If I had to name my favorite spot in all of Ireland – and trust me, that’s no easy task – I would tell you Dingle without a second thought. What is it about this colorful port village on the western coast of the Emerald Isle that epitomizes the quintessential Irish experience? Perhaps it’s the trad music that drifts nightly from the pubs, or the affable locals in the snugs that will welcome you over a pint of the black stuff. It could be the quirks and traditions, like a particularly famous dolphin or a pub that doubles as a hardware shop. Or maybe it’s the charm of a remote town that sits somewhere on the edge of the world, surrounded by centuries of history.
Dingle town (Daingean Uí Chúi) is located in Ireland’s southwest County Kerry, on the eponymous peninsula that juts into the wild Atlantic. With a population of around 2,000 people, there isn’t much to it – but that’s what makes it great. While Dingle residents predominantly speak English, the western end of the peninsula is known as a Gaeltacht – or an Irish-speaking region – meaning that culture and tradition is well-preserved in this part of Ireland.
So it’s a small town. But don’t worry – there’s plenty to do.
Fungie the Dolphin + Dingle Harbour
Every town has it’s heroes, and in Dingle, that comes in the form of a bottle-nosed dolphin named Fungie. A bit of an aquatic celebrity, Fungie lives in Dingle Harbour. He was first sighted back in 1983 and has been swimming amongst the locals for the last thirty-something years. Boat tours depart from Dingle Pier daily to tour the harbor and visit Fungie.
Looking for even more adventure on the sea? You can take tours to the Great Blasket Islands and – new this year – to Skellig Michael (which you may recognize from Star Wars). Or try your hand at sea angling! Those more coordinated can check out the Dingle Surf School. And for those who prefer land, there’s always the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium.
Explore the Shops
Woolen mills, record shops, and bespoke art galleries dot their way down Strand Street, up Green Street, and along Main Street. Sweet Pea is a gift shop full of unique trinkets. Fado vends antiques treasures. Dingle Candle captures the essence of the West of Ireland for you to take home with you. And you can never go wrong at The Little Cheese Shop.
Sitting on the edge of town is the Dingle Distillery, established in 2012 and serving up Irish whiskey, gin and vodka since 2016. This independent distillery became the first independent Irish distillery to release a single pot still whiskey in decades in 2017. The distillery offers facility tours where they introduce visitors to the Irish whiskey production process. You can book your Dingle Distillery tour – and don’t forget tasting! – here.
Pubs, Snugs, and Trad Sessions
I have yet to meet a Dingle pub I haven’t liked. Each a bit crowded but altogether cozy, these haunts are unmistakably Irish. Perhaps the most famous is Dick Mack’s, who brew their own ales – you can even take a tour of the brewhouse.
Foxy John’s is a quaint pub that doubles as a hardware shop, for all the gents who tell their wives that they’re just nipping down to the shop for something. J Curran’s is another hole-in-the-wall I first saw featured in the documentary The Irish Pub – well worth the watch.
The Dingle Pub is perhaps the most touristy of the bunch, but the live music and Irish dancing never fails to entertain. And An Droichead Beag is perhaps my favorite spot of all to sit at the bar with a Smithwick’s Red and enjoy incredible trad.
Exploring the Peninsula
The Slea Head Drive
While many visitors flock to the Ring of Kerry further south, Dingle offers – in my opinion – better scenery with less traffic. The main road around the western end of the peninsula is the Slea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe) – a circular route that both starts and ends in Dingle town. It’s only about 47 km (30 miles) long, but you’ll find some of the most beautiful and remote landscapes in all of Ireland here. Despite the short distance, you’ll want to plan at least half a day to explore the drive.
Out here on what feels like the world’s edge, you’ll curve along the cliffs and coast down one-lane roads and narrow switchbacks. But don’t worry, there are plenty of turn-outs to stop and take in that picture-perfect view. Visit Gaeltacht villages and 13th century beehive huts. Stop to visit Gallarus Oratory, Kilmalkedar Church, and my personal favorite photo stop in all Ireland – Dunquin Harbor. Take in views of the Great Blasket Islands, Mount Brandon, and more. You can read more about driving Dingle’s Slea Head Drive here.
Horseback Riding in Dingle’s Hills
Even without access to a car, you can find ways to explore the stunning scenery of the peninsula. One of my favorite excursions was horseback riding through the hills behind Dingle Town. From the top, we could see over the town to the rolling hills that sweep out to the sea. You can read more about exploring the Dingle Peninsula on horseback with Dingle Horseriding here.
Where to Eat
For such a small town, there’s no shortage of good eats. My Boy Blue and Bean in Dingle are cozy cafes that serve up specialty coffees, pastries and more. For some Michelin recommended Irish cuisine, try The Global Village. And when the weather’s nice, head towards the pier for fresh fish and chips at the food stalls.
And of course, you can’t come to Dingle and miss out on Murphy’s famous ice cream. Though you’ll find shops across Ireland, the legend began right here in Dingle.
Where to Stay
On my first visit to Dingle, we stayed at a self-catering cottage located just behind John Benny Moriarty’s pub on Strand Street. John and his wife were incredibly welcoming, and it was like having our own little home away from home. Nothing beat the views overlooking the fields in the morning, or listening to the owners perform during dinner in the pub at night!
My second stay was a bit more budget friendly as I was traveling solo. The Hideout Hostel is tucked away in the town centre on Dykegate Street, and offers a comfortable stay just a step away from the action.
I first visited Dingle for Christmas two years ago, and I can’t imagine a better place to spend the holidays amongst strangers. I loved it so much that I just couldn’t leave Ireland without visiting once more. Sometimes I dream about settling down in Dingle someday, in a little cottage that looks over the bay. Visit, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the region on the edge of Ireland too.
What’s your favorite spot in Ireland?