Your Staycation Guide to Kerry
While Dingle may have lost one of their best loved residents last year, we love it as much as ever. Fungi in his role as Dingle’s mascot captured the essence of this beautiful part of Ireland, in his playful fun character, teasing you into the water so you could enjoy sport and the beauty of the landscape from his vantage point. This all remains the same and Dingle still pays homage to the sea and her many bounties.
Jutted out on the most westerly peninsula in Europe, showcasing Ireland at her best with its raw unforgiving landscape and one of Ireland’s most atmospheric places is Dingle. Ringed by sandy beaches and craggy cliffs, amazing mountain landscapes. Furthermore, with so much to do in Dingle outdoors and often for free it is a fantastic destination for families.
Our campsite was located near Ballydavid and Ballyferriter on this charming peninsula. Therefore we could enjoy the stunning views and bewitching landscape daily.
Moreover, The Gallarus Oratory which is one of the many heritage sites of Cosán na Naomh was just a five minutes’ walk from our campsite. Therefore we headed here more than once or twice. Cosán na Naomh (The Saint’s Road) is an ancient pilgrim path in this area and there are a number of heritage sites.
Campáil Teach an Aragail is a small but beautiful campsite on the Dingle pennisula. Run by the same family since the 1980’s the site is very family friendly with beautifully positioned pitches looking out across the landscape.
There was a playground on site for the kids and washing facilities were clean and tidy with showers costing €1 for 6 mins. The campers kitchen was spotless but with limited cooking facilities. The park itself was safe for children and really well maintained. TP is always on hand to offer you advice and knowledge on the local area or just simply a chat.
It would be easy to arrive in Dingle and not leave the town of Dingle itself. Artistic, cultural, bohemian and genuinely friendly, Dingle is famed for its atmospheric and lively feel. Beautiful shops are nestled amongst old worldly pubs and gourmet restaurants.
However, Dingle is so much more than its bustling town and the Slea Head Drive. One of Ireland’s most scenic routes, takes you on a journey. Around the Dingle peninsula by historic sites and overlooking the Blasket Islands and the famous Skellig Michael in the distance. This is a circular route beginning and ending in Dingle. Likewise, it is recommended that you drive the Slea Head loop clockwise so as to avoid meeting large tour buses head on. Moreover, you get the best views from driving in this direction.
I would allow a whole day if not more to explore Slea Head. As there are a number of bee hive huts and heritage sites along this route similar to the ones dotting the landscape of Star Wars. Two sites I would recommend stopping at are Cashel Murphy and Beehive huts (&hold a baby lamb) which is almost immediately after.
While there is no one present at the Cashel Murphy Site (just an honesty box). Adrian at Beehive huts &hold a baby lamb eagerly greets visitors as they arrive. Giving an insight into the heritage and history of this landscape and captivating the kids with his baby lambs who love a cuddle and if you are lucky a bottle feed. There is a nice walk around this area and on a clear day you may catch a glimpse of Skellig Michael.
From here I would head onto the Blasket Island Interpreter Centre (which is unfortunately closed due to building works this year). Park in the carpark and head up to the viewing platform perched on the cliff top so you can enjoy the stunning views of the Blasket Islands and this coastline. A short 30 minute walk following the yellow walking sign through fields, over stiles and along the coastline will bring you to the spectacular Dunquin Pier. A narrow road winds its way down to the pier, where the shortest ferry connection to Blasket Islands goes.
While most people who visit the pier never board a boat to the Blaskets but just to capture the amazing views from above and walk down this unique piece of architecture. It is an enjoyable walk down and we took the chance to have a picnic at the base watching the many birds busy working in their nests along the cliff face below. Do be warned though the cliff edge is dangerous and un protected on top so as you emerge back up from the pier it can take you by surprise how quickly a child may be in danger as you pull yourself along after.
We headed back along the same path but if you wanted to be nostalgic you could head to the graveyard which is visible from the top of the pier to pay your respects to good auld Peig Sayers buried within its walls.
