Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula

The tip of the Dingle peninsula is Ireland’s westernmost point. If that was not enough to make you want to go there, wait until you see my photos of that part of the emerald island. Less popular than the Ring of Kerry, Western Ireland’s most famous drive, the Dingle peninsula is rising in popularity. Two are the main reasons behind this. First, it’s a shorter drive than the Ring of Kerry. Second, despite being shorter it still encompasses some of the finest views of Ireland.

While planning my Ireland itinerary, which was mostly focussed on Irish whiskey distilleries, I had two days to get from Galway to Midleton. We wanted to explore Ireland as much as the whiskey, so I was very excited to drive the Western coast. One stop were the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most famous natural attraction. The other one had to be the Dingle peninsula.

The Dingle peninsula drive can be a simple daytrip. The drive is fairly short, so even allowing generous exploration time along the road, one day is definitely more than enough. Arriving from a morning stop at the Cliffs we didn’t have enough time to also drive around the Dingle peninsula on the same day, so we planned for an overnight stop there. Given the unpredictable quality of the Irish weather, I figured that spending one night there we could hope to get okay weather on at least one out of two days.

The Cliffs of Moher welcomed us in the most typical Irish weather: rain, wind and general gloominess. The rain followed us almost all the way to Dingle. I did not mind getting hours and hours of rain on the days when we had lots of driving time. But I was hoping for a change of weather once we got to the Dingle peninsula. As we approached Dingle it actually happened. The rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun came out just before setting. It felt somewhat majestic to drive towards the sunset on our way to Dunquin, Ireland’s westernmost village.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland
The road to Dunquin, chasing the sunset.

Where to stay on the Dingle Peninsula

Dunquin was not a random choice. It’s the village where you can find the westernmost hostel in Europe, Dún Chaoin Youth Hostel. I recommend being in the area for the sunset. The hostel is pretty simple, but welcoming. At the time of our visit it was also the cheapest option on the peninsula, which was a plus. Access to a shared kitchen was also a blessing, as there are no dining options at walking distance. We ate out pretty often in Ireland, as I was very excited to taste the local food and beer, but in order to keep the budget low we had to make our own food some days.

So for Dunquin we planned a great night in. We brought a package of pasta and a jar of pesto, picked up a package of Connemara salmon and a couple of beers at the supermarket and made a great hostel dinner. Dún Chaoin hostel has a common room that faces the Ocean. We had a great dinner admiring the sunset from the large common room windows.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland
Dinner with a view in Europe’s westernmost hostel

You can reach the hostel by following the Slea Head drive from Dingle. The Slea Head drive is a coastal route that passes by some of the Dingle peninsula’s most famous landmarks, such as Ventry Beach, the Famine Cottage and Gallarus Oratory. We decided to take a shortcut and reached the Hostel through the small road that cuts from Ventry to Dunquin. Less famous than the coastal route, this little road proved no less scenic. Being elevated, just before driving down into Dunquin one can admire a beautiful view of the Blasket islands on the horizon.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland
See the Blasket islands in the mist?

The Dunquin Pier

Overnighting at Dún Chaoin was cool for its location, but it was also quite strategic. One of the most interesting sights on the Dingle peninsula is the Dunquin pier. My favourite sight, if you ask me. The pier is one narrow and steep path that leads to the sea following the natural morphology of the land. Impressive cliffs tower all around the small bay that hosts the only landing point that makes connection possible between the Blasket islands and mainland Ireland.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, IrelandBest offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland

The sea was pretty rough, navigation of the Blasket sound was not happening that day. As I made my way down towards the sea I was in awe. This is better than the Cliffs of Moher, I kept thinking. Sure, the height of the famous cliffs is impressive, but they’re so famous that I had seen them so many times in pictures before and in a way I knew what to expect. The Dunquin pier is less known. Sure, I had seen photos of it while researching for the trip, but when I was finally descending its steep slope, forcing my way through that channel of pure Atlantic wind I was in awe. If that was not enough, the whole anthropological importance that that pier represents made the whole experience feel so solemn.

The Blasket islands were inhabited until 1953. Emigration, isolation and the harsh nature of the place had made life for the small community there unsustainable. The islanders were finally brought to the mainland indefinitely on the 17th of November 1953. Many of them emigrated to America. Prior to that final one-way trip to the mainland, the Dunquin pier had been the islanders’ lifeline, their way to the rest of the country. They would land there and unload their sheep on their way to the cattle market in Dingle. It was from this pier that the teacher, the postman, even tax collectors would reach the isolated community. As I made my way down the pier resisting the wind that was blowing in the opposite direction I felt a strange nostalgia for a life I haven’t lived. For a brief moment I was surrounded by the ghosts of the Blasketers making their way up the pier after a stormy sailing. It was like that same vessel was waiting for me, like I was going home. The idea of that isolation felt like home.

