One of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne) culminates in the Irish mainland's westernmost point. In the shadow of sacred Mt Brandon, a maze of fuchsia-fringed boreens (country lanes) weaves together an ancient landscape of prehistoric ring forts and beehive huts, early Christian chapels, crosses and holy wells, picturesque hamlets and abandoned villages.
But it's where the land meets the ocean – whether in a welter of surf-pounded rocks, or where the waves lap secluded, sandy coves – that Dingle's beauty truly reveals itself.
Centred on charming Dingle town, the peninsula has long been a beacon for those of an alternative bent, attracting artists, craftspeople, musicians and idiosyncratic characters who can be found in workshops, museums, festivals and unforgettable trad sessions throughout Dingle's tiny settlements.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Dingle Peninsula.
Historic SiteGallarus Oratory
Gallarus Oratory is one of Ireland's most beautiful ancient buildings, its smoothly constructed dry-stone walls in the shape of an upturned boat. It has withstood the elements in this lonely spot beneath the brown hills for some 1200 years. There's a narrow doorway on the western side and a single, round-headed window on the east. Gallarus is clearly signposted off the R559, 8km northwest of Dingle town, and is 400m east of the (paid) Gallarus Visitor Centre car park.
The Dingle Peninsula's most important Christian site, Kilmalkedar has a beautiful setting with sweeping views over Smerwick Harbour. Built in the 12th century on the site of a 7th-century monastery founded by St Maolcethair, the roofless church is a superb example of Irish Romanesque architecture, its round-arched west door decorated with chevron patterns and a carved human head. In the graveyard you'll find an Ogham stone and a carved stone sundial. It's 2km northeast of Gallarus.
The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí), 5km offshore, are the most westerly part of Ireland. At 6km by 1.2km, Great Blasket (An Blascaod Mór) is the largest and most visited. Day trippers come to explore the abandoned settlements, watch the seabirds, picnic on Trá Bán (a gorgeous white-sand beach near the pier) and hike the island's many trails. Dingle Boat Tours and Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours run seasonal boat trips. Confirm ahead as adverse weather can cause cancellations.
Cultural CentreBlasket Centre
This wonderful interpretative centre celebrates the rich cultural life of the now-abandoned Blasket Islands. It is housed in a striking modern building with a long, white hall ending in a picture window looking directly at the islands. Great Blasket’s rich community of storytellers and musicians is profiled along with its literary visitors like playwright JM Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World. The more prosaic practicalities of island life are covered by exhibits on boatbuilding and fishing.
ForestGlanteenassig Forest Recreation Area
Southeast of Castlegregory, these 450 hectares of forest, mountain, lake and bog are a magical, off-the-tourist-trail treasure. There are two lakes; you can drive on an unsurfaced road up to the higher one, which is encircled by a plank boardwalk (too narrow for wheelchairs or prams). It's 4.5km south of Aughacasla on the northern coast road (R560). Make sure you're out before closing time (check signs at the car park); there's a call-out fee to have the gates unlocked.
RuinsReask Monastic Site
The remains of this 5th- or 6th-century monastic settlement are one of the peninsula's more evocative archaeological sites, with low stone walls among close-cropped turf and drifts of white daisies revealing the outlines of beehive huts, storehouses and an early Christian oratory. At least 10 stone crosses have been found, including the beautiful Reask Stone decorated with Celtic motifs. The site is signposted 'Mainistir Riaisc' just off the R559, 2km east of Ballyferriter.
Dingle's aquarium is a lot of fun, and includes a walk-through tunnel and a touch pool. Psychedelic fish glide through tanks that recreate such environments as Lake Malawi, the River Congo and the piranha-filled Amazon. Reef sharks and stingrays cruise the shark tank; water pumped from the harbour fills the Ocean Tunnel tank where you can spot native Irish species such as dogfish, mullet, plaice, conger eels and the spectacularly ugly wreckfish.
MuseumCeltic & Prehistoric Museum
This museum squeezes in an astonishing collection of Celtic and prehistoric artefacts, including the world's largest woolly mammoth skull and tusks, as well as a 40,000-year-old cave bear skeleton, Viking horse-bone ice skates, stone battle-axes, flint daggers and jewellery. It started as the private collection of owner Harry Moore, a US expat musician (ask him to strike up a Celtic tune). It's 4km southwest of Ventry.
Historic SiteFahan Beehive Huts
Fahan, on the roadside 7.5km southwest of Ventry, once had some 48 drystone clochán beehive huts dating from AD 500, although the exact dates are unknown. Today five structures remain, including two that are fully intact. The huts are on the slope of Mt Eagle (516m), which still has an estimated 400-plus huts in various states of preservation.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Dingle Peninsula.