The dramatic and rugged landscape of the Dingle Peninsula is breathtaking, but it’s only a part of the area’s appeal.
Dingle is steeped in history and dotted with 4,000-year-old monuments, has a vibrant cultural life, and produces some of the best seafood in Ireland.
Add to that the golden beaches and far-flung islands, and you have a holiday destination that’s well worth a visit.
10 Awesome Things To Do in Dingle Ireland
#1 Inch Beach
Inch Beach is a three-mile sandspit that stretches out into the North Atlantic Ocean towards the Iveragh Peninsula. What was once a tiny island floating in the middle of Dingle Harbor is now spectacular, if rather wind-swept, Blue Flag beach.
One of the largest dune systems in Ireland, Inch Beach hosts a diversity of habitats that attract numerous visitors, including Ireland’s only amphibian – the natterjack toad.
Inch Beach is the perfect place to experience the dramatic breakers that crash into Ireland’s west coast and is known as one of the country’s top surf spots.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are surf schools nearby that will show you the ropes, but swimming is also good if you prefer being in the sea, rather than on top of it, just bear in mind that lifeguards are only on duty during the summer season.
If the weather’s not conducive for getting in the sea, why not take a stroll along the beach and reward yourself with a snack at Sammy’s on Inch Strand?
#2 Slea Head Drive
Slea Head Drive is one of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way. Beginning and ending in Dingle, it takes you on a 47km circular tour of the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula.
Along the way, you’ll pass through idyllic villages and woodlands and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views in the country.
To get the most out of your experience, do the route in a clockwise direction, heading to the Blue Flag beach at the village of Ventry first before following the coast along to Dunquin Pier. This will give you the best views and means you won’t meet any tour buses head-on.
Although you can complete the drive in an hour, this won’t give you much time for sightseeing, so I’d recommend allocating three to four hours to the journey.
Some of the top spots to look out for include Dunmore Head Viewpoint, Coumeenoole Beach, Clogher Strand, and the Gallarus Oratory.
It’s also worth popping into some of the charming villages along the way where you’ll get a sense of the area’s history and culture. Fahan, BallyFerriter, and Slea Head itself are all worth a visit.
#3 Blasket Islands
No one lives on the Blasket Islands anymore, but they once supported a sizable community known for its traditional Irish culture and literature.
Great Blasket is the largest of the islands and is classified as a Special Area of Conservation. Hop on a boat at Dunquin Pier, and within 20 minutes, you’ll be immersed in the rural splendor of this mountainous island.
On the way over, look out for basking sharks, whales, and dolphins before exploring the island’s dramatic sea cliffs.
If you have time to spare, you can plunge deeper into island life by spending a night at one of the four restored cottages on the Great Blasket.
Even if you can’t overnight there, a day trip will give you enough time to discover the island’s fascinating history, enjoy its panoramic views, and visit one of the largest seal colonies in the Atlantic Ocean.
#4 Conor Pass
Just outside the colorful town of Dingle is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland. Soaring nearly 1,500 feet above sea level, the Conor Pass meanders through the Brandon Mountains.
It climbs steeply, twisting and turning to the top of Brandon Mountain before descending towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory.
While spectacular, Conor Pass is not for the faint-hearted! The narrow road leaves little room for error, with sharp cliff faces on one side and a sheer drop to the other. Although nerve-wracking, the pass is very safe as long as you take it slowly.
If you don’t feel confident driving it yourself, you could always book a guided trip with one of the local tour operators.
Alternatively, you can pull into the Conor Pass parking area and soak up the views without attempting the drive at all.
#5 Glanteenassig Forest Recreation Area
Close to the town of Castlegregory lies a nature lover’s paradise where woodlands, mountains, waterfalls, and lakes create a unique and dramatic landscape.
Covering 450 hectares, the Glanteenassig Forest Recreation Area is great for birdwatching, hiking, and fishing. Well-marked trails take you past bubbling streams, and through shady forests, before taking your breath away with their panoramic views.
Anglers enjoy casting a line into the tranquil lakes, hoping to catch a wild brown trout or one of its rainbow-colored cousins. You do need a permit if you want to fish at either Lough Slat or Lough Caum, but you can easily secure one of these in the village of Cloghane, some 30 minutes away.
Something of a hidden gem, Glanteenassig is situated off the beaten track and nestled in a valley in the Slieve Mish mountains. Although it feels very remote, it’s easily accessible by car and has four small car parks that give you easy access to the trails and lakes.
#6 Gallarus Oratory
As one of Dingle Peninsula’s most popular tourist attractions, the Gallarus Oratory is much more than just an ancient church.
Built using the same techniques employed by Neolithic tomb makers, it is one of the best examples of dry-stone corbelling. Built somewhere between the 7th and 8th centuries, it was constructed using lime mortar and sandstone “brought from the cliffs of the seashore.”
Each stone was cut and placed carefully in position creating a sloping structure that could withstand the wind and rain that’s beaten down on it for hundreds of years.
Next door is the Gallarus Oratory Visitor Centre, where you can learn more about this ancient structure before enjoying a bite to eat in the snug coffee shop inside.
It’s free to visit the Gallarus Oratory, and it’s only a short walk from the nearby car park. Situated just 10 minutes from Dingle town, you can either drive direct or take a more scenic route along the coast via the villages of Ventry and Ballyferriter.
