The town of Dingle sits on the edge of the Dingle Peninsula on the southwest coast of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Just a short ferry-ride from Dingle, you step onto the Blasket Islands and into a time long gone. Dingle Town is an artistic gem, rowdy, and colorful. Her shoreline is filled with eclectic shops, and traditional fishermen bring in a fresh catch every day. The Irish language rings down winding streets, and in the evening pubs come alive with traditional music. When the music starts up, where else in the world would you want to be?
Slea Head Scenic Drive
The legendary Slea Head Loop from Dingle town must be experienced. Head west out of Dingle, over the bridge at the end of town, and follow R559 toward Ventry. The road follows the south coast of the peninsula out to Slea Head, and goes north through Dunquin and Ballyferriter, before winding its way back to Dingle. The whole route is only 26 miles long, and it is one extraordinary vista after another. The scenery is breathtaking, dramatic, and glorious. If you love to bicycle, this route is a slice of heaven. Because much of the route hugs the coast, it is fairly level and makes for easy cycling.
Conor Pass Scenic Drive
From Dingle take the N86 towards Tralee. At Camp, approximately 20 miles from Dingle, turn left onto the R560–this is sign-posted ‘Castlegregory.’ The road forks, right for Castlegregory and left for Conor Pass and Dingle. Hang a left to return to Dingle by way of Ireland’s highest mountain pass. It’s not truly high—we started at sea level after all—but it is one of the most spectacular views imaginable. We don’t advise cycling this unless you enjoy backbreaking, uphill slogs.
Despite its name, Inch is one of the longest beaches in Ireland, With three miles of golden sand and wild dunes, it has been in many movies–it truly is a great Irish film star. Ideal for swimming, surfing, and very long walks, it’s a definite romantic must. For sheer drama, approach the beach on the R561 from Dingle. Like any Hollywood beauty, Inch will take your breath away.
Visit the Blasket Islands
The Blasket Islands are just a few miles off Slea Head. Great Blasket Island was inhabited for almost 300 years when the final 200 hardy souls were forced to abandon the island in 1953 due to lack of basic services—there was no school, shop, priest, or doctor. Many moved to Springfield, Massachusetts where, to this day, a copy of the weekly Kerryman newspaper is delivered to their doors.
The Great Blasket Heritage Center, located in Dunquin, tells the island’s moving story. It is said that the Blaskets are home to a number of ghosts. We don’t know about that, but the islands surely are a step back in time. To visit the Blaskets, you can take a ferry from the Dingle Marina.
Dingle seems like an odd place to contemplate surfing, and you won’t hear too many people refer to each other as ‘man’ or ‘dude,’ but the beaches and super waves (given the right conditions) make this an ideal place for the expert or novice. Inch Beach is perfect for the newbie, while the Atlantic-facing beach at Castlegregory is a magnet for pro’s. Confuse the dudes by ending all your sentences with ‘fear’ (pronounced ‘farr’, meaning ‘man’).
Lisbeth Mulcahy Weaving Shop
Lisbeth Mulcahy is one of the best known designer-weavers and tapestry artists in Ireland. Her workshop, Siopa na bhFiodóirí (The Weavers Shop), is in the heart of Dingle on Green Street. Before the industrial revolution, Dingle was an important center of handwoven linens. Today, stop into her shop for exquisite woolen scarves, wall hangings, and luscious throws. If you have something particular in mind, her work is also done on commission. You’re welcome to look at the looms with work in progress. Dingle has a strong art community, and Lisbeth Mulcahy’s designs are an authentic Irish experience. Bring something home!
The Pleasure of Murphy’s Ice Cream
Murphy’s Ice Cream Parlor, in the middle of Strand Street, is legendary. This isn’t just ice cream, this is ice cream made to perfection. After lunch or dinner, skip getting dessert at the restaurant and head straight to Murphy’s. Their Pink Champagne Sorbet, Honey Cardamom, and Chocolate Whiskey ice creams are practically life altering. (Murphy’s also serves the best coffee in Dingle.) The staff is cheerful and fun to joke around with. We can only assume they’re enjoying Murphy’s throughout the day.
