10+ Hidden Gems On Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula
Once upon a time, the Dingle Peninsula was—in and of itself—a hidden gem. On my first trip to Ireland in 2011 it was still quite unknown for tourists, always overshadowed by the neighboring Ring of Kerry. But over the years it has rightfully gained recognition as a must-visit in Ireland.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still not as crowded as the Ring of Kerry or other tour bus-packed spots. But it IS much more crowded than it used to be, and especially in peak season you’ll be fighting more traffic and crowds.
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So whether you’re looking to find your own hidden gems along the popular drive, or have already visited Dingle and want to find some new spots to explore, I wanted to share some less-known things to do on the Dingle Peninsula—spots that tend to fly under the radar when people drive around this gorgeous area.
That doesn’t mean you should skip the more famous stops…check out my deeper post on the Dingle Peninsula, and make sure you do the full Slea Head Drive, explore Dingle town, see Inch Beach, and more. But consider adding some of these stops to your itinerary as well!
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A hidden gem for where to stay on the Dingle Peninsula
I think that most people stay right in Dingle village when visiting the peninsula, and I can definitely understand this tendency. And actually, the first time we visited this area we actually based ourselves more centrally in Kenmare, at the gorgeous Rockcrest House (which I highly recommend!!).
HOWEVER, I strongly suggest considering a more traditional Irish B&B experience, and for that look no further than Jimmy and Noreen’s beautiful Coill an Rois B&B. They were wonderful, welcoming hosts and their house is spacious and comfortable, with great views of the surrounding Dingle Peninsula.
It’s only a 10-15 minute drive into Dingle town, which I easily made for a hearty dinner at Murphy’s Pub and then trad music at Neligan’s (both recommended by my hosts).
In the morning, I got out early to explore a few hidden gems that Jimmy recommended–more on that below–after which I devoured Jimmy’s scones, pancakes, and traditional Irish brown bread (he shared his recipe with me!). This was the best traditional B&B I stayed at on this whole week-long roadtrip!
Here are some deeper posts to help you plan your own Ireland adventures!
The Perfect 7-Day Ireland Roadtrip Itinerary: Hidden Gems
A Detailed Guide To Renting A Car & Driving In Ireland
A Road Trip Along Ireland’s Southern Coast: Things To Do In County Cork & Waterford
The Medieval Charms of Kilkenny
Driving Ireland’s Beara Peninsula
Why The Ardmore Cliff Walk Should Be On Your Southern Ireland Itinerary
Exploring Ireland’s Breathtaking Dingle Peninsula
24 Hours On Wild & Beautiful Inis Mor, In Ireland’s Aran Islands
What to Expect at the Cliffs of Moher (& Where To Go Instead)
Duchess For A Day: A Luxury Stay At Dromoland Castle (Co. Clare)
Why You Should Consider Loop Head Instead of Cliffs of Moher
What to Do With 2 Days in Dublin
What to Do in Ireland’s Boyne Valley Region & Slane Village
Clonmacnoise Monastery, Ireland: A Road Trip Must-See
Hidden gems on the Dingle Peninsula
So let’s talk about some of the less-known but very cool things to do on the Dingle Peninsula. Below is a screenshot of a map plotting the different places that I talk about in this post, and here’s a live link to that map (embedding the map tends to slow the page down and get a bit wonky).
I’ve laid out the post roughly in order of how you’d find them, if you were driving the peninsula and Slea Head Drive clockwise (which is the way I’d recommend).
You should totally ignore the time estimates, however…between slower traffic and stopping frequently, this is an all-day (or at very least half-day) trip. If you do the Conor Pass I’d say all-day.
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I’ll actually start by mentioning a few “also ran” options here, and then throughout the post I’ll mention when something was (in my opinion) fine, but not worth a special trip.
One place I really wanted to visit was the Dingle Distillery (whisky, vodka, and gin), but they were temporarily closed. You should definitely check them out if you’re around, though!
I made a brief drive through Anascaul (famous for being the home of Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, and supposedly a fairytale village) but didn’t see anything worth stopping for on a random weekday. To be fair, fairytale villages are a dime a dozen in Ireland 🙂 But worth checking out if you’re driving through.
Okay, on to the good stuff!
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This is the #1 thing I can’t believe I didn’t know about the last time I visited! Minard Castle is one of the best Dingle Peninsula hidden gems, and that’s because it’s a little bit off-the-beaten-path down a narrow, winding road. When I visited (mid-May, but right at the end of COVID), I only met two cars and one bike the entire drive on that road.
