First post from my new computer! This may take some getting used to so sorry if there are any really obvious typos that I’ve managed to miss! Also feel like I should add a photo heavy warning, not sure if that’s needed any more but there’s quite a few and they’re big.
The second part of the Ireland road trip mini series, if you can call three posts a mini series, is on the Dingle Peninsula which is the most Westerly point in Ireland. This is one of those areas in Ireland where the main draw is the scenery, apparently if you go in the summer there are a lot of tour buses and it’s best to drive around it clockwise as the roads do get very small and you don’t really want to have to reverse back to a passing point, especially on the more mountainous areas, when you come across a bus travelling in the opposite direction.
We did the Slea Head Drive, or Slea Head Loop, it seems to have a few names, which is a ring route around the tip of the peninsula. You do have to go through Dingle first to get to it, there’s a point where no matter which route you’ve taken to get to the end of the peninsula it goes through Dingle because of the mountains, so we did stop off there and have a bit of a wander round despite the rain. We didn’t do this but I would recommend going to the hotel or B&B you’re staying at, if it’s in Dingle, first as we did it after the ring route and they gave us a map of the area when we booked in.
Some of the scenery on the way to Dingle was amazing, though we didn’t have the best views due to the weather going up the mountain route you got a really nice look at Dingle as you approach it. I don’t think it’s one of those routes for nervous drivers though, very small roads and close to the edge of the mountain at times.
One thing I would definitely recommend if you’re going to do the Slea Head Drive is make yourself a detailed map of where everything is you want to stop at. I mean including where the turn offs are and the exact points on a map where you want to stop. There were a couple of things we accidentally missed because they weren’t very well signposted and we were behind a tour bus at one point so it really blocked out view of signs until it was too late. One of these that we missed is the Famine Cottage which seemed like it would be an interesting stop. I’m not sure exactly what’s in it but reading about it before we left it said there was a mini museum type thing set up with information on the famine and some mannequins set up in costume.
A lot of the places around the route that you’d want to stop seemed to have a fee to see them and a lot cost €3 so it’s worth having some cash with you if you want to stop. The first place we did stop was the beehive cottages, which was an interesting stop but there wasn’t much to it. I think it was the first of the beehive cottages stops that we saw, there are quite a few, and I think they’re probably fairly similar so I think it’s probably only worth seeing the one, whichever one you choose. These are houses, or rather buildings in an enclosure not all houses, that are made of stones stacked in a ring that gets gradually smaller as it goes up, hence the beehive look. They seem to range a lot in date but the latest they were built seems to have been around 1000 AD, if the information on the little printout we got was right.
Most of the points we stopped off at were just viewpoints, not that these aren’t a great place to stop but there was nothing in particular to see so it was free. There are some amazing views, however we did end up being there when it was rather rainy and cloudy so a lot of the photos I took ended up being half covered in cloud.
One thing we noticed when travelling around Ireland is that there are a lot of shrines, a lot were just inset in walls or small statues on the side of the road but some were a lot bigger, like this large quite statue of Jesus on the cross. I don’t know about other countries but we don’t have those in the UK that I know of, maybe they’re less unusual to others but there did seem to be a lot of tourists taking photos of them so I guess they’re not that common in a lot of countries.
Something else that we didn’t stop at but would be interesting to see was the Blaskets exhibition. It did cost more to go in, I have a feeling around €6 but the story of the islands is very interesting and they were inhabited until 1953 so there are still people alive who lived on them. We had seen a documentary on them when we knew we were going to Ireland so spending the money to watch a video on them and see a small exhibition seemed a bit much, especially as we were running later than we thought we’d be and weren’t sure how long the route would take. However it is a great place to stop even if you’re not going to see the exhibition as it is one of the few places with toilets on the route and there’s also a café restaurant place that has hot food. We did pick up a book on Dingle and the peninsula in the book shop there though, I’m not sure where it is or I’d include something on it here but it did have nice photos of the area and the things we didn’t get to see. (Maybe I’ll edit it in later if I can find it).
The last specific landmark we visited was the Gallarus Oratory, which claims to be one of the earliest stone churches in Ireland though you can see a couple of other theories on it here on the Wikipedia page (I know it’s not the most reliable but it has everything in one place for this). This definitely has more set up than a lot of the historical landmarks in the area with a visitors shop, video area that has an explanation on the oratory and the history of the area in Ireland including some places to visit on the route, a small café and a fairly well maintained pathway up to the oratory itself. This one is definitely more wheelchair friendly than others and they do have disabled parking very close to the oratory so there’s less of a walk. This is definitely one of the landmarks that seems different than the others, some of the others we’d seen online before all had a very similar feel about them, so I’d recommend this as worth a look.
We did end up spending about three or four hours on the route and definitely didn’t stop at everything. I’d say on a nicer day we could have spent longer but we ended up setting off later than we meant to. The B&B we booked into was the Dingle Harbour Lodge and had nice rooms, I’d definitely recommend it as a place to stay as it’s within walking distance of the front and there are a lot of nice restaurants there. There are a lot of B&B type places to stay in Dingle though so you’ll probably be able to find a room even in peak season and you don’t need to worry about eating as there’s a large range of restaurants and cafes on the front or just around. If you don’t like seafood they have everything else covered too and apparently the ice cream is worth checking out, the only shop we went past that had a queue and it was raining so it must have been good!
We ended up having dinner in a small place called Out of the Blue, definitely worth going to if you like seafood though you won’t find fish and chips there. They don’t have a menu to look at in advance and cook whatever’s available on the day that’s freshly caught from the bay. My, mum and dad all enjoyed our food and the atmosphere was great, nice and cosy and not too busy and noisy but enough people there to not feel like we were the only ones there. We may have been enjoying the food so much I forgot to take any photos until the dessert. They say they don’t do reservations but if you go through the B&B you’re staying with they might, they did for us but it may be because it was off season and they knew they weren’t going to be too busy.
That’s pretty much it for Dingle. There are some really nice little arty crafty shops to look around and the standard tourist places with souvenirs. I would say this is a great place to visit if you’re a fan of food or if you like the idea of a dolphin tour as they do tours in the bay and there’s a friendly dolphin who comes to say hi quite often called Fungy. They even have a statue of him in the harbour.
This post turned out to be quite a bit longer than I meant it to. I hope it’s been interesting to read. If you’re in Ireland, especially the south west, I would definitely recommend Dingle as a place to stay for a day or two even if you use it as a base. It isn’t that close to everything but a couple of hours drive gets you to quite a few places of interest and the food is definitely worth more than one day or trip. If you like walks there are a few routes in the area with great views so worth it if a walking holiday is what you want. Though it did seem like a few of the restaurants are closed over winter, Out of the Blue isn’t open again until March, so if you want the food then it’s worth checking when they’re open.