The Dingle Peninsula is widely considered one of Ireland’s most stunning areas and is one of the country’s most popular driving routes. It has festivals across the year, as well as a selection of scenic drives and some of Kerry’s, and indeed Ireland’s, most popular tourist attractions. With tourists from around Ireland and further afield visiting ‘Darling Dingle’, here is a 48-hour guide to getting the most from your trip to the south west of Ireland.
Day One Exploring Dingle
Begin With a Scenic Drive
Where else would you begin when visiting Dingle but with a drive through this picturesque stretch of coastline. The Slea Head Loop is a 42 km scenic loop that starts and ends in the town of Dingle with some narrow, winding roads along the way. This scenic drive takes you along some of the Dingle Peninsula’s most popular attractions, so if you plan to drive the Shea Head Loop, allow plenty of time to stop off and explore some of the main discovery points along the way.
The loop itself can be driven in a few hours, or over the course of the day depending on how many sites you want to discover. Some of the main sites to visit as you embark on a drive of the Slea Head Loop include Ventry, Dunbeg Fort, Slea Head and the Blasket Islands. Depending on the direction in which you drive the Slea Head Loop, you will come across Mount Brandon at the start or end of your journey. Below we look in greater detail at some of these popular attractions that you will pass as you drive the Slea Head Loop.
Popular Attractions Along Slea Head Loop
If you’re visiting the Dingle Peninsula during the spring/summer months, be sure to visit the popular village of Ventry, home to the famous Blue Flag Ventry Strand, and the idyllic Ventry Harbour. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beach or take time to explore some of the popular shops in the village, as you make the most of the much quieter Ventry surroundings.
From Ventry make the short trip west and make Dunbeg Fort your next stop. Dating back to the Iron Age, this fort provides wonderful views over Dingle Bay, and while it lies mainly in ruins today, the Dunbeg Fort Visitor Centre will help tell the story about this historic attraction.
Take a step back in time as you set foot on the most western point of Ireland, with nothing but the Atlantic between you and America. These waters are dominated by the Great Blasket, and while the islands are uninhabited, there are a number of quaint walking routes to be enjoyed. Take a boat trip to the Blasket Islands from Dingle, Dunquin or Ventry, and spend some time exploring the Blasket Islands and the many historic and ruined sites that are dotted around the island.
As you head north from the Blasket Islands to Dunquin, keep an eye out for the famous Beehive Huts that are scattered along this part of the drive. Beehive Huts are a famous part of Kerry’s ancient past, with many of them located near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Skellig Michael. From Dunquin make your way east and visit the ancient Christian sites of Reasc and the Gallarus Oratory.
Enjoy a Dingle Pub Crawl
After a long day driving the Slea Head Loop, take time to relax in Dingle by visiting one of the town’s many pubs. Some of the most famous pubs in the area to consider visiting include McCarthy’s Pub on Goat Street, An Droichead Beag, Foxy John’s and Adam’s on Main Street, John Benny’s and Danno’s Bar on Strand Street, and O’Flaherty’s on Bridge Street. With festivals across the year in Dingle and traditional music in pubs throughout the year, you’re likely to have lots of entertainment in Dingle’s many pubs to keep you occupied long into the night. Just be sure to make it an early one, as another big day lies in wait.
Day Two Exploring Dingle Peninsula
Begin with a hike up Mount Brandon
Having enjoyed the famous Dingle hospitality, there’s only one way to begin your second day exploring the Dingle Peninsula and that is to visit one of Ireland’s highest peaks, Mount Brandon. The walk is a challenging one but the reward is certainly worth it, as the summit provides wonderful views over the Kerry countryside, and spectacular views out to the Atlantic and the Blasket Islands. The walk should take around four hours to complete, so best set off early in the morning from your hotel to ensure you have ample time to continue exploring this stunning peninsula. The Mount Brandon walks is a popular pilgrimage due to its ties to Irish Pagans and early Irish Christianity.
surfs up in dingle
From Brandon, make your way towards the tranquil Inch Beach to relax before making your way on to the water to try your hand at some of Dingle’s popular water-based activities. If you want to try your hand at some surfing when visiting Dingle, Inch Beach is the perfect place for beginners, while Dingle Surf School can help you hit the water with some paddle boarding as well. Indeed, Inch Strand in Dingle made it on to our list of 10 great Irish surfing locations.
A quick stop for lunch in Dingle
For food, Idas and Global Village are two Dingle restaurants to consider for lunch or dinner, having both made it on to the 2017 McKenna Restaurant Guide, while Ashes and Chart House are also well worth considering.
Dingle has a reputation for amazing food and some top-quality local produce, so be sure to ask about for additional foodie recommendations from the locals. For the foodie fans among you visiting Dingle, consider a visit to the Dingle Cookery School where you can join a class and look forward to learning some classic Irish recipes. Dingle Cookery School also offers a selection of great food and drinks tours which will allow you to get a real taste for the produce in the area.
Time to meet Fungie the Dolphin
Next up it’s time to hit the water and enjoy a boat tour to meet one of Dingle’s most famous faces, Fungie the Dolphin. The Dingle Dolphin Tour leaves Dingle Pier (depending on the weather) for a one-hour tour of the area, providing a great chance to get up close and personal with Dingle’s famous dolphin. As well as the Dingle Dolphin Tour you can also enjoy a number of other popular boat tours including the Dingle Harbour Cruise and the Dingle Sea Safari. One thing’s for sure, if you’re planning a few days exploring the Dingle Peninsula, be sure to set some time aside to visit Fungie, especially if you are travelling with children.
Call it a night and set off along the Wild Atlantic Way
With your second day taking in plenty of activities, it’s time to call it a night and relax again in one of Dingle’s many famous pubs. After exploring the Dingle Peninsula, continue north or south and explore more of the popular Wild Atlantic Way.
Plan Your Trip To Dingle Today
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Images via Fáilte Ireland