Why Dingle? Because the most Irish person we know said it was the one place to go in Ireland, if you couldn’t go anywhere else. Having been there, I can see why. First of all, it’s beautiful everything is Irish green but the sheep because it pours rain every day even in July and oh sorry I got off the track a little. Second of all, it’s the most easily accessible place to go where Irish is spoken. There are Irish communities where people live year round, Irish schools where students come to learn the Irish language and culture, and people who come here to restore their connections to their roots. Third of all, Dingle has a little of everything you’re looking for in Ireland: several good pubs, lots of good music, some nice restaurants, an old church, and a short drive away there’s a scenic loop with wild landscape and artifacts that date from recent history to the Stone Age.
If you plan it right, your introduction to Dingle is a trip over the magnificent Conor Pass. You wind your way up the mountain side on a twisty little road that’s single track for a long stretch, overhung by rocks flowing with water from unseen streams. At the top there’s a pullout where you can look at the two valleys on either side: on one side is the land you just came from, spreading out across low rolling hills to the sea, and Dingle waiting below you on the other.
The village of Dingle has two main strips: one runs up the hill and one along the harbor. On the hill, nearly every business is a restaurant, a pub, a pub/restaurant, pub/hardware store, pub/antique store, or pub/dry goods store. Nobody goes hungry or thirsty around here, even while buying a hammer. I hope that store doesn’t sell power tools.
The strip along the harbor is unfortunately, for the tourists. There are T-shirt shops, fish and chip carts, souvenir stands and tour companies of all sorts. The bright spots are The Chart House restaurant (really good food is a classy but comfortable atmosphere, not part of the American chain with the same name) and Murphy’s Ice Cream, with the boys and girls passing out samples on the street, their faces as fresh as cream.
When you’ve had enough of this, you don’t have to go far to get away. Keep on driving, in a few minutes you’re on the scenic route around the Dingle Peninsula, known as Slea Head Drive (Ceann Sleibhe in Irish). All of the signs are in English using bold block letters with the Irish in a smaller font and italics above that. It made me wonder how long it will be before that’s the other way around. The English have dominated southwest Ireland for 800 years, so it will probably be a while longer.
You don’t need me to describe the loop in detail; Rick Steves did a good job of that. So I’ll just show you some of the pictures we took.
In the other direction from Dingle is Brandon Point, which is not as dramatic as the Slea Head Loop, but well worth the trip, for hikers at least.
We had a B&B that was walking distance from town – just far enough to be dark and quiet at night, and with great views. Kevin, our host, was a wealth of information. Listening to him, we truly understood how a person could love living here. We loved our time here, too, but for us it was time to move on.