Writer Felicity Hayes-McCoy loves Dingle enough to live, write and be inspired by the area.
From the music of native tongues to the legendary Irish heroes, fascinating museums and white sandy beaches, she shares her perfect day on the Dingle Peninsula.
was famously described by National Geographic magazine as “the most beautiful place on earth.” And it is stunningly beautiful, the perfect place to wander along a sandy beach or climb a spectacular mountain. Or to watch the setting sun slip gently into the Atlantic in a blaze of crimson and scarlet – preferably with a glass of wine in your hand, over a plate of delicious local seafood.
But that’s not all. From a point on the map just before you reach town the peninsula’s also a Gaeltacht – an Irish language speaking area. Everyone you’ll meet will speak English so you won’t have communication problems. But you’ll often hear the musical Irish language in the streets and in people’s homes, and see signs in shops and restaurants that read ‘Gaeilge agus fáilte’, meaning patrons are welcome to use Irish. It’s the first language of many locals, particularly towards the end of the peninsula, and, like the area itself, it’s a remarkable entry-point to Ireland’s ancient .
The Dingle Peninsula holds over two thousand archaeological sites, many of which date back to the Iron Age. Everywhere you go there are echoes of myth and legend. In high fields and on wave-battered promontories you can marvel at forts that once held heroes like Cú Chulainn, who rode to battle with the heads of his enemies bouncing at his chariot-rail, and ancient Celtic noblewomen with hands “as white as the snow of one night,” and lips “red as Parthian leather.” Preserved in the native language of the people are stories, songs and poems that celebrate their history, folklore and customs. And one of the best places to get a taste of them is the – the West museum.
You’ll find it in , a village to the west of Dingle town. It’s a little gem, beautifully curated, full of fascinating exhibits, and small enough to keep kids interested. The display’s laid out around a timeline which reaches from prehistory to the present day, providing a perfect starting point for your exploration of the area. It’s housed in the old village school and has a charming café and a small, very good bookshop catering for adults and kids. The shop stocks books in Irish and English, tour guides, and a brilliant series of maps showing the routes of local walks of historic and archaeological interest. The café serves tea and coffee, home-made scones, cakes, bread and soup. On a fine day you can eat outside opposite the village church and watch clouds drifting over the mountain.
And if the day is fine enough to sit outside be sure to ask for directions to Béal Bán, which means ‘The White Mouth’. It’s a beautiful, curved beach about five minutes away by car, with miles of white sand where kids can play and where adults can dream. Maybe about the high deeds of ancient Celtic heroes. Or maybe about your next plate of delicious local seafood.
Have we got you hooked? Our blog has more about Ireland’s History and Heritage.