2. Gap of Dunloe
Today I am going to take you south across the Dingle Bay and into the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.
One of the most spectacular features in that chain of rugged mountains is the Gap of Dunloe, a steep valley that cuts the ridge in two. Yes, the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks is a mountain ridge!
Don’t worry, to this date I still don’t know who or what Macgillycuddy might be or why it ‘reeks’. What I do know is that in this group of hills you can find the Carrauntoohil (Corran Tuathail), at 1,041m the highest summit in all Ireland.
On your map (or more likely, your screen) you will notice a valley to the east of Carrauntoohil, running roughly north-south. That is the Gap of Dunloe.
Driving there is possible, but not easy. If you approach the Gap from the south via Moll’s Gap, you hardly find any signs, so you have to set your navigation system properly or be really good with your map.
I found that some maps do not show the road properly, which can be confusing and might lead you into a dead-end.
Thus my suggestion is to get to your destination from the north. Follow the N72 from Killarney (signs Ring of Kerry and Waterville) and turn left at Fossa. Follow the signs to Kate Kearney’s Cottage and Gap of Dunloe. Strangely enough, there are plenty of signs on this side and the drive is pretty much straightforward.
That changes after you pass Kate Kearney’s Cottage. That’s a place impossible to miss because of the hundreds of tourists and the penetrating stench of horse dung. For reasons unknown to me, the tourists love being brought up to the Gap of Dunloe by flimsy little carriages called jaunting cars (hence the horses, hence the horse crap).
My advice is to give your sense of smell a break and either drive farther up or park somewhere and walk. If you decide to drive, be really careful! From now on the road becomes even narrower, with more hairpin bends and blind summits than ever before.
I usually drive up to Arbutus Cottage, a roofless ruin on the shore of Augher Lake, about 3.3km after Kate Kearney’s Cottage. There I leave my (t)rusty van and do the rest on foot.
Arbutus Cottage is also a magnificent spot to start your shooting! The ruin itself sits picturesquely right beside the road, with a backdrop of steep hills. Immediately behind it you have Augher Lake which provides a nice surface to reflect the mountains and a (hopefully) interesting sky.
As you walk up from here you’ll have one spectacular view after the other, so take your time and look around for your best spots.
Roughly 1,300 meters after Arbutus Cottage you are crossing the Bridge of Wishes. If your wish is to find another brilliant scenery for your landscape shoot, then here is where you find it!
Walking up to the pass gives you ample opportunity to hunt for more motives.
Except during the winter, you are going to meet dozens of jaunting cars on the way and they are providing a nice subject as well (smell or no smell).
Here – at the highest point of your walk – I leave you to your thoughts, while you look down into the Black Valley which I will describe later during this series.
Best time of the day: late afternoon or evening.
Photo gear: pack the widest lens you have, as the valley is narrow and you’ll find it difficult to compose a compelling shot with a longer lens (there are exceptions, of course, so don’t leave your standard zoom behind either)
Bring of course a polarizer, as well as a tripod and release if you shoot late (or early). Lots of flowing water, so an Neutral Density (ND) filter might be useful.
I think ND grad filters only works here if they have a soft transition.
Personal equipment: Remember, you are getting up into the hills during this shoot, so take a jacket (even in summer) and wear sturdy shoes.
That’s it for today! I hope you enjoy the reading and get some inspirations along the way.
Here is the link to part one of the Top 5 Locations for Landscape Photography, in case you missed it. Next week I’ll take you further west along the Ring of Kerry to a place not to be missed:
3. Valentia Island
You do not want to worry about finding the way to your shooting location? Then consider joining one of my photo tours. I am offering guided trips to these and other amazing places all over Kerry.
For more information you can contact me at: johann[at]jb-photography[dot]com