Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland


Tracey and her friend soon found out that driving on narrow winding roads on a wet blustery day in Ireland can not only be an adventure, but end up the highlight of their trip. 

My best friend Marissa and I spent a magical 4 weeks travelling around Ireland. We had many adventures during our trip, but the one that stands out for both of us was our drive through Dunloe Gap.

It was a miserable, blustery day and Joan, our host at Beaufort, mentioned that as the weather was so inclement, the ‘Jaunting Cars’ wouldn’t be running and that we could take our car through Dunloe Gap, despite this usually not being possible. ‘Jaunting Cars’ are horse-drawn buggies and for a mere 160 euro you can ride one through the gap for an hour. At that price, had there been opportunity, we probably would have passed on that anyway. That would have been such a tragedy, because we were to experience some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery imaginable. We were a little taken aback to discover a very large sign that announced cars were not allowed through the gap. Hmmm………should we trust Joan’s advice?

The rain lashed down and horses with their heads hanging low and their carriages covered in blue tarp stood forlornly near the entrance. We decided there was nothing to lose and off we set with Marissa clutching the steering wheel tightly and leaning forward with intense concentration. Mountains rose majestically before us, mist and rain obscuring their peaks. Waterfalls were abundant and flowing fiercely. It’s difficult to describe how utterly breathtaking the scenery was. Dark, almost black clouds hung between the valleys and the rain was a fine mist that caused the most curious effect in the wind. The very air seemed to consist of ghostly waves, adding to the mystical atmosphere. At times the road was very, very narrow, and rocks jutted out so frighteningly close to both sides of the car that we found ourselves holding our breath as we inched between them. If we were to meet up with another vehicle on this steep, tight road it would mean one of us would have to reverse down. Aaaahhh! As luck would have it, just as we shared this thought we spotted a car heading towards us. Gulp!! We both broke out in a cold sweat and decided this had been a very bad idea. Inching around the next bend we saw with intense relief that there was just enough space on the edge of the track for us to pull aside. Though it looked like we might get bogged in the mud, there was no choice.

We survived a couple of these encounters during our trip through the Gap and only had to reverse once in a relatively easy space. We emerged from the gap feeling that we’d just had a truly magical, albeit white-knuckle, experience. The pictures can’t possibly do the place justice as the scale and ambiance can’t be transferred (at least not by this photographer). Dunloe Gap was one of the highlights of a very special holiday. However, on our next visit we’ll do the sensible, safe thing and catch a ‘Jaunting Car'!

Image courtesy of Flickr user J c.

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