Christmas is just around the corner and what better time of year than now to throw a few good puns around, hey? Unfortunately Arnold Schwarzenegger is not set to appear in an Irish-based remake of his similar-sounding comedy classic. Instead, however, we’d like to draw attention to perhaps one of the most underrated parts of Ireland, the Dingle Peninsula. An absolute must for avid hillwalkers, the remote finger of land juts out into the Atlantic from County Kerry and offers up vistas galore.
To anyone who’s visited before, it’s fairly obvious why National Geographic Traveller Magazine once designated it the ‘most beautiful place on Earth.’ Following a coastal circuit mimicking the car-based Wild Atlantic Way, the walking version is of course far superior. We always say there’s no better way to take in Ireland than on your own two feet. Plus, not only is it less crowded than the over-touristed Ring of Kerry, but most would agree the Dingle Way is far superior to any route elsewhere in Kerry as well. The route is crammed full of perfect spots to take in the coastline and view the sunrise and sunset each day. Walkers pass by the famed Dunquin Pier (found on numerous Irish calendar covers), as well as Slea Head and Inch Beach. Hikers are also spoilt with views of the Blasket Islands (the perfect additional side trip, by the way), and the route even includes a lengthy section along a beautiful sandy beach.
So, as Christmas approaches and the year is drawing to a close, why not book a walking trip around Dingle for next summer? Here’s more of what awaits you there:
The seaside town of Dingle is the perfect base of operations to both start and finish your walk from. Dingle town boasts a beautifully scenic harbour, rows of photogenic and brightly-painted buildings, and of course plenty of pubs to visit before returning to your B&B.
Blasket Islands View
After departing your B&B in the town, you’ll walk westwards through the village of Ventry, a ‘Gaeltacht’ (Irish-speaking region) designated village and area. Later that day you’ll ascend towering sea cliffs looming over the Atlantic, and it is from here that you’ll find the best views in Ireland of the Blasket Islands, a chain of six picturesque isles, surprisingly once home to nearly 200 residents. The population declined to only 22 by the year 1953, with the archipelago now completely uninhabited. Walkers wishing to make a side-trip can catch a boat to Great Blasket Island, where they can spend half a day wandering among the stone ruins of former settlements.
Slea Head and Dunquin Pier
For those of you who enjoy combining your love of hiking with your love of photography, this is sure to be one of the highlights of your tour. The Dingle Way passes right by Dunquin Pier. The famous stone pier comes complete with a beautifully winding road and steps descending toward it from the heights above. Particularly lucky visitors will be able to witness a farmer herding sheep up or down this snakelike pathway as they bring their flocks to and from islands off the coast.
Only a short detour inland from the Dingle Way, walkers will find the iconic Gallarus Oratory with its famed curved peak. Built between the 7th and 8th centuries, it is considered the best preserved early Christian church in the country. The dry stone corbelling technique used in its construction is impressive to say the least, with the structure resembling something of a miniature, Irish-style pyramid.
For those walkers tackling the complete, longer version of the Dingle Way, the northeastern extent of their journey has a unique treat in store. The five kilometre (three mile) expanse of sand found at Inch Beach becomes your walking track for part of the day. A great place to reflect on your journey around the peninsula as the waves roll in right beside you.
As you hear those Christmas bells jingle, don’t forget about Dingle! If it’s cold and dreary outside, give yourself a refreshing hike in the West of Ireland to look forward to next summer when the sunshine returns. And in June and July in Ireland we’re blessed with having the sun above the horizon for just on 18 hours each day. Plenty of time for walking, and you can catch up on sleep back home.