A stronger gust of wind made me falter and I was back in the present.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, IrelandBest offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland

Slea Head viewpoint

I took the last picture of the Dunquin pier seconds before a huge downpour. We ran back to the car and started our proper Dingle peninsula drive. Following the Slea Head drive clockwise from Dunquin, we found a viewpoint over Sybil Head. A signpost informed me that this place had been used as a Star Wars filming location. There is no evidence of the set, but the view is amazing. Even non Star Wars fans should definitely plan a stop there and take it all in. I was impressed with the little sandy bay to the right getting regularly filled with sea water over the whole beach.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland

And again, the clouds unveiled the sun just for the time of a few pictures, and then a sudden downpour followed. We ran, once again, back to the car. The rain chased us away after every stop, the half day we spent on the Dingle peninsula was a constant run from the rain. A very typical Irish experience.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland

Inch Beach

Our last stop on the Dingle peninsula was Inch Beach. We had driven past it the day before, as the weather was supposed to be better the following day. I’m glad we did not stop then – Inch Beach was unbelievably windy, just like the rest of the Dingle peninsula. Better not combine rain with extreme wind, if possible. Can’t say we did not experience any rain at all at Inch Beach, as a brief downpour happened also on that stop. You can see those thick clouds looming over the sea are bearers of rain, and the wind brings them in no time.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, IrelandBest offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland

Inch Beach is a surfer’s paradise and during high season one can rent equipment there. It is also a great place for photos, that large sandy beach is a great background. It is just so windy that the photographer requires a steady hand, and no self-timed tripod shots will ever do the trick there.

Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula, Ireland

When the rain chased us away from the beach we found shelter in the little shop next to the parking lot. The shop had a great selection of books from the Blasket islands authors. Many islanders recounted their lives at the edge of the world and they are all documented in a series of books. Most of them had been dictated or written in Irish, and the store sells both the original versions and the English translations. I was so fascinated with the life on the islands that I found a perfect souvenir there, Twenty Years A-Growing by Maurice O’Sullivan. I wonder if reading it I’ll get the same feeling I had on the pier.

Other things to do on the Dingle peninsula

After Inch Beach we made our way to Killarney, where we stopped for lunch and for woollen sweater shopping before driving some more to Midleton and the Jameson Experience, our final destination for the day. We skipped some of the attractions of the peninsula, and deliberately decided to skip driving the Conor Pass. After all, we were in transit, so I’m already grateful for what we managed to see and experience while there.

The town of Dingle definitely deserves some more exploration than just passing through. It is the dining spot of the peninsula, so worth stopping at mealtime. The Dingle peninsula also hosts a distillery, the Dingle Distillery. They offer guided tours, but their times conflicted with our schedule. Furthermore, we basically visited the peninsula in transit and needed to do some driving afterwards. Since we didn’t want to do a distillery tour without the possibility to sample the local product we decided to skip that one as that would have implied one more night in Dingle. We just have one more reason to go back.

And when we do I hope for good seas. I want to take the ferry to the Great Blasket Island and see what remains of a settlement that has long lived in isolation and is now left to fade in the strong Atlantic wind.

41 thoughts on “Best offbeat views of the Dingle peninsula

  1. i love this post, very detailed and informative. i will keep in mind so as to try this when i eventually visit Ireland. thanks for sharing, great post

  2. I have been to many parts of Ireland but this area is on my list and I will get there. I am moving back to Ireland in a few weeks and planning to travel to all the areas I have not yet seen. It may take me months and I hope it takes years. I don’t think anyone can get enough of the island once you have been there. Thanks for some outstanding pictures, views and information.

    1. You are welcome, thanks for sharing your story. I am the kind of person who loves to go back to places, as I don’t think you can ever see a place with the same eyes. Visiting years apart you get to discover so much more, and you get to appreciate other sides that you may have started appreciating only growing older. Just visiting at a different time of the year or in different weather can make such a big difference. I wish you many years of endless discoveries of that beautiful corner of the world!

    1. I carefully researched all the places and distances because I had booked visits at some whiskey distilleries around the island, so I needed to fit in the rest of the itinerary in between our booked time slots at the whiskey places.
      And I agree with you, Irelan’ds landscapes are unbelievably beautiful. It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise and I enjoyed every mile of my road trip.

