Are you planning a trip to the Emerald Isle and looking for an incredible scenic drive to explore? If so, we highly recommend adding the Dingle Peninsula to your Ireland itinerary. This circular route is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and spans 30 miles, offering stunning landscapes, historical sites, and charming villages along the way.
Whether you’re seeking a leisurely drive or a chance to delve into Ireland’s past, Slea Head Drive. In this article, we’ll provide you with a Slea Head map and highlight some of the best stops to make on your journey.
Moreover, we’ll review the best places to stay along the Dingle Peninsula and other insider tips for your drive. After reading our recommendations, you’ll be ready for an unforgettable experience exploring this scenic route.
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Table of Contents
What is Slea Head Drive?
Slea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe in Irish) is a circular route on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. Additionally, it forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic coastal route spanning 1,553 miles along Ireland’s west coast. Although the Slea Head Drive is only 30 miles long (47 km), it offers some of the most breathtaking views in all of Kerry.
For example, an Ireland road trip on this loop drive takes you past green hills and rocky cliffs, as well as historical sites such as the Beehive Huts, an ancient stone structure believed to have been used by early Christian monks. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing drive or a chance to explore Ireland’s rich history, Slea Head Drive will surely leave you impressed.
How long is Slea Head Drive?
As mentioned above, the Slea Head Drive distance is a short 30 miles (47 km). Therefore, if you were to travel the entire loop without stopping, it would take just over an hour. However, getting out of the car and exploring Slea Head itself is kind of the best part! For this reason, we recommend spending at least half a day in the area.
At an absolute minimum, you’ll need approximately four hours. This way, you won’t be in a rush and can appreciate the most popular stops along Slea Head Drive.
For example, you won’t want to skip Dunmore Head, the Dunquin Pier, Coumeenoole Beach, or the adorable Dingle Town. Nonetheless, we believe this Dingle Peninsula drive is best explored in one to two full days.
Important tips for driving Slea Head
Drive clockwise around the loop.
By driving clockwise, you’ll flow in the same direction as the tour companies along the route. With this in mind, you can avoid meeting large tour buses head-on in sections of the road that become single lanes.
Not to mention, you’ll have unhindered views of the coast when you travel clockwise on Slea Head Drive. By the same token, many pull-ins along this route are more easily accessed when driving in this direction.
You’ll drive on the left side of the road.
If you’ve driven in Ireland before, remembering to stick to the left side shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, Slea Head Drive is slightly easier to manage than some of the other loop routes in Ireland. To put it into perspective, we felt much safer maneuvering along the Dingle Peninsula than on certain sections of the Ring of Kerry.
Comparatively, it’s also a much more comfortable drive than the nearby Conor Pass, one of Ireland’s highest mountain passes. If you can only drive one of these routes, we highly recommend Slea Head–it’s more of a secret gem with fewer visitors.
Slea Head Drive is well marked with road signs.
You shouldn’t have any issues following the road signs throughout the route, which read “Slea Head Drive” and feature the Wild Atlantic Way symbol. Moreover, most stops along this Dingle Peninsula loop drive are immediately off the main road. So, getting your bearings and returning to Slea Head Drive from the attractions you stop to see is easy.
The road is narrow and, in some places, only big enough for one car.
As mentioned above, if you have any experience driving on Irish roads, you should feel comfortable traveling along the Dingle Peninsula. Like in many other locations in the country, sometimes the streets don’t have two marked lanes.
You can expect two-way traffic in these cases; nonetheless, you’ll find that the road isn’t wide enough for two cars. Therefore, if someone needs to pass by from the other direction, you’ll need to pull into a “lay by.”
Expect limited parking at some viewpoints.
As you drive Slea Head, you’ll notice that some stops only have enough parking for a few cars. So, what do you do if all the parking spots are full? Well, if it’s a viewpoint or attraction you really want to see, we recommend continuing to the next stop and then looping back later.
Make sure to bring some cash.
You’ll need some euros in cash to pay the entrance fee at a handful of the attractions along the Slea Head route. We recommend having about 20€ in cash per person. It’s always better to have more than necessary, just in case!
