My daughters might never speak to me again for writing this. For the first time I crossed the Gap of Dunloe we did it together, and the day was so wonderful it has become part of the family story, a 'do you remember when' that still makes us smile.
I simply couldn't resist doing it again, and it was different - my excuse for writing about it now.
For a start, we went the 'wrong way round', beginning with a boat trip across the Killarney Lakes. I had forgotten how long that takes, chugging across the water, the mountains benign in the sunshine. Holly trees clung to the waterwide. Reeds swayed in the breeze. From time to time the boatman told us Interesting Things, but I forget all of them. I was more intent on just being in the boat, bobbling along on the water and looking up at the mountains.
After several days with no rain, the water levels were very low - so low that at one stage we had to get out and walk along the bank or risk grounding. And when we arrived at Lord Brandon's Cottage the quayside was about a metre higher than the water, involving some inelegant scrambling to get out of the boat (and complaints from a heavy tourist who seemed to think everything should be organised just for him. There's always one.).
A quick sandwich (note for daughters - the little cafe is much improved, so no cotton-wool bread wrapped in cling film) and it was time to find a pony to take me over the Gap itself. And this is where things unravelled a bit. There was only one pony, defended by a determined Irishwoman intent on taking me in her pony and trap. Should I stick to my guns, ride alone across the mountain, or accept her offer (even though I knew she was probably taking a backhander for it)?
I took the pony and trap - and can tell you that it is as uncomfortable as riding but at least you can't fall off.
The main difference fom years ago - there is now a tarnacked road the whole way. Where there was once a stony track, now there is a proper road and even the occasional car. Which makes the whole thing more hazardous than it was, with pony carts, cyclists, walkers and cars all sharing a narrow road.
However, it is still astonishingly beautiful. The road winds along a valley before zig-zagging up the mountainside. Sheep nibble at the short grass; birds fly high above the mountainside. The ponies haul the traps up to the saddle and then the view stretches out below. The river burbles, lingers in small lakes, and the tumbles on down towards the sea. And the mountains, blue and mysterious, loom over everything. Trees dominate the lower slopes; the higher slopes are vast and craggy and wonderful.
So it wasn't the day I expected it to be. There are some magical days that should never be repeated. But would I go back to the Gap of Dunloe again and again - oh yes. And there are pictures, but they are still on my camera, so that will have to sit till I get home.