We were drawn to the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland by stories of rugged coastlines, beautiful scenery and a charming fishing town. The reality lived up to the hype; this place is amazing and is one of the best places to visit in Ireland with kids or without.
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Dingle Town is a bustling, yet immensely charming fishing town on the southern coast of the peninsula. The beautiful scenery of the Dingle Peninsula is fun to explore by car, especially along Slea Head Drive. There’s plenty of places to stop and hike or hit the beach along the way.
Things to do in Dingle Peninsula with Kids
Slea Head Drive
Slea Head Drive is often described as one of the most beautiful drives in all of Ireland. It’s a 30-minute circular driving route through the westernmost part of the Dingle Peninsula with much of it hugging the rugged coastline.
The views of the rugged coastal cliffs are amazing, and the small towns and rural homesteads are very charming. This Dingle Peninsula drive is highly recommended.
We set off from our Dingle Town hotel at 7:30am and based on the order we wanted to do our Dingle Peninsula walks in, we drove counter-clockwise – what a big mistake! It turns out that the tour buses on this route are required to drive the route clockwise and tourist drivers are strongly encouraged to do the same.
Why? Many sections of Slea Head Drive are very narrow with only enough room for a single vehicle. One particularly beautiful single-lane stretch of the Slea Head Drive hugs a cliff face on one side and the ocean on the other.
As luck would have it, we met up with a tour bus head on, requiring us to back up a long way to a spot where we’d both fit. Groan…
Clogher Beach Loop
Clogher Beach Loop is a fun & easy hike along the beautiful Dingle Peninsula coastline. The hike begins at the Clogher Strand Beach parking lot. You use a set of stairs to hop over a fence and into a pasture to begin the hike.
Clogher Beach Loop leads walkers along the rugged coastline for 1 mile / 1.6km. The trail runs through sheep and cattle pastures, so be mindful of where you are stepping.
Our kids always love sharing a hiking trail with sheep, especially when they move to get out of our way. The scenery along the way is amazing and there’s plenty of room for the kids to run wild.
At the end of the coastal leg of the hike, you can do as we did and make it a loop by walking south on the country road. It’s another 0.6 miles / 1.2km to get back to the parking lot this way. The country scenery on this leg was nice and there’s thousands upon thousands of wildflowers, but if I were to do this hike again, I’d skip the country road and instead turn around and walk back along the coast to the car.
The total distance of our hike was 1.7 miles / 2.8km with a mere 134 feet / 41m elevation gain. It took us one hour to do this hike, which is way faster than our typical pace of 1.5 hours. The kids were having so much fun, they were always running ahead.
If you are interested in visiting Clogher Beach, be aware there are “No Swimming” signs all over the place. It’s a beautiful, small beach and kids may still enjoy playing in the sand.
Clogher Beach Loop trail map on AllTrails.com
Dun Chaoin Coastal Loop
The Dun Chaoin Coastal Loop hike is only a few minutes down the road from the Chlogher Beach Loop by car. An easy place to start the walk is at the Blasket Centre parking lot.
This loop trail has a component which follows a back-country road. We got the road portion out of the way first by turning north out of the parking lot and walking gently uphill for approximately 0.9 miles / 1.5km. It’s a pleasant country road with nice views of the rolling hills of the countryside.
As usual, the roads were lined with tons of wildflowers, but they also had blackberry bushes. We love blackberries, but we hiked this trail in early August and the blackberries were still a few weeks away from being ripe. We managed to find a few which were ready, but most we ate were still sour.
Eventually you see a sign directing you to veer off to the left and follow a dirt road for a while. Follow the signs and you will soon be rewarded for how high you’ve climbed with magnificent vistas of the ocean and islands.
Our daughter wanted to go off the trail for a little bit to climb a small rocky hill. We followed her up and enjoyed some incredible 360-degree views from up there (we didn’t make it all the way to the top, but close). It’s worth a quick detour up this hill for the views.
The trail quickly descends towards the ocean, with outstanding views all the way. The large island in the distance is Great Blasket Island, a very-popular day trip from Dingle.
