If you’re looking for holiday inspiration in Ireland, Dingle is a recommendation that will come up again and again. This small, remote coastal village is often voted among the top 100 destinations in the world. And after visiting there multiple times as a family I can wholeheartedly understand why that’s the case.
Located on the Dingle Peninsula, along the Wild Atlantic Way, Dingle has it all. From spectacular mountains and beaches, to world class hospitality and destination food and drink spots.
In this Dingle travel guide, you’ll find everything you need to know for a family staycation. From where to stay, what to do and the best places to eat, this guide has it all. Read on to learn more, so you can waste less time planning, and spend more time enjoying all this incredible, tiny town has to offer.
Where to Stay in Dingle:
As a family, we stayed at the 4-star Dingle Skellig Hotel & Peninsula Spa. Tucked away just off the just off the N86, on the outskirts of Dingle town, I couldn’t recommend a stay here more. It is somewhere we’d gladly return to again and again.
First of all, the rooms. We stayed in one of the newly renovated family rooms with stunning views of Dingle Bay. After a deep sleep you can look forward to a breakfast buffet with a focus on local produce. In the same restaurant, The Coastguard, we also enjoyed a delicious dinner overlooking Dingle Harbour and Bay and the onto the mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula. For both breakfast and dinner the hotel offers great kid’s menu options.
There also a kid’s club, swimming pool, and a large green at the front for playtime in the evening. What’s more, the hotel is ideally located for not-too-long beach walks into Dingle town itself, and over to the town’s lighthouse. I promise even the most reluctant child will enjoy these walks!
What to Do in Dingle:
As mentioned, from Dingle Skellig Hotel, or from the town itself, you can take a scenic stroll along the beach all the way to Dingle Lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is situated at the mouth of the harbour, and from there you simply retrace you steps back to the hotel or town. Fun fact, the lighthouse was completed in 1887 at a cost of just £589!
Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium
Although it’s a town of just over 2,000 people, Dingle’s OceanWorld is Ireland’s largest aquarium. One for the kids and adults alike, you’ll see an abundance of marine life including Sand Tiger Sharks, Gentoo Penguins, and Asian Short-Clawed Otters. Take note that if you’re visiting while Covid-19 restrictions are still in place tickets will need to be pre-booked.
At the time of our visit the famous dolphin Fungi regularly visited the harbour. Now, even though his whereabouts are unknown, there are still daily boat tours. Many of the tours will bring you out past Slea Head, towards the Great Blasket Island and Beginis Island. Along the way your tour guide is likely to share entertaining nuggets of history and folklore. And, while Fungie might be MIA, the waters are still teeming with wildlife, including a Grey Seal colony on the Blaskets.
In the nearby village of Inch, you’ll find popular Blue Flag beach Inch, or An Inse. This spectacular sand spit sits between the Slieve Mish Mountains and the expansive, wild Atlantic Ocean. Water sports enthusiasts flock here for wind, wave and land surfing, as well as swimming. There are life guards during summer season as well as surf schools, water sports equipment and wetsuit hire. There’s also small car park with public toilets adjacent to the beach, plus a café and tourist shop nearby.
Another beach you can’t miss is Coumeenole. Surrounded by rugged cliffs and with dramatic views out to the Blaskets, this is a family favourite. It seems it’s also a favourite of Hollywood. Many iconic movies were filmed here including Star Wars and the 1970’s classic Ryan’s Daughter.
While the currents here make it unsafe for swimming, there are plenty of rocks and shallow pools for the kids to explore. At the top by the road, there are picnic tables overlooking the cliffs. Why not factor in a picnic here if you plan on doing the Slea Head drive.
At the most westerly tip of the Dingle Peninsula, overlooking the Blasket Islands, is Dunquin, or Dún Chaoin. The small village is probably best known for the Dunquin Pier, pictures of which you’ll often see on post cards, Instagram posts and calendars. A steep and winding concrete pathway leads down the cliffs to the pier, and in summer months a ferry brings visitors from here to the main Blasket island, The Great Blasket (An Bhlascaod Mór).
Finally, no visit to Dingle is complete without a drive through the Conor Pass. One of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, for a breathtaking 12km it takes you from the north to south coast of the Dingle Peninsula. Expect twists and turns but spectacular views from every side. There are two main viewing stops along the way, as well as hikes nearby if you wanted to factor those into your drive.
Where to Eat in Dingle:
First up, the Michelin Bib awarded Land to Sea restaurant. As the name suggests, Land to Sea’s menu is inspired by the best produce from the surrounding fields and ocean. Elegant plating and considered cooking shows off these world-class ingredients at their very best. Definitely one to earmark for a special (parents only!) date night.
Next, Out of the Blue, a seafood restaurant you won’t miss thanks to its striking blue facade. Importantly, the food they serve is just as memorable. This harbour-side gem keeps things fresh and simple, with menus decided each morning based on the latest local catch.
The Fish Box is a family run seafood bar serves fresh fish from their very own trawler, named Cú Na Mara. They also strictly only use local produce from small artisan businesses. What’s more they are promoters of sustainable produce and practices too, with a full range of compostable takeaway packaging and a completely sustainable supply chain for all their ingredients. They offer great options for kids, and there’s a lovely outdoor dining area too.
For burgers, look no further than Eat Dingle. All beef burgers are made using organic prime cuts of chuck and brisket sourced from the family farm in Clooncurra, in the town’s hinterlands. Currently only offering a takeaway service, pick up your order and head to the harbour pier to enjoy.
Bakeries, Cafes & Speciality Food Shops:
Bread lovers should make a beeline for Dingle’s Bácús Bakery. Expect the freshest breads and confectionary expertly made overnight by Bácús’ bakers. You won’t be able to resist picking up a cinnamon bun along with your sourdough loaf.
What’s bread without cheese? Local culinary champion Mark Murphy took over the much loved The Little Cheese Shop in 2018. Mark kept up the shop’s great name, and sources the very best cheese from all over Ireland. While you’re there, you’ll also find all the other tasty bits (like crackers, chutneys and cured meat) you need for a cracking picnic.
Located on a street known as ‘Holyground’, is My Boy Blue cafe. Set up in 2017 by Dubliner Stephen Brennan and his partner and local woman Amy O’Sullivan, this cafe is certainly now a pilgrimage of sorts for foodies visiting the area. Serving 3FE coffee and delicious food, My Boy Blue is consistently included in ‘must visit’ culinary guides to Ireland.
Another coffee destination for tourists and locals alike is Bean in Dingle, a family run specialty coffee shop located on Green Street. You’ll spot people all over the town toting their distinctive yellow takeaway cups, and for good reason. Bean in Dingle serve truly delicious coffee made with beans roasted in-house, along with in-house baked goods.
Finally, finishing on a sweet note, Murphy’s Ice-cream. The iconic ice-cream producer now has sister shops in Galway, Killarney and Dublin, but the first store opened on Strand Street in Dingle. Selling ice-cream handmade in Dingle, you can expect creamy classic flavours as well as more quirky tipples, like Irish Brown Bread and Dingle Gin.
Fiona’s Family Travel Guides:
Let us know in the comments if you have plans to visit this Kerry gem, and if you have any further tips for other readers!