Surge in tourist and leisure visitors to Black Valley ‘endangering lives’

A huge increase in tourist and leisure traffic in a remote valley in Kerry is putting lives at risk, a meeting has heard.

The Black Valley, between the Gap of Dunloe and Moll’s Gap, has been a tourist destination since pre-Victorian times. There has been dramatic increase in tourist traffic there, with the promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way and a surge in interest in walking and cycling.

However, the infrastructure is not in place to help tourists or residents, the meeting of the South & West Kerry Municipal District heard, in Killorglin, heard.

Cyclists, walkers, cars, and horses and traps are all crowding onto the single-lane road; there is no public toilet, and no mobile-phone coverage.

The valley, between Kenmare and Killarney, is home to 70 people, most of them involved in farming. Residents are worried about safety, their own as well as that of visitors, and they feel exploited by outside tour operators.

“We want people there, but we want people to be safe and we want people to be aware of the needs of the residents and that people are living and farming in the valley,” spokeswoman, Eilise Sullivan, said.

“The infrastructure is not in place,” she said.

Lack of signage and proper warnings meant tourists were getting lost, “and crying their eyes out”, as they were unprepared for the small Irish roads, others said.

“The Wild Atlantic Way is a great thing, but this is what it’s leading to,” one man said.

Similar concerns have been expressed about Dingle, recently, with calls for traffic lights on Slea Head.

Kenmare councillor, Patrick Connor-Scarteen, told how, two weeks ago, he witnessed a tourist car misjudging the road and getting stuck in the ditch, near Kate Kearney’s.

The tourists were assisted by a local family.

He said people had to reverse for a half-a-mile to allow other cars pass.

It “beggared belief” that there was no public toilet between Kate Kearney’s Cottage and Ladies’ View, with hundreds of people walking there, Cllr Dan McCarthy said.

“There is no mobile signal and it’s one of the few areas there is a need for a public, old-style telephone,” Cllr McCarthy said.

Council engineers will have to come up with a new traffic plan, including better and more imaginative signage and extra lay-bys, and explore the idea of a larger car park at the Moll’s Gap or at the Lord Brandon’s Cottage end of the Valley, they were told.

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