The Connor Pass
The Connor Pass on the other side of Dingle (approx. 7 kms) is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, a 12km dramatic scenic drive crossing from the north to south shore of the Dingle Peninsula.
There are two designated spots to stop for views and both can offer you a place to ramble with kids. At the first point on the left just outside Dingle you can walk down in front of the viewing point for about 30 minutes and back up (not a designated route).
However, just a little further on you have Lough Doon (locally known as Pedlar’s Lake). Pedlar’s Lake is a glacial corrie lake that sits above the road on the north side of the Connor Pass. Beneath the lake is the Connor Pass waterfall with a small car park and viewing area. The lake is accessed by clambering up a small rock path above the car park. This is great fun for the kids as they literally scramble to the top. It can be a bit bogy so make sure they have appropriate footwear.
What to Do in Dingle
In Dingle town, there is an excellent large playground tucked in behind the Charthouse restaurant, close to the harbour, marina area and Supervalu carpark. Built with a nautical theme it is cleverly laid out with a wide selection of play equipment for all ages so they will not get bored here. Make sure to pop in to Seed & Soul located round the corner towards the front of Supervalu for a delicious cup of coffee to savour while the kids are busy at the playground.
Family Activities in Dingle
You cannot visit the famous town of Dingle without checking out the Aquarium. Oceanworld Aquarium located directly across from the marina and council carpark is Ireland’s largest aquarium hosting a collection of magnificent Sand Tiger Sharks, Gentoo Penguins, Asian Short-Clawed Otters and includes an abundance of different fish species. With family tickets from €50, this is excellent value, captivating the imagination of our super excited five year old while still fascinating our teenagers.
Every time we passed Lonán pleaded to return she adored it so much and all we heard as we moved through the aquarium was look, Look, LOOK!!!! The butterfly house was a big hit with the older ones as they seemed to interact with us swooping around us and landing on our shoulders. I ran for the hills at this stage…
There is so much to see including the shark tanks, the playful rays, penguins, butterfly house and so much more, you really could get lost for a couple of hours here. I cannot recommend this activity strong enough. Why not head for a walk on the Connor pass in the morning, the aquarium in the afternoon and finish the day in the Playground.
On the Water
Finally, you cannot head to Dingle without taking to the water and the new pink boats at Dingle Boat Tours are the best fun. These self-drive boats can take five and are perfect for families to discover the harbour. Don’t worry the experienced team at Dingle Boat Tours will be there to assist you and provide all the safety gear. Dingle Boat Tours also offer tours to the Blasket Islands which I can tell you more about hopefully soon as we are planning a trip in August.
Furthermore while Fungi may have moved to pastures new there are still many whales and wildlife to be spotted on the eco marine tours.
Most of the beaches in this area will offer a stunning backdrop but our favourite swimming spots were Clogher Strand (not recommended for swimming as the waters are too treacherous) but a beautiful spot for a walk or play, Wine Strand, Ceann Trá in Ventry and if you have children that love to jump off a pier Ballydavid Beach offers you a pier with clear blue waters flanked by two sandy beaches on either side and if that was not enough amazing views to boot.
Where to Eat
Quinn’s Pub and Páidí Ó Sé’s Pub near Ventry are two spots that you can eat outside at the moment. However there is plenty of choices in Dingle town itself. The town have erected little huts or eating pods for groups dining on takeaways along by the marina. Seed and Sould is a great spot for dairy and gluten free offering salads, smoothies, smoothie bowls and amazing coffee with plenty of Dairy and Gluten Options.
Downside – I truly love Dingle so I am biased as downsides go. The only one I have is it takes me so long to get there and then in a blink of an eye I have to leave!
What the kids said:
“It was fun as there was a lot to do. The aquarium was brilliant but I loved seeing the huts too” – Thomas (11)
“There was too much to do in one weekend, we were always going and the smoothie bowls (from Seed and Soul) were amazing. I loved the climbing and holding the lambs.” Saoirse (13)
Happy Travelling and if you want to check out any of our blog posts on camping or further travels I have included some links below.