Top Walks of the Dingle Peninsula
The stunning Dingle Peninsula stretches 30 miles into Ireland's Atlantic Ocean in the stunning southwest on the Wild Atlantic Way Route.
The peninsula is voted among the Top 100 destinations in the world by TripAdvisor and referred to as 'the most beautiful place on earth' by National Geographic.
Its landscape is dominated by soaring mountain tops from the Slieve Mish range to Ireland's second highest peak Mount Brandon, hidden lakes and valleys, wild and rugged sea cliffs, sandy beaches and views of the Blasket Islands offering walkers and hikers some of the best walks in Europe.
Steeped in historic and archaeological delights, Dingle Peninsula has supported various tribes and populations for thousands of years. Combined with its rich folklore and mythology passed from generation to generation through the Irish language which is still spoken here to this day, it is certainly one of the best places on the Wild Atlantic Way to experience authentic Irish Culture at its best!
Here is a selection of known and inspiring walks on the Dingle Peninsula abstracted from the classic walk guide by our own Sean O Suilleabhain of Go Visit Ireland and founder of the famous Kerry Way Walking Route.
Experience a stunning gentle ascent through blanket bog on the green road which was first used as a bog road to allow turf (peat) to be drawn out by a pony and cart, nowadays used for pony trekking. You will be rewarded very quickly with views – to the southeast of the majestic MacGillycuddy's Reeks home to Ireland's highest peak and to the south of Dingle Harbour and Eask Hill beyond it with its tower directing boats to safe passage.
Eventually as you rise and circle there are views of the North to Smerwick Harbour and some of the Seven Sisters. For some time the Stoney Face will be in sight in front of you – stone walls used to build up stacks of Turf many years before and as you continue on along the ridge you will progress into more bogland with the summits of Gearhane and Brandon Peak coming into view.
“While we were told that the green road was developed for turf-cutting, bearing in mind folklore in Cloghane that people walked in Famine times from there through to Mullaghveal to the workhouse in Dingle, I wonder if we might be following the footsteps of the hungry…” (Walk Guide: Southwest of Ireland, Sean O Suilleabhain)
The Dingle Way (Ventry to Slea Head)
This route travels parallel to and higher than the driving road, giving you far better views than these of the coach passengers. It is said that this area has the greatest concentration of archaeological remains in Ireland and with a little detour you will be able to sample a few. The walk descends through the fuchsia bushes to Fahan village which can be used for access to Dunbeg Fort which suggests habitation from 550BC!
Views as you walk stone walls include Dingle Bay and Brandon Ridge behind, ahead the Atlantic in all its glory, The Great Blasket to the West and the Skellig Rocks to the southwest. As you descend the second Blasket Island and third will start to come into view as you round Slea Head 'the nearest parish to America.' You will then see the cliffs of Coumeenoole in view!
“You start at the location of the Battle of Ventry, fought between the Fianna, Ireland's Legendary warriors on one side and the fleets of the King of Spain and the King of the World on the other. It lasted a year and a day with massive losses on both sides.” (Walk Guide: Southwest of Ireland, Sean O Suilleabhain)
Outside of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks, Mount Brandon at 925m is the country's highest peak and in many ways, it is the finest climb. There are rewards for the lover of scenery, for the geologist and for the botanist! As you contour below the ridge, you are walking under the site of many aircraft crashes – One of the wreckages is a German fighter plane from 1940. You will travel by paternoster lakes, Lough Cruttia (Harp Lake) and Nalacken (Duck Lake) and onto a narrow ice carved glen.
“Any description of mine would fail to do justice to the geological grandeur created by the scree slopes and the sheer walls, their curved rock layers laid bare for our inspection, towering above the line of paternoster lakes.” (Walk Guide: Southwest of Ireland, Sean O Suilleabhain)
The summit is marked by St Brendan's Oratory and according to legend St. Brendan the navigator fasted on the summit, before his trip across the Atlantic to discover America (before Columbus)!
The Dingle Way (Brandon Creek to Cloghane)
An old military road takes you high and wild from Brandon Creek where legend says St Brendan set sail in his fragile craft to discover America centuries before Christopher Colombus. To the east is a steep valley known by the locals as 'the green fields' or Foharnamanagh – Deep Glen of The Monks and St Brendan is said to have established a monastery on this site.
Onwards you will pass Ogham Stone monuments, get the last look at The Three Sisters and Ballydavid Head before taking in views of Brandon Bay, the Magharees and Tralee Bay. Descending on by the abandoned village of Arraglen to the fishing village of Brandon and onward to Cloghane.
On your decent you will pass Farran ringfort now much over grown. “It features in a folktale of the locality which tells of crying, heard on the death of an infant, traveling through the townland and dying away only on entering the fort.” (Walk Guide: Southwest of Ireland, Sean O Suilleabhain)
This glorious walk follows an old track through the mountain pass which was a route once taken by locals on the way to Annascaul. It is a prime example of a u-shaped valley formed by the glaciations of the Ice-Age thousands of years ago. This route gives way to a steep hill climb after passing the remains of long abandoned houses to a ford in the river. After a stretch along open bogland you will find yourself overlooking Annascaul Lake. The lake itself is named after Scal, one of the many women in whom the legendary Irish warrior Cuchulainn took an interest.
“It seems that a giant came to take her away and she sought the hero-warrior's assistance. He stood on Dromavalla Mountain, east across the lake and the giant stood somewhere on this side exchanging fire – boulders no less. After a week of fighting, Cuchulainn was hit and gave a loud groan. Scal, thinking him killed, drowned herself in the lake.” (Walk Guide: Southwest of Ireland, Sean O Suilleabhain)
This glen is a further incursion into the legends which are such a part of the Dingle Peninsula.
The Dingle Peninsula where land meets sea in the shadow of sacred Mt Brandon, a maze of fuchsia-fringed boreens weaving together in an ancient landscape of prehistoric ring forts, early Christian churches, crosses and holy wells and abandoned villages gives some of the most stunning walking Europe has to offer!