Map of Slea Head Drive
This Slea Head Drive map shows some of the most popular stops along the drive and some optional places to stop if you have extra time. Top attractions along Slea Head Drive include Dunmore Head, Dunquin Pier (Cé Dhún Chaoin), and The Gallarus Oratory.
Moreover, optional stops include the FairyFort Ringfort, Dunbeg Fort, and Caifé Na Trá (for a snack), among others. Depending on your interests, you can tailor your journey to include scenic views, historic sites, or beautiful hikes. In our opinion, the Slea Head loop drive is sure to impress no matter what you choose to see.
Pro tip: You can add this map to your Google Maps account by clicking the star to the right of the title.
The best stops on Slea Head Drive
Dingle is a colorful little village that serves as the perfect base for exploring the nearby Slea Head Drive. Once you arrive, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops to keep you occupied.
For instance, we highly recommend grabbing a coffee at Bean in Dingle before you hit the road. Plus, you can find one of our favorite souvenir shops in Ireland here: Dingle Candle. When you’re ready to begin, simply head west on Slea Head Drive R559.
Since Slea Head Drive is one of the best Irish road trips, the road can get congested. Especially if you’re visiting during the high season, you may want to start your drive earlier in the day. In this case, you can always save the town of Dingle for the end of the day.
Whatever you decide to do, you have to try Murphy’s Ice Cream at some point on your trip! If you’re having trouble choosing a flavor, we suggest the Irish Brown Bread.
Ventry, officially called Ceann Trá, is one of the first adorable Irish villages you’ll encounter along Slea Head Drive. In particular, we suggest stopping by Ventry Bay Beach, a blue flag beach west of Dingle. This crescent of white sand is a trendy spot, especially in the summer months when a lifeguard is on duty.
The beach runs for approximately 1.7 miles (3 km) and backs up to a small dune system, lake, and wet grasslands. With this in mind, Ventry Beach is a great place to enjoy the outdoors, swim, or go for a peaceful walk.
Fahan Beehive Huts
Although we can’t be sure, historians believe that some of the most ancient stone huts at this site date back to the 12th century. In fact, these beehive huts, also called clochán, are similar to the ones on Skellig Michael, which inspired the creators of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
This location is currently home to 19 souterrain and 18 beehive huts, which are some of the country’s most impressive. For this reason, we think it’s worth dropping by at least for a few minutes.
Note that parking is easily accessible and located directly across the street. Plus, you can see an incredible view of Dingle Bay and the Blasket islands from the top. Just make sure to carry some euros in cash with you–a small entrance fee covers maintenance for this historic site!
Hold a Baby Lamb
If you haven’t already, you’ll definitely want to add “holding a baby lamb” to your Dingle Peninsula itinerary. Luckily, for a few euros, you can visit a business aptly named “Hold a Baby Lamb” and do just that! Farmer Aedán will welcome you, introduce you to his sheepdogs, and show you how to hold (and maybe even bottle feed!) his cute lambs.
Slea Head Viewpoint
Ceann Sléibhe, or Slea Head, is a beautiful viewing point along Slea Head Drive. It offers stunning coastline views, including steep cliffs and crashing waves.
Additionally, convenient pull-in parking is available for those who want to stop by and admire the scenery. This observation deck is the perfect place to take in the beauty of the Irish coastline and snap a few photos.
Cross at Slea Head
The Cross at Slea Head is, well, essentially, a white cross marking the actual “Slea Head.” That’s right, this famous loop route actually gets its name from a promontory in the most westernmost section of the Dingle Peninsula!
It’s important to note that the road here is pretty narrow, allowing only enough room for a few cars at a time. However, if there’s an open parking spot, we recommend taking a photo and admiring the view of the Blasket Islands in the distance.
Radharc na mBlascaoidí / Blasket’s View
Radharc na mBlascaoidí, also called Blasket’s View, is a viewing platform along Slea Head Drive. On a clear day, visitors can see all the way to the Blasket Islands off Ireland’s west coast.
Of course, since Slea Head is one of Ireland’s best scenic drives, you can expect some pretty incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean, and this is an excellent spot for photography. The parking lot here holds about 6-7 cars, so it’s a quick and easy stop to make.