Ireland and crystal go hand-in-hand, and just outside Dingle you’ll find the Dingle Crystal Workshop. Watch a master craftsman at work—it’s a rare experience. Sean Daly, the owner and formally a craftsman at Waterford Crystal, came to Dingle in 1998 to further his passion. Dingle has been an inspiration—you’ll see carefully crafted pieces with six different Celtic themes. Each one is personally designed, cut, and signed by the master himself. Sean is accommodating to all who visit. He takes the time to give demonstrations whenever possible. The workshop is located just outside Dingle Town, and his display shop is located in the heart of Dingle.
Climb Mt Brandon
Irish mountains are actually large hills, the highest being just over 3,000 ft., so most of them can be climbed in a few hours. The reward is unimaginable. In Ireland, reaching the summit of a mountain means you will have a grand, unobstructed view. Ireland rolls in front of you while the Atlantic yawns, stretches, and glistens behind you. Begin your adventure just beyond the village of Claghane (over Conor Pass from Dingle) and park near Miss O’Connor’s House. Ask folks in Dingle or Cloghane for the best route. The amazement factor is best on a clear day.
The Dingle Peninsula is like an open-air museum—it is filled with national monuments and historical sites. (It seems that people have always preferred to live in extraordinary places with a view.) Highlights include the Gallarus Oratory. This 1200-year-old dry-stone oratory is in perfect condition, and is a splendid example of the ingenious building methods used at the time. The Beehive Huts scattered along the Slea Head drive, between Slea Head and Dunquin, feel like miracles.
Walk the Dingle Way
If you want a slow-paced holiday, one that really gets you close to the land and the people, consider taking eight or nine days to walk the Dingle Way. The route is well-marked, is 110 miles long, and makes a complete loop of the peninsula. It passes through both Dingle and Tralee, so it’s best to start at one of these towns.
Here’s a dream for you: Sailing around the entirety of Ireland. For starters, how about chartering a yacht and spending a week or two pottering around the myriad islands, bays, inlets, and harbors of Kerry and Cork. Perhaps stopping in at Crookhaven for a pint of Guinnesss and the best crab sandwich anywhere. There are also rivers to navigate and explore. Ireland was made for those with sailing dreams.
Enjoy Fresh Fish
Dingle is at heart a fishing village. Every day the trawlers return with a haul of freshly-caught fish. Local restaurateurs descend on the harbor to pick the best salmon, bream, crab, sole, turbot, scallops, mussels, and lobsters. Savor the best fish dinner you’ve ever had. Whether it’s fish stew at a local pub, or lobster served in a fine restaurant with linen tablecloths, it is delicious. Imagine this meal: Seared scallops, flambéed in cognac and served with dressed seasonal greens, followed by a char-grilled kebab of monkfish served on a green, mango puree with coriander butter. Pure bliss.
Discover Dingle’s Amazing Pub Food & Music
Dingle is the perfect pub crawl town. There are 65 pubs in small Dingle, and most have live music starting at 9 pm. Here are some pubs that should definitely be on your crawl, and every one serves up music most nights: McCarthy’s Pub, Goat Street; An Droichead Beag, Main Street; Foxy John’s, Main Street; Adam’s, Main Street; John Benny’s, Strand Street; Danno’s Bar, Strand Street; Dick Macks, Green Street; and O’Flaherty’s, Bridge Street.
Dingle is full of small pubs. You may find one that’s scruffy, can’t accept credit cards, and the barman may be struck dumb if you order a martini, but it is here you will find true Dingle happiness. And pub food is beautiful. Arrive about 8:00 and order fresh fish stew or beef stew for dinner. When the music begins, you’ll have a perfect seat.