Friends, those images that you conjure up in your head of quintessential Ireland can be found right here on the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne)!
Rolling emerald green hills are interspersed with sandy beaches, ancient monuments and ruins, stunning views, and a seemingly never ending coastline of water that’s too blue to be true continuously crashing against the rugged rocks.
While the rugged cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula aren’t as high as the Cliffs of Moher, I personally find them more inviting.
English with a pleasing Irish lilt is spoken here, like a beautiful song to the ears. Something that makes this area special is that you’ll find that English is commonly interspersed with Irish Gaeilge (or just Irish).
Evenings here come alive with Irish jigs, danced to merry Irish folk music.
Getting your bearings on the Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula is located in County Kerry, in the province of Munster, Ireland. It is just off of the coast of the Wild Atlantic Ocean in the Southwest of Ireland and is part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Is the Slea Head Drive the same as the Dingle Peninsula? The road that follows the coast on the Dingle Peninsula, and ushers travelers around this beautiful place, is called the Slea Head drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe) also known as the Dingle Peninsula Drive. This popular route is a big draw for visitors to the area.
Where does Slea Head Drive start? It starts (and ends) just outside of Dingle. Keep reading to the end for tips on driving the Dingle Peninsula Slea Head Drive.
The best stops on the Dingle Peninsula
Are you in search of the best things to do on the Dingle Peninsula?
Here are 22 worthwhile stops on the Dingle Peninsula, many are right along the main route of the Slea Head drive, but a few you’ll have to stray just a bit to find. Pick a few of your favorite stops or stay for a long weekend and try them all!
These stops are in order in which you arrive at each site based on the recommended clockwise route around the peninsula.
Slea Head Drive Map / Slea Head Drive Directions
Looking for a map of the best stops on the Slea Head Drive/ Dingle Peninsula? Here is a helpful Slea Head Drive Google Maps interactive map. This map of the Slea Head drive includes all of the great places to stop as you drive Dingle Peninsula.
Best stops: drive Dingle Peninsula Map
#1 Inch Beach (Inch Strand)
First stop, Inch Beach. Technically not on the Slea Head loop you won’t want to miss the 3 miles of sandy beaches on Inch beach. Free entrance free parking. Lifeguards on duty in season.
#2 Minard Castle Ruins
Minard castle, now in ruin, was built by the Knights of Kerry in 1551. It was destroyed by Cromwell’s troops in 1650. Stop to take in the castle and the stunning ocean views.
#3 Doonmanagh /Pookauncorrin Wedge Tomb ( Dún na Manach wedge tomb or Púicín an Chairn)
This wedge tomb, and ancient structure that overlooks Minard Bay, was built in the early Bronze-Age (c. 2300 BCE.) The structure alone is worth seeing but the views from here are also quite impressive.
#4 Explore Dingle Town (An Daingean or Daingean Uí Chúis)
The tiny town of Dingle (population: 2,000) is the main town on the Peninsula. Dingle is a colorful, lively, picture perfect, port town that looks like something straight out of a painting. It makes a really good home base for exploring the peninsula.
There are lots of fun things to do in Dingle but the big draw is the live Irish folk music and step dancing that can be found in the pubs in the evenings.
My top recommendation: deep sea fishing in Dingle Bay (take your catch to one of the local restaurants where they will clean it, cook it, and serve it up for dinner!)
Contact Dingle Boat Tours for more information
#5 Ventry beach (Fionntrá / Ceann Trá in Irish)
At Ventry Beach you can take a long stroll along the somewhat calmer waters of Ventry Bay. free entrance free parking . Lifeguards on duty in season.
#6 Walking trails along the Slea Head Drive / Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula is covered with scenic walking trails and you’ll get some of your best views of the coast from these trails.
Tips for walking/hiking in this area: Wear good foot gear and bring rain gear as the weather changes quickly.
