The Dingle Peninsula is part of County Kerry. Kerry encompasses three peninsulas: Dingle to the north, Iveragh (where you’ll find the Ring of Kerry) in the middle, and Beara to the south (with the southern half actually in County Cork).
The start of the Dingle Peninsula is 1.5 hours southwest of Limerick City (though expect another 45 minutes from Tralee to reach Dingle town or just over an hour to reach Dunquin at the very end of the peninsula). The Dingle Peninsula is 35 minutes northwest of Killarney town and 1h45 minutes from the city of Cork.
Dublin to Dingle is a longer distance, taking almost 4 hours. The nearest airports are Kerry Airport (20 km), Shannon and Cork Airports (both about 120 km), and finally, Dublin, which is 300 km away. The town of Tralee is connected to Dublin and Cork via train (change in Mallow), and to Limerick by bus. As always, the best way to get around rural Ireland is by car.
The main town of the peninsula, Dingle town is a buzzing little place. Located at the centre of the peninsula on the southern shore, Dingle is well known for its famed Irish trad music, lovely arts and crafts shops, vibrant atmosphere and great seafood. Only recently, it was also known for its most famous resident Fungi the dolphin, but sadly he seems to have passed away.
Dingle has long attracted artists of all kinds – we recommend that you take the time to meander through the town’s many arts and crafts shops to meet the artisans long inspired by this mystical peninsula.
It’s a good place to eat and drink too. Favourite spots include Foxy John’s, which still has a dual function like in bygone times, combining a pub and a hardware shop. Out of the Blue – spectacular seafood only restaurant, Dick Mack’s – for drinks and whiskey tasting as well as a plethora of others. It is worth noting that there is limited accommodation in the town centre.
Though perhaps not the most beloved of all Irish towns, Tralee town is important for a few reasons. Sitting at the edge of the Dingle Peninsula, Tralee is the closest train station to Dingle.
It is also the official start and endpoint of the Dingle Way. Tralee is where you’ll find plenty of larger shops, businesses, restaurants and accommodations. While staying on the peninsula itself is perhaps nicer, Dingle is a popular destination and can fill up quickly. Tralee and its environs make a good alternative.
This little village only comprises a few buildings – really only a couple of roads. While sleepy by day, the village is all abuzz by night. Though small, Annascaul still manages to house half a dozen pubs and cafes, and there are several guesthouses there too. Situated along the Dingle Way, this little village is popular with hikers. Its most famous habitant was an adventurer too – Tom Crean was an Antarctic explorer who went to the South Pole with both Scott and Amundsen. Upon returning to Ireland, whose weather must have felt positively mild and balmy after Antarctica, Crean decided to open a pub. Interested in learning more? Why not head down to the South Pole Inn for dinner or drinks while perusing the Antarctic exploration paraphernalia on display.
At the westernmost end of the peninsula, only a stone’s throw from Slea Head, Ireland’s westernmost tip, sits the little harbour village of Dunquin. Heading to the Blasket Islands? This is where you’ll likely catch your boat. Even if you aren’t heading out to sea, the twisty, narrow pier itself, built into the dramatic rocky cliff, is worth seeing. There are also a couple of cosy cafes with stunning views over Slea Head and the Blasket Islands. Whether you’re headed out to the islands or not, you should take the time to visit the Blasket Island Heritage Centre situated in Dunquin.
The north side of the island is far quieter and more sparsely populated than the south and east. For those hiking the Dingle Way or simply traversing Mt Brandon or the Saddle, a stop at the tiny village of Brandon is a must – a pint at the seaside pub is a well-deserved treat for getting over the mountain. The tiny, traditional Murphy’s Pub at the shore offers some nice coastal views and refreshing pints. Though actually very small, the village will feel practically cosmopolitan after spending all day out on the hills. Those up for a bit of extra credit can head another 2.5 km north to Brandon Point to enjoy great views to the north.
Still small, Castlegregory is at least a little bit bigger than Brandon Village. Castlegregory is home to a couple of cafes, pubs and restaurants. Sitting on a tiny peninsula on a larger peninsula, the seafood is pretty great, as one might expect. This small peninsula along the Dingle Peninsula is known as the Maharees and is home to quite a stretch of sandy beaches. In fact, a system of beaches run from the northern tip of the Maharees peninsula nearly all the way to Brandon, over 10km of beach. This is one of the final walks along the Dingle Way (for those travelling clockwise, the traditional direction).
The Dingle Way is one of Ireland’s many way-marked long distance trails. It is probably one of the best known such trails. The full trail measures 176 km or 109 miles, circumnavigating the Dingle Peninsula. It is usually walked in 7-8 days. Many chose to simply walk a section or two of the trail, while others prefer to walk the whole thing.