At the end of that road, you’re rewarded with a quiet castle ruin sitting right on a beautiful pebble beach, with gentle waves lapping at the rocks (you can learn more about its history here). I was the only person there, and it was a lovely peaceful break from my drive. Kids would LOVE it too, great opportunities to explore.
I was there around 2pm and the light for photography was not good at all, very harsh. I wished I could have visited around sunrise, sometime in the morning, or maybe late afternoon/sunset (or on one of those lovely atmospherically moody Irish days) to really get the best photos.
I had no issues finding it using Google Maps. I do hear it’s more crowded on the weekends, so be aware of that.
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Coumeenoole Beach / Dunmore Head
I’ve seen literally like seven different spellings of Coumeenoole Beach, but regardless, it’s a must-stop. The beach is absolutely gorgeous, with sparkling turquoise water framed by rocky cliffs. It has great views of the surrounding ocean, stretching out to the nearby Blasket Islands.
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My only bummer—which as you can tell will be a consistent one—is that the light isn’t quite as good in the late afternoon for capturing the beauty.
There’s a small car park here, and you can enjoy the views from above, or climb the very steep path down to the beach. Swimming is NOT advised here, as it’s quite dangerous due to strong currents.
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From this same spot, you can also climb up to the Dunmore Head trail. The trail winds along the edge of the cliff and feels a bit wild, but the views are 100% worth it in good weather—including a panorama of the Blasket Islands at the most western point in Europe (halfway around the loop).
I did not have the time to do the walk, but it’s a 1.6-mile loop and takes about an hour on average. For Star Wars fans, there were a couple scenes filmed from Dunmore Head, which you can learn more about here if you’re interested.
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Dunquin Pier (Dún Chaoin)
Located on the far west end of the Dingle Peninsula, Dunquin Pier (in Irish, Dún Chaoin) boasts an array of jaw-dropping views, though mid-to-late afternoon does not do it justice (as the sun is blinding). I recommend earlier in the day, or even sunset. I believe this is also where Blasket Island boat trips depart from.
There is an insanely steep ramp that you can walk down (do not drive it!!), though I was short on time and it didn’t seem worth having to climb back up so I skipped. The views from the top are good enough, with clear, bright blue seas and dramatic jagged rocks.
For me, at the time of day I went, I didn’t feel like this was a true “must stop” since there were SO many other amazing views throughout the Dingle Peninsula. But at other times this may be glorious and definitely qualifies as a Dingle Peninsula hidden gem.
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I was in desperate need of a bathroom by this point in the drive, and thankfully I happened upon Kruger’s Bar. Supposedly the most western bar in Europe (geographically, not in the cowboy sense), I felt they had a surprisingly good drink list for this type of establishment.
I only stopped for a quick drink (half pint of Smithwick’s) and to use the restroom. It definitely feels like a locals bar, and tourist reviews on TripAdvisor are a bit mixed, but I was happy with my experience.
It is worth noting that there is basically nowhere to use the restroom (or stop for drinks/food) for much of the Slea Head Drive, and you should plan ahead on that front. Once I hit Kruger’s, there were a couple other local pub options right in this area.
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I’m a bit baffled on exactly WHERE Ferriter’s Cove is, but I think it’s either right at our next stop, or somewhere in the vicinity. So see where Google Maps takes you, as it looks great!
Ceann Sraithe / Sybil Head
The actual name of this spot is super confusing to me. I think it’s also called Clogher Head (a 1-mile trail), Ceann Sibéal, and Sybil Head, and maybe other stuff as well?? Either way,
If I’m understanding correctly, Ceann Sraithe is where I actually stopped, but maybe Ceann Sibéal (Sybil Head) is the spot it’s actually looking out *toward*? Anywho, it’s awesome and you have to stop here.
(To be clear, not stopping at the first pic below, which is a random spot on the side of the road with photogenic sheep, but at the parking lot where the rest of the photos were taken.)
When I visited the Dingle Peninsula over a decade ago, I had these gorgeous photos taken from this spot, and you could see this very starkly-cut door in the cliffs, but I could never remember exactly where it was or what it was called. So you can imagine my excitement when I found it again.
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This is one of the many Star Wars filming locations in Ireland. The interwebs tell me that they filmed the scenes with Luke and Rey at the Jedi temples at Sybil Head (that bigger land jutting out in the back of the picture).
