While the Cliffs of Moher were a last minute addition to my Ireland travel itinerary (read more about that here), the Dingle Peninsula had always been top of my list. Less touristy than the Ring of Kerry, equally if not more beautiful than the famous Cliffs, and not to mention a cinematic hotspot, I couldn’t stand to miss it.
Because of our stint at the Cliffs of Moher, my companions and I didn’t have time to road trip the entire Peninsula. I fully intend to head back and visit what I missed someday. Here’s what we did (and didn’t) see on our short visit to one of Ireland’s most underrated destinations.
We started our journey in Castlemaine, near our thatch cottage AirBnB. Heading west from there, Inch Beach is the first major tourist spot. This long stretch of sand is an absolutely stunning place to spend the day (if the weather allows). Since it was so foggy and wet outside, we chose to bypass this one, but I got the above image from afar.
After that, we headed to the town of Dingle. It’s the main hub for the entire Peninsula. There, you’ll find gorgeous seaside facades and a very handy tourist office. I would also recommend stopping here for a quick bite or coffee warm-up. The rest of the Peninsula doesn’t have much in the way of establishments for shopping or food, as natural beauty reigns supreme.
Part of the town’s tourism revolves around Fungie, the Dingle Dolphin. This bottlenose dolphin has been a permanent resident of the harbour since 1984. You can often spot him on a boat tour. If you’re really into aquatic life, there’s also the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium.
Even though we didn’t, I really urge you to either stay in Dingle; it’s a really beautiful Irish town. I can imagine it’s even more wonderful on a sunny summer day.
From here, you can continue on to the Slea Head Drive or around through Conor Pass on Spa Road. We chose to spend our time on the Slea Head. Conor Pass is the scenic route that heads back out of the Peninsula to the N86, and is the highest mountain pass in Ireland. It’s a one-lane road with pullover spots, and large vehicles aren’t recommended.
Slea Head Drive
Along Slea Head, there are so many things you can stop at: a Celtic Prehistoric Museum, the Famine Cottages, sheepdog demonstrations, Beehive Forts, etc. We managed a visit to one of the beehive forts.
The Beehive Forts
Fahan clochán is a small “heritage museum” of beehive forts. There’s not too much to the museum itself, a guy hands you a pamphlet and charges you a few euros to walk around there for five or so minutes. There is some debate as to when the forts were built, but the most likely guess is around the Stone Age. Ireland has many beehive forts around the country, just like this one.
The Sea Head viewpoint and Cooumeenoole Beach was our next stop. Y’all know how I love a wonderful natural site.
It’s honestly so beautiful. The surprisingly clear, cold blue water that crashes along the most westerly point in Ireland:
If you look passed the beach, you can hike along to the point to what is called the Devil Horns at Dunmore Head. It was insanely windy when we were there, so we didn’t go too far, for fear of blowing over into the Wild Atlantic.
A little further along the Peninsula is arguably the most notable site in the area. This landmark had caught my attention on Pinterest, and was the reason I researched Dingle and added it to my Ireland travel wish list. The site is called Dunquin Harbour or Dún Chaoin in Irish. The pier was actually pretty busy with tourists, but if you wait a couple minutes, the buses take everyone away pretty quickly.
It’s funny how things like this can make you feel so small.
Most people stopped there, took their photos and left, but I urge you to go all the way down. It’s honestly so awe-inspiring.
Driving the Dingle Peninsula
I wanted more time here so badly, but our adventure was taking us elsewhere. In all my research, everyone said you only needed three hours to drive the loop, but I disagree. You can drive the Peninsula in three hours, but you can’t see it in that time. If you really want to see everything on the Peninsula, with time to check out all the sites, I would recommend spending the night in Dingle, with the whole next day for road tripping around.
Other things to do
My companions and I missed most of the filming locations. Movies shot here include Star Wars, Ryan’s Daughter, and Far and Away. These can be found pretty easily by road signs and tourist maps. As with many places, I don’t recommend relying on your phone’s map too heavily, as service can be spotty, and some places don’t show up at all.
The Dingle Peninsula has so many different hiking spots, water sport activities, horse-back riding locations, wildlife watching opportunities, etc that its hard to list them all.
Here’s a link to a Dingle Peninsula tourist map that I found very helpful with different locations to all the above!
Overall, it’s a really naturally beautiful place with lots of history and activities. Dingle Peninsula is a lot less touristy than the Ring of Kerry, and a local favourite for a weekend getaway. If you haven’t heard of the Dingle Peninsula, add it to your list!