With its dramatic seaside cliffs, beautiful rolling grasslands, and low-lying mountains, the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland was made for walking. There are 43 official long-distance walks, some stretched out over 200 kilometers. There are also coastal walks, mountain hikes, and roadside walks from town to town. The hiking in Ireland isn’t technical, requiring only good shoes and a raincoat, plus a love for beer or tea, both of which provide the perfect counterbalance to walks in the emerald green countryside.
The Dingle Way
This Ryder-Walker tour is based in Dingle, an area wedged between the mountains and the sea in Southwest Ireland and known for its charming music-filled pubs, stone churches, fishing history, and ancient ruins.
Starting in the large gateway town of Tralee, you’ll slowly hike from east to west, visiting the quaint seaside town of Dingle, traveling to the westernmost point in Ireland, before circling back up to Cloghane. The hiking is a delightful mix of farm roads and coastal hikes along sea-pounded cliffs. Along the way, you’ll wander through hamlets and neighborhoods above Inch Strand and Annascaul, a region famous for its surf beaches. Halfway through the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to summit Ireland’s 9th tallest peak, Mt. Brandon, a 925-meter mountain with stupendous views of the sea on a clear day. You’ll also visit medieval castles, stay in excellent hotels and B&B’s and get to know some of the best parts of Irish culture as you listen to traditional music in pubs and dine on traditional Irish fare that showcases local produce.
One of the best stops along this tour is the region’s namesake, Dingle, a town synonymous with Ireland’s charm. Made famous by its fishing port, Dingle is a haven for artists and tourists, alike, who are drawn by its light, its scenic beauty, and the friendliness of its shops, all of whom seem to serve beer, so you can shop for a new raincoat while enjoying a pint. The town has music and food festivals throughout the summer and a variety of tours, the most loving of which include a boat-ride to visit Fungie, Dingle’s town dolphin. Estimated to be about 30 years old, the bottlenose dolphin first wandered into Dingle’s harbor in 1983 and has been happily visiting tourist boats and fishermen ever since.
Ireland’s live music scene is so talked about it might be right to fear that it’s nothing but a cliché. But Ireland’s traditional music, or “trad music” as it’s affectionately called, is indeed played in pubs and music houses across the country. Usually a mix of vocals, fiddle, flute, whistle, and sometimes the concertina and Uillanean pipes, there are both impromptu and formal groups who gather together to jam in most Irish towns.
Ireland’s pubs are more than places to grab a pint. Indeed, some might call them a lens into the country’s heart and soul. Often featuring live music, the pubs of Ireland’s towns and cities are places to sing and dance and catch up with friends. The delicious dark glasses of Guinness are mere accompaniments.
There are so many spectacular pubs, it seems foolish to try and play favorites. Nevertheless, there is one particularly awesome one in that cute town of Dingle: John Benny’s. With a stone slab floor and Irish kitsch peppering the walls, the pub serves up great beer and live traditional music.
While you’ll still find plenty of soda bread, mashed potatoes, and black pudding, Ireland’s food scene has exploded in recent years. Like much of Britain, there’s a heightened focus on local ingredients and farm-to-table cuisine. In the summer, that means freshly picked asparagus and rhubarb, fresh roasted potatoes, and pies packed with gooseberries and blackberries, alike.
In addition to the world-famous Guinness, poured to perfection every time, you’ll find a range of beers on tap in most pubs. The craft beer craze has taken hold of Ireland like it has in the rest of Britain. Favorites include Metalman Pale Ale, an American style pale ale, and Twisted Hop, a blond ale produced by Hilden.
Ireland’s Literary Scene
If the pubs are one lens into Ireland’s culture, then the country’s literature is the other lens. Ireland has no fewer than four Nobel laureates— William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, and Bernard Shaw, and there are a number of literary tours, celebrating their work and favorite haunts in most of Ireland’s cities. But that’s just the beginning of Ireland’s literary brilliance. Contemporary masters like Maggie O’Farrell and Colm Tóibín have both made splashes internationally.
So, celebrate Ireland’s finest with an Irish novel and a pint of Guinness in hand as you explore the small villages, coastland, and beaches of Dingle, Ireland on this unique and exciting Ryder-Walker trip.