#7 Fahan Beehive Huts
If a visit to the Gallarus Oratory leaves you hankering for more, why not visit the Fahan Beehive Huts on Slea Head?
Built using the same techniques as the oratory itself, these tiny cone-shaped huts provided primitive shelter for monks and the early followers of Saint Peter.
The exact age of these huts or clocháns is unknown, but they’re thought to date back to somewhere between the eighth and 12th centuries.
Hundreds of beehive huts once dotted the landscape, and a significant number have survived the ravages of time to give us a glimpse of early life in rural Ireland.
Walk among the remaining huts, and you’ll find ancient earthen ring forts built to protect the inhabitants and their livestock.
Slea Head isn’t the only place you’ll see these stone beehive huts, but it is one of the best places to appreciate these ancient building techniques, while the dramatic landscape surrounding the settlement makes the trip even more worthwhile.
The drive from Dingle to Fahan takes just 20 minutes and meanders along the southern coast of the Peninsula, treating you to some breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
#8 Kilmalkeda Church
Once a medieval monastery, Kilmalkeda Church was a significant gathering place for those following the Casán na Naomh, or Saint’s path, from Ventry to Mount Brandon.
The church was built in the 12th century and is representative of the Romanesque architecture used at that time. Intricate carvings decorate the doorway and chancel arch, where an Alphabet or Ogham Stone also stands.
The inscriptions on this stone represent the oldest written form of the Irish language, which used a system of notches and lines, each of which represents a specific sound.
The Alphabet Stone is only one of the architectural curiosities of Kilmalkeda Church and a stroll around the graveyard will reveal a large stone cross, an ancient sundial, a couple of Holy Wells, and some Bullaun, or curing stones.
Kilmalkeda Church is a five-minute drive from the Gallarus Oratory, so you might want to combine these two attractions in a single-day trip, just be sure to allow yourself a couple of hours to explore the church and its surroundings.
#9 West Kerry Museum
In the middle of Ballyferriter village stands a 19th-century schoolhouse that’s home to the Musaem Chorca Dhuibhne. Here, you can dive deep into the history, ecology, and archeology of the Dingle Peninsula and get a sense of what life was like for the first settlers who arrived some 9,000 years ago.
The museum is home to a wide range of artifacts, including some that are on loan from the National Museum of Ireland. Take some time to appreciate the rich cultural and natural heritage of the Dingle Peninsula, discover the history of the Ogham stone, or even learn to speak a few words of the ancient Irish language.
Once you’ve had your fill of the past, step back into the present and take a stroll through the village, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the sound of the traditional Irish language, which reverberates through every pub and cafe.
#10 Dingle Oceanworld
Situated in Dingle town, Oceanworld is the largest aquarium in Ireland and home to a diverse collection of marine animals, including sand tiger sharks, gentoo penguins, and Asian short-clawed otters.
This is a great place for all the family to submerge themselves in an underwater world and learn more about the creatures that call it home.
You can meet Molly, the loggerhead turtle, or pop into the butterfly oasis and appreciate the beauty and vibrancy of some of the world’s rarest species.
Dingle Oceanworld is a popular attraction, so you should pre-book your tickets online to avoid disappointment. You need at least a couple of hours to meet all the residents and give the native Thornback rays a quick stroke!
How Many Days Do You Need in Dingle?
You should aim to spend a couple of days on the Dingle Peninsula at the very least, but a week is more advisable if you want to experience all the attractions listed here and leave yourself some time to sample the local food.
It’s not a large area, and you can drive around the whole peninsula in a single day if you don’t mind cruising past the best viewpoints instead of stopping to admire the scenery.
How to Get to Dingle?
Dingle is roughly 350 km from Dublin and the drive takes around four to four and a half hours, depending on the traffic.
Alternatively, you could get a train from Dublin Heuston to either Tralee, Killarney, or Farranfore. The journey takes between four and six hours, depending on your destination, after which you can hire a car to explore the peninsula itself.
If you prefer to travel by air, Ryanair offers flights from Dublin to Kerry Airport, about an hour’s drive from Dingle.
You can hire a car at Kerry Airport, which is probably easier than relying on public transport.
If none of these options appeal, you might want to consider using the Dublin Coach M7 Service that runs daily. Buses depart from Burgh Quay Dublin Coach Stop every hour or two, and the journey takes around four and a half hours.
Before You Go,
Whether you’re looking for adventure, want to immerse yourself in Irish history, or are simply seeking a relaxing family holiday, Dingle Peninsula has something for everyone.
Its golden beaches are perfect for water sports, while its mountains and forests offer a combination of challenging walks and stunning vistas.
Around every corner is another breathtaking view, or intriguing ancient monument, making a quick trip virtually impossible.
If you love Ireland, you’ll love Dingle Peninsula even more, especially if you take the time to enjoy all its top attractions and explore some of its winding roads and hidden gems.
- See the Northern Lights in Ireland
- Find Ireland’s Native Flowers while hiking
- Visit Irish Distilleries in Northern Ireland
"Like many so-called Brits, I have a bit of Irish and a bit of Scottish in my blood, which is possibly where the red hair comes from. I’ve been fascinated by the history of Ireland for years, since I discovered the story of the Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.