    1. I’m sure you’d plan a wonderful itinerary there. It’s really a great place for some scenic drives and amazing experiences. I hope you make it there one day, you’ll love it!

  3. The beauty and greenery of Ireland never ceases to amaze me, even if the weather can be crap. Would love to explore Western Ireland since I only was in the North. Too bad we missed each other!!

    1. Maybe next time we’ll manage to meet there. You have to go back to see the rest of the island. I want to go back because I couldn’t get enough beer and meat. See? Easy peasy. I know there’ll be a third time for me. I love that country.

  4. Oh my gosh, take me there now!! I’ve been to tons of places in Ireland but I’ve yet to go here – which I would love to because it was featured in Leap Year and I love that movie! Absolutely gorgeous.

    1. It was really really pretty, so if you have the chance I’d warmly recommend a trip there! Didn’t know about Leap Year. I like watching movies set in places I recognize, so thanks for the tip!

  5. We were fortunate to have good weather in Dingle last year. The views were shockingly stunning, and, like you, I was struck by the rugged life of the past inhabitants. When you return for the distillery tour, you should eat some fish and chips at Reel Dingle Fish. It’s so good. Then again, your Connemara salmon looks like it was tasty too.

    1. Thanks! I definitely want to spend more time in Dingle and your recommendation sounds convincing enough! I had fabulous fish and chips in Galway and I’ll blog about it sometime soon! The Irish salmon was very tasty and very different from the Norwegian one I’m used to eating. I guess it’s because it’s smoked with different wood or a different technique, but it really had a different taste. I’m glad I tried it!

  6. Your photos look like scenery from a movie. Such perfect settings! I’m desperate to go to Ireland and now even more so. Those views are divine!

    1. Well in fact I did photograph one film setting – the New Star Wars was filmed at the Slea Head viewpoint! The light was amazing, this constant change between sun and clouds… I think tht really gave some extra depth to the colours.

    1. It is really one of the finest parts of Ireland, together with the awesome Causeway coast in Northern Ireland. That island is so much beauty.

  7. This looks jaw droppingly beautiful! I love the views off the cliffs and the winding roads – it’s exactly how I would expect Ireland to look 🙂 Great post, I love how you tell the story

    1. Thank you! I’m happy to read your feedback about my storytelling, I’m always afraid the words are never as good as the pictures so I always work very hard to try to keep a high level overall. I’m of course always happy to hear peope like my photos, but I don’t get the same compliments about my writing so this was really appreciated!

  8. Loved reading this! I’m from Portstewart, near the Causeway Coast but I haven’t explored that much of Ireland. I definitely want to do a roadtrip there sometime, and Dunquin Pier is on my Ireland bucketlist now 🙂 thanks for the tips!

    1. Glad I inspired you to explore the West! The Dunquin pier is definitely an interesting place, charming landscape and intriguing history.
      Anyway I loved the Causeway coast! Been there before driving down the west coast.

    1. Ireland is awesome, and we really explored all the best it has to offer 🙂 In my post about the Giant’s Causeway I also mentioned the hostel where we stayed; I think that it’s important to overnight in strategic places and I’m happy to share whatever worked well for me.

  9. Agreed with your comments — I have never been to Ireland, but I feel like I have because I am constantly seeing photos of the Cliffs of Moher, it’s almost like that’s all there is in Ireland! Thanks for showing another side of the beautiful country!

    1. And there is so much more, instead!! But after all, I guess all countries have that one landscape everyone knows. Think of the Eiffer tower or the Leaning tower (both towers lol).

  10. what a great view, such a beautiful landscape! It looks like you really made the most out of your Ireland trip and chose great places! If I remember correctly there was hardly any rain when I was visiting Dublin a few years ago – I was sooo surprised! 😀

    1. Wow that’s a lucky strike! No rain in Ireland at all almost feels like there is something missing 😀 I am speaking out of total jealousy, I wish I had been that lucky. But I still think the rain really belongs there and experiencing it was in a way a more authentic added value.

    1. Glad this helped! I still have two more Ireland posts planned, I will write them in November, so hopefully you’ll find even more information before your trip!

  11. Your pictures of Ireland landscape are just stunning! I found a story about the Blasket islands a bit sad when people had to leave their homes. Thanks for detailed information about the area!

    1. Thank you so much! I agree with you, it is sad they had to leave their homes, but sadly life there had become so harsh it was the actual inhabitants who had demanded to be evacuated in the first place. I was deeply fascinated with those islands and can’t wait to read the book I bought there!

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