Our research is editorially independent but we
may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
The hilltop medieval town of Dingle is a postcard-perfect town with quintessential Irish scenery on the Dingle Peninsula. It overlooks a picturesque harbor and is lined with countless pubs, many of which offer live music seven nights a week. Just outside of own along the peninsula are those intensely green hills and mountains that are dotted with thatched white-washed cottages and sheep, while dramatic cliffs touch down to the cobalt blue waters of the Atlantic. Make the most of it by putting these top things to do in Dingle on your must-experience list.
The Slea Head Loop from Dingle is one of the world’s most spectacular drives. If there’s only one thing you do while you’re here, it’s this. This is where you’ll see those quintessential greener than green hills that dip down to a wild and breathtaking coastline, along with golden beaches, picturesque harbors and prehistoric archaeology. It’s also a bit harrowing, with the narrow winding roads that edge the cliffs, though it’s certainly worth the challenge. The entire route is just 26 miles long, so in theory it could be completed rather quickly but it’s best experienced by making numerous stops along the way, at coffee houses overlooking the Atlantic or with a walk down to the postcard-perfect stretches of sand.
Ever since lighthouse keeper Paddy Ferriter spotted a wild dolphin escorting Dingle’s fishing boats to and from port nearly 35 years ago, Fungie has been a fixture in Dingle. Fungie, the name given to him by the local fishermen, is a male bottlenose dolphin. While it’s not unheard of for these social creatures to be on their own, befriending humans, it is still quite rare, though he seems to be content with his circumstances, remaining here for so many years. While you could take a dip in the water and swim out to find him, considering the chilly temps, it’s probably best to book a boat tour.
Dingle is famous for its trad music sessions that are hosted in the local pubs. Odds are, if you’re staying in town, there’s one that’s just steps away. Ask your B&B host or hotel staff to recommend a spot. Some of the favorites include O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub with its good mix of locals and visitors and, O’Flaherty’s, a traditional music mecca. Plan for a late night as in most places things don’t get started until at least 9 or 10 p.m.
Surfing in Ireland? That’s most people’s reaction to surfing while in Dingle. While you’re not going to hear much in the way of surf talk, you will find some excellent waves in the area. In fact, many Europeans head to Ireland to surf. Brandon Bay hosts seven miles of stunning golden sands, with high performance hollow waves and long, slow waves for beginners and longboarders. Nearly all the waves throughout this area can be seen from the road, so you easily just drive around and meet up with local surfers who are usually more than happy to point you in the right direction.
While you might think climbing a mountain would be far too challenging, Mount Brandon actually offers one of the easy mountain walks you can take. The 3,200-foot-high mountain is considered holy, with people walking the Pilgrims Path to the summit during pagan times to give thanks to the sun god Lugh for blessing the harvest. Centuries later in Christian times, St. Brendan, known as “The Voyager,” prayed while atop the mountain that looks out to the Atlantic. It was here that he was said to have become inspired by a vision to set out on a voyage to find a “Land of Promise,” and some believe the Irish monk managed to do it, becoming the first European to set foot on America.
The Blasket Islands are six islands that lie just off the Dingle Peninsula, where ancient Gaelic culture and traditions still survive. You can visit the islands via a boat tour, or simply learn about them at the Great Blasket Centre without making the crossing. It provides visitors with an excellent look at the literature, language, and way of life for Blasket Islanders. It hosts beautifully done interpretive displays, honoring the community that lived on the islands prior to the final evacuation in 1953, while telling the story of island life and the community’s struggle for existence. It’s really the next best thing to actually visiting one of the Blaskets.
The Dingle Peninsula is very much like an open-air museum, with no other place in Ireland so jam-packed with historic sites, not to mention some of the world’s most jaw-dropping scenery. Highlights include the 1,200-year-old Gallarus Oratory, a dry stone oratory in pristine condition that serves as an excellent example of the ingenious building methods used in ancient times, as well as the Beehive Huts that are scattered along Slea Head Drive between Slea Head and Dunquin. Located on the south side of Mount Eagle, the Caher Conor complex was built in the form of a circle of successive strata of stone.
With so much to see and do, you might forget that Dingle is a fishing town, but when you walk into one of the restaurants, you’ll soon remember as the menus are filled with items like scallops, mussels, lobster, crab, salmon, bream and sole, among others. It’s also a town with a thriving food scene, with some three dozen restaurants, a score of pubs, a culinary school, and a distillery, not to mention, it also hosts one of Ireland’s most beloved food festivals. While you’ll find plenty of tasty fish ‘n’ chips in the pubs, be sure to sample the eats at Out Of The Blue which sits along the harbor. Serving only the freshest seafood, some of the favorites include char-grilled kebab of monkfish and seared scallops flambéed in cognac.