Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland is one of my favorite places. It is in Ireland's Southwest Region just north of the well-known and heavily-traveled Ring of Kerry. You will find that this beautiful area offers everything you need for a visit of any length.
The peninsula was traditionally a fishing and farming area. The 1969 movie "Ryan's Daughter", however, brought the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula to the world and tourism has increased ever since that time.
The village of Dingle is the thriving port and biggest village on the peninsula. You will enjoy delicious meals, plenty of shopping, traditional Irish music, warm hospitality, and even a chance to see "Fungi", the resident dolphin who lives in the bay.
The Irish government officially changed Dingle's name to the Irish name of An Daingean in 2005, even after strong disagreement by many of the residents and business owners in the village.
When you drive out from Dingle Town west on Slea Head Drive (R559), you will love the spectacular views of the bay leading to the Atlantic.
When you get about four miles west of Dingle, you will come to the village of Ventry. The town has a few pubs and shops where you can stop for a break and some lively conversation. People of all ages enjoy the three mile sandy beach along Ventry's sheltered harbor.
If you keep driving past Ventry, you will come to the spectacular views at Slea Head. There is a scenic view parking area and just beyond is a shop where you can look for souvenirs and have lunch or a snack at the tables next to the windows or outside on the deck. My daughter and I always have a scone with jam and cream. It's delicious!
There is also a rugged beach just past the shop on Slea Head. As you walk down the path to the beach, you can see the rock cliffs that are the backdrop for the dramatic scene. Swimming in Ireland is not for the faint-hearted; the water is refreshingly cool.
As you get to the western tip of the Peninsula, you can see the Blasket Islands just off shore. The main island was home to a few hundred natives until the 1950s, when the last of them were moved to the mainland. Many relocated to the eastern U.S. and primarily to the Boston area. Ferries travel daily to tour the Blaskets, weather permitting. If you are lucky enough to make the trip, you will get a taste of the isolated yet peaceful life the islanders must have lived. You can check the ferry schedule at the Blasket Islands Ferry website If you don't get out to the Blasket Islands, you can browse through the exhibits and bookshop at the Blasket Island Centre (The Blascaod Centre) near Dunquin at the tip of the peninsula. My children and I spent a few hours browsing the displays. The centre also houses a great bookstore with several titles by former residents of the Islands. You can go to the Heritage Centre website for details.
If you continue around the western tip of Dingle Peninsula , you will have the chance to play a round of eighteen holes at Dingle Golf Links (Ceann Sibéal). A shorter driving route to the golf course cuts across the Peninsula just west of Dingle Town. It is well worth the trip for a genuine Irish golf experience. You will enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides and of the sea and even have a chance to cross a stone bridge reminiscent of the world renowned bridge at the Old Course at St. Andrews. See the golf course website for details.
If you like to hike, you will have no shortage of possibilities on Dingle Peninsula. The "Dingle Way" walking trail goes through fields and hilly terrain as well as more level areas of the countryside. Mount Brandon is one of the highest peaks in Ireland; if you are ambitious, you will love the challenge. Be sure to check the weather; it can be very windy, cold, and rainy. Take plenty of water and dress in layers. You can plan your hiking through the helpful Dingle Way website.
If you like to bike, you will love seeing the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula close up. You can rent bicycles in Dingle Town. Be careful; you share the road with cars, trucks, buses, walkers, baby-buggies, and sheep!
Conor Pass, which starts in Dingle Town, is a roadway you won't want to miss on your visit to the Dingle Peninsula. It winds higher and higher adjacent to Mount Brandon and down again leading to the village of Castlegregory on the north side of the Peninsula. At many spots along the Pass, two cars cannot pass together. You will take turns pulling off the road with the drivers coming toward you. The mountainside leading up on one side of the road and leading down the cliff on the other side is great motivation to cooperate. The view from the top of the pass and the harp player who is usually playing near the car park will make the trip well worth the effort.
The Dingle Peninsula hosts a number of archaeological sites. Iron Age forts, early Christian monastic sites, seventeenth century towerhouses, and beehive huts are all present on the peninsula.
The museum called Chorca Dhuibhne Regional Museum is in an old schoolhouse 8 miles west of Dingle Town in Ballyferriter. The museum shows the history of the area and offers a café and bookshop. See the museum website for more information.
The Fahan Group is a group of beehive huts, standing stones, earthen ring-forts, and sculptured crosses on Dingle Peninsula.
Dunbeg Promontory Fort is part of the Fahan Group. It is located on Slea Head Drive, west of Dingle Town on the Dingle Peninsula. It was used in 800 bc up to the 10th century. This small fort is on a cliff that projects out into Dingle Bay. The Dunbeg Fort Visitor Centre offers snacks, tea, coffee, soup, and sandwiches.
The beehive huts were named for a 5000 year old method of construction. Circular walls were made by overlapping stones curved gradually inward until a capstone is placed at the top.
The Gallarus Oratory is the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. It dates from the 8th century. It is in the shape of an inverted boat. The dry stone building style has kept it weatherproof for more than 1,000 years. You can look at the exhibits and have a snack in the visitor center while you are there.
The Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium is a fun activity for children and adults. I've taken my children there for a great outing. Find the details at the Oceanworld website.
You will find traditional Irish music nightly in many of the pubs and restaurants in Dingle Town and the other small towns on the peninsula. It's great to have a meal of fish and chips and stay for the music.
For a real taste of Ireland, go to the Food Ireland website and order some of the authentic Irish products. You will find the quality and service outstanding!
The restaurant variety in Dingle Town is wonderful. You can have a pizza or a bakery item and coffee at The Oven Doors, a delicious Italian meal at Novo Centro on John Street, a gourmet meal at Doyle's Seafood Restaurant or The Half Door, both also on John Street, or a less formal, but tasty meal at The Dingle Pub Bar, Restaurant and Bed & Breakfast.
For a must-have treat, stop at the Supervalu Store for an ice cream cone with a chocolate "flake." When my children and I visit Dingle, we usually can't go a day without one!
If you are interested in Irish music, you may want to stop by the Dingle Music School. Many sessions are open to visitors. For a real Irish experience, you may want to take an hour or two lesson on the tin whistle or the bodhran (Irish drum). My son (a drummer) and I (not a drummer) both had a great time during our bodhran lesson. For more information, go to the Dingle Music School website.
Places to stay are many on Dingle Peninsula. My favorite is Greenmount House, on John Street on the edge of Dingle Town. I have stayed there with my children on three different occasions. On one of our trips we stayed for three weeks and had a lovely time exploring the area. Our hosts, John and Mary Curran, were so gracious and friendly. The accommodations are 5 star luxury rated and the view of Dingle Bay is beautiful. A hot tub and massage chair has been added, and wine and light snacks are now available in addition to the award-winning breakfasts. I can't wait to return! To get to Greenmount House, take a right turn from N86 when you come in to town, go up the hill, turn right on John Street, and head out of town east just 400 meters. The guesthouse is on the left. Find all the details you need at the Greenmount House website.
Ballintaggart is a 300 year old manor house on the N86 going east just five miles out of Dingle Town toward Tralee. You will enjoy spectacular views of the bay and the convenient location near town. Check the Ballintaggart House website.
Visiting with the people of Ireland is always the highlight of any trip to the Emerald Isle. The people of Dingle Peninsula are warm and friendly. Visit them on your next trip to Ireland; you won't be sorry!