a wild and scenic mountain pass – studded with crags and bejewelled with lakes and waterfalls – that lies to the west of Killarney National Park, squeezed between Purple Mountain and the high summits of Macgillycuddy's Reeks (Ireland's highest mountain range).

Although it's outside the national park boundary, it's been a vital part of the Killarney tourist trail since the late 18th century when, inspired by the Romantic poets, wealthy tourists came in search of 'sublime' and 'savage' landscapes.

During this period, the legend of Kate Kearney first arose: Kate, a fabled local beauty based on a popular song, supposedly lived in a cottage in the pass and dispensed poteen (illegally distilled whiskey) to weary travellers. The 19th-century pub at the northern end of the Gap is still known as Kate Kearney's Cottage; there's a busy car park here, where you can rent jaunting cars (cash only).

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Gap of Dunloe.