While there is a lot of activity in Dingle town, with the pubs, the shops and the cafes. The biggest attraction of this part of the world is really the nature around it. The Dingle Peninsula is a wonderland of mother nature with landscape views that will leave you speechless. The only thing you need to choose is the way you want to see it because there are four ways and they are each unique in their own way.
Driving is the most comfortable and relaxing way to explore the Dingle Peninsula. Jump in your car (or rental car), switchon your favourite playlist and explore the open roads of Dingle. No matter the weather, come rain, snow or shine, you’ll be able to drink in the sights of County Kerry.
We prize these as the best driving routes on the Peninsula:
Slea Head Drive
A circular route that starts and ends in the town of Dingle. It is home to the most amazing scenery since it forms part of the West Highland Way. To drive the full loop with no stops will take you around one hour. Yet we recommend you allow for about three to four hours for this drive so that you can stop at the beautiful sites and attractions along the way.
• Dunbeg Fort - Built during the Iron Age to protect the mainland from attacks, the remainder of this structure has now been sacrificed due to storm damage and erosion of the cliffs that surround it. However, you can still seethe foundations of the building, and witness this national monument.
• Coumeenole Beach -Recommended as one of the spots not to miss when you visit Dingle, this beach is a great place to stop for a walk and really breathe in the scenery.
• Gallarus Oratory- Once a church, this oratory is now a tourist attraction. It was constructed around the 11th century from locally sourced stone, using ancient building techniques to create its unique shape.
• Dún Chaoinharbour - If you are after some Instagram material, this is your spot. One of the most picturesque harbours in the world, park your car at the top and take a short walk for your best photographs. Our advice is to get here in the morning or for sunset to avoid crowds.
• Sibyl's Head (Ceann Sibéal) - You may not recognise the area without the recreated beehive huts, but this forms the amazing scenery of the latest Star Wars films such as The Last Jedi. The producers meticulously replicated the beehive structures and made sure every piece was removed on their departure.
Travel the route clockwise, starting at Dingle, take the left-hand turn on to the R559 and head towards Dunberg Fort as your first stop along the way. You can take the route in either direction but you will get the best views and avoid the most tour groups, in the height of summer, if you head clockwise.
This 12km road is a wonder for people who love driving. It is narrow, often a single track road, with many twists and turns. At points, the road hugs the edge of the surrounding steep cliff. This is definitely not territory for the faint of heart.
At its highest point, 1,345 feet, there is a car park that allows you to stop and take in the breathtaking views. You can see as far North as Kerry Head, and as far south as Dingle. Surrounded by mountains, lakes and valleys below, this highest mountain pass in Ireland is one of the best views on the Wild Atlantic Way.
You can equally explore these routes by bike. The sights are just as beautiful plus you get the added benefit of burning all the calories. Just be careful on the rainy days as the roads may be more slippy and we don’t want to be responsible for any bumps or bruises.
Slea Head Loop and Connor Pass actually forms part of an official race. So if you want to aim for a personal best, check out Ride Dingle, which is set for 15th August 2020.
We figure as a cyclist, you may be less interested in stopping for the historic sites and scenery that we mentioned on the driving route above. After all, you can catch a glimpse of the Gallarus Oratory and that scene from Star Wars while you’re on your bike. However, every good cyclist needs fuel. So here are our recommendations for the best refueling food stops along the way.
Slea Head Loop
• We recommend Tig Áine which is near Ballyferriter along the route. It has a simple Irish menu, everything is cooked to perfection and the view from here is unforgettable.
• Alternatively you can power through the full route and hit up the Pantry Cafe in Dingle for lunch when you get back.
• It will take around 4 hours (without your lunch stop factored in) depending of course on your athletic speed.
• Where you eat on the Connor Pass is dependent on whether you cycle towards Brandon Point of Castlegregory which are 22km and 25km from Dingle respectively. If you don’t have these kind of kilometres on your legs, take a round trip to Dingle, and eat at one of the many restaurants in town.
• For Brandon Point adventurers, we recommend either O'Donnell's Bar and Restaurant or Murphy's Bar Brandon.
• For those who want to check out Castlegregory, consider Ned Natterjack's or Milesian as your place to stop past for a snack.
