Dingle peninsula tour

Driving the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Julie Ireland 6 Comments

Here is another destination for your Ireland bucket list: the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula. If scenic drives, stunning coastal scenery, and a visit to one of Ireland’s most colorful towns sounds interesting to you, keep reading. Driving the Dingle Peninsula is a must on a visit to Ireland!

Irish Coast Drone

Things to Know Before You Go

The Dingle Peninsula is located on the southwestern coast of Ireland. This is the land of the famous Wild Atlantic Way. Rugged coastlines, green pastures, beautiful beaches, and quaint villages are all just waiting to be explored. The roads are narrow and winding, making the drive a bit of an adventure.

It takes a full day to drive the entire loop around the peninsula. Good places to base yourself are the wonderful little towns of Dingle, Killarney, or Tralee. We stayed in Killarney for three nights, our home base for driving the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, and taking the boat trip out to Skellig Michael island.

Many roads on the Dingle Peninsula are narrow, two lane roads. On Slea Head Drive and the Conor Pass, the roads are one lane, very windy, with periodic passing points. Remember, they drive on the left in Ireland! If you do not like the idea of driving these narrow, curvy roads it might be better to visit the Dingle Peninsula on a tour.

The best part of the Dingle Peninsula is Slea Head Drive. This is a coastal road on the far western end of the peninsula. This is definitely worth your time. We have recommendations for other places to visit on the Dingle Peninsula, as well.

For a Preview, Fly Over the Dingle Peninsula

Driving the Dingle Peninsula

Here is our route from Killarney through the Dingle Peninsula. We followed the red arrows to get to Dingle and then drove the Slea Head Drive Loop (blue arrows).

Dingle Peninsula Map

Here is what we did, with recommendations of what is worth seeing and what can be skipped.

Inch Beach

I do not know how Inch Beach got its name, but it is far from tiny! This beach is four miles long and definitely worth a stop. You can drive your car right out onto the beach if you want. Surfing lessons are offered here as well.

Inch Beach

Being Goofy

Julie Rivenbark

Earth Trekkers on Inch Beach

Scenic Drive to the Northern Coast

As we continued west towards Dingle, this was our view. Not bad!

Drive Dingle Peninsula

We chose to drive across the peninsula on N86. Green fields stretched out in all directions and some clouds lingered overhead. Just before arriving in Camp, this valley caught our eye. When I think of Ireland, this is what I imagine.

Ireland Dingle

Peninsula Drive to Ballycurrane

In the mood to explore, we drove out onto the small peninsula on the northern coast, to Ballycurrane. There were some horse pastures, small houses, and a few small beaches, but nothing really worth seeing. It looked like this is the place where locals go to escape the hoards of tourists that descend on Ireland every summer. I would skip this place. There are better ways to spend your time on the Dingle Peninsula.

But we did spot this pub that we loved!

Pub Dingle Peninsula

Conor Pass

The Conor Pass is one of Ireland’s highest mountain passes. It’s a long, winding, one lane road with lots of traffic. It was very cloudy while we were here. The views are not all that amazing. If you are short on time, the Conor Pass is skippable. But if you like driving very windy, narrow roads, put this on your list.

Conor Pass

The road to Dingle

Conor Pass Dingle

If you are short on time (or just want to skip right to the good stuff) see Inch Beach and then continue directly to Dingle. Yes, it was a nice drive to the northern coastline, but you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s about to get really good!

The Colorful Town of Dingle

Lovely little Dingle. This is one of Ireland’s cutest and most colorful towns.

Dingle Ireland

We arrived at lunchtime. There are lots of great restaurants to choose from. We picked the Dingle Pub because Tyler and Kara were starving and in no mood to go on a search for “the best restaurant.” It was one of the first restaurants we walked by and that is how we made our decision.  The food was decent. I ate fish and chips with a Guinness, two things I could not get enough of while in Ireland.

Dingle Pub

Inside Dingle Pub

Fish and Chips

After lunch we strolled through Dingle. We highly recommend the ice cream at Murphy’s!

Murphy's Ice Cream

Colors of Dingle Ireland

Dick Mack's

Dingle Street

Dingle Pub Ireland

Pub in Dingle

Dingle Streets

Slea Head Drive

This is the best part of the day. The coastal landscape here is stunning. There are also a bunch of historical sites to visit along the way, for those who are interested.

The entire Slea Head Loop is 30 miles. Expect the drive to take three or more hours, depending on how many places you stop to visit along the way.

From Dingle, follow signs for Slea Head Drive to the left. A few kilometers into the drive is a turn off for Eask Tower. From the road, it’s a 45 minute hike up to the tower. From here, you will have views of Dingle and out to the Skellig islands.

As you continue clockwise on Slea Head Drive, you will come to some historical sites. There is an old cottage that was abandoned 165 years ago during the famine. There is also a collection of beehive huts, stone dwellings dating back to ancient times.