Here are some popular choices for scenic walks:
Dunmore Head Loop is a 1.6 (2.5 km) mile loop, rated easy.
Slea Head Loop Walking Trail (6 miles (9.5 km), rated moderate to difficult but it runs along the coast with spectacular views of the rugged coastlines. Not feeling up to the entire walk? Walk a ways and turn back.
Lúb na Cille walk, Dún Chaoin. (3 miles (5km) loop, rated moderate. starts and finishes in the Blasket Centre car park in Dún Chaoin. It offers amazing views of the Atlantic and Blaskets. (more info here)
Clogher Head Trail/ Clogher Strand Trail (CUAS NA NEIGHE WALK CLOGHER)
1.8 miles (2.9 km) clifftop walk with spectacular sea views, suitable for practically everyone. Starts at the public car park above Clogher Beach.
Take time to go down to the beach and on the right hand side look for the approximatley 400 million year old fossils, clearly visible on the rocks and cliffs by the beach. (more info here)
The Dingle Way (Slí Chorca Dhuibhne)
Looking for a longer walk? Dingle way goes from Tralee and circles the perimeter of the peninsula back to Tralee. Dingle Peninsula hiking trail PDF
#7 Celtic and Prehistoric Museum
It looks tiny from the outside but the Celtic and Historic Museum is full of really amazing items of historical significance and one of the best stops on the peninsula in my opinion.
Things you can see in the museum: a 120-million-year-old fossilized Psittacosaurus skeleton, 800-thousand-year-old hand tools and weapons, a ten-million-year-old fossilized megalodon tooth (prehistoric shark measuring up to 100 foot in length), a 300-thousand-year-old cave bear skull, and 40-million-year-old fossilized fish! Wow!
And so so much more! so leave plenty of time in your schedule for this little gem!
Currently the museum is open by appointment only. Follow the link above for contact information.
#8 Fairy Ring Fort
Fairy Forts are circular fortified settlements found around northern Europe. They were mostly built during the Bronze age through approximately the year 1,000.
In Ireland Fairy Forts are considered magical places that are associated with Tuatha Dé Danann and Fir Bolg, mythical people of ancient Ireland.
Adorable farm animals dot the landscape on this stop. There’s a small parking lot just across the road from the Fairy Ring Fort.
#9 Dunbeg Fort
Ruins from Ireland’s Iron Age (500 b.c.-500 a.d.) due to storm damage you may need to exercise extreme caution in this area and it may or not be accessible during your visit.
#10 Irish Famine Cottages
The Great Famine was a tragic time in Irish history. During the mid 1800’s a million people lost their lives and another million left the island. This authentic cottage from the era of the Great Famine in Ireland is displayed with furniture and household goods from this sad time in Irish history.
Apr–Oct daily 10am–6pm, €4 adults; €3 children
#11 Fahan Beehive Huts (Tóchar Maothaithe)Teachíní an Ghorta Mhóir
Here you can see samples of ancient beehive huts (also known as clocháin) as well as an early medieval farmhouse.
#12 Cashel Murphy (Cathair Uí Murchú)
Remnants from and Iron Age (approximately 3,000 years ago!) / Celtic settlement. Open 24 hours.
#13 Dunmore Head
Dunmore Head is the westernmost point (westerly point) on the peninsula. On a clear day you can see the Blasket Islands. Coumeenoole Beach (Trá Com Dhíneol) is also located on this Head.
#14 Dun Chain Pier / Dunquin Pier (Dún Chaoin / Cé Dhún Chaoin)
This visually interesting structure juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and provides spectacular views. Sheep coming in on boats from the Blasket Islands make their way up this winding walkway. The Pier is just a short walk from the parking area.
#15 Explore the Blasket Islands! (Na Blascaodaí)
On a clear day you can see clear to the Blasket Islands but while you’re here why not take a trip on over to the Blaskets? Blasket Island Ferries leaves from Dun Chain Pier and takes visitors to Great Blasket Island (except during winter and inclement weather.)
