Note: This post contains affiliate links. All links will direct you to products we have used ourselves and recommend.
When exploring Ireland’s southwestern coast, you have the choice of three different peninsulas: the Iveragh Peninsula (home of the ever-popular Ring of Kerry), the Dingle Peninsula, and the southernmost Beara Peninsula. With only about half a day to spend in this region, I was faced with choosing one of the three.
After some consideration, I opted for driving the Dingle Peninsula, which many reviews hailed as even more beautiful than the Ring of Kerry, and less crowded to boot.
Note: If you have time to hike any of these three peninsulas I highly recommend it. You can get a great walking guide here.
I can’t speak for the other two peninsulas, not having witnessed them, but a trip to the Dingle Peninsula can really only be told in images. Simply put, it’s a breathtaking experience and a fascinating adventure into the history of rural Ireland.
Driving the Dingle Peninsula: An Irish Road Trip
Wanting to avoid the crowded tour buses, my then-partner and I left Killarney at the crack of dawn and drove the hour or so to the town of Dingle, which marks the beginning of the circuitous route around the peninsula.
This was one of the many times we were grateful for having rented a car, because we didn’t have to rely on anyone else to dictate our schedule. There are, of course, many tour companies that will take you through the area, but we were looking for something a bit more isolated.
Note: If you’re thinking about renting a car in Ireland, make sure you check out this post here – especially if you’re an American driver.
The morning was cool, and the clouds were, in true Irish style, alternatively threatening rain and retreating. We were incredibly lucky, though, and for the most part the rain held off, letting us take in the absolutely stunning views of the Irish coast.
Our plans to trek around the peninsula early in the morning paid off. Many times we found ourselves pulling off of the road for a photo op, and there wasn’t another soul in sight.
The only down side to our early arrival was that we missed out on some of the historical areas that were charging admission — they hadn’t opened yet. This was fine by us, though; we were content to observe the natural beauty around us.
In addition to the natural beauty, there is no lack of history in the Dingle Peninsula. You can still see some of the old till lines from farms that were abandoned after the potato blight, and we even spied a few ancient beehive huts, surrounded by the endless flocks of sheep.
The beehive huts below are from around the 12th century, and are remnants of the Early Christian Period in Ireland.
As we rounded the peninsula, I kept thinking that it couldn’t get more gorgeous, more breathtaking, or more surreal. Of course, this is Ireland, so I was always proven wrong.
Archaeological remnants, some with the graffiti of Christian settlers covering pagan marks, stood stark against a lush, vibrant landscape. With so few tourists around, it felt as though this part of Ireland was truly trapped in time.
At the end of the trip, we left Dingle by driving through Conor Pass. It was a slightly terrifying drive (opposite side of the road from what we were used to, questionable lanes, and sheer cliffs), but with great views of the peninsula we were leaving behind.
It will be incredibly difficult for any other place to top Dingle as far as beauty is concerned! The peninsula has soared to the top of my list of most scenic drives.
If you’re looking into driving the Dingle Peninsula, I recommend renting a small compact car. There are a ton of different rental companies in the major cities that have relatively decent rates (especially if you know how to drive a stick shift).