Dingle, Ireland: "most beautiful place in the world"?
Dingle, the northernmost of three peninsulas along the southwest coast of Ireland, was annointed “the most beautiful place in the world” by National Geographic Traveler a few years ago. It had been recommended to me over the larger, more touristy Ring of Kerry, and was the location in Ireland I most looked forward to visiting.
It took little time to become entranced by the scenery. As I slowly made my way through the peninsula toward the town of Dingle, I savored the green fields and coastline. I pulled over several times to admire the photogenic vistas that emerged beyond seemingly each curve.
Once I arrived in Dingle town, the owner of my B&B at the Alpine Guesthouse was quite willing to help with directions and answer questions about the area. I found that I was just two blocks from the pub I'd heard raves about, O’Flaherty's.
Dingle is suffused with quality musicians, and one can experience the craic at any of numerous pubs. O’Flaherty's is a cozy pub awash in local tradition and traditional Irish music. Its walls are covered with photos, news clippings, posters, even poems by local writers. As with most of the pubs, music starts about 9:30.
I sipped on a Guinness while listening to Fergus O'Flaherty, the owner, play about eight different instruments. He transitioned smoothly from one piece to the next, a bevy of instruments to his side. Fergus has been entertaining locals and visitors alike for years and performs almost nightly.
Dick Mack's is another popular local pub, but there are many, and you can "crawl" from one to another in search of your personal favorite.
The following day was set aside to explore the peninsula. The views from Slea Head Drive, which trace the coastlinge of Dingle, were among the most impressive I've experienced anywhere in Europe. Weather is almost a nonfactor; a misty day just heightens the area's intrigue.
There are ruins along this route dating back to the Iron and Bronze Ages. It’s said that the monks who made Dingle their home in the Dark Ages kept literacy alive in Europe. If your curiosity is stirred by the ancient remains, beehive huts and old, abandoned abbeys, you might consider taking an archaeological day tour.
On a clear day, the views of the Blasket Islands from Slea Head Drive are exquisite. A visit to the islands also makes for a memorable day trip.
Those who have steady nerves and a small car can take the Connor Pass through the heart of the mountains in Dingle. The views are, again, amazing, but don’t lose your focus on the road while driving – there’s little room for error. (This drive is not recommended on misty days.)
Dingle town is fun to explore by foot. An Cafe Liteartha and Murphy's Pub provide inexpensive lunches. You can also pick up lunch at the Super Valu Mart and have a picnic along the harbor.
Feel free to ask the locals for help if you get lost. You'll most likely get precise, detailed directions...and perhaps a story to boot. The Irish do have the gift of gab, and if you’re similarly blessed, you might even make a new friend on the spot.
Gaelic is widely spoken in Dingle, but the locals still like to refer to the peninsula as Dingle rather than the native Irish, An Daingean. Locals have spray-painted “Dingle” on road signs providing only the Irish version of the name.
Fungie the dolphin is a popular local attraction, having adopted the peninsula as his home several years ago. His somewhat legendary status among the locals reminded me of Petros the pelican in Mykonos, Greece. There’s a statue of Fungie in the harbor, and tours will take you out looking for him.
The Dingle Peninsula offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking and even surfing. Some of the finest beaches in Ireland are here.
It may or may not be the world's most beautiful place, but on an all-too-brief trip to Ireland, Dingle is right where I want to be.
Read about ways to save when traveling in Derek Ray's "Wanderings" blog.