One of the most common questions I receive when helping people plan their Ireland family vacations is, “We want to visit Dingle. Can we do it in a day trip from Killarney/ Adare/ Cork?” I answer honestly – yes, you can. But you won’t have time to enjoy it. Though the Dingle Peninsula is small, there is plenty to see and do. If you try for a day trip you will find yourself far too rushed to enjoy what the peninsula has to offer. I recommend a two day Dingle itinerary to really enjoy the unique sights and opportunities of this peninsula.
A 2 Day Dingle Itinerary
Though Ireland is a small country, driving takes longer than you think it will once you get off the major motorways. I was reminded of that this year as we made our way from Kilkenny to Dingle- a trip I thought would take 3 hours at the most. After nearly 4.5 hours of driving I was reminded, once again, why I recommend seeing Ireland in small bits rather than trying to cover a lot of ground.
The perfect step-off points for a visit to Dingle are Adare, County Limerick or Killarney, County Kerry. The furthest I would go would be Cork City. Otherwise you will spend much of your day driving.
After your fabulous, filling Irish Breakfast, begin your drive to the Dingle Peninsula. There are only two roads that take you onto the Dingle Peninsula. Coming from Adare (or Limerick and Shannon), you will find yourself on the N86 where you can easily exit at Camp and see the spectacular views from the famed Conor Pass. If you are driving in from Killarney (and points east), you’ll arrive on the peninsula via the R561 which passes beautiful Inch beach and features beautiful cliff-side driving.
Don’t worry if you didn’t cross Conor Pass on your way into Dingle- you can easily exit that way or take an afternoon drive before you leave.
You’ll find Dingle to be a small village, easily walkable. As we explored, and asked directions, we were told time and again, ‘It’s about 5 minutes walk.” Truth be told, you can likely cross the town from one end to the other in 5 minutes!
Though you will be arriving in the morning, it’s always nice to see where you will be staying for the night, so take a quick tour of the town and find your lodging. If you’re traveling with family, the Dingle Skellig Hotel is a fine place to lay your head.
Dingle: Day 1
Now that you have an idea of the size of Dingle, find a place to park. I recommend parking at Dingle Pier (pay & display parking; have €1 & €2 coins handy). The tourist office is nearby- just next to the Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours. If the day is fine go ahead an book a one hour tour to see Fungi, the Dingle Dolphin. While you are waiting for your tour, pose with Fungi’s statue or wander through the nearby shops. You’ll find everything from dolphin trinkets and postcards to fine jewelry and woolens.
Your visit with Fungi will take approximately an hour. If Fungi is playful (as he usually seems to be), the time will flash by. After your tour, the breakfast you had hours ago is likely beginning to wear off. Forego lunch and visit Murphy’s Ice Cream where everything is hand made. They even harvest the sea salt! My favorite is the Brown Bread ice cream, a beautiful vanilla with chewy chunks of caramelized brown bread. The fun thing about Murphy’s is that you can put as many flavors in one cup as you want- you pay by the cup size and not by the number of scoops. This is a do not miss in Dingle!
(Didn’t come in via Conor Pass? Now would be a great time to take that drive!)
Weather not cooperating? Not to worry! Spend some time in the Oceanworld Aquarium. A fun aquarium, your ticket buys you all day entry so you can come back for special programs- like penguin feeding!
Go ahead and get checked into your lodging now. Your hosts should know where you can find live traditional music- as well as a restaurant to fit your pleasures- but if they don’t, ask where you can find a copy of West Kerry Live (or find it online here). Under the ‘music & entertainment’ heading you’ll find live entertainment offerings for the week.
After dinner get a different view of Dingle Harbour with a walk from the Dingle Skellig Hotel to Hussey’s Folley.
Dingle: Day 2
Make sure you have a filling breakfast as today is all about exploring the peninsula! You may want to stop at a grocery and pick up drinks and snacks for later, as well.
Begin with scenic Slea Head Drive. And don’t just drive the route- experience it! Get out of the car. Feel the sea spray on your face. Go off the path a bit and explore. You’ll find stone age forts, movie locations, castles and even a boat ride to the Blasket Islands (weather permitting). Don’t rush through this, savor it. 3-5 hours recommended.
More sites on the Dingle Peninsula:
- Dingle is home to Mount Brandon, the peninsula’s highest mountain, and Brandon Creek where St. Brendan the Navigator is said to have begun his epic journey (and discovered America before Columbus).
- You can spend quite a bit of time beachcombing and birdwatching near Ventry, Feohanagh and Fermoyle Strand.
- Explore inland to Lough Adoon to see wedge tombs, standing stones, ritual sites and beehive huts.
- Minard Castle is located off the N86. The ruins have a beautiful view.
Tonight enjoy your final evening in Dingle with a pint at the pub.
Note: As a peninsula, Dingle’s weather tends to change quickly, and often. Use the above suggestions, but be sure to change them about to fit both your interests and the weather!
If you have a favorite spot in Dingle please share it with other travelers in the comments below!
© 2013, Jody Halsted. All rights reserved.