The Dingle Peninsula drive is one of the best ways to spend a day in western Ireland. The road itself is only about 30 miles, but you should allocate at least an entire day to seeing the sites along the road. When on the Slea Head Drive route, you’ll encounter stunning coastlines, rolling hills, historical monuments, and charming towns.
Here, you’ll encounter over 6,000 years of history coupled with the modern artistic charm of the local towns. The Kerry coastline is one of the most impressive in the country, with both dramatic cliffs and expansive beaches.
Table of Contents
Planning a Dingle Peninsula Road Trip
The Dingle Peninsula route is straightforward. It must be driven clockwise and is easiest to begin from one of the larger towns nearby, like the town of Dingle. You might also have heard of this route by another name: the Slea Head Drive.
You’ll pass Slea Head, an outlook over the rugged coastline, early in your drive along the route from Dingle town. Plan to spend one or two nights in Dingle and a full day driving the route. You could also opt to stay in nearby Killarney, just outside Killarney National Park, or Tralee.
The Dingle Peninsula is a continuation of the Ring of Kerry drive, so it’s a good transition if you’re hoping to complete both during your time in Ireland. The road around the Dingle Peninsula is fairly well-marked.
Keep an eye out for road signs that say “Slea Head Drive” and “Wild Atlantic Way” to help guide your journey. There are a few sections of the route where you can venture off the main Irish road to see a sheltered section of the Coast of the Dingle Peninsula or a small village.
If you’re interested in seeing these parts of the peninsula, have a map downloaded on your mobile device or a physical map available. You can rent a car for your trip on Rentalcars.com which compares prices across a number of companies.
While people drive the road, but you can also book a guided tour. Some options include this half-day tour, this full-day tour or this private tour. Those bicycle enthusiasts visiting the area can even bike the entire route.
Finally, be mindful of the weather during your entire trip to Ireland and especially while visiting the Dingle Peninsula.
Depending on the time of year, clouds and rain can roll into the coastline quickly and linger, obstructing your view of the stunning coastline that you came to see. Dress in layers, have a good rain jacket and shoes built for hiking.
How Long is the Dingle Peninsula Drive?
The entire drive on the Dingle Peninsula is about 30 miles (48km), but you should take your time along the route. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might encounter traffic and crowds at some of the most popular spots, so budget an entire day for the route.
The main route goes along the peninsula with a few offshoots that lead to more secluded parts of the peninsula. The road itself is curvy and slow-going, so travelling 30 miles could easily take you closer to two hours of driving.
Best Dingle Peninsula Drive Stops
Set out along the Dingle Peninsula expecting to make a lot of stops. Take your time to admire the landscape or learn a little about local history at each destination. Our itinerary begins and ends in Dingle, but you can make adjustments to your stops depending on where you’re staying.
As the name would suggest, Dingle Town is the most prominent town on the Dingle Peninsula loop and where most visitors begin their journey. Make sure you budget some time to meander through the town. It’s filled with eclectic shops, charming cafes, and fresh seafood.
Unlike many places in Ireland, you’ll hear a lot of the Irish language spoken in town. Spend the day wandering the town on foot and the evening enjoying live music at a local pub before heading out to take in the stunning landscape nearby.
While here, you’ll want to stop into Murphy’s Ice Cream for a delicious scoop (or two). If you have time, the Oceanworld Aquarium, the Dingle Distillery or a dolphin-watching tour from the town could all be added to your Dingle itinerary.
When you first set sight on the Beehive Huts you’ll probably wonder who would have lived in such small and funny-looking abodes. The answer: hermit monks and followers of Saint Peter.
In their heyday, there were more than 400 of these intriguing little structures just west of Dingle Town and just past the village of Ventry, but today only a handful are still standing. The Beehive Huts are one of the first stops along the Slea Head loop.
Hold a Baby Lamb is one of the most well-preserved huts. They get their name from their resemblance to old-fashioned beekeeping huts.
A more precise name for this scenic drive is the Slea Head Drive. Once you arrive at Slea Head and look out onto the rugged green coastline, you’ll understand why. This is by far one of the most scenic and stunning parts of the route.
You’ll park in a small lot at the top of the lookout before heading down a narrow path to a small part of the cliff that juts out. Looking one direction you’ll see the expansive Atlantic Ocean. Gaze in the opposite direction to take in the rocky coastline and rolling hills behind.
Make sure to slow down and enjoy your time at Slea Head. And for another great view of the Atlantic, head just a bit north to Dunmore Head, which is the most westerly point on the Dingle Peninsula.
