Killarney’s ice age began two million years ago and only ended about 10,000BC. As ice and snow was slowly pushed northward through the Killarney Valley, giving the mountains their jagged appearance, the Gap of Dunloe was formed.
The Start of Tourism
The visit of Queen Victoria in 1861 put Killarney on the tourist map. She stayed at Muckross House and toured the local area with her ladies-in-waiting (hence Ladies’ View, Queen’s Bridge , Queen’s Cottage etc.). The royal visit inspired other 19th-century tourists, with famous visitors to the Gap of Dunloe including the Romantic poets Alfred Lord Tennyson, Sir Walter Scott, and William Thackeray. Enthralled as they were by Nature, they were captivated by the rugged wilderness of the Gap and its lakes and mountains.
Back then, the Gap was also known as the Valley of Echoes because of the way sounds reverberated against the towering mountain walls. It became a tradition to “wake the valley” by blowing a horn.
One of the most famous local buglers was Paddy Boyle, who, like his father before him, eked out a living by “blowing the echo” to the delight of enthralled visitors.
The Gap of Dunloe Today
Tours to the Gap of Dunloe don’t involve buglers anymore, but that does not make them any less exciting. Depending on your level of fitness, you can tour the Gap by bicycle, on foot, on horseback, or on an organised trip involving a bus from Killarney and a boat ride through the three Lakes of Killarney.