Once you get to the bottom, the trail follows the coastline all the way back. It’s really easy walking at this stage with grass underfoot (along with the usual warnings about sheep poop). Kids have plenty of room to run and play, while parents will be stopping to take tons of pictures of the amazing scenery.
To add some additional interest, the trail passes a ruin of an old charming house. This house is a filming location for an old 1970’s movie called Ryan’s Daughter, starring Robert Mitchum.
Including our detour to climb the small hill at the top, our hike totaled 3.4 miles / 5.5km with 580 feet / 177m elevation gain. It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to do his hike, which was a bit faster than usual for us with the kids.
Dun Chaoin Coastal Loop trail map on AllTrails.com
Dunmore Head Loop
Hiking the Dunmore Head Loop was our final hike along the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula. This hike shares the parking lot with Coumeenoole Beach, so it’s very busy. We arrived at 1:15pm and were lucky to find a spot.
The Dunmore Head Loop is a short hike to the end of a peninsula with some pretty amazing views. The views are reason enough to hike this trail, but an additional reason is that it is a filming location for Star Wars Last Jedi. If you have any Star Wars nerds in the family (like me), they’ll get a kick out of it.
The hiking trail goes up the side of a large hill; it’s pretty steep at first and then gradually gets easier. Of course, the higher you go the better the views, so you probably won’t even notice the effort. If you are lucky enough to visit when the sun is shining, you won’t believe the beautiful colors of the water below; you’d think you are in the Caribbean, not the North Atlantic!
The trail ends near the western end of the peninsula, which interestingly enough, is the most westerly point in all of Europe. There are several rocky islands just off the coastline which are very picturesque.
The hike back goes straight up the spine of the hill to the very top where there’s an abandoned tiny house. It’s small, but what amazing views they had at the top. If that was our place, we would never leave!
This short hike was only 1.1 miles / 1.8km with 613 feet / 187m elevation gain.
Dunmore Head Loop trail map on AllTrails.com
After three hikes in a single day, we didn’t have time to visit Coumeenoole Beach, but it does share the same parking lot as the Dunmore Head Loop, so it’s worth mentioning. Coumeenoole Beach is a very popular beach with a dramatic location.
Towering cliffs loom overhead behind the sand and large North Atlantic waves crash into the sandy beach. Lots of people were in the water, but many of them had cold water wet suits on. It looked so nice, we wish we’d had more time to visit.
Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium
The reason we didn’t have time for the beach is that we had promised to take the kids to the aquarium. After my stressful bus encounter on the Slea Head Drive, I was happy to park at our hotel and walk a few minutes to the aquarium.
The Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium is a small facility, but it packs a lot of highlights into every visit. The kids loved the huge shark tank, the otters, the penguins and the tunnel which walks under a large tank of fish.
After the kids hiked 6.2 miles / 10km, it was time to let them choose what to do. The kids loved the Dingle aquarium as we are sure yours will too.
We first saw Inch Beach from the car as we were driving into Dingle for the first time. It looked like an amazing place to go for a walk, so we decided to go there on our way to Killarney National Park. After a very good breakfast at our Dingle hotel, we checked out and drove to Inch Beach.
Inch Beach is an amazing piece of land – just check out this satellite shot on Google Maps. It looks like a humpback whale flipper is jutting out into the ocean from the Dingle Peninsula. This long, straight beach runs for an amazing 3.1 miles / 5km. Beach walking is one of our favorite things in the whole world, so this was a perfect place for us!
We all had a great time walking and exploring the beach. The tide was out, so there were thousands of seashells for the kids to pick up and admire. When the tide is out, the beach is very wide, creating a lot of room for everyone to spread out.
In addition to seashells, our daughter found the largest crab shell I’ve ever seen and several small Compass Jellyfish who missed going back out with the tide.
The adventure isn’t all by the water though; there are sand dunes along the back side of the beach. The sand dunes seem largely ignored by visitors, so we found tons of large seashells here. The kids especially loved finding and following animal footprints in the sand. There’s a surprising number of animals who call these sand dunes home. If your kids love seashells and/or animals, be sure to wander over to the sand dunes and take a look.
