National Geographic once called it “the most beautiful place on earth”. It’s suffered the Vikings, welcomed Hollywood stars from a Galaxy far, far away, and its most famous resident is a dolphin. This is the Dingle Peninsula on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. With every turn leading down meandering country lanes to wild hedgerows, endless skies and cosy thatched pubs, you’ll soon understand why National Geographic approved so much.
This is Ireland at its best: all sparkling navy ocean and star-strewn skies – so twinkle filled, in fact, that sprawling Inch Beach on the peninsula’s southern stretch is a known stargazing spot. Take the road to Ballyferriter village and walk on Beál Bán beach – only really known to locals. Once you see the views, you’ll see why they’ve kept it to themselves.
“You don’t get to Dingle by accident; it is on the way to nothing but itself.”
One of the five Southern Peninsulas of the Wild Atlantic Way, local author Felicity Hayes-McCoy recommends a stroll around Cloghar Cliff: “You’ll probably want to bring your camera. Even on a grey day the walk through green fields above the heaving, foam-flecked Atlantic is terrific.” Keep watch for the workshop of renowned Irish potter Louis Mulcahy. Louis’s son describes their idyllic location: “Looking out, you can imagine the Spanish Armada sailing through the Blasket Sound almost four centuries ago; or picture the tiny dots of the island fishermen in their naomhógs (traditional boats) heading out to sea in search of mackerel.”
The social life
Pushed out towards the bay by a modest set of mountains, Dingle town is arguably one of the island's more charming towns. Eclectic little fashion and jewellery shops on Green Street give way to intimate and cosy pubs, such as Ashes and Foxy John’s. The latter is a DIY store with beer taps and, consequently, the only pub in the country where you can sink a pint and satisfy your hardware needs at the same sitting.
“Some pubs double as shops, so you can enjoy Guinness and a singalong among screws and nails, wellies and horseshoes.”
Café Liteartha on Dykegate Street combines the quaint calm of a bookshop with the tastiest toasted sandwiches around. And Fungie – Dingle’s beloved wild dolphin mascot – still demands company. He gets is by the boatload, too. Strike up a chat with a local fisherman and you can even fish for your own supper off the coast – but beware, you’ll be competing for a catch with Fungie, Dingle’s beloved wild dolphin mascot!
“It’s beautiful. It’s well worth the trip. It’s something everyone should do if they get the chance."
In more recent times, the cast and crew of Star Wars came to town to film parts of The Last Jedi, bringing Dingle – one of the locations along this epic coastline to double as UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael – to an international stage. Skellig Michael’s iconic 6th century beehive huts were meticulously recreated for cinematic glory at Sybil Head, near Dingle… Not a sign, nor a stone remain of their sojourn, but that’s exactly how nature intended!