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Pocket Guide: Dingle
Once called “the most beautiful place on earth” by National Geographic, the Dingle Peninsula is one of the most scenic driving holidays in Ireland, and home to some of the finest beaches on the island. The Dingle Peninsula has a selection of spectacular driving routes that will allow you to explore both the rugged coastline of one of The Wild Atlantic Way’s signature routes, and the vast dominating landscape of the surrounding mountains.
Driving the Dingle Peninsula
While there are a number of short driving routes to explore when visiting Dingle, the Slea Head Drive is perhaps the most popular, starting and ending in Dingle itself. This 50km loop can be covered in a day, enabling you to easily visit many of Dingles famous attractions and landmarks. This drive covers an area of outstanding, and in some cases unrivalled, natural beauty, as you travel through mountains and past the Blasket Islands.
The Slea Head Drive will see you pass through Dingle, and the neighbouring towns of Ventry, Dunquin, Ballyferriter and Ballydavid, while you can leave the route to travel through the mountains and explore Ireland’s highest mountain pass by driving Connor’s Pass. These narrow, twisting roads should be passed with caution but provide the most dramatic and scenic views over Dingle.
The Great Blasket
One of the most popular stops along the Slea Head Drive is the parish of Dunquin, home of the Blasket Islands. Dominated by the Great Blasket, the islands represent the most western point in Ireland, with nothing but water standing between you and America.
The islands have remained uninhabited since 1953 but remain one of the main attractions in Dingle, and are one of 15 signature points along the popular Wild Atlantic Way coastal drive. The Blaskets, and indeed the Dingle Peninsula, are also considered one of the best birdwatching areas in Ireland, with tens of thousands of birds nesting here each summer.
Not far from the Blasket Islands you’ll find the famous Fahan Beehive Huts, while the ancient site of Dunbeg Fort can be found a short distance from the Beehive Huts near the town of Ventry. The structure is believed to date back to the Iron Age although much of the fort has been lost to sea over the years due to erosion.
Things to Do in Dingle
No trip to Dingle would be complete without meeting the town’s most famous face, Fungi the Dolphin. Dingle Dolphin Tours run across the year (weather permitting) providing a one-hour tour to see Fungi, while you can also enjoy a Sea Safari Tour of the area or relax on a Dingle Harbour Cruise. Water-based activities are hugely popular in Dingle with surfing, diving and kayaking on offer throughout the year.
The area is also great for cycling and walking trips, with the 153km Dingle Way walking route attracting many keen walkers and hikers to the area. Starting in the town of Tralee, the route takes you through mountainous terrain and stunning coastal walks, providing several amazing photo opportunities and picnic stops along the way.
For food lovers among you, Dingle stakes a strong claim for the culinary capital of Ireland with some great restaurants, seafood and local food producers. The Dingle Cookery School will also give you a taste for the area and ‘real’ Irish cookery. Pubs and Dingle go hand in hand, with the town being home to an amazing variety of pubs, allowing you to enjoy an epic pub crawl. Head for Main Street, John Street and Strand Street and you’ll not go wrong.