Spotting a market in the Gap

Forget about your standard ‘gap in the market’ — heading towards 50 years in business, Killarney’s Moriarty family have spotted a second market in the Gap.

Kerry’s Gap of Dunloe is rated No 2 of Killarney’s top tourist attractions on Tripadvisor, with reviewers rating its natural beauty and setting in the McGillicuddy Reeks highly.

And, now, after 49 years in a tourism business set in the run-up to the Gap, a second generation of the very well-known Moriarty clan is taking a less travelled route.

An investment of €650,000 will see ten new jobs created in a natural and locally-sourced food business and restaurant called ‘Heather’, with naturalised five-acre garden, and productive polytunnels to feed their anticipated new wave of visitors. The investment includes a new 1,100 sq ft 80-seat restaurant to the back of Moriartys’ existing large shop.

Behind the significant investment are Denis Pio Moriarty and his wife Ailish: Denis Pio’s parents Michael and Margaret set up their tourist gift shop, mostly serving coach visitors, in 1964. Mrs Margaret Moriarty still works in the shop, where up to 15 are employed, and this new project will see jobs swell to 25, and virtually all of them local from a catchment of just a few miles.

“It’s the first investment in the area in years,” says Denis Pio, who is aiming for a March opening for the 2014 season and 50th anniversary.

The initiative to broaden the business base — to local, Irish day trippers, a mix of European, ravenous walkers and the merely peckish — started three years ago when the couple (mow with 16-month old daughter Heidi) employed top garden designer Tim Austen, who has three Bloom gold medals, to design a layout for their five acre gardens.

It features viewing points and seating areas, multi-level paths, indigenous Kerry plants and a series of giant 30m by 20m commercial-sized polytunnels for fresh, zero air miles fruit, veg and herbs.

“We’re taking locally-sourced and grown really seriously. It won’t all come on immediately for this first season in the tunnels, but we’ve a lot of the landscaping done over the past three years, and are planting the fruit trees and bushes now,” says Denis Pio, adding that fish is being sourced from suppliers a 20 minute drive away, with cheeses and other artisan foods from West Cork and Kerry makers. And, the lamb? It could even stray in.

The Gap of Dunloe, also home to Kate Kearney’s Cottage and best travelled by pony and trap, bike or on foot, is one of Killarney’s most memorable and evocative locations and this new Moriarty family development includes lots of information on local geology, history, flora, fauna, lakes and mountains.

“We are so lucky to be living in such a beautiful part of the country that sometimes as locals we are guilty of taking for granted what is on our doorstep,” admits Ailish.

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