The official start and endpoint is in Tralee, though the first part of the walk isn’t as lovely as the rest, so some walkers prefer to transfer to Annascaul for the first day of the walk. While some might try to walk it on their own, the easiest way to hike the Dingle Way is through a tour company that can arrange baggage transfers, hotel and restaurant bookings, picnic lunches and tour info – even a guide for those who prefer small group hiking trips. This ensures a great hiking experience without the stress of researching, organising, booking, and navigating – all you have to focus on is the views and which beer to reward yourself with at the end of the day.
There are so many beaches and spectacular coastlines surrounding the Dingle Peninsula. Read on for a short summary of a few favourites, in a clockwise direction of the peninsula.
Likely Dingle’s most famous beach, Inch Beach is one of the first beaches visitors to the peninsula will encounter. Situated on a narrow peninsula in southeast Dingle, Inch Beach stretches for 3 miles of uninterrupted sandy beach. Nearly stretching all the way to the Iveragh Peninsula, Inch Beach offers great views of both Dingle and the Ring of Kerry. The village of Inch is small, but there are still some small accommodation options and a couple of restaurants, one which sits right on the beach. Inch Beach is popular for swimming, kite surfing, and other water sports. Both films Ryan’s Daughter, and Playboy of the Western World, a film adaptation of J.M. Synge’s play of the same name, shot scenes at Inch.
About 8km west of Dingle town, find Ventry Bay Beach, a pretty little crescent of sand running along the coast for about 2km. Though smaller than Inch Beach, Ventry Bay is a very scenic place and great for walking. Unlike Inch Beach, the Dingle Way actually runs along Ventry Bay, and is one of the first sections of beach walking along the trail. The bay hosts a small system of sand dunes. It is also a good spot for swimming and sunbathing.
Slea Head is Ireland’s westernmost point – next stop, North America! Though perhaps not Ireland’s most remote corner, Slea Head, Dunmore Head and the surrounding coastline is very beautiful. The headland is topped with soft grass, clipped short by the grazing sheep. Walkout to the end of the point for some really lovely views over the Blasket Islands, a set of remote islands that once hosted a small but colourful local population until the 1950s (read more below). Just down from Slea Head is Coumeenoole Beach, a tiny pocket of sand with a dramatic rocky backdrop. Fancy a cuppa? There are a couple of cute cafes in the area – perfect to enjoy a hot drink with a jaw-dropping view.
Dunquin Harbour is an impressive engineer feat, a twisty passage carved into a cliff face leading down to the sea. From here, you can take a short crossing to the Blasket Islands. The Blaskets are an archipelago of six islands, though the Great Blasket Island was the only one with a permanent village on it. A small but thriving community once lived here, home to a rich story-telling and folklore tradition, producing a surprising number of literary works for its small size. Increasingly harsh conditions and a wildly high emigration rate of the island led to the surviving community being evacuated in the 50s. Not much of the village remains, but a few of the cottages have been lovingly restored. Wander the small island paths, spot diving seabirds and frolicking seals, and immerse yourself in the island heritage.
Read more about the Blaskets & their literary heritage.
There is a string of beaches in the area around Smerwick Harbour, such as the spectacular Wine Strand. Compared to other parts of Dingle, the northern beaches of the peninsula are tranquil and remote, with only a few visitors who come to wander these sandy shores. But those who do are rewarded with sandy shores, dramatic backdrops and beautiful views across the bay to Murreagh.
This peninsula jutting out of the northern reaches of Dingle offers some of the longest and most lovely beaches in Kerry. For those walking the Dingle Way, enjoy some spectacular beach walking along the Maharees. This area is very popular for water sports, such as kite surfing and water skiing. The Maharees is a Special Area of Conservation – admire the flocks of whooper swans and other seabirds.
Along the Dingle Way and beyond, there are a number of cloháns or beehive huts of different sizes.
Related to the famous beehive huts on the iconic islands of Skellig Michael, these dry stone structures are erected in the shape of a beehive. They can be found in a range of sizes and different construction styles throughout Ireland. Their mysterious origins make them hard to date – some date to as early as the 6th century, while others might be even older.
There are quite a lot of these cloháns, particularly the smaller ones, built into the wild emerald landscapes of Ireland. Those hiking the Dingle Way can expect to see some such cloháns while walking from Dingle to Slea Head.
One of the most unique places in Dingle is the Gallarus Oratory.
The Gallarus Oratory is an early Christian site, dating from sometime between the 7th and 12th centuries. This uniquely impressive place is a dry stone “church,” meaning it was constructed without the use of mortar. One of Ireland’s most intriguing archaeological sites, this site is worth a visit for anyone with an interest in architecture, history and heritage.