Crossing time from Dún Chaoin Pier is about 20 minutes, bloats depart hourly. You’ll have 3 hours 45 minute to explore the island.
round trip cost: adults 40€, children 30€, advanced booking is advised.
Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales, orcas, porpoises, and puffins!
Boats also leave from Dingle Town Marina and Ventry Pier.
#16 The Sleeping Giant (Inishtooskert/ Inis Tuaisceart) also known as An Fear Marbh (the dead man)
The northernmost section of the Blasket Islands looks like a giant slumbering below the clouds. There’s a viewing platform at the Blasket Centre where you can view the Sleeping Giant.
#17 Take in a round of Golf
Ceann Sibéal Golf Club, is located on Sybil Head in Ballyferriter. Everyone in your travel group not a golfer? No problem! Drop them off to explore Ballyferriter Village, or at one of the many scenic walking trails while you take in a round.
Castle Gregory Golf Links, located on the northern part of the peninsula, is another option.
#18 Explore the village of Ballyferriter (Baile an Fheirtéaraigh)
Cute and colorful little Ballyferriter is a Gaeltacht Village (a district of Ireland where the government recognizes the Irish language as the predominant language) located on the peninsula. About 75% of the approximate 200 inhabitants here speak Irish on a daily basis.
#19 Gallarus Oratory (Séipéilín Ghallarais)
Built in the 11th or 12th century, this 1300 year old chapel is one of the Christian sites on the peninsula and just happens to be one of Ireland’s best preserved early Christian Sites.
My sources say there’s no need to stop at the visitor center where you will pay a fee. Head straight for the church free of charge.
#20 Kilmalkedar Church (Cill Maoilchéadair)
Just down the road and dating from the same time period (12th century) is another of the ancient Christian churches that can be found on the peninsula. Kilmalkedar Church is a ruined Romanesque chapel. In the area of the chapel you’ll find stones and monuments from as early as the 5th and 6th centuries.
#21 Horseback riding (various locations)
See the peninsula from the back of a horse! From mountain rides to rides along the beach check out the listings on Tripadvisor.
#22 Conor Pass Scenic Drive
Conor Pass, also displayed on the Dingle Peninsula map above, is a scenic drive on the Dingle Peninsula with breathtaking views of mountains, valleys and lakes. The pass consists of 12 km of narrow twisting roads through one of Ireland’s highest mountain ranges. More information about driving Conor Pass can be found here:
More things to do on the Dingle Peninsula?
You bet! We’ve covered the highlights in this article but there are many more things to see and do on the Dingle Peninsula! Just open google maps and start exploring!
Dingle Peninsula vs. The Ring of Kerry
I much prefer the smaller, somewhat less tourist trampled, Dingle Peninsula to the Ring of Kerry (also in Co. Kerry.) While each is without a doubt a beautiful drive, for me the Dingle P as I like to call it has something that I can’t quite put into words. To me it just oozes everything I love about Ireland!
How long does it take to drive the Slea Head Drive?
You may be wondering, how long does the Slea Head Drive take? Without the added stops described in this article, the official Slea Head Loop is a 30-mile circular route. The entire loop can, technically, be done in about 1 hour.
HOWEVER, Dingle’s Slea Head drive was meant to be savored and enjoyed so why not linger? Consider giving yourself a full day to explore BUT if you’re like me and like to really soak a place in, you could easily do longer.
Just to give you an idea of how small the Dingle Peninsula is: the ENTIRE route that I’ve give here (Inch beach around the peninsula and to Conor Pass) is only around 50 miles and if driven straight through can be done in under 2 hours without making any stops.
When is the best time to do the Slea Head Drive?
The best time of year to visit the Dingle Peninsula
Summer brings longer days to Ireland and in turn, more crowds. High season for travel is June through early September. If you really want to avoid crowds consider avoiding those months but be aware that some attractions and sites may be closed.
