Dingle is a gem; this quiet little unassuming peninsula lies just north of the Ring of Kerry but is a world apart in terms of pace and welcome. And although nearly all the Irish you meet are ready with a warm “hello” and a bit of friendly chat, the welcome on Dingle Peninsula is particularly open.
Most of the Dingle peninsula is a Gaeltacht area, which means that Irish is the first spoken language. That’s what makes it so fantastic. Everyone still also speaks English, but in this tiny pocket of Ireland, Irish is a first language and spoken in the homes, at the pubs, and around town.
Now on the flip side, to be honest, Dingle drowns with tourists during the high season and that has made it all a bit more showy in Dingle town itself.
But even so, the charms of small Dingle are thoroughly and completely enjoyable. The town is best known for two things: Fungie the Dolphin, and the NUMEROUS pubs. And when I say pubs, I mean pubs-cum-shops-cum-hardware stores.
That’s right, all the pubs in Dingle started out multi-purpose and a few even remain that way. Fancy some hardware? The pub has you covered. Looking for outdoors clothes? Still covered! Locals head to the shops to buy some screws and nails, and then head back in the evening for a pint or two, some local music, and a lot of friendly chatter.
I camped out in Dingle for several days at an amazing hostel, the Hideout (hostel details at the bottom…and by camped-out I mean I slept in a very cozy bunk bed inside!) and spent some time exploring.
Fungie: Playful interactions with Dingle’s famed dolphin
Fungie, the gray bottlenose dolphin, is a huge tourist attraction in the town and has been living in Dingle Harbor of his own free will since the early eighties – the locals love him and he is Dingle town’s icon. But this is where it gets a bit dicey– the animal is arguably wild and incredibly friendly and playful – Dingle offers boat tours and even swimming opportunities with their beloved Fungie.
Fungie’s Leap, by Duloup
Rather than pay for the tour boats though (several boats sometimes circle him and it seems a tad invasive truthfully) Laura, a fellow southerner who I instantly bonded with, and I easily hiked to the lighthouse at the tip of Dingle Bay where our hostel clued us in that we could potentially spot Fungie for free.
The walk to the tip was incredibly muddy. And the chill wind biting through our jackets was fierce at times, but we sat down on the rocks under the petite white lighthouse at the very mouth of the bay and relaxed for some time wondering if Fungie gift up with his lovely appearance.
Just when we were about to give up, Fungie leaped out of the water in a full arc just meters from where we were sitting. Seriously! He hung around for about twenty minutes to interact with a tourist boat that came puttering over several minutes later, but for those first precious moments Laura and I had Fungie and the bay all to our selves – it was amazingly uplifting to have the huge blue sky above, a crisp, clean breeze and a playful dolphin ready to frolic for our viewing pleasure.
Ireland’s Pubs: Warm and friendly and always a pint on the ready
With a warm, steaming and rich cup of hot chocolate from Murphy’s to warm up, Laura and I connected with some other fun companions from the hostel and to headed out to the pubs for the evening. Pubing and music is pretty much the supreme nighttime activity in all of Ireland and Dingle is certainly no exception.
Dick Mac’s is perhaps the best known of Dingle’s pubs because of the celebrities who have enjoyed a pint at the counter of this former leather shop (Julia Roberts is apparently one of the several who have popped in). Truthfully, although the old leather scraps and dusty, half-soled shoes in cubby-holes on the wall make for an incredibly quaint and atmospherically intimate setting, we were a little disappointed – no music and only one other person in the bar!
We made some of our own entertainment at the ancient upright piano before heading to a nearby pub that was jam-packed with locals perched on or near the bar while the tourists wedged in the adjacent room with live traditional music.
Evenings exploring Dingle town are a lot of fun – the locals are open and friendly and the music is catered to what you’d expect to a big degree – pub songs and traditional sets. Between Fungie the oh-so friendly dolphin, the amazing hot-chocolate, and some fun pub action, Dingle town itself is worth a two day visit at least!
Hideout Hostel Review, Dingle town, Ireland
The Hideout hostel in Dingle, Ireland is one of the best hostels from my trip. The hostel offers wifi, small four-bed rooms, singles, and doubles with comfy beds. The people running the hostel are so welcoming and full of tips. The kitchen is fully stocked and I just loved camping out in the cozy fire-lit sitting room listening to one of the Irish storytellers share local Dingle legends. The one drawback is that all public rooms close down and lock at 11pm- that really blows when you’re trying to get work done from the road or Skype home at odd-hours!