From the church, visitors can enjoy lovely views of Smerwick Harbour, Mt Brandon and more. There is also a small visitor centre and amenities located on-site.
Following a narrow lane south of the wee village of Annascaul, hikers will arrive at a remote, stony beach.
Here, gaze up at the romantic ruins of Minard Castle, a 16th century fortified tower-house built by the Fitzgeralds, the family who once ruled the Dingle Peninsula in bygone times.
Minard Castle is the only one of the three historic Fitzgerald castles built in Dingle to have substantial ruins still visible. The imposing coastal ruins of Minard Castle sit along the Dingle Way, and makes for an imposing sight.
Whether you plan to head out to the Blasket Islands or not, a visit to the Blasket Island Centre in Dunquin is a must.
The centre is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what life was like for the island community, as well as a look at their rich literary and story-telling heritage.
Here, you will learn the rise and fall of the community who once called the Blaskets home, details of their lifestyle and culture, scenes from daily island life, and what has become of the islands today following their 1952 evacuation.
Antarctic explorer and local Annascaul resident Tom Crean went on several expeditions to Antarctica with both Scott and Admundson.
Lucky enough to survive his dangerous adventures, he eventually retired to his native Dingle. Upon his return to Ireland, Tom Crean hung up his crampons and instead decided to go into the (slightly) safer publican business.
Visit his pub, South Pole Inn, decorated with Antarctic paraphernalia to learn more about this fascinating fellow – and get a pint while you’re at it.
While not Sligo or the Boyne Valley, both of which are home to enormous amounts of Neolithic sites, Dingle still has its fair share of monuments. Check out the Aughacasla standing stone.
According to local archaeologists, this area also has the highest concentration of Ogham stones – about 60. Ogham is an ancient form of writing using notches carved into stones to represent ancient Irish, and date from the 4th-8th century. There is one along the Mt Brandon saddle trail, others in small graveyards such as Kilmalkedar Church, still more scattered across the peninsula.
Another ancient site is the relatively complete Cathair na bhFionnúrach – a stone fort that is likely Iron Age or early medieval.
If you have time, you might like to take a short detour to visit the restored early 19th-century Blennerville Windmill, a dominant landmark on the outskirts of Tralee.
Ireland’s largest working historic windmill, Blennerville Windmill was lovingly restored in the 1980s. The on-site visitor centre hosts plenty of information about the windmill itself as well as the Kerry Model Railway, a delight for children and adults alike.
Dingle has a large proportion of coastline, making the possibility of spotting marine wildlife fairly good. So keep your eyes out for dolphins, porpoises, seals and even the occasional whale or very rarely, basking sharks.
The Blasket Islands are especially good for bird-watching and wildlife spotting as they require a boat to get there, and the absence of regular humans means more animal life. Spot seabirds swooping along the coast and seals basking in the sun. The Dingle area is also known to have Whooper swans and the Bewick’s mute swans.
Fungi the dolphin used to be Dingle’s most famous resident, but sadly after 30 years of living in the harbour in Dingle, the dolphin passed away in 2020.
A particular species of note is the Natterjack toad, a rare type of small toad that lives in shallow pools and sandy dunes in just a handful of places in the UK and Ireland. Dingle is one of the few places where they can still be found.
Irish trad music is one of the most enduring aspects of Irish culture. The songs played are usually folk tunes, passed down through communities over generations.
Typical instruments include harps, fiddles, the bodhran (a type of drum), the tin whistle (a small wind instrument), a bouzouki (imagine a guitar meets banjo) or the uilleann pipes, and more recently, the guitar.
Trad sessions are an important kind of community gathering, taking place in pubs later in the evening after dinner time. Some parts of Ireland have become hotspots for Irish trad music – one of which is Dingle. With countless pubs and eateries, an average night in Dingle hosts half a dozen trad sessions. Perhaps this is due to the strong Gaeltacht communities that still reside on the Dingle Peninsula, and the strong sense of tradition held onto by the local community.
Mentioned quite a few times already, the Dingle Way is one of southwest Ireland’s best-known way-marked paths. The full Dingle Way trail measures 176 km or 109 miles, winding along the coast of the Dingle Peninsula. Most hikers who plan to do the whole trail will walk it in 7-8 days. Some hikers may instead choose to hike sections of it instead. The Dingle Way encompasses a variety of terrain – country road, beach walking, rugged mountain terrain, gentle farmers path and the occasional busier road. It is important to note that sections of the Dingle Way do follow roads and that hikers should be aware of cars. Learn more about hiking the Dingle Way yourself on a small group tour. Prefer to make it private? Perhaps a self guided tour of the Dingle Way is more your style.
