Ireland has a wealth of dreamy destinations, from the capital of Dublin and the rugged Cliffs of Moher to Killarney on the shores of Lough Leane and fairy tale-like Donegal. But few places cast a spell quite like the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne in Gaelic — much of the area is recognized as a Gaeltacht, a stronghold of the Irish language). Located along the fabled Wild Atlantic Way, this 30-mile outcrop at the westernmost top of Ireland is home to craggy sea cliffs, rolling hills, and remote beaches.
“The main town on the Dingle Peninsula, aptly named Dingle, is a well-established fishing community,” says Jenny Bucher, a marketing consultant for Abercrombie & Kent Europe. This charming port overlooking the bay attracts visitors with its natural harbor, pubs, culinary chops, and even a friendly dolphin named Fungi. Set along Slea Head Drive, it makes an excellent home base for road-tripping or even trekking around this scenic region. It also acts as the gateway to the Blasket Islands. And while there’s lots of natural beauty within the borders of the town, straying a bit further means the chance to discover wind-swept headlands, ancient archaeological relics, and peaceful walks through remote landscapes.
If you’re keen to explore this magical destination, read on for the best things to see and do in Dingle.
Related: 12 Best Small Towns in Ireland
Best Hotels & Resorts
Teetering on the shores of Dingle Bay with beautiful views and proximity to town, the top-rated Castlewood House earns positive reviews from past guests who rave about the warm ambiance, nicely decorated rooms, and delicious homemade breakfast. The knowledgeable owners are always happy to provide local tips.
Pax Guest House
A boutique-style guesthouse that oozes modern character and shows off an eclectic art collection, Pax Guest House supplies well-maintained rooms with huge windows (and therefore lots of natural light) as well as an outdoor lounge terrace on which to nibble Irish cheese, drink wine, and relax without ever losing sight of the sea.
The family-run Greenmount House has been welcoming guests with genuine hospitality since 1977. Spacious rooms and suites are replete with country charm and all the requisite comforts. Communal spaces invite guests to cozy up next to the fireplace with a book and a whisky or just soak in the spellbinding vistas.
Dingle Skellig Hotel
Overlooking the blue waters of Dingle Bay, Dingle Skellig Hotel is an upscale option for travelers wanting a bit more luxury. It offers polished suites, a refined restaurant, an atmospheric bar, a brassiere, a panoramic lounge, a spa, and an indoor pool with hydrospin classes and swim lessons for kids.
Best Things to Do in Dingle
Dingle has long functioned as a maritime trade hub. The region’s recent boom in tourism has led to an expansion of leisurely waterfront recreation options, including sailing, kayaking, and naomhóg (a type of wooden boat that’s traditionally used on Ireland’s west coast) tours.
Slea Head Drive
Admire the soul-stirring coastal scenery from Slea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe), a nearly 29-mile circular route that starts and ends in Dingle and forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Bucher suggests stopping at key attractions along the way, such as Dunquin Pier, Dunmore Head, and Coumeenoole Beach.
An essential stop on the Slea Head Drive, Coumeenoole Beach is a secluded sandy cove backed by jagged cliffs. The strong currents make it a precarious place to swim but a lovely spot to snap photos and soak in the views of the Blasket Islands.
Evidence supports that Gallarus Oratory is more than 1,000 years old. One of the best preserved early Christian stone churches in Ireland, this historic chapel is an enduring monument with heaps of archaeological value and a mesmerizing perch overlooking Smerwick Harbour, the Atlantic Ocean, and Mount Brandon.
“I suggest visiting Dingle Distillery, an independent operation inside a converted sawmill on the outskirts of town with an artisan approach to producing spirits,” says Bucher. “To get the full experience, book an exclusive guided tour and tasting of whiskey, gin, and vodka”.
Nightlife in Dingle
One of the oldest pubs in Dingle — which interestingly also doubles as a leather shop — Dick Mack’s first opened its doors in 1899. Since then, patrons have flooded into this atmospheric drinking den for local beers and an impressive selection of whiskeys (there’s an entire wall dedicated to one of Ireland’s greatest exports).
For a small town, Dingle’s nightlife scene makes a big splash with locals and visitors alike. Among the top spots to embrace traditional live music and dancing? O’Flaherty’s Bar, where historic pictures decorate the green walls and there’s a real sense of community.
Another option in Dingle’s vibrant nocturnal scene, Neligan’s Bar, which has remained in the same family for generations, is a great place to grab a pint or a glass of whiskey, chill out, and listen to live music after a full day of adventuring around the rugged peninsula.
Best Restaurants in Dingle
Land To Sea
True to its name, Michelin-starred Land To Sea wows diners with locally sourced meats, including mountain lamb, line-caught fish, and farmed mollusks. Dishes are artfully presented and delicious, just as you’d expect from a restaurant of this caliber with such a talented chef at the helm.
The Chart House
Bucher, like so many foodies who live in and visit Dingle, favors The Chart House, a quayside boathouse turned award-winning bistro that’s well known throughout the region. Rose-hued walls, exposed stone, and stained glass create a heritage atmosphere that complements the seasonally-driven fare.
Out of the Blue Seafood
From the outside, Out of the Blue Seafood looks like it would sling excellent fish and chips. But step indoors and you’ll see wood tables piled with plates of freshly shucked oysters, flash-fried squid, and chargrilled seabass; the elevated focus of the Atlantic Ocean-centric menu comes into focus in a delectable way.
Bean in Dingle
Because you’re most definitely going to need a java jolt before an action-packed day of sightseeing, head to Bean in Dingle on Green Street for the best coffee on the peninsula. They import beans from around the world then roast them just a mile away. You’ll also find baked goods and friendly vibes here.
Murphy’s Ice Cream
Murphy’s Ice Cream doesn’t rely on time-saving tricks or molecular cooling methods to make its goodies. This beloved ice cream shop, a staple in town since 2000, does things simply and oh-so well. That means using the highest quality local milk and local cream, free-range eggs, organic sugar, and even making salt from seawater.
Best Time To Visit Dingle
Peak season runs from June through early September, when the days are longer and the weather more consistent. Spring is enjoyable, too; seasonal flowers begin to blossom and as the winter frost melts you’ve plenty of opportunities for picnics and outdoor adventures. Foodies might want to consider timing a trip to the annual Dingle Food Festival, which takes place the first weekend in October.
How to Get There
While Kerry County Airport (KIR) is the closest to Dingle, most travelers end up flying into Shannon Airport (SNN), located about two and a half hours away, because it’s larger and receives more international flights. For example, United operates a direct route from O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Shannon Airport (SNN). The other option would be to fly into Dublin Airport (DUB) and drive about four hours.
Getting Around Dingle
Because there are so many scenic drives here, renting a car is recommended. You’ll also want your own vehicle in order to check out the attractions that aren’t well-connected by public transport. An alternative would be to have a tour operator like Abercrombie & Kent arrange your trip here, including transportation.