Dingle Way or Kerry Way: Where should I go on my next hike in Ireland? Good question. Both long-distance hiking trails circle a peninsula in the south-west of Ireland and both take hikers into stunning landscapes between mountains and sea.
Take a look at the following comparison in this duel of two of the most beautiful hiking trails in Ireland!
Both the Dingle Way and the Kerry Way can be adorned with superlatives. The Kerry Way is home to the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland, whereas Dingle can claim to be officially the “most beautiful place in the world”. At least that was the opinion of National Geographic in 2006.
One of the most important differences, however, is certainly that the Kerry Way, starting from Killarney, takes you deep into remote inland valleys for the first few episodes, whereas the Dingle Way runs directly on the beach for long stretches.
Level of difficulty
Elevation profile: Kerry Way
The Kerry Way is considered one of the most challenging hiking trails in Ireland. At over 200 km (124 miles), it is the longest long-distance hiking trail in Ireland. The total ascent of 5,400 meters also requires a good level of fitness.
Elevation profile: Dingle Way
The Dingle Way is more moderate in comparison. Although it is 179 km (111 miles) long , it has a significantly lower ascent of a total of 2,900 meters in altitude.
With Hillwalk Tours you can, however, determine how many kilometers you want to run each day. This means that different route options with different degrees of difficulty are available on both the Kerry Way and the Dingle Way.
It’s important to note that even the “Gentle” hikes on the Kerry Way include sections that are somewhat more demanding due to the ascent. Also, on the Dingle Way, there is only one major climb over Masatompian at 650m but Hillwalk Tours offers an alternative easier route for walkers who would prefer to avoid this climb or if the weather is bad.
Culture and history
Once again, there is no shortage of superlatives. Dingle claims to have the largest number of archaeological monuments and historical artifacts in Europe. These include the famous circular beehive huts near Ventry, early Christian churches and Ogham stones (menhirs with Irish inscriptions).
But there is also a lot to discover on the Kerry Way. The first section in Killarney takes you to the elegant gardens of Muckross House and close to the majestic Ross Castle.
Making reliable predictions about the weather is a tricky business in Ireland. As for the two peninsulas of Iveragh (where the Kerry Way runs) and Dingle, the climate is very similar. Due to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and their mountain ranges, both headlands are exposed to regular weather changes, sometimes strong winds and a relatively high level of precipitation.
So be prepared for the famous “four seasons in one day” for both hikes and bring the appropriate hiking equipment with you.
Dingle is a popular destination for food lovers. Award-winning restaurants serve up innovative new cuisine with influences from around the world, while remaining loyal to the region’s first-class fresh fish and seafood. Out of the Blue and The Global Village (recently awarded a Michelin star) in Dingle, the Stonehouse in Ventry, Pisces in Castlegregory and Kirby’s Brogue Inn in Tralee are some of the most popular restaurants that foodies should not miss.
In Kerry, a variety of restaurants await hungry hikers in towns like Killarney and Kenmare. These include inventive options like the eco-conscious Bridge Street Food Co-op and Kenmare’s Bookstop Café, which brings books and vegetarian dishes together. There is no shortage of international restaurants in Killarney either. On the Kerry Way itself, a visit to Emilie’s in Glenbeigh is an unforgettable highlight thanks to the delicious sourdough pizza from the stone oven.
On both the Kerry Way and the Dingle Way you will cross paths with celebrities.
Annascaul in Dingle is the birthplace of the legendary Tom Crean , who set out with Ernest Shackleton on expeditions to the Arctic at the beginning of the 20th century. At the South Pole Inn in Annascaul, visitors can not only enjoy hearty pub food and a pint, but also marvel at the souvenirs from the time of the South Pole trips on display there.
Waterville, on Kerry Way, can easily keep up with Dingle’s most famous offspring thanks to a very famous past regular visitor. None other than Charly Chaplin and his whole family spent their summer vacation here since the 1950s.
One of the reasons why he felt so comfortable in the small village on the edge of the Atlantic is that the residents, despite his fame, accepted him as one of their own and treated him like an ordinary person. This friendship continues to this day when the annual Charly Chaplin Festival is celebrated in Waterville.
The Kerry Way and the Dingle Way both offer attentive and quiet hikers the opportunity to spot exotic and rare wildlife. We’ve even written a complete separate blog on the unique wildlife you can expect to find in Ireland.
Read here what experienced hikers have to say about the question of the better hiking trail.
“The Dingle Way is a great route. The Kerry Way has more remoteness so, in my view, just wins over Dingle, but only just. I did have better weather on the Kerry Way so perhaps my opinion is biased.” (Peter Clarke, Hikelines. The full review of the Dingle Way can be found here.)
“It’s not an easy decision to make as both the Dingle Way and Kerry Way are fantastic hikes. But if, like me, you love hiking on the beach and swimming in the ocean on a hike, the Dingle Way is your best bet. ” (Anthony Barrett, Hillwalk Tours )
“The Dingle Way gives a very good idea of what hiking is like in Ireland. Most of the other trails we’ve hiked are longer versions of that trail.” (Carl Lange, Tough Soles . He and his partner Ellie Berry hike all marked trails across Ireland for a total of 4,000km).
More great Irish hiking trail options
Without making the decision unnecessarily difficult, it may be worth also considering other routes for your next walking holiday in Ireland. If you look at a map of Ireland, you will see that other peninsulas to the south-west jut out into the sea like the fingers of a hand. If you love the Dingle and Kerry area, you’re sure to love the nearest southern peninsulas too.
There are also hiking trails along the Beara Peninsula and the Sheep’s Head Peninsula that will take you into the dreamy landscapes of the sea and mountains.
The Sheep’s Head Way is significantly shorter and also attracts casual hikers with a mild micro-climate and ridge walking that gives 360 degree coastal views. The Beara Way is something of the wilder and less popular but equally stunning version of the Kerry Way.
Also, be warned: (hiking) travel in Ireland is addictive. So it is not impossible that you will want to discover each of these fabulous hiking trails.