Beyond the Dingle Way, or rather as part of it, there are a few off-road hikes worth mentioning.
The majestic Mt Brandon is said to be named for St Brendan the Navigator, who legend claims had a vision of the “Promised Land” from the summit of Mt Brandon. The rest of the story sees Brendan and his monks set sail across the sea to this so-called “Promised Land” (ie North America) in 535 AD (over 900 years before Columbus). For anyone looking for a challenge, follow the spectacular pilgrimage trail to the summit of the mountain. At 952 metres, it’s one of Ireland’s highest peaks, so proper gear is required. The route is 13km or 8 miles.
Hike this walk on our trip, Deluxe Hiking in the Kerry Mountains.
A shorter and somewhat easier (but not too easy) version of this hike is to follow the trail over Mt Brandon’s Saddle. Following the Dingle Way, you’ll start along a green road that leads up and over the shoulder or saddle, past the Ogham stones and down the other side, eventually ending at Brandon village. This off-road path is still no picnic – it’s the highest point along the Dingle Way – but is at a lower elevation than summiting the mountain itself. Views of Dingle are superb in every direction. The whole hike for this section of the Dingle Way is about 18km.
Hike this walk on our trip, hiking the Dingle Way.
The Saints Way – a hike that is about 17 km/10.5 miles long – is one of Ireland’s oldest pilgrimage ways. The Crosan NaNoamh follows an early Irish pilgrimage path to the foot of Mt Brandon, which has its own saintly connections (see above). Along the way, hikers following in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims will take in an early medieval oratory and old stone crosses – not to mention beautiful panoramas of Dingle’s hills and coastline.
Interested in pilgrimages? Read our guide to Irish caminos.
There are a number of hikes and walks in the Annascaul area, on and off trail. While of course, the Dingle Way passes through Annascaul, there are other options in the area too, on a variety of surfaces including road, trail, and rugged terrain. Annascaul Lake (mostly country lanes) is a popular option, but there are off-road options too like Glenhoo Trail, Maca na Bó Trail and Acres Hill (the first two start at the Annascaul car park, while the last in Minard Cove). There are a few Tom Crean heritage walks as well, following country laneways.
While the Dingle Way passes below Mount Eagle, there is an option to make the hike into even more of an off-road mountain trail adventure. Hiking over the saddle of Mt Eagle, bask in uninterrupted Atlantic views. Along the way, discover Dingle’s rich collection of ancient archaeological sites, such as standing stones, prehistoric monuments and clochans or beehive huts, dry-stone huts with corbeled roof structures from bygone times.
Hike this walk on our trip, hiking the Dingle Way.
There are many beaches to walk along on Dingle. Inch Beach, Ventry Beach, Wine Strand, to name a few. There’s no shortage of sandy shores here. But if you’re going to do a beach hike, why not walk along the longest and most impressive one. Head north to Castlegregory and the Maharees peninsula to hike this incredible stretch of beachy coastline that runs for kilometres.
Part of the Maharees hike is on the Dingle Way.
A visit to the Blasket Islands is a little bit like time travelling. Evacuated in the 1950s due to its remoteness and outdated conditions, the Blaskets once sustained a remote island population of about 100 people. Take the boat across the sound to the Great Blasket to hike across the island. Learn about the lost island community and its rich storytelling heritage, while keeping an eye out for nesting seabirds, whales, dolphins, seals, and more.
This walk is part of our Island Hopping in Cork & Kerry trip.
This is a hard question to answer, In short – it depends on what you are looking for. Kerry has three peninsulas, and each has its own charms.
The Beara Peninsula is the wildest and least-visited one, but also the furthest away. The Iveragh Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry, is the most popular part of Kerry. It’s also home to Killarney National Park, the first established of Ireland’s six national parks. The terrain is mountainous and is home to Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest peak, as well as other large peaks in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains. But it can get busy during the summer, with traffic on the roads, busy restaurants and limited availability at accommodations, and some of the hiking can be a bit challenging. The Kerry Way is a lovely trail but the accommodation options along the way are very limited and can get quite tricky, making it hard to walk in its entirety if you don’t want to camp.
The Dingle Peninsula is softer, and perhaps more suited to those who prefer lower level terrain. Dingle has a superb number of beaches, and though Dingle town can get busy, it’s pretty easy to get off the beaten track once you leave Dingle town and Slea Head behind. Dingle still has some rugged terrain with Mt Brandon, Mt Eagle and the Conor Pass, and it also has pockets of the Gaeltacht where Irish is the main language spoken. The Dingle Way has far more accommodation options than the Kerry Way, though it’s good to note that the Dingle Way does involve some stretches of road walking.
Jul 15, 2022
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