The best time of the day to do the Slea Head Drive
Start early. Tour buses and crowds congest the main route midday. By starting early you’ll give yourself plenty of time to beat the midday crowds. Spend midday walking a trail, sitting on a cliff soaking in the sights and sounds of crashing waves, or take in a round of golf. Later in the day crowds thin out again and you’ll find it a better time to explore.
Looking for more ways to escape the crowds? Head north on the Peninsula! Crowds thin out the further away from the Slea Head route that you go.
Tips on driving the Slea Head Drive / Dingle Peninsula Drive
Ireland’s peninsulas are among its most “popular places” but even that doesn’t spoil it’s wild beauty. Here are a few tips to make your trip on this scenic route a little smoother.
Make it a road trip!
You COULD take a bus tour of the peninsula but it is my belief that the very best way to get the most of this most beautiful of places is by road trip!
Direction of Travel on the Slea Head Drive
Is Slea Head Drive one-way? It is not mandatory that private passenger vehicles drive the route one-way.
Slea Head Drive Clockwise? It is however, recommended that the loop be driven in a clockwise direction. Tour buses take the route in a counter clockwise fashion so if you don’t want to get stuck behind a big bus, drive it CLOCKWISE.
What is the road number / route number?
The driving route / main road of the Slea Head Drive, R559 Highway will loop you around and take you right straight back to Dingle.
What are the roads like?
When driving around the Dingle Peninsula be prepared to navigate narrow roads and single lane roads.
Traffic on the Slea Head Drive
Large Tour Buses always have the right of way, back up and allow them to go by if necessary. Have no fear, the only real traffic jams you’re likely to experience are some super charming, all be it slightly inconsiderate, sheep hogging the road! Is Slea Head Drive dangerous? No not at all, be a courteous, attentive driver, and slow down. This isn’t a race!
Roads signs on the Dingle Peninsula
Road signs: Many of the signs (including road signs) are in Gaeilge so it is helpful to know both the English and Irish name of your destination. For your convenience, I have tried to include them here whenever possible.
First time driving in Ireland?
Remember in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland they drive on the left side of the road.
Where to Eat
There are several places along the Slea Head Drive to stop for an ice cream, a hot drink, a scone, or even a full meal. (listed as you come to them on the clockwise route)
Some good suggestions along the way:
Quinn’s Pub near Ventry Beach with views of the bay.
The Stone House, get yourself a seaside table!
Teac Couminole Café, pastries, scones and hot drinks with a seaside view.
Tig Áine, lighter fare also offering Irish Dairy ice cream.
Ballyferriter, check out the link for a full listing of places to eat in Ballyferriter.
Tig Bhric & West Kerry Brewery has a cozy little rustic dining room where you can relax from a long day of travel.
Where to stay on the Dingle Peninsula
In Dingle Town
On our visit to the Dingle Peninsula we overnighted at the Dingle Harbor Inn. It sits right on the harbor, is very clean and comfortable and is within walking distance of the pubs. If you partake in a little too much of the fine Irish whiskey, it’s an easy stroll to your comfortable bed.
cozy cottages for rent
I don’t know about you but I’ve always dreamed snuggling up with a book in a cozy cottage in Ireland!
Here are a few options:
Brandon Bay Cottages, Stone Farmhouse – 4 bedroom
Charming traditional Irish cottage – Bells Cottage
Bridge View, BEAUFORT, COUNTY KERRY
Old Irish Farmhouse
ATTENTION: bucket list worthy stop just down the road
While your in the area, head south just a ways to the Kerry Peninsula for an activity that is worthy of a spot on your bucket list! Read about it here:
Ireland obsessed? Want to hear more about my travels around Ireland and the rest of our amazing planet? You may be interested in my Ireland page and be sure to submit your email address to my subscriber sign up at the end of the page to be the first to know when a new blog publishes!