Our fist stop on the Dingle Peninsula was at Inch Beach. You begin your journey on the N71 from Killarney in the direction of Dingle, before connecting to the R561. It’s about 40 minutes from Killarney. There was a cute cafe open along the beach so we stopped for some tea and a light breakfast! (The weather was so nice this day people were actually swimming on the beach and some were preparing to surf).
The next stop along our journey led us to Dingle, the town that gives the peninsula its name. You’ll continue along the R61 before switching to the N86, following signs for Dingle. It’s about 20 minutes from the beach. We spent our time strolling up the main road, popping in and out of shops before getting ice cream at Murphy’s!
Five minutes driving from Dingle, you’ll come across Dingle Distillery. It costs 15 euros for the tour, which you can preorder online, or plan to pop in if you time it up correctly. (You can also taste some of their whiskey which is fun for the non-driving members of your party). We stopped to check it out but had just missed a tour and didn’t feel like waiting another hour, so we continued on our journey. It looks like during the off season they offer tours at 12pm, 2pm and 5pm – but more frequently in the summer (almost every hour). For more information, check out their website here: Dingle Distillery.
Slea Head Loop
The next leg of our journey took us along the coast of the Dingle Peninsula. It’s called Slea Head Loop. Slea Head Loop had some amazing stops along the way, so I don’t recommend missing out. However, if it’s bad weather, consider doing this part on a different day or sticking solely to Dingle. Even though we had good weather, this part of our trip tested our driving skills once again! (And by “our driving skills”, I mean Mark’s). Departing Dingle, you’ll follow the R559, or Slea Head Drive for this portion of the road trip.
Celtic & Prehistoric Museum
Only 10 minutes down the road from Dingle on the R559, you’ll see a bright colored building called the Celtic & Prehistoric Museum. It has a full wholly mammoth skull, as well as a ton of prehistoric artifacts (both from Ireland and around the world). Mark (being a social studies teacher who teaches this time period) really enjoyed the museum. Although it’s small, it’s worth a visit if you’re interested in historical artifacts.
Another 5 minutes up the R559 (Slea Head Dr), you’ll come across a few sites to stop at. Dunberg Fort, the Famine Cottages and the Beehive huts. Each of these costs a small entry price, so we chose to visit the Beehives. These huts are a bit of a mystery, since no one can exactly date when they were built, but their structure makes them incredibly unique. Builders of these huts didn’t use mortar to keep the rocks together, but rather layered them slightly forward as they built up in order to make a roof!
Sheep Dog Herding
While in this area, you can also stop to see a sheepdog herding demonstration! You’ll see signs as you drive along the R559. While we didn’t catch a sheep dog herding demonstration, we did witness this good boy and his pals heading off to the field in style!
Only a few minutes up the road you’ll come across some more Beehive huts. If you plan to make a stop to see them, I recommend skipping the first one you come across and driving a bit further to get to the beehive forts, because included in this visit is the ability to pat some sheep and baby lambs! The farmer told me if we wanted to, we could pick one up to hold – which obviously we did. This stop enables you to get the best of both worlds – fluffy friends & beehive huts.
Continue along Slea Head Dr (the R559) for another 10 minutes to Coumeenoole Beach. Parking was limited in this area, so we ended up having to park on the side of the road and walk. While we didn’t actually go down to the beach, we were able to take in some awesome views of the shore.
In the same location as the beach, you can also follow signs to climb to see Devils Horn. It was a long and difficult up hill trek on uneven ground to get to this spot, but it was worth the view. In the distance, you’re able to see the Basket Islands which are the Western most point of Europe (besides Iceland). The trek to Devils Horn felt otherworldly! It was quite windy when we went, which added a level of difficulty, so I would imagine it wouldn’t be a fun hike in the rain.
Riasc Monastic Settlement
Another 20 minutes along Slea Head Drive, you will come across the Riasc Monastic Settlement. While we didn’t make the stop ourselves, it’s another historic site you can check out along your journey.
Further along Slea Head Drive you’ll find the Gallarus Oratory, which is believed to be an early Christian chapel or a place for pilgrims to rest. It costs a small fee to enter the Oratory, but the visitors center offers parking and toilets. Although it cannot be dated, it’s stonework is incredible and it’s very well preserved.
We ended our road trip by stopping back in Dingle for dinner. It only takes 15 minutes from the Oratory to get back to town on the R559 (Slead Head Dr). From Dingle, it’s another hour back to Killarney after that (along the N86, R561 and N22).
Stay tuned for the final leg of our road trip to Galway!