It was from this spot that we had our first awesome view of the coastline. Tyler flew the drone while I took photos. Tyler’s drone photos (and video) from here are spectacular!

From the sky:

Drone Ireland

Flying Over Ireland with a Drone

Ireland Drone

From land:

Ireland in August

This is Slea Head Drive as you approach the westernmost point of the peninsula.

Road in Ireland

Driving Ireland

Blasket Islands

For more amazing views, pull into the parking lot labeled Dun Chaoin. From here you can see the Blasket Islands, the westernmost point in Europe.

Dun Chaoin

Slea Head Drive

Photographing Ireland

This is Ireland

Clogher Head

Approximately 7 km later, park at the car park on the side of the road. It is a 10 to 15 minute walk up to the top of Clogher Head for more spectacular views.

Dingle Viewpoint

Dingle View

Rumor has it that this is the new location of filming for the next Star Wars movie. Originally, filming took place on Skellig Michael island. Concerns about endangering the nesting sites of the birds on Skellig Michael forced producers to change locations. A replica of the beehive huts on Skellig Michael were constructed on the edge of these cliffs and this is now where filming is taking place.

Star Wars Dingle Ireland

 

Continue on to Ballyferriter. You have the option to visit the Gallarus Observatory, a stone, Christian church built 1,300 years ago. Then, continue back to Dingle and then on to your hotel.

Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula?

If you only have time for one scenic drive, the Dingle Peninsula is the clear winner. In our opinion, the scenery was more breathtaking and the roads were less crowded than the more popular Ring of Kerry.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in Killarney at the Gleann Fia Country House and we highly recommend this B&B. We had a huge family room, Tyler and Kara loved playing Monopoly in the conservatory each night, and being located just outside of town, it was very easy to get to by car.

Gleann Fia Country House

Need a rental car while you’re in Ireland? Check out the options offered by Car Rental Ireland.

Post updated July 2017.

Keep Reading:

Slea Head Drive Dingle Peninsula Ireland

 

Comments 6

  1. This is very helpful, as my husband and I and our 2 young adult sons plan in very early September to tour the Dingle highlights (Inch Beach, Dingle, Slea Head Drive) that you talk about. We’ll probably skip the places you say are skippable so we can get out of our car and explore the really worthwhile places, and not have to zip through as we only have one day for the Dingle peninsula. We are also staying in Killarney as our base. Your tour, however, ended in Dingle. We are either heading back to Killarney or, if it’s our last day, on to Adare before flying out of Shannon the next day (we’re going to remain flexible about what days we do the various things on our Killarney itinerary based on what we’re in the mood for and weather). If we go back to Killarney, do you suggest we just retrace the route we took to Dingle? Any suggestions if we head to Adare after Slea Head Drive? Many thanks.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Mary. After driving the Slea Head Loop, we drove straight back to Killarney and had dinner in town in Killarney. Yes, the quickest way back is the same way out (N86 to R561 and then south to Killarney). This journey takes just over an hour. If you go to Adare, it takes about 2 hours and the quickest route is through Tralee. If you go to Adare from Dingle and Slea Head Drive, you could drive across the Dingle Peninsula on the Conor Pass and then see a portion of the northern peninsula. Then you can see everything! Cheers, Julie

  2. Ok, I am confused. Is the Inch Beach part of the Slea Head Drive? You say you can avoid Conor Pass and go right to Inch beach – but how? We will go from Dublin to Kilmacduagh to Dingle (via ferry). Can we avoid Conor Pass here as it seems to be included in a Slea Head Tour?
    Couple days there (will include the Slea Head Drive). On return to Dublin will got to Kenmare, maybe Kinsale (time permitting) to Cobh. Stay overnight in Cobh than see Kilkenny and Greystones plus Dun Laoguire (again in time permits) and back to Dublin.

    1. Post
      Author

      Inch Beach is not part of Slea Head Drive. Slea Head is a scenic drive located on the far western portion of the Dingle Peninsula, west of Dingle. Inch Beach sits east of Dingle, on the southern coast of the Dingle peninsula. Depending on where you are coming from, you can include Conor Pass in your drive or skip it. If you want to skip Conor Pass, from Dingle drive east on N86 and R561 to get to Inch Beach. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi! I’m looking into driving the Dingle Peninsula this summer and this guide was so helpful! Now that I’ve read this, I’m thinking of staying in Dingle 2 nights. The first, doing the Slea Head loop. Then spending another night in Dingle and the next day doing you’re “red arrow” route but the other way….so start out in Dingle and drive Clockwise and end in Inch beach. Do you think, based on your drive, that this is possible?

    Thanks so much for the advice, I’ll definitely be using this article for reference!

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, your plan is very doable. We did the entire drive, Slea Head and our “red loop” in one day, with Killarney as our home base. You will have more than enough time with two days to do both drives. You really only need one night in Dingle and you can put the time into another spot in Ireland, if you want. Cheers, Julie

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