We arrived at 9:30am and parked in the small parking lot along the highway. There is another larger parking lot down below, but the biggest parking lot of all is on the beach. Yup – right on the beach. Cars are allowed to drive on the beach, which is kinda cool in some ways, but to be honest, we weren’t big fans of it.
By the time we left around noon, the area along the beach near the entrance felt like a busy parking lot, not a beach. But hey – to each their own – tons of people were parked on the beach having a great time. You don’t need to walk far to get away from the cars and at least you are guaranteed a parking spot – that’s not something you can say about many attractions in Ireland!
Where to Stay in the Dingle Peninsula with Kids
Downtown Dingle was quite chaotic, so we were happy to stay at the Dingle Harbour Lodge, which was a 3 minute walk from the Dingle town centre. We typically stay at Airbnb’s, but we chose the Dingle Harbour Lodge due to its combination of price and good central location.
We stayed in a Triple Room with 1 double bed and 2 singles and found the room to be comfortable and quiet. They call themselves a “B&B”, but it’s really a hotel and breakfast isn’t always automatically included. That said, we did eat breakfast there both mornings and can confirm it’s very good.
For other Dingle accommodation options, check out these family-friendly Dingle hotels on Booking.com.
As mentioned, we typically stay at Airbnb rentals as they are usually very family-friendly. There are many Dingle Airbnb options to chose from. If you are new to Airbnb, sign up with our link and get a $35USD credit towards your first stay.
Where to Eat in Dingle
Staying in a hotel meant we needed to go out for dinner both nights in Dingle.
The first night we went to a little hole-in-the wall fish & chips restaurant. The Bay Restaurant has a nice location facing the water opposite the Dingle Marina, and was halfway between our hotel and Dingle town centre. We all enjoyed fish & chips at this simple, fun restaurant and despite having a large portion size, our kids ate almost their entire order.
The following night and ate at a charming pub called Murphy’s Pub. The atmosphere was fun and waiting staff had a lot of fun with our kids. We ordered a large bowl of mussels as an appetizer and were astonished to watch our 6-year old try them for the first time and love them!
How to Get to the Dingle Peninsula
Ireland is a pretty small island and the driving distances are not that great, but the Dingle Peninsula is quite remote by Irish standards. The closest major cities are Limerick and Cork, each of which is approximately a 2 hour drive away.
We drove to the Dingle Peninsula from the Cliffs of Moher, the previous stop on our driving tour of south-western Ireland. We had rented a car at the Shannon Airport, which is just outside Limerick.
Note, that unless you buy the rental cars extra insurance, most Irish rental car companies will hold a €5,000 security deposit on your credit card. We find that RentalCars.com does a good job outlining these conditions in plain English – simply click on the blue box that says “Important information about your rental”.
You can also reach Dingle by bus, but it’s not very convenient with no direct routes from any of the major centres, such as Dublin, Cork or Limerick. When you travel by bus to Dingle, you’ll likely need to transfer in Tralee. You can search timetables and buy tickets at Bus Eirann, a bus company we used several times while in Ireland.
There are several multi-day organized tours on GetYourGuide which stop in the Dingle Peninsula. These tours range from 2-10 days and include many other highlights of Southern Ireland, such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Blarney Castle and more.
2 Day Dingle Peninsula Itinerary with Kids
We arrived in Dingle Town after a 4-hour drive from exploring the Cliffs of Moher with kids. Dingle is a beautiful little fishing town, but wow, there is so much traffic!
Day 1 on the Dingle Peninsula
On our full day in the Dingle Peninsula, we enjoyed three excellent ocean-front hikes along the famous, scenic Slea Head Drive (be sure to drive the road clockwise!).
We hiked through beautiful coastal sheep pastures on the Clogher Beach Loop, enjoyed elevated ocean vistas on the Dun Chaoin Coastal Loop and got our Star Wars geek-on during the Dunmore Head Loop.
Day 2 on the Dingle Peninsula
On our way to spend a couple of days in Killarney National Park with kids, we spent the morning finding treasures and tracking wildlife along beautiful Inch Beach.