After spending the morning along the Slea Head Drive, you should arrive at Dunquin around lunchtime. Here is a great place to grab a bite to eat and sit along the pier.
Dunquin overlooks the Blasket Islands, another good place for a day trip if you have time. You can opt to visit the Blasket Island Centre instead.
Take a quick stroll down to Dunquin Pier–you’ll head down a twisty path that leads to the pier and feels like a slice of mediaeval history. There are also several walking trails and outlooks available to you here.
Reask Monastic Site
Reask Monastic Site is famous for its Cross Slabs–stone columns with carvings to resemble crosses. It’s one of the many early Christian sites found on the peninsula and were largely considered to be sacred land where visitors could come to be closer to God.
As you wander through these historic and haunting grounds, pay attention to the intricate curvy carvings along the stones. In particular, the “Reask Stone”. It bears some of the most intact inscriptions in the entire site.
If you want to see more historic sites while you drive Slea Head, then also consider a stop at the nearby Gallarus Oratory which has a number of interesting ruins, as well.
To head toward Conor Pass, you’re going to move away from the coastline and go inland. Here, you’re visiting one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland that cuts through the center of the peninsula. It’s because of this that the views along the pass are unbeatable.
The road carves along steep cliff sides and past pristine lakes. The road is narrow, so make sure to read up about the route prior to setting out. There are sections where the road becomes so tight that two cars cannot pass at the same time, so keep an eye out for these parts.
Conor Pass Waterfall can be seen along the route.
It’s generally unwise to travel the pass in inclement weather as visibility becomes poor and the route can be treacherous. Check the weather and road conditions before departure. That said, should you drive Conor Pass, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding views.
If you don’t drive Conor Pass, the Dingle Peninsula route continues along the coastline before meeting up at a three-way where the pass ends.
Those who love outlooks over beautiful landscapes are going to want to make a pit stop at Brandon Point. The point is about 20 km north of Dingle and at the end of an offshoot road from the main route.
Brandon Point is the second-highest peak in Ireland. On your way there, you’ll pass through Cloghane and Brandon villages before reaching an observation deck overlooking the coastline.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the area is known for whale and dolphin sightings. It’s also a popular spot for bird-watching in the fall. There is also a trailhead for a few local hikes or you can simply kick back and enjoy the view.
Stop at Inch Beach as you’re nearing the end of the Slea Head loop. You can also visit this beach separately from Dingle to spend more time as it’s very close to the town.
In recent years, it’s become famous for its pristine waves for surfing. It’s also a popular spot for windsurfing, fishing, and swimming.
Those interested in local flora and fauna will have plenty to explore here.
Inch Beach is part of one of the best intact dune systems in the country, welcoming a highly diverse ecosystem with sand dunes, marine life, and salt marsh habitats. There is a small village at Inch Beach, which often serves as the jumping-off point for surfing lessons or just an afternoon spent on the shore.
One of the things Ireland is most known for is its castle ruins. Minard Castle is a stunning little castle that sits overlooking the bay.
Here, you’ll also find an Iron Age ring fort and an early Christian holy well. It was built by the Knight of Kerry but later destroyed by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. After that, the castle witnessed a series of owners and battles that led to its eventual demise.
Minard Castle is the perfect end to your Dingle Peninsula road trip. Sit on the rocky shoreline or grassy hills to watch the sunset. Look out over the bay to take in the bright blue water contrasted against the lush green hills of the area.
Make sure you walk around the castle and grounds to find all the little pieces of history to close out your day trip.
Where to Stay in Dingle
An Capall Dubh B&B Dingle – Situated in Dingle Town, this cosy B&B is perfect for mid-range travellers looking for a comfortable and affordable base when they drive the Dingle Peninsula. They have a range of rooms on offer, have free parking and there is a hearty breakfast included each morning.
Dingle Bay Hotel – This hotel is located by the pier in Dingle Town and is the perfect base for those looking for a quaint and comfy base in this area of Ireland. They have a range of rooms on offer, and on-site restaurant and bar (with breakfast available each morning) and free parking is available for guests.
Milltown House Dingle – Those looking for a bit of luxury will love this cosy, seafront hotel just outside of Dingle Town. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from, an ideal location for exploring the area and countless other amenities to ensure guests have the perfect stay.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Dingle hotels!
It’s impossible to see everything this incredible area has to offer in one, or even two, days. However, this route with the stops along the way provides a pretty good glimpse into the impressive scenery of the peninsula. One thing is for certain when visiting Dingle: you won’t run out of beautiful sites to explore.
Are you visiting the Dingle Peninsula? Have any questions about this drive? Let us know in the comments!