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The Dingle Peninsula has the most rugged Atlantic coastline in Kerry and is considered by many to have some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery. The Slea Head Drive, which forms part of the Dingle Peninsula, is the most westerly point in Europe. It is here that visitors can gaze across the Atlantic towards America, and empathise with the millions of emigrants who once took this route.
There are splendid views around Slea Head, especially of the Blasket Islands and the scattered rocks, all part of an exploded volcanic area. Dingle town faces comfortably onto a sheltered harbour one of the world’s natural beauty spots – home to an active fishing fleet and resident dolphin – “Fungi”. It has a diving centre, sailing club, art galleries and traditional craft. Dingle may be described as a colourful town rich in lively pubs and great restaurants, offering entertainment and traditional Irish music unique to the area. Much of Irish heritage is maintained in this Irish (Gaelic) speaking region and this beautiful setting played host to the filming of ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ and ‘Far and Away’ starring Tom Cruise.
Just off Slea Head lie the Blaskets (Na Blascaodaí), dramatic island mountains with steep, gashed sides. Despite their inhospitableness, the largest island, Great Blasket (An Blascaod Mór), was inhabited by a few hundred people until approx. 1953 when, with no school, shop, priest or doctor, it was finally abandoned and the remaining islanders transferred to the mainland. Because of their isolation, however, the islanders maintained a rich oral tradition in the Irish language, which in the early twentieth century, encouraged by visiting scholars, evolved into a remarkable body of written literature. Works such as An tOileánach (The Islandman) by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin and Peig by Peig Sayers (an oral account written down by her son) give a vivid insight into the hardships of island life
The island’s story is told with great imagination at the Great Blasket heritage centre, Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir, on the mainland opposite, at the north end of Dunquin. Though the building doesn’t look like much as you approach, inside is a beautiful museum space. This is a fascinating centre that honours the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands until 1953. There are excerpts from the island writers, and a moving section on Great Blasket’s abandonment in 1953 and the migration of many islanders to Springfield, Massachusetts – where they still receive the Kerryman newspaper from Tralee every week. The centre details their lives as subsistence fishermen and famers, their traditional way of life and the extraordinary amount of literature which the islanders produced.
Once on Great Blasket, you can wander the white-sand beach, Trá Bán, at its eastern end and the grassy footpaths that cross its six-kilometre length, passing the ghosts of the old village. Accompanied by seals, puffins, storm petrels and shearwaters, you can contemplate the 3000km that separates you, here on Europe’s most westerly islands, from North America where most of the islanders ended up, and the treacherous 2km of Blasket Sound which made living on the island untenable. Sitting at the hearth is Peig Sayers’s island home on Great Blasket- Peig Sayers book is still a very popular school syllabus book for Leaving Cert students of Irish today. Books produced by some of the islanders are highly regarded in the literary world today. There are guided boat trips available to the Island from the pier at Dun Chaoin.
Dingle is without doubt home to some of the best beaches in Ireland. Glorious white sand awaits at Rossbeigh Strand with is 5 Kilometres of uninterrupted beach, pointing out into Dingle Bay. The head of Dingle Bay is cut off by two narrow sand-hill promontories – one an offshoot of the Dingle Peninsula at Rossbeigh – which enclose the harbour of Castlemaine. Situated on the inner side of the Dingle promontory, and facing south, is the sheltered seaside resort of Inch, one of our favourite beaches in Kerry. Where an inch is not a mile -well as a matter of fact Inch beach is four miles long! Located on the main Killarney to Dingle Road, Inch beach has been a holidaymakers favourite for years now! Inch Beach is less than 30 mins drive from our homes in Killarney and certainly worth a visit on a sunny day! Derrynane Beach another favourite is also another stretch of white sandy shore and this Blue Flag beach is renowned for its waves – perfect for a spot of surfing. If you have a good camera take plenty photographs and if you have a good memory, remember the view. Then go down and enjoy yourself on the white sands at any of these glorious Irish beaches.
Far more than just a base for exploring the peninsula, Dingle town (an Daingean) is small but endless interesting. Wander the winding streets to discover quirky shops, buzzing cafes, great restaurants, and – of course – probably the best pubs in the country. Dingle’s long standing reputation as a must-go food destination was cemented on June 10th 2014 when the location announced as the “Top Foodie Town” in Ireland, and was chosen from a shortlist of 10 very competitive culinary finalists at the prestigious Irish Restaurant Awards. This award means that the Dingle Peninsula will be known throughout the world as the number one place for food in Ireland for 2014 and beyond. Sourced from local food producers, Dingle’s restaurant and café offerings are a delight – and what arrives from the pier to your restaurant plate is guaranteed to be mouth-wateringly divine. Dine at your leisure and experience the wonderful local produce.