The Dingle Peninsula

Posted on September 9, 2007 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Ireland Road Trip

The Dingle Peninsula, on Ireland's southwest coast, was another highlight of our trip. We left from our B&B in Tralee in the morning and did a clockwise loop around the coastal road, stopping at a few sights along the way.

conor pass
View from the Conor Pass, where was it quite cold and misty but the scenery was still spectacular.

Our first stop for sightseeing was the Dunbeg Fort, on the south side of the peninsula. It dates from about 500 BCE and includes one of those famous beehive huts that are scattered around the Dingle Peninsula. It also has a fortified wall, a house, an underground passage, and an impressive view over the cliffs down to the Atlantic.

dunbeg fort
Parking area and entrance to the Dunbeg Fort

donkeys at dunbeg fort donkey at dunbeg fort
Our route down to the fort took us past some very cute donkeys. We thought of the poor donkeys we saw in Morocco, which were horribly overworked, skinny, and yanked hard by their jaws to pull heavy loads. These fluffy, happy-looking fellows were lucky to have been born in Ireland.

dunbeg fort
The Dunbeg Fort

dunbeg fort
Doorway of the beehive hut.

These structures are interesting both as a unique feature of Ireland, and are also impressive because they've survived remarkably intact for thousands of years despite the lack of mortar and severe coastal weather.

view from dunbeg fort
Ocean view from the Dunbeg Fort

leaving dunbeg fort
Heading back up the hill with our fellow tourists, some German cyclists.

The next stop was the "Fahan Group" of beehive huts, which was just a few miles further on. These were dated 2000 BCE and were more intact than the one at the Dunbeg Fort. They were the homes of local farmers.

beehive hut
Beehive huts and stone wall

350d_086 beehive hut skylight
Inside a beehive hut. Of course it didn't originally have a skylight; it would have been capped by a large stone to keep the plentiful Irish rain out.

As we came around the end of the peninsula, the sun came out just in time to have some really nice views of the sea and the Blasket Islands just offshore. The islands aren't populated anymore, but are a popular spot for hiking.

blasket islands
View to the Blasket Islands

sheep in the road
Looking back from the same spot as the above photo - note the narrow road and the sheep standing in it.

The sights were more interesting on the north side of the peninsula, and as a bonus they are religious sights so I get to publish them on my website.

The first one was the Riasc Monastic Settlement, which dates from the 6th century AD. It was only recently uncovered and consists mainly of foundations, but was still pretty cool. It's definitely off the beaten track and had just a tiny sign, so it was very quiet and peaceful there.

clochans (monastic huts)
Monastic huts

clochans (monastic huts)
More monastic huts

The monks' church.

the reask stone inscription
The "Riasc Stone," also from the 6th century. Along with Celtic designs, it has a little Latin inscription that says DNE, which is short for Domine, meaning "Lord."

A few more miles down the road was the Gallarus Oratory, which was very simple but still one of our favorites. It's a little church that was used by the farmers who lived in this area before the mean old Vikings burned and pillaged and drove them out. The date has been estimated anywhere between 6th and 9th century. It also uses no mortar and has remained fully intact and fully waterproof since it was built!

gallarus oratory
The Gallarus Oratory

gallarus oratory
Side view of the church, shaped like an upturned boat.

Inside the church

Our only fellow tourists here were a small busload of Germans, and we had a wonderful time listening to the woman tour guide talk about the church. She really enunciated well, so we were able to pick up a few words. We are both so excited to go to Germany and learn more of the language.

Afterwards, we had lunch at a nearby cafe, where we were the only customers. It was a fun experience, as it was a very organic-themed cafe and also very proud of Irish culture. The walls were painted with scenes of ancient life at the Gallarus Oratory and beehive huts and the center of the room sold Irish language learning books.

I ordered a blended vegetable soup with brown bread, and David got an open-faced fresh crab sandwich with salad. Both were very good and very fresh - the crab was local and the veggies were fresh and organic. Brown bread is a major feature of Ireland we loved it. It's very hearty and tasty.

organic cafe

When we asked for our usual Diet Cokes to go with it, she said proudly, "We don't have fizzy drinks. We're healthy here." That gave us a bit of laugh after she left, since the menu includes scones with cream, chocolate cake and apple crumble. But the place was quite consistently organic, at least.

So I ordered a blended juice of carrots, beetroot, apple, grape and celery. It was actually pretty good, except for the aftertaste. David had coffee, which he said was fantastic. And I had "healthy" warm apple crumble with cream for dessert, which was some of the best I've had anywhere.

soup and juice

The restaurant's owner was chatty and very interested to hear I studied religious history. She told us all about a local priest who had been the first to translate the Bible into Irish. I was really surprised it was done so recently since it's an ancient language, but I had forgotten that the Irish are very Catholic, and Catholics have always kept the Bible in Latin until recently.

From there our Dingle adventure was pretty much done, although the scenery continued to be very nice. David found enough energy to drive all the way north to Adare, just south of Limerick, where we stayed the night in a tiny room and had a nice dinner out.