Wild and rugged, the Dingle Peninsula on Ireland’s southwest coast is a trove of isolated beaches, mountainous views, quaint villages, green hills, and ancient ruins. Due to its narrow roads and plunging cliffs, this part of Ireland is much less accessible than the near-by Ring of Kerry and attracts fewer crowds. A loop around the peninsula will take a full day—not because it’s a long drive but because you’ll find yourself stopping every 5 minutes to admire the view.
You can take a guided tour to see some of the sites but there are secluded spots that buses just can’t reach. Renting a car or hiring a private driver is your best bet. When I visited in early July, I opted not to rent a car (me driving on the left side of the road is a bad (really bad) idea) but I was advised by some friendly locals to contact a small taxi company in the area that offered private tours. South Kerry Taxi provided an economical way for us to truly experience the Dingle Peninsula: reach secluded spots with no crowds, stop for pictures as often as we wanted, take our time at each site, and in general, move at our own pace.
If you find yourself in Kerry County, this drive is a must. In fact, if you have time for only one peninsula, skip the Ring of Kerry and opt for this one instead. Below is a photo collection of some of the best highlights from this drive.
Twenty seven photos that will make you want to visit the Dingle Peninsula
Coming from Killarney, which is south of the Dingle Peninsula, we drove north and started our day with a leisurely walk on Inch Beach. It wasn’t warm enough for a swim but this secluded spot offered plenty of amazing views and a calming atmosphere.
Next, we drove passed the village of Anascaul and got a glimpse of Ireland’s famous green landscape.
Next, we drove past the village of Dingle and onto Slea Head drive, a circular route on the western tip of the peninsula. Known for its narrow roads, Slea Head drive is not accessible by large tour buses. Before reaching Slead Head, the westernmost part of this drive, our guide brought us to Dunbeg Fort, which was built during the Iron Age (circa 500 BC). The fort itself wasn’t impressive (only a few stones remain intact) but the views were worth the stop.
Once we reached Slea Head, we found ourselves all alone and had a few minutes to enjoy the view and the peace and quite.
Past Slea Head, we found even more picture-perfect stops, including a lovely view of the Atlantic coastline.
In this same spot, we came across some pre-famine huts. If you’re not familiar with Irish history, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation and disease that claimed the lives of millions and sparked a great migration off the island. These huts were on the side of the road, abandoned but well preserved.
Next, we found a short path to another secluded beach (Coumeenoole Beach to be exact)…
…and yet another picture-perfect view.
Nearing the end of Slea Head drive, we marveled at the beauty of Ireland’s farm lands and made a quick stop at the Gallarus Oratory, believed to be the oldest church in Ireland.
By this point, we were pretty hungry and made a stop in the village of Dingle, a great place for authentic Irish food and shopping (not to mention authentic and sometimes difficult to understand local accents).
After lunch, we hit the road again and made our way through Conor Pass, a mountainous section of the Dingle Peninsula that tour buses can’t reach. Here we encountered the picturesque views of Ireland you only see in guidebooks…
…and just casually happened to come across a waterfall on the side of the road.
Did I mention this waterfall just happened to be on the side of the main road?
By now we were pretty impressed and a little bit tired but our driver saved the best for last. Past the village of Camp, he took a detour down a dirt mountain road to cut across the peninsula and take us back down to the village of Anascaul. The dirt road (literally, it was a dirt road, I’m not sure how we didn’t get a flat tire), took us past farm land…
and a few close encounters with sheep!
For you map geeks out there, here is a handy Google Maps view of some of the highlights from this drive. The entire loop took 8-9 hours (with frequent stops and a lengthy lunch/shopping stop in Dingle) but we likely missed many more beautiful sites along the way. If you have the time, spend more than one day driving around (and getting lost) in the Dingle Peninsula.