Years back, I was in a pub in Limerick. I wasn’t supposed to be there.
I was supposed to be in Cork, but a plan had changed and my business in Cork was delayed. So I had some days to kill. I’d seen what I’d come to see in Limerick, and was keen to explore the coast.
I struck up a chat with an Irish chap, and asked where might I go.
He thought for a second and said, Dingle, Ireland's best kept secret . A woman at the table over perked up, said, Dingle? What about Dingle? This lad’s off to Dingle, said the chap. Oh, she said, my sister’s in Dingle. Got a place to stay, then?
I hadn’t said I
was going; and no, I didn’t have a place to stay.
I did go to Dingle in the end. But I declined the woman’s offer to put me up at her sister’s and I stayed at Murphy’s Pub and B&B. I’ve since applauded my decision. Not because of Murphy’s, but because of the glorious Conor Pass, the superbly green Dingle peninsular, and the town of Dingle itself.
Don’t get me
wrong, Murphy’s was a fine little place; and still is by all
accounts. No bells and whistles, but comfy, well priced, with room
for singles, couples or the family.
As a family, we stay
at the Quayside B&B. And why not? TV’s in the rooms,
large beds, and views of Dingle harbor.
As happened with me, word of mouth about Dingle has taken effect, and it is not the secret it once was: people are discovering its charms and its tinkle (excuse the pun). What was just an out-of-the-way fishing village is now an entertainment and food destination.
According to the locals, Dingle is the heart of the traditional music scene in Ireland.
can’t confirm that, but I can confirm it has literally dozens of
pubs; and with a population of little over a thousand, Dingle boasts
more pubs per capita than anywhere else in Ireland… and having the
most pubs in Ireland means that there are a LOT of pub; pubs in which
line-dancers join at the elbows and the mandolins do play on.
The food scene is
very much on the rise. With the fish coming straight of the boats and
chefs rising to the challenge of serving international-standard
dishes, Dingle has become a competitive foodie destination.
Murphy’s ice-cream shop! (What is it about coastal towns? So many
have spectacular ice-cream shops. Have you noticed?
It’s a seaside
thing, I suppose.
For something hot, dine at the very fine Global Village restaurant. The honey-glazed pork cutlet is stellar, and the organic veggies, (served with most dishes) are from the restaurant’s own farm.
Out Of The Blue is a
seaside bistro that only serves fish; and when they specialize, boy
do they specialize. If the John Dory’s written up on the
chalkboard, look no further.
One of the cooler things about the pubs here: many are dual-purpose: shops by day moonlighting as pubs in the evening. Foxy Johns, for instance, is a hardware store. Ask for a screwdriver in there, you won’t get your vodka and orange, you’ll get… well… a screwdriver.
You gotta love it.
The scenery will
send you for a loop
peninsular with its staggeringly high cliffs, mountain passes and
gorgeous beaches, is scenic royalty.
Conor pass – wow.
A word of caution though: they drive on the left in Ireland, the roads are narrow in Ireland, there are sheep on the roadsides, and the roads are often wet.
The Mediterranean postcard, with the blue skies and lined-up umbrellas does not apply. But the beaches are as golden, less frequented, and often bigger. Inch beach, for instance, featured in our Best Beaches segment, has a very misleading name. It’s 2 miles long.
Cycling the Slea
Head Loop was I think the best time I’ve had on a bike. It was a
lovely salty sea-breezy overcast day, and rounding Slea Head itself,
we were at the point in Europe closest to America… and I managed
the 26-mile ride, even on these old legs – the route hugs the coast
road so is relatively flat.
You can also rent
bikes at Foxy John’s, by the way.
For the active
types, Mt Brandon can be climbed in just a few hours. At the summit
you’ll see a quarter of Ireland in front of you and the vast
Atlantic behind. So special.
For the history
buffs, the Dingle peninsular is, literally, an open-air museum,
packed with ancient sites. The Gallerus Oratory and the Beehive huts
are prime examples of the dry-wall structures, built without mortar,
that are as solid today as the day they were built, over 1000 years
ago. Considering the storms that lash this part of the world, I’d
say that’s incredible.
Spend sometime in Dingle
It is not the most accessible town in Europe, as it is the most westerly. They say, in Dingle, that the next parish over is Manhattan… from where one can fly straight to Kerry Airport. From there its 30 miles on R561 via Castlemaine and Tralee. If coming on Bus Eireann or Irish Rail, buy a ticket to Tralee, then use the local bus service to get to Dingle.
Typically, renting a
car is best.