Slea Head Drive in Dingle Ireland
Slea Head Drive in Dingle Ireland takes in stunning views of the Dingle Peninsula and many famous landmarks including Coumeenoole Beach, Dunquin Pier, and the Gallarus Oratory. The driving loop begins and ends in Dingle Town on Ireland’s west coast.
Slea Head Drive puts the “wild” in Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. Intensely green pastures, soaring cliffs, and vivid blue seascapes characterize the terrain that time seems to have forgotten. Exploring the route’s Irish speaking villages and ancient ruins is one of the best things to do in Dingle Ireland. Our Slea Head Drive guide will steer you to all the best stops.
SLEA HEAD DRIVE IN DINGLE IRELAND AT A GLANCE
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ABOUT SLEA HEAD DRIVE
The approximately 30-mile (47km) circular route begins and ends in Dingle Town. From Dingle, Slea Head Drive takes in the Irish villages of Ventry, Fahan, Dunquin, BallyFerriter, and Ballydavid.
TIPS FOR DRIVING SLEA HEAD DRIVE
The Route & Timing: The route is clearly labeled in Gaelic and English (i.e., Sli Cheann Sleibhe or Slea Head Drive). The drive could be completed in about 90-minutes, but plan to make this a day trip in order to enjoy all of the gorgeous overlooks, beaches, short hikes, and charming villages. The roadway is busy year-round. Avoid peak mid-day travel if you are able.
Which Direction to Drive: Drive on the left-hand side of the road. Slea Head Drive narrows at times to a one-lane road, but is open to two-way traffic. To avoid meeting tour buses head on, visitors are strongly encouraged to travel clockwise.
Driving Vs. Cycling: Cycling is a popular way to travel Slea Head Drive. However, casual riders should beware. We had planned to e-bike the route, but after previewing it we decided to drive. The narrow, winding roadway has sheer drops and heavy traffic to navigate. Many bikers looked stressed!
Share the Road: Slea Head Drive is a busy road that journeys through working villages. Be courteous of school buses, farm vehicles, tour buses, and motorcycles. Give at least 1.5-meter clearance to cyclists, walkers, farm animals, and equestrians. Be prepared to back-up or pull-off to allow everyone safe passage.
SLEA HEAD DRIVE MAP WITH STOPS
STOPS ON SLEA HEAD DRIVE
SLEA HEAD DRIVE START POINT: DINGLE
Dingle Ireland is a charming County Kerry fishing port knwn for its vibrant pub and music scene. It is the largest town on the Dingle Peninsula. Dingle Town is full of colorfully painted shops and restaurants. On the waterfront visitors will find a marina, commercial fishing fleet, and aquarium. Plan to stop and explore Dingle at the end of your drive.
STOP 1: VENTRY AND VENTRY BEACH
From Dingle, follow R559/Slea Head Drive) to Ventry (Irish: Ceann Tra). The seaside town is a Gaelic (and English) speaking village. Ventry is home to a lovely beach that is popular with equestrians. Stretch your legs with a walk on the 3km beach or take a horse-back ride along the shore.
TIP 1: Contact Longs Riding Centre for reservations.
TIP 2: Over the next 17km, between Ventry and Clogher Head, is some of the most stunning coastal scenery on earth. Drive slowly and anticipate lookouts. Pull off frequently along this stretch.
STOP 2: FAHAN ATTRACTIONS
Continuing on Slea Head Drive, the coastal route passes through the village of Fahan. Along this stretch of road there are a series of heritage sites and attractions to explore.:
Dunbeg Fort (Irish: Dun beag): A small cliff-top, iron-age stone fort and visitor center.
Slea Head Famine Cottages: Original 19th century cottages that depict farm life during the time of the Great Irish Famine.
Fahan Beehive Huts: The Dingle beehive huts (aka standing clochans) are dry stone huts where monks used to live. The 18 beehive huts are similar to the structures found on Skellig Michael.
