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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
like a pro

How to do Dingle like a pro - and find the hidden spots only locals know about

Plus the best seafood, the free parking, and the gin-flavoured ice cream.

KNOWN FOR ITS colourful streets, lively pubs and one very famous dolphin, Dingle has become one of the top places to visit in Kerry.

But how do you get the most out of a trip to the town? We asked Mossie Scanlon of Mossie’s Tours, who brings visitors on driving and walking trips around the Dingle Peninsula.

When’s the best time to visit?

As a coastal town packed with options for outdoor activities, Dingle attracts big crowds during the summer. However, there’s also plenty of events for visitors throughout the year.

“June, July and August are the busiest months – it’s pretty much jam packed. But Dingle is just full of festivals all year so the town never seems to sleep,” Scanlon says.

Dingle hosts different festivals and events nearly every month, including the Storm Festival, the Dingle International Film Festival, Féile na Bealtaine, the Dingle Regatta, Dingle Races, Other Voices, and the Dingle Food Festival.

Pro tip: Visit just before or just after the busy summer season. “It’s still beautiful at those times of year and the town is less crowded,” Scanlon adds.

Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK / littlenySTOCK

Where can I park in the town?

There are two large car parks in Dingle – one beside the tourist office at the marina and one near the Mart – which are both within easy walking distance of the town centre.

“As you come into Dingle town you’ll see signs for the car parks. They are not free but they’re also not very expensive so you can leave the car all day,” Scanlon says.

Pro tip: Park on the streets for free – if you can find any spots. “In June, July, August it’s nearly impossible, but if you’re lucky enough to get a space you can park on the side of the street and it’s not metered,” Scanlon adds.

What are the top things to do in the town?

There’s plenty to do in Dingle town, from exploring the shops and eateries on its lively streets, to seeing the Harry Clarke stained-glass windows in the Díseart centre, or practicing a ‘cúpla focail’ of Irish in this Gaeltacht region.

If you’re in Dingle you also probably can’t avoid Fungie – the dolphin that is said to have been hanging around the sheltered harbour since the 1980s. You can get a picture with the bronze dolphin statue at the waterfront, or head out on a boat tour to try and catch a glimpse of the town’s most famous resident.

“You have four or five boats that are servicing Fungie all day every day during the summer, and they don’t charge you until you come back, because if you don’t see the dolphin you don’t have to pay for the trip. That’s how confident they are that Fungie will jump out of the water and greet everyone,” Scanlon says.

Pro tip: If you’ve already explored the town, head off on an outdoor activity. “There’s so many physical activities to do nearby, like fishing, sailing, surfing, kayaking. Or you can climb Mount Brandon – the second highest mountain in Ireland,” Scanlon adds.

2Tales Dingle restaurant Out Of The Blue has some of the best seafood in the country 2Tales

What are the best places to eat and drink?

There’s no shortage of places to eat and drink on Dingle’s busy streets, especially if you’re in the mood for fresh fish.

“If you’re a lover of seafood there’s Out of the Blue, which is probably one of the best seafood restaurants in Ireland, or there’s the Chart House, Doyle’s, The Half Door. And of course there’s great pub meals to be found down here too – it really depends on your budget,” Scanlon says.

If you’re looking for something sweeter, Dingle is the home of Murphy’s Ice Cream, which is known for unusual flavours such as brown bread and Dingle Gin, while Kool Scoops is another ice cream option that’s popular with locals and tourists.

Pro tip: Don’t miss a visit to one of the town’s oldest pubs, such as Foxy John’s, Dick Mack’s or J Curran’s. “When I was growing up Foxy John’s was the only hardware shop in town, but you can still go in there and get a hammer and a pint. Some of these pubs haven’t changed since the 1800s so you’re really walking into an antiquity,” Scanlon adds.

Shutterstock Dunquin Pier is one of the many scenic spots along the Slea Head Drive Shutterstock

How can I escape the crowds?

Hop back in the car and follow one of the area’s scenic driving routes, such as the Slea Head Drive – a 42km circular route that starts and ends in Dingle – or Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland.

“Dingle town is beautiful and has a lot to offer, but it’s the scenery surrounding it that really makes Dingle what it is,” Scanlon says.

“The Slea Head drive is the jewel in the crown of the Dingle Peninsula. Along the way you have the archeology of the Fahan beehive huts, the fairy forts, Brandon Creek, and Coumeenoole Beach, where they filmed Ryan’s Daughter.”

On the drive you can also spot some of the Star Wars filming locations, with views of Sybil Head and the Skellig Islands.

Pro tip: Allow half a day to see all the sights along Slea Head. “You could do the drive from Dingle and back again in two hours, but you need at least four hours so you can stop the car and go exploring,” Scanlon adds.

Shutterstock It's easy to escape the crowds by heading for the hills and valleys Shutterstock

Are there any hidden gems that visitors might miss?

If you have a bit more time to spend in the Dingle peninsula, Scanlon recommends checking out some of its smaller villages and more scenic areas.

“Dingle is where the throngs come in, but on the other side of Mount Brandon you have Cloghane, Castlegregory and some places that won’t be as crowded,” he says.

“You have so many different walks in the area, with hidden gems that only local people would know about. You’re walking among beautiful streams with trout jumping out of the water, and valleys and glens where you won’t hear anything – only the sheep and the birds.”

Pro tip: Walk a section of the Dingle Way to get a better feel for these areas. The signposted scenic walking trail covers a 162km loop around the peninsula, going through Tralee, Camp, Annascaul, Dingle, Dún Chaoin, Feothanach, Cloghane and Castlegregory.

More: How to do the Giant’s Causeway like a pro – including free parking and a secret swimming spot>

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