Driving around Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

The coast of the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland is beautiful!  The best way to see it is to drive the circle on Road R559.

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

My daughter and I were in Ireland last year and were excited to see the peninsula.  We were staying with my daughter’s friend, S-.

S- had a car and was willing to drive us around – which was great, since neither of us were interested in driving on the left side of the road.  I’ve heard it’s not that bad, so maybe we’ll try it next time.  Guided tours of the peninsula are available as another option.

The Dingle Peninsula is the northernmost of the peninsulas in County Kerry on the west side of Ireland.  Three films, Ryan’s Daughter, Far and Away, and Leap Year, have connections with the area – the first two had scenes shot there, while the third was set in Dingle, but filmed in other parts of Ireland.

We arrived in the town of Dingle around noon.  It was raining, so we ate lunch and did a little shopping before heading out on the drive.  We found a yarn shop that carried local Irish wool, so I picked up a little to add to my stash. There are also several high quality gift shops and fun pubs in the town.

Fungie, the Dolphin Dingle, Ireland
Fungie, the Dolphin
Dingle, Ireland

The town’s mascot, Fungie, the dolphin, is seen in the harbor throughout the year since his arrival in 1983.  You can even take a boat tour to meet him.  He is permanently memorialized in a bronze sculpture near the harbor.

We expected that the 47 km loop (about 30 miles) would only take a couple of hours, so we weren’t in a hurry.  We left Dingle town around 2:30, and by then the rain had stopped.

The road, cut into the side of the hill, only goes one way.  It follows the southern coast to the west, then turns north, and eventually loops back to Dingle.  As we started out, the view to our right was stony hills, while the left looked down to the sea.

Farms with Stone Fences
Farms with Stone Fences

Years ago, farmers harvested seaweed to mix with the clay soil, adding nutrients.  Over time, the land became fertile enough to grow potatoes or grass for pastures.  They picked the stones out of the field and piled them into fences.

Sheep Grazing, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Sheep Grazing, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Now, sheep and cows graze on the sides of the hills, corralled by stone fences. We saw igloo-shaped huts made from the stones. It’s hard to imagine what life was like when these huts were built.

Stone Igloos, Ireland
Stone Igloos, Ireland

Continuing on, the drive had several scenic pullouts – each one with views more breathtaking than the last. At one point we were able to park and walk down to the beach or up to the top of the hill.

On the Beach
On the Beach

The waves crashed against the rocks, but the beach nearby was sheltered.  By this time, the sun was shining brightly, but the strong winds made it feel cool.

Rocky Coast, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Rocky Coast,
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

About halfway through the drive, we stopped at the Great Blasket Center.  The information center has pictures, maps and models telling the interesting history of the Blasket Islands.  The islands are viewable from the center, but also from several places along the road.  The islands are the closest part of Ireland to North America.

Blasket Islands in the Distance, Ireland
Blasket Islands in the Distance, Ireland

 

 

Interspersed among the scenic vistas were ancient buildings and ruins.  One of the most interesting is the Gallerus Oratory.

Gallarus Oratory, Ireland
Gallarus Oratory, Ireland

 

The oratory was built by monks over 1300 years ago as part of their monastery.  The stones all fit together so perfectly, that they are waterproof without mortar.

Kilmalkedar Church, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Kilmalkedar Church, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

 

A little further down the road we came to the ruins of the Kilmalkedar Church.  The 12th century church is surrounded by a large cemetery.  Among the gravestones, there is a large cross, a sundial, and other unique sculptures.  The ruins of the priest’s house are nearby.

The trip took a lot longer than we anticipated – but we enjoyed every minute of it. We finally got back to Dingle town at 7 pm – four and a half hours later.  I would recommend giving yourself at least that much time to see the peninsula.

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

We had a great day.  The Dingle Peninsula is certainly worth visiting.   Enjoy the beautiful views and be sure to bring your camera!

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