The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass formed by glacial ice a couple of million of years ago. The valley winds its way for 6 miles (10km) between Macgillycuddy's Reeks and the Purple Mountains. Along the way it passes five lakes, or loughs, Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough. The River Loe connects the lakes. Over the river at one end is the Wishing Bridge where it's promised that wishes made while crossing the bridge will come true. At one end of the valley is Kate Kearney's Cottage, these days a bit of a tourist trap but useful for a snack and restroom. At the other end is Lord Brandon's Cottage from where you can get a boat back to Killarney.
The best way to explore the gap is by hiking through or riding a bicycle. No cars are allowed but you can go by pony-trap. These seat four people and roll slowly through the valley the old-fashioned way.
Here on Aghadoe Hill stand the ruins of the 12th century Aghadoe Church and Round Tower. There was a monastery on the site since the 7th century, however, founded by St Finian Lobhar, and no wonder as the views are sublime and perfect for a life of contemplation. There are lakes and at night the town lights of Killarney twinkle, alongside the flood lights of Ross Castle in the distance, although that is a bit more recent dating from the 15th century! To appreciate the landscape, you'll find a few benches nearby so bring a picnic.
Although ruined, there is still plenty to see of interest at Aghadoe Church. The Romanesque door is well-preserved, there is a carved crucifixion scene on another sandstone block, two ca rved faces on the eastern window, and an Ogham Stone - carved writings in the ancient Celtic language. Not much is left of the Round Tower. It is really just a small stump of the sandstone building standing in an old cemetery.
A rocky peak rising 230 meters from the ocean off the coast of Portmagee, Skellig Michael is one of the most striking landmarks of Ireland’s southwestern coast and famous for its vast population of seabirds. One of two UNESCO-listed Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael is the one and the only island where it’s permitted to land, with access only possible by boat.
Despite its isolated surroundings and near-vertical sea cliffs, the now-uninhabited island was once used as a retreat for hermit monks, and their stone beehive huts, crosses and a cemetery can still be seen perched atop the rocks. The fascinating remains of the sixth-century monastic complex are among the world’s earliest examples of Christian life and can be reached via a steep 600-step climb from the dock.
Everyone wants the gift of eloquence, and some say the Irish have it, well, the gift of the gab anyway. So, how are they so blessed? It's all down to the Blarney Stone. For over two centuries people have been coming to Blarney Castle in the south of Ireland to kiss this stone set into the battlements in the hope of gaining a silver tongue. It used to be that you were hung over the battlements from above by your ankles, these days there's less risk involved in leaning backwards from the parapet walkway while holding securely to a metal railing.
The origins of this magic stone are still debated. Was it Jacob's pillow, St Columba's deathbed pillow, or the stone that gushed water for Moses? Was it brought to Ireland after the Crusades or given to the Irish by Scot Robert the Bruce in gratitude for helping him defeat the English in 1314? We'll probably never know. But after you kiss it, tour the ruined castle, visit elegant 19th century Blarney House, wander around the lake.