Looking to go on a road trip in Ireland? Driving from Dublin to Dingle will take you across the country through breathtaking views and some charming Irish towns. Part of your challenge is not to get too distracted along the way! Read on to learn about our road trip across Ireland to meet the most famous resident of the Dingle Peninsula: Fungi the Dingle Dolphin. This guide will tell you the route we took, where we stayed, what we did and what more there is to do in this gorgeous part of the country.
Dingle, Co. Kerry is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. We had some close friends visiting from America, and one of these friends was completely enamoured at the idea of Fungi the dolphin. She was so obsessed that when we were planning a weekend away, I suggested going to Dingle to see Fungi. Once it was suggested, there was no going back. If going to see Fungi is on the cards, then that’s what we were doing.
We were planning this trip very last minute so we were limited in accommodation options. Not only that, but this was high season for tourism in Dingle and accommodation is expensive. Faced with the dilemma of not a lot of time and not having a lot of money to spend, I dove into days of research and came up with a plan that would satisfy both of these requirements. So off to Dingle we went!
Driving from Dublin to Dingle: The Logistics
The full drive from Dublin to Dingle is around 4 and a half hours. Most of the journey from Dublin to Kerry will be motorway, and hopefully there won’t be any traffic meaning you’ll sail through. Eventually, your journey will leave the motorway and take you through small towns. Some of these towns, like Tralee in Kerry or Adare in Limerick (see below!), might be a tourist attraction in itself for some people, so if you want to take a break and stretch the legs, this could be an opportunity to do that.
We did our journey in two stages because we chose to leave on Friday evening after work. We left at around 7:30pm, so we opted for a 2 and a half hour drive to Limerick City where we’d spend the night and continue on to Dingle the next morning, essentially cutting the journey in half. You could, of course, drive straight to Dingle and spend the night there. The reason we chose Limerick is because of how late in the day we were leaving Dublin.
No matter what way you decide to do it, one thing is for sure: you have to take the scenic route when you approach Dingle. This gave us what I believed to be the best views of the whole trip. Read on to learn more about this route through Conor Pass!
Road trip stop off
If you’re looking for a half-way point to stop off and stretch your legs, turn your car towards the town of Adare, Co. Limerick. This is a small town famous for their idyllic thatched cottages. You’ll know you’re there as soon as you drive in, because the cottages line the main street. I’m sure Adare is exactly the kind of place people imagine when they think about Ireland but have never actually been. Not everywhere in Ireland is like this, but there’s no denying, these places do exist. There’s a heritage centre where you can learn more information, or you can just choose to look around, breath in the fresh air, take some pictures and be on your way.
- Tip: The local Centra on the main street is a great place to get an ice cream!
Looking for more things to do in Adare? The Wild Wayfarer has a list of 10 things to do in Adare!
The scenic route: Conor Pass
The scenic route in Dingle that I mentioned before? That’s Conor Pass. This is the highest mountain pass in Ireland and the views are simply breathtaking. The roads are very narrow with cars passing in both directions, so this is something to be aware of before you decide to do it. It can be a little scary for the person in the driving seat when there’s not much between you and the edge of the mountain, but for us, it was definitely worth it. Eventually, you’ll come to a lookout where you can pull over the car and look out across the mountains. I definitely recommend this. Once you’re ready to move on, it’s only a short drive down the mountain into the town of Dingle.
If you don’t use this as your route into Dingle, you should still consider driving up to the lookout to have a chance to see these views.
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Dingle Bay and Fungi Boat Tours
Fungi the Dolphin is a a wild Bottlenose dolphin who has been gracing Dingle Bay with his presence for the last 32 years. Fungi has been drawing crowds ever since he first appeared, and he has survived long-past the average lifespan for a Bottlenose dolphin. He’s so iconic that children learn about him in primary school. Fungi is what took us to Dingle that day, and thankfully Fungi came out to play!
We used Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours to go out into Dingle Bay to see Fungi. The boat tour lasts one hour, and they’ll do their best to make sure you get a glimpse. It can be pretty exciting to chase him around the bay, and the boat will sometimes pick up speed to encourage Fungi to swim alongside. The company has a policy that you’re guaranteed to see Fungi or your money back, and generally, the odds are pretty good!
Even if you don’t get to see Fungi when you go out (he might be snoozing, or off somewhere else for the hour), the views in Dingle Bay will make the boat trip worth it. If you’re going with someone who isn’t that enthused about going to see a dolphin, you should encourage them to join you anyway so they can see how stunning the bay is from the water. And you never know, they could end up being the most excited person on the boat at the sight of Fungi by the end of the trip!
It’s also possible to go sailing, fishing, kayaking and even swimming in Dingle Bay. If you do any of these, you may have a chance to see Fungi while you’re out there, but if you are really keen to see him, a boat tour is the best choice.
- Tip: Even on a sunny day it can get cold out on the bay with a lot of wind and the boats going fast. Bring some layers just in case it gets a bit chilly.
Take Fungi out of the equation and there’s still plenty of reasons to visit Dingle. Walking through Dingle town will make you feel like you’ve stepped straight into a postcard. I love to visit towns with bright, colourful buildings, and there was a lot of character to the town. The locals are friendly, and if there’s any local you’ll want to meet (other than Fungi, of course), it’s this pair:
Yes, that’s a dog on a donkey. Yes, this made my year.
Dingle Town is filled with lots of local businesses, from restaurants, to pubs, to small shops. There are lovely woollen shops where you can buy knitted scarves, jumpers, blankets, even knitted sheep. While you can expect to pay a lot because of the quality of the wool and the fact that they will all be handmade, they can make a lovely gift for someone. There was also a really charming bookshop which had children’s storybooks all about Fungi, including Irish language books.
My favourite place that we visited in Dingle by far was a lovely specialty coffee shop, Bean in Dingle. Before we went to Dingle I had said I would like to find a nice place to grab a coffee, but I never expected to find somewhere like Bean in Dingle. With a bright and colourful interior, this coffee shop was a great little find and seemed to be really popular with the locals. You should definitely have it on your list if you’re visiting Dingle!
There are plenty of charming shops to visit in Dingle, so allow yourself the time to wander!
Other things to do in Dingle
When it comes down to it, if you consider all of the things that there are to do in this part of the country, we barely scratched the surface. We got to see Fungi, which was our main reason for visiting, and we also managed to stumble upon some great discoveries like Conor Pass and Bean in Dingle. Factor in our brief stroll around Adare, and we were pretty happy with all that we did in those 24 hours. However, if you can visit for a longer amount of time, I’d definitely recommend it. Here’s a list of other things you can do in Dingle:
- If you fancy another drive, Sleigh Head Drive is another scenic route with plenty of historical sites and stunning views
- Lovers of whiskey shouldn’t miss Dingle Distillery, with tours throughout the year. See the website for tour times
- If you’re travelling with kids, Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium could be a fun place to visit
Feeling particularly adventurous?
- For those of you on the more adventurous side, Sea Kayaking in Dingle is a really fun thing to do. You can go kayaking out to Fungi, or even go to see the sunset
- If kayaking wasn’t quite enough of a thrill, take a look at Dingle Surf who give surfing lessons on the Dingle Peninsula
- Take it even further with a guided snorkelling session with Dingle Marina Dive Centre
Have you visited Dingle? What was your favourite part?
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I am not affiliated with any of the businesses mentioned in this post. These are all simply suggestions to help you have the best time that you can!