A beautiful peninsula to explore, allow some time here. There are sandy beaches tucked in all corners south, west, and north. In Europe, 20% of the coastline is backed by sand dunes. Within Ireland, County Kerry has the largest proportion of the nation's sandy beaches, with a good share on the Dingle Peninsula. Rising above the beaches are picturesque mountains with lush valleys in between. See sheep and cows grazing in the most extreme places, truly inspiring for mountain climbers. With all this, the peninsula is made for surfing, climbing, and sea faring.
The fabulous landscape attracts many talented artists to live in the area. It is a wonderful place to find gifts for the folks back home. Dingle is the center of metropolitan life, with lots of good entertainment and eats, and is a convenient hub for many day trips to surrounding points.
Camp is a sheep on the hillside, misty-air-kind-of-town, located at the foothills of the Slieve Mish Mountains. There is a Viewing Park 1 km outside of town. From Camp, the road ascends into the rain clouds that hang along the mountain ridge.
Anascaul is a pretty village with green fields, along a road that winds into a valley, with cows grazing on the surrounding hillsides. We kept our wipers on full blast driving through - it was pouring rain with beckoning streaks of sunlight in the west.
Dingle has gone through an identity crisis as of late -the Irish name on the roadside signs has been stenciled over with "Dingle" in white spray-paint. Find out the full extent of this battle in town - read the news clippings papered to a shop front on the main drag of town. Dingle has loads of options for food, entertainment, and fun.
Dunquin has a boat launch with a parking lot and hiking trail. Park and hike up through a sheep pasture to a scenic view of Blasket Sound and the Great Blasket Island. There is an Ogham Stone and World War II guard station on the hill. There are many galleries and artists studios here.
At Ballyferriter, visit the sandy beaches of Smerwick Harbour - the sand consists of all colors of the rainbow.
Take the road to Rough Point to visit Brandon Bay. It has another long strip of sandy beach, cupped around the water. This beach is flat and long during the day when the tide is out. It also has some fabulous grassy dunes. We saw lots of surfboards but no good surf, according to my travel companion. Look out for loose cows wandering into the road. It was windsurfing and kite sailing weather, though.
Fahamore is located at the tip of the skinny peninsula, there is a tiny pier into Tralee Bay. From here you can see the Seven Hogs or Magharee Islands.
Castlegregory is a town for those wishing to get into the wind and water. Lots of surfboards.
Take the pretty pass road from Camp to Aughils Bridge. It feels like the Dingle peninsula's backyard garden, winding along the edges of foothills. Coming down the pass, see a great view of Castlemaine Harbour, with its sandy banks at low tide.
Inch is a popular surf spot with even more sand dunes.
What to See and Do
Café Liteartha is Dingle's Irish-speaking café and bookstore. There is a good farmer's market every Friday from 9AM to 3PM in the Dingle Supervalu parking lot - find fresh baked goods, antiques, plants, cheeses, meats, and handmade wool sweaters. Visit The Weaver's Shop for locally made woolen goods (www.lisbethmulcahy.com). Canter in the early morning on the beach with Long's Horseriding and Trekking Centre (www.longsriding.com). Visit The Blascaod Centre, west of Dingle, to learn about the history of the Great Blasket Island, known as "The Writer's Island." Take a boat trip to the islands on the Great Blasket Island Ferry, leaving from Dingle and Dunquin (www.dinglebaycharters.com). Dive with Dingle Diving in the waters of Blasket Sound, no experience required (www.divingdingle.ie). Visit the Gallarus Oratory outside Ballyferriter. Climb Mount Brandon, a peak that is high and close to the sea. But if there are any clouds, they hang on this mountain -- you will lose the view and it can become quite dangerous. A good climb for a clear day. Drive Connor Pass, Ireland's highest mountain peak 1,500ft. Pick up The Kerry Way Map Guide, published by Cork Kerry Tourism, for information about the long walks on the peninsula. Or read New Irish Walk Guides - Southwest, by Sean O'Suilleabhain, published by Gill & Macmillan.
Where to Eat and Drink
James Ashe Pub in Camp, for an Irish Coffee warm-up. Tig Aine Café and Gallery, west of Dingle - owned by weaver and painter, this is an idyllic setting for lamb stew followed by fresh baked chocolate cake and a cup of tea. Watch the ducks play in a pool outside, and trace the mesmerizing outline of the Three Sisters with your fingertip (www.tigaine.com). The Blue Zone in Dingle is a fun place with deluxe pizza, a huge wine list, and live jazz. Located on Green Street. Out of the Blue is a fine seafood restaurant, located on the waterfront in Dingle. With dishes such as "Whole Sea Bass stuffed with thyme and rosemary and garlic butter" (28.50 euro), it had a line out the door. It looks like a fish shack outside, but the inside is candlelit and cozy. All fish is sourced from local Dingle fishermen - absolutely nothing is frozen. Make a reservation for dinner, Tel: 066 9150811.
Where to Sleep
South Pole Inn in Anascaul, where there's live music and food. Dingle Gate Hostel and Camping in Anascaul is highly recommended - very friendly owner Brian is knowledgeable of the area and has created a great place to stay, especially for big groups, with camping available in the field, and bike hire too (www.dinglegatehostel.com). There are lots of B&Bs and hotels in Dingle.
How to get there
From Tralee, take the N86 coastal road west toward Camp, to Anascaul. From Anascaul, take the N86 to Dingle. Continue west on the R559 coastal road around Slea Head, through Dunquin and Ballyferriter back to Dingle. From Dingle, take the Connor Pass road north up to Brandon, then loop around Brandon Bay heading east to Fahamore. Turn around and head south to Castlegregory, then down the R560 to Camp. Do not take the N86 back to Dingle; instead take the pretty pass road from Camp to Aughils Bridge. Take the R561 road west to Inch, then head back to Dingle.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
From April to October, when the days are longer and the sun comes out. The Feile na Casca Arts Festival, Baile na Fheirtearaigh, in April. The Feile Na Bealtaine Festival in May. Ballinclare Fair in Annascaul in May. World Bodhran Ch. in Milltown in June. Watch the Dingle Races in August at Ballintaggart Racecourse. The Agricultural Show in August. Patterns Day in Castlegregory in August. Blennerville Threshing Festival in September. Wren Day in December.
Beautiful, beautiful, utterly stunning and gorgeous place. More touristy than some of the SW cork peninsulas, but not as touristy as the Iveragh peninsula, because it lacks a major highway. This is place to find many quiet corners, off the beaten path. I had the fortune of meeting a cool woman who worked at a pottery studio, and her recommendations opened the doors to many new places, places that we really liked.
The Dingle Peninsula is seeped in rich history and folklore. Try to visit the cultural centers, such as The Blascaod Centre west of Dingle, to learn more about the area. Information will enable you to appreciate this truly unique place.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007