The Story Behind The Photo: Above The Clouds In The Gap Of Dunloe

This entry is part 12 of 19 in the series The Story Behind The Photo

It has been a while since we ran an article in our ‘Story Behind The Photo’ series but it makes a return thanks to Billy Horan.

Anyone who has been on the hills for a cloud inversion will appreciate what an amazing spectacle it can be. There are really few sights to beat the view of mountain-tops peaking out of a blanket of cloud like islands in the sea.


This excellent photo from Billy Horan was taken above the Gap of Dunloe looking across at Carrauntoohil and shows it and the surrounding tops peaking out of the heavy cloud cover. Billy gives us the background to this picture and provides us with a few more shots from the rare event.

It was 6.45am when I woke to the sound of the alarm on my mobile phone; I usually get up at this time every day and begin work after breakfast but this day was different. I pulled back the curtains to reveal a foggy overcast morning and thought to myself that this was interesting. I remembered being up on Carrauntoohil over the weekend and had gotten to see the most outstanding scene of where most of County Kerry was shrouded in fog and only the highest peaks protruded above it into a clear blue sky. This phenomenon is known as a cloud inversion and is a rare occurrence on the Kerry Mountains, usually whenever it happens I seem to have no camera with me as it all adds to the weight of the backpack. I hesitated for a little bit and said to myself that I could work a little bit harder over the weekend to make up for lost time as today is Thursday morning and I needed to get a few jobs finished. That was it, porridge into the microwave for 2 minutes while I packed the bag as fast as I could and then off out the door to the Gap Of Dunloe.

I remember climbing back here many years ago with my father where we both encountered the awesomeness of a cloud inversion, see the 2 photo’s below taken with a 3 megapixel fuji camera in October 2004. Back then we were both new to the climbing/hiking scene and had only recently discovered the thrill/excitement of being able to venture up on to the highest peaks on the Kerry Mountains with only a map and compass to guide us.

We would usually climb and descend via the same route until we got to know the mountains and gained valuable experience. It would have been difficult to sleep the night prior to heading out on the mountains due to the excitement/nervousness of tackling a new mountain. I never really knew which one it was, excitement or nervousness!



But now, back to the story. It was 8am and I was driving up through the Gap of Dunloe and I noticed that the underside of the fog was fairly high at about 100m above my head. I thought to myself that this was going to be a complete waste of time as regards getting a photo of a cloud inversion as the fog was too high and I would be stuck in it all the way up to the top of the Tomies Mountain with no views. I was now standing outside the car in the gap and looking up at the mountain beneath the fog, I better make a go of it seeing as I’m back here and at least I’ll get a bit of exercise out of it.

I put on my boots and grabbed my backpack and set off up the side of Tomies Mountain heading for the Chimneys as we call it here locally. I climbed away for about 45min and was still stuck in the fog but next thing I could see a faint blue sky over my head. I had to stop for a drink of water as it was after getting really warm. I was just approaching the 568m peak in front of Tomies Mountain when suddenly a section of fog cleared to reveal a clear blue sky over with a baking hot sun shining down. I stopped, quickly took off the backpack and got out the camera and shot 3 or 4 photos before the fog once again rolled in and covered me.


It was 15 minutes later before I got above the fog again and this time it was some sight. I could only see fog for miles around with only the highest peaks of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Brandon protruding above it to the west. The highest peaks of the Slieve Mish Mountains were also visible to the north.


I now realised that it was definitely worth heading back here this morning and that I would have some nice images to take back home with me. While I was packing up I noticed large holes starting to appear in the thick fog , you could see freshly mown fields of silage in the lowlands below beside Lough Leane. The fog was breaking up and was completely evaporated/dissipated by 11.30am, it was unusual to see this play out. I headed on down in to the valley and was back at the car before 1pm. It was a great morning out on the hills and hopefully I will not have to wait as long again to see the next cloud inversion over the Gap of Dunloe.

Written By: Billy Horan, Scartaglen, Co. Kerry.
You can see more of Billy’s images at