The Dingle Peninsula is a beauty to behold. The entire Kerry Kingdom is really. So if a sunny weekend should crop up and you are hankering for a getaway, look no further than this staycation destination. Yes, Ireland can be pricey and yes we don’t always get the weather for outdoorsy stuff but when the sun shines here our little island is up there with the best of them. Read on to get the deets on my Big 5 must-dos on your Dingle trip.
Dingle, located on the peninsula is about 50km south west of Tralee and the main town in the Gaeltacht region. (For you non-Irish readers Gaeltacht means a predominantly Irish speaking area. But no fear, they do also speak English). Enjoy those windy roads on your way there and hope you’re not the one driving so you can actually look out the window and enjoy the views.
There are plenty of places to stay in Dingle but if you can plan ahead you get your choice of properties. Check out Airbnb with my link for a discount. Or have a look on booking.com for more hotel deals. There are b&bs a plenty on the town and a short walk outside of it so you won’t be stuck.
(This post contains affiliate links and while you earn a discount I might earn a small amount of money if you sign up and book through my link.)
The Big 5
Just like on safari there are top things to look out for on a Dingle weekend. These are my BIG5!
1) Dingle Distillery
Dingle is the proud host of one of Ireland’s most successful distillers and a stop here is a fun way to learn a little more about the industry and sample some delicious whiskey (and gin and vodka). While Dingle gin isn’t my favourite Irish gin, it was really interesting to check out the entire production process and hear the fun facts about this trailblazing Irish start-up. They are even discussing maturing whiskey in champagne casks. Whatever will they think of next? The tour is about 45 minutes to an hour and includes a whiskey sampler and a gin or vodka sampler with mixers if desired. The tour guides are witty, knowledgeable and interesting and the pride in the success of this Irish company is oozing from every pore. Dingle Distillery’s premises is just outside the town, towards Ventry, in an old, blue sawmill. Adult tickets cost €15 and under 10s are not allowed on site.
1 June – 31 August: 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm
1 September – 30 September: 12pm, 2pm & 4pm
1 October – 28 February: 2pm & 4pm
1 March – 31 May: 12pm, 2pm & 4pm
2) Dingle Sea Safari – Up Close and Personal Tour
Being a fishing village, Dingle heavily relies on the sea for tourism and trade so there is an abundance of Dingle Bay cruises to choose from. What I loved about this particular bay cruise is that there is an option for an early starter trip which means you have the bay to yourself, pretty much and no crowds or boats full of tours in your shots.
The obvious bonus is that if the bay’s most famous inhabitant, Fungie, decides to come out to play you are the only boat vying for his attention. Fungie is a common bottlenose dolphin estimated to be about 40-45 years old and has been a resident of the bay since about 1983. He is a wild animal and the local tourism companies are very aware of this, making sure not to crowd him or chase after him. It is utterly glorious heading out on the rib with a max of 10 people in the rib, skipping over the waves towards to sea caves and stunning coastline. This two-hour trip costs €40 and departs from the jetty by the dolphin statue at 8am so booking is essential. Click the link here for more info.
3) Drive the Dingle Peninsula
As I mentioned before the Irish coastline is breathtaking in its ruggedness and I love when road trips reveal the tendrils of land reaching out into the ocean that define the edges or our island. The peninsula drive takes about 1.5 hours-2.25 hours without stopping.
This is obviously a moot estimation of time since you most definitely will be stopping at various points along the drive. It’s recommended that you drive the head in a clockwise direction to avoid getting stuck behind the tour buses driving the same route but on the anticlockwise route. Only in Ireland, eh! We went from Dingle to Ventry and out to Dunquin Pier which is an absolute MUST see. This iconic viewpoint offers incredible vistas out to the Blasket Islands and the winding lane down to the pier.
4) Horse riding on the beach
While there are a few locations to choose from, my experience was at Long’s Riding Centre in Ventry and I cannot recommend them highly enough. The horses are so well cared for and the instructors put all riders at ease and question you on your previous riding experience so they can match you with a pony suited to your level.
NO Irish staycation is complete in my opinion, without some animals in the picture. Even if you are a complete novice you are catered for and the route is gentle and picturesque. For those of us who like to feel the wind in your hair a bit here is a beach gallop option and if you’re a little nervy it’s a gentle stroll over the dunes. €35 gets you a one-hour beach trek but check out their website for more options including mountain treks and full day rides.
5) Tom Crean’s Bar in Annascaul
If you fancy a little history and a drink to quench your thirst after all that galavanting the stop off in Tom Crean‘s bar The South Pole Inn in Annascaul. HEre you can learn more about the intrepid Irish Antartic explorer whose bravery and resilience saved the lives of his crewmates on more than one occasion. His adventures on Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration team would send shivers down your spine, literally. Memorabilia and facts as well as photos, and books tell the tale of this man’s life and odyssey. Our own unsung hero. Plus there’s plenty of outdoor seats to enjoy a cheeky tipple before heading back into Dingle town.
Extras: Foodie fun
No visit to Dingle would be complete without utterly stuffing yourself at the many incredible restaurants in the town. Serving platters of fresh seafood hauled from the ocean floor that very morning to exquisitely prepared fine dining dishes, Dingle has something to suit everyone. I can certainly recommend the Global Village for their fantastic tasting menu of crab dishes, trout, scallops, duck, gorse icecream and so much more. Don’t miss out on making a reservation for Out of the Blue. This brightly painted, cozy spot prides itself on the freshness of its dishes and the creativity applied. Six oysters for €11 and seared scallop and tuna kebabs get my vote every time.
Then, there’s the scrumptious Murphy’s ice-cream shops whose flavours include caramelised brown bread and Dingle gin.
Extra activities to keep you busy during your Dingle visit must include visiting the many beehive huts (clochán-stone dwellings) scattered around the peninsula. Some are literally to be found in people’s gardens.
There is a famine cottage on the Slea Head drive which gives an accurate impression of how homes were built back in the early 19th century using mud and stone. Until recently it was used by writers and photographers as a retreat lodging but now it lies empty. As you drive about the Dingle Peninsula you may notice, time of year permitting, of course, signs advertising ‘Hold a Lamb’. Some farmers and landowners are letting passers-by get up close and personal with a lamb for a few euro. Some places also permit lamb feeding.
If you can’t handle getting that close to the local fauna you may want to spy Kerry bog ponies grazing in the fields around the peninsula. These originally feral ponies lived in the peat bogs but farmers noted they were small enough to haul peat carts and they roped them in to working on the land. These ponies number about 300 and are 10-12 hands / that’s up to about 1m in lay person speak. and Check out this link for info on hikes and walks around the Dingle coast. I’m not a mad fan of the cold, Irish water so you likely won’t catch me in there surfing or SUP-ing (stand up paddle boarding) but Nadia from The Daily Self braved the freezing sea to give you info on Dingle Surf.
Then there are the bars, which merit a look-see for yourself. The delightful hardware shop turned bar is sure to make you squeal at the sheer novelty and Instagram the heck out your entire trip!