Ah Dingle, what a beautiful place, and so close to London in reality. Just a mere hour (ish) flight from the big smoke and its like being in a different world. Gone are the high rise grey structures we call office buildings. Gone is the thick and dusty smog air, and the everyday rush and crush of everyone and everything that make up a ‘normal’ day. In their place are green and open fields, towering mountains, blue coastlines, buildings with colour and air that doesn’t rot your lungs.
Ever the fan of road trips and wanting to experience a new part of Ireland this year, the girl and I set out by hire car (ironic with me preaching about air quality I know) from our friends home in Newcastle West to explore a most popular destination for visitors to Ireland – no doubt owing to glowing references from National Geographic and Trip Advisor – the Dingle Peninsula.
“Allow me to begin with a flat statement: The Dingle Peninsula which stretches out 30 miles from the county Kerry coast in southwestern Ireland is the most beautiful place on earth.”
Boris Weintraub in the 1986 National Geographic “Traveler.”
Here are 10 reasons why I think you should follow in our footsteps are road trip the Dingle Peninsula for yourselves.
1. The Roads
Narrow, sometimes single lane, but twisty, winding and a whole lot of fun to drive. Kind of essential for a road trip right? – hence being number 1 on the list.
I thought that I had reached the pinicle of driving experiences by getting behind the wheel and travelling the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania, but whilst that was amazing for road itself, The Slea Head Drive offers its own incredible driving experience.
2. The Colours
For the colours, just take a walk around town. Take in the yellow and green bunting which celebrate country Kerry’s championship football (the gaelic find) team. Then move on to the crazy coloured pubs and shops (even the for sale signs are colourful), it sure beats the grey of London.
3. The History
How does Stone Age/Bronze Age/Iron Age do you for history?
The collection of Clochan at Fahan on the Dingle Peninsula is said to be among the most remarkable in Ireland. As per the above sentence, the date of their construction is estimated anywhere between erm … well they’re old, very old, but no one is sure just how old.
More commonly referred to as beehives, due to the way they look, a Clochan is a kind of dry stone hut type structure. Pay a small entry fee at the Fahan site gate and you can walk around the remains of a cluster of Clochan, and even witness a spot of excavation work as more of the hut type structures are uncovered.
4. The Scenery
Views, views and more views, they’re everywhere.
Atop Connor’s Pass you can see for miles. From the Slea Head Road you can see out onto Irelands most westley point – Dunmore Head, and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. This is a place where it’s hard to take a bad photo.
5. The Beaches
I wrote two years ago (I think) about how I might had found Ireland most perfect beach – Silver Strand, Donegal. However it now has a rival in Dingle’s own Inch Beach, what a place.
Maybe try a spot of surfing if you’re feeling energetic, if not maybe just grab an ice cream and go for a walk along the sands bare foot.
6. The Tranquility
Maybe not Dingle town itself, but drive over Connors Pass towards Catlegregory and Tralee Bay, find the right turning, crawl the length of a few single track stone roads, and you’ll eventually arrive at this place – Glanteenassig. The perfect place for a spot of fishing, hiking, or even just a nice picnic. So get your Jordans and fly-fishing reels ready before venturing out there.
7. The Harbour
So peacefull looking, with its mirror like waters reflecting incredible cloud formations, the harbour is the perfect place to take a light stroll early in the morning or later in the evening.
If you’re feeling particularly energetic and adventurous, kayaking tours are available.
8. The Fresh Fish
It tastes so good when it touches your lips.
You can’t get much fresher than this, and being Ireland, they aren’t shy when it comes to portion sizes either. After all your exploring you must be hungry?
9. A Dolphin named Fungi
Now don’t kill me, but this one is a bit of a cheat as I did not actually get to see Fungi, or any other dolphin which the locals claimed to be the most famous dolphin in Europe – can a single dolphin really live to 40 years of age? But anyway, within Dingle there is a dolphin(s), and a famous one, and therefore another reason to visit. That said, you’ll obviously have to get out of the car for this one, and change to boat as your mode of transport.
Photo credit – Paul Downey
10. The pubs.
The pubs, of course the pubs! Where else would you go of an evening once you’ve driven the Slea Head Drive, been up to see the views from Conor’s Pass, taken in ancient bee hives and scoffed yourself full of fresh fish? Like most places in Ireland, the Dingle Town pubs are full of life come evening time. Local brews are served over the bar by friendly bar staff, as traditional Irish music is no doubt played by one man and his guitar, to an audience of locals and tourists alike. Essentially they’re as colourful on the inside as they are on the outside.
A drink and some proper irish pub grub is a grand way to finish off your day of touring the Dingle Peninsula.
So there you go, 10 reasons for you to should take a road trip around the Dingle Peninsula. The Slea Head Drive is up there in terms of driving routes, and easily rivals the nearby Ring of Kerry route. In fact, why not add a few days to your trip and do both routes?