The hills around Dingle town are virtually a playground for cyclists. The winding roads coupled with the Atlantic views make the experience an incredible adventure. Over and above the Slea Head road and Conor pass, there are few even more exciting roads for bike enthusiasts. These routes are longer but achievable with adequate training. Try Dingle to Killorglin at 104km round trip or Dingle to Killarney at 128km round trip. Each has its own attractions and sites to see along the way. You may even decide to stay overnight in either town. Obviously we prefer Dingle but Kilarney has its own national park with the beautiful Lough Leane and Killorglin is a cute little Irish town that has even more Irish pubs to explore.
There are hiking routes to match any fitness level on the Dingle Peninsula. And realistically walking is the best way to soak in the true essence of Ireland. By that we mean, you can stop at all the local pubs along your route if you are walking, without worrying about driving home. In fact, you can even drop by Dingle’s whiskey distillery and sample their finest malt.
The main routes we mention in the drive section are achievable for dedicated hikers and by foot you may see even more. We recommend starting early. Outside of the drive routes, however, are the places that simply cannot be reached by car. Check them out.
BRANDON POINT (11KM)
• Starting point: Faha Grotto
• Time required:4-6 hours
• Fitness level: Good, this is a challenging route
• Reasons to go: The view at the summit reaches over the Blasket Islands and most of the Wild Atlantic Way. You have to see it to understand the beauty.
• Pointers: Saveyour energy for the second hald as the ascent is steep. Bring some layers forthe top as it can get cold but the views will make you want to stay a little while.
DINGLE WAY (20KM) - DINGLE TO DUNQUIN
• Starting point: Dingle town
• Time required:7-9 hours
• Fitness level: Moderate, this route is strenuous only at points.
• Reasons to go: You will pass through some of the richest archaeological sites of Ireland, when you go through Fán.
• Pointers: On sections where this route meets Slea Head Drive, be mindful of traffic. This is a popular driving route, as we have explained and there is not a huge degree of room either side to walk along.
MEELINHILL (7KM) - THE 3 PEAKS OF ANNASCAUL
• Starting point: Annascaul, behind the church of this mythical village
• Time required:2-3 hours
• Fitness level: Moderate, you do not need to be super fit for this route
• Reasons to go: You will take in the three peaks of the Brackloon ridge on your journey and get a great view of Dingle bay.
• Pointers: Keep your dog on its lead. This is the local preference and also because some of the route is on the road.
EASK TOWER HIKE (5KM)
• Starting point: Marked on google, it is off Slea Head Drive. If you are feeling particularly active you can walk from Dingle town to the start point, but this will take you an extra hour.
• Time required: 30minutes to 1 hour
• Fitness level: Any, this is a route that suits all levels of fitness.
• Reasons to go: It is an easy hike but offers some amazing views right on the doorstep of Dingle.
• Pointers: There is a €2 fee to walk this trail as the tower itself sits on someone’s property.
While two feet will take you further than four wheels on the island. There is a limit to what can be seen when you restrict yourself to just the land of the Dingle Peninsula. Some of the most remarkable views here are at sea. Not to mention the once in a lifetime encounters that occur off the coast of our little peninsula.
If you are a fair-weather sailor and prefer to limit the amount of time you spend on deck, we suggest you take the ferry to Great Blasket Island. The journey is quick, at under an hour, giving you just enough time to get a different view of the peninsula and spy on some local wildlife. You have two options, to take the ferry from Dingle Harbour (40-50minutes) or from Dún Chaoin Pier (20 minutes). So it is up to you how much time you want to spend at sea. On most days the crossing is smooth but do check the weather and the swell before you go, especially if you are prone to seasickness.
On the other hand, if you already have your sea legs, there is a world of opportunity open to you in our surrounding waters. There are numerous tours, and you can even hire a boat yourself, assuming you have your skippers license. We have compiled some of the options open to you:
POWER BOAT TOUR:
Jump in a fully fueled rib with Dingle Sea Safari and get your adrenaline fix speeding past the peninsula cliffs and caves. Choose from a few route options, some concentrate on wildlife, others on scenery and some on just the essence of being out on the water at high speed. There is something to suit every group and every budget.
STAND UP PADDLE:
Test your balance while you adventure across the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Dingle bay is the perfect place to start, as it’s shelters keep the water calm.
HIRE YOUR OWN BOAT:
The most expensive way to see the coastline. But if you are a sailor or you just love getting out on those waters on your own, you can certainly hire a yacht here. Usually you can rent the boat with or without a skipper for a minimum of two days.
Explore Dingle the way that you want to .Whichever way you do it, we promise you will fall in love with it.