Open Farms: At the working “open” farms, paying guests can pet and feed donkeys, goats, sheep, and horses. There are sheep dog demonstrations and craft-making exhibitions.
STOP 3: NO-NAME VIEWPOINT
As you leave the Fahan attractions behind, be alert for the first of three viewing areas. It comes after a sharp turn on Slea Head Drive. “No-Name” viewpoint has a small parking area and spectacular coastal views.
STOP 4: SLEA HEAD CROSS & VIEWPOINT
Restarting your drive, continue on to the second lookout – the Slea Head Cross. This parking area and viewpoint is on the opposite side of the road from a gleaming white crucifix on a sheer cliff-face. The lookout offers great panoramas of the Blasket Islands.
STOP 5 SLEA HEAD VIEWPOINT
The third lookout to pull off on is Slea Head viewpoint. The parking lot is a bit bigger than “no-name” and the Slea Head Cross. So, if the last lookouts were crowded, try and find a spot here for photos and sea-gazing.
STOP 6: DUNMORE HEAD
Staying on Slea Head Drive, continue until you see a sign for Coumeenoole Beach. Park in the large parking lot, and prepare for a short hike. Staying along the coast, walk away from the beach toward Dunmore Head. When the road ends, cross a rock wall, and hike through a pasture filled with grazing sheep. If you have vertigo be cautious, some parts of this trail run parallel to sheer drop offs.
At the top of the hill enjoy views of the Blasket Islands and Coumeenoole Bay. Find the Shepard’s hut, the Ogham Stone (an ancient commemorative stone with inscription), and the Devil’s Horns (jagged rocks that were used as landscapes in the Star Wars movies.)
STOP 7: COUMEENOOLE BEACH
After descending Dunmore Head, veer off onto the road that leads down to Coumeenoole Beach. This gorgeous stretch of sand is rimmed by towering cliffs and crashing waves. Walk the beach and enjoy the surroundings. Movie fans may recognize the location from the movie “Ryan’s Daughter.”
STOP 8: DUNQUIN PEIR
The next stop on the route is Dunquin Pier (Irish: Dun Chaoin). The working pier provides seasonal ferry service to the Blasket Islands. Park in the lot on the ocean side of the road and walk down the lane to the pier (do not drive your car down the road). Along the way, you will be treated to spectacular views of the Atlantic. If you are unable to trek the steep lane down to the ferry, stroll the gorgeous bluffs and watch the boats travel up and down the coast.
STOP 9: THE BLASKET CENTRE
Not far from Dunquin Pier is the Blasket Centre. Ireland’s Blasket Island was abandoned in 1953 after an exodus of the farming community that called the island home. Stop at the Blasket Centre to learn the story of the island’s way of life. Visit a cliff-top viewpoint, café, and take a bathroom break.
STOP 10: CLOGHER HEAD
Driving further along Slea Head Drive look for the Clogher Head car park. It is time for a second hike. Follow the trail to reach the top of Clogher Head. At the apex, there are magnificent views of Sybil Head (Irish: Ceann Sibeal) and the Three Sisters. Star Wars fans may recognize the locations as those in the newer Star Wars movies.
STOP 11: CLOGHER STRAND
If you did not stop and walk Coumeenoole Beach, consider walking Clogher Strand (beach). The petite horseshoe shaped stretch of sand is a beautiful place to relax after your Clogher Head hike.
STOP 12: GALLARUS ORATORY
From Clogher Strand, Slea Head Drive winds inland through the Ballyferriter countryside. Be on the lookout for the Gallarus Oratory (free admission). The 1300 year-old oratory is a tiny stone church. The neolithic period Celtic Church was built using a dry-stone technique the leaves the inside of the church waterproof. The chapel is thought to be the oldest in Ireland. There is a small visitor center onsite.
SLEA HEAD DRIVE END POINT: DINGLE
From Gallarus, head back to Dingle Town for some well-deserved seafood, shopping, and pub hopping.
Hope you enjoy this glorious landscape as much as we did. Gartha (cheers!), Laura and Randy
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