I am, as we have established already, not a Star Wars person so take no responsibility for the accuracy of that intel.
It’s also a great place for spotting wildlife, with puffins and cormorants common, and even whale and shark sightings in the water from time to time. And in that third pic below you can see the seemingly cut-out “door” in the rock that fascinated me so long ago.
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Clogher Strand (I think?)
One of my last stops of the day was what I *think* was Clogher Strand (beach), a very chill beach with some sand and great views. I wouldn’t go out of my way for this but it still was nice to spend a few minutes enjoying the crashing of the waves.
Worth checking out Wine Strand Beach as well, which looks lovely.
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I’m honestly not sure if this qualifies as a hidden gem, or is more well-known. But I’ll include it here just in case.
There are tons of interesting historical ruins you can stop at throughout the Dingle Peninsula. Some are little more than scattered stones, but others are quite impressive, and I think Gallarus Oratory is one of the coolest. It dates back to somewhere between the 6th and 9th centuries AD and is impressively preserved.
If you’re looking for truly less-known, it’s worth checking out the Fahan Beehive Huts, which are right in the early parts of the Slea Head Drive and look pretty neat.
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Ballynavenooragh Stone Fort
Okay, let’s keep this one just between us, shall we?? Our little secret. I have never seen this show up in any Dingle research, so it’s a locals-only tip. The lovely Jimmy and Noreen at my B&B gave me the tip to visit, and I am so glad they did!
Along with Minard Castle, Ballynavenooragh Stone Fort was my absolute favorite Dingle Peninsula hidden gem. Called Cathair na BhFionnúrach in Irish, it’s stood sentinel over this part of the peninsula for over 1,000 years.
Finding it was surprisingly no problem, as Google Maps took me to the right spot and then I walked up the little farm lane toward the ruins. Remember, this is someone’s home, so please be respectful and don’t go rogue!
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Here’s the funny thing…I thought that THIS was the stone fort. I was excited, snapping all sorts of pics, thinking “man, how weird is it to just have ancient ruins in your sheep pasture?!” I mean, it’s pretty cool!
And then as I turned to leave, I saw the big kahuna…
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That would be this beauty, which is the stone fort in question. The ring fort consists of a circular, stone-walled enclosure, about 29 meters (a little under 90 feet?) in diameter.
Some artifacts date back to about the 6th century AD, but their guess is this figure-eight house was built a bit later. It’s believed to be originally the home of a Gaelic noble or wealthy farmer.
This is definitely one of the less-known things to do on the Dingle Peninsula, and I’d love to keep it that way—serene, quiet, and a little bit magical. So if you visit, please be super respectful and don’t start mass-posting about it everywhere!
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I don’t get the hype on this one. Legend says that the “Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator” started here, when Brendan set sail for the then-undiscovered Americas around 535 AD (well before the Vikings, European explorers, etc etc).
I have no idea who Brendan is, had never heard the story, and it’s…a creek? I have one at home. So unless you’re a huge St. Brendan fan, this one is totally skippable.
One important note, though—Google Maps repeatedly took me to the wrong place and finding it was a challenge. So get good coordinates, or clear directions from a local.
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The Conor Pass is the highest in Ireland, and well worth a drive if it’s a clear day. If the weather is iffy, and particularly if there’s fog, rain, or lots of clouds, I’d definitely skip—the drive is a bit stressful even in good weather.
The drive has you winding around narrow passes and beside steep drop-offs, ultimately rising 410 meters (roughly 1,300 feet) to see a lake-strewn valley at your feet. You’ll need to pay attention to the drivers coming at you, as many of the passes are only wide enough for one car…one of you will need to yield.
You can approach the Conor Pass on either side of the peninsula, but as it’s just a few miles outside of Dingle it’s better to take the “good roads” to Dingle and the go up the Pass, down the other side, and then turn around and go back to Dingle.
I talk more about the Conor Pass here, if you want to read more!
So I’ve given you a LOT of thought starters on the best Dingle Peninsula hidden gems…hopefully this helps you plan an awesome trip!
Other under-the-radar gems you’ll love:
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- Discovering A Secret Scottish Castle Ruin On A Sea Cliff
- 3 Days In Tromsø (Tromso), Norway…During Polar Night
- A Day Spent In The Andes Near Mendoza, Argentina
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