Caifé Na Trá
If you’re ready for lunch, we highly suggest stopping at the beautiful Caifé Na Trá. This locally-owned café features all sorts of sandwiches, snacks, and desserts on its menu. Not to mention, you can take in an unforgettable view of Coumeenoole Beach while you eat!
Note that Caifé Na Trá has a sizeable parking lot, but you may be unable to tell from the road. Pull in next to the restaurant, keep driving past the tables, and you’ll find parking next to a large shed.
Coumeenoole Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in County Kerry, located on the Western tip of the Dingle Peninsula. To access this secluded beach, you’ll need to parking in the Dunmore Head parking lot and then walk down the steep pathway to your left.
Coumeenoole is well known for its stunning views of the Blasket Islands and picturesque cliffs. Moreover, this beach was a filming location for the movie Ryan’s Daughter. Visitors to this beach will be truly mesmerized by its natural beauty. However, please note that, due to the strong currents, swimming is not recommended.
Dunmore Head marks the westernmost point in Ireland, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby Blasket Islands. Of course, this Slea Head Star Wars location is also a popular place for fans of the films to visit. In 2016, it was used as a filming location for Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.
Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, we still recommend hiking The Dunmore Head loop trail. This easy 1.6-mile trek takes about an hour to complete and is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful stops on Slea Head Drive.
Just remember to bring €1 per person to donate to Dunmore Head. Furthermore, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes with good traction!
Cé Dhún Chaoin / Dunquin Pier
Dunquin Pier (Cé Dhún Chaoin) is an Instagram-famous pier on the Dingle Peninsula. It’s also the departure point for the seasonal ferry to the largest of the Blasket Islands: The Great Blasket (An Blascaod Mór).
As you make your way down Slea Head Drive to Dunquin Pier, you’ll want to keep an eye on the GPS. In fact, you won’t be able to see the pier from the road, so don’t miss the sharp turn leading to the parking lot!
The most popular place to take pictures of Dún Chaoin Pier is in front of the parking lot while standing on the grassy cliffs. From there, you’ll have an overhead view of the winding road that leads down to the ferry entrance.
Just remember to be cautious as there is no fence, and the cliffs are uneven. Do NOT stand close to the edge.
The Blasket Centre
The Blasket Centre is a museum located at the halfway point along Slea Head Drive. It’s dedicated to the history and culture of the Blasket Islands, a group of remote islands off the coast of Kerry.
Although the islands are currently uninhabited, an Irish-speaking population lived on Great Blasket Island until 1954. The Centre has permanent and temporary exhibitions on the islands’ traditions and way of life, as well as a Viewing Platform with panoramic views of the Blaskets.
Moreover, it features a shop selling books, souvenirs, and local crafts and a small café. In our opinion, The Blasket Centre is a must-visit stop on Slea Head Drive and is informative and enjoyable for all ages.
Clogher Head, also called Ceann Sratha or Ceann Sraithe, offers a panoramic view of Sybil Head (Ceann Sibéal), Clogher Beach, the Three Sisters, the Sleeping Giant. You can also see the Mount Brandon hike in the distance.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll want to stop here to check out the Jedi temples viewing point. For an even more breathtaking view of Blasket Sound and the Blasket Islands, you can climb west up to the top of Clogher Head.
The entire hike takes about 30 minutes and features tons of wildflowers. Just be sure to wear appropriate footwear and take care when parking, as the area can get quite busy during peak season.
Gallarus Oratory is a stone chapel that is likely the best-preserved early Christian church in Ireland. Although there is debate, many historians believe it dates back to the 12th century.
This little chapel is situated on a hill overlooking Ard na Caithne (modern-day Smerwick Harbor) and was built using many of the same techniques as the clocháns you saw earlier in the day. Moreover, the Gallarus Oratory is the only fully-intact building of its kind in Ireland, making it a top tourist destination on Slea Head Drive.
Where to stay near Slea Head Drive
Dingle Bay Hotel
Dingle Bay Hotel is centrally located in Dingle, making it easy to walk to all the shops and restaurants. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed, with all the amenities you need for a relaxing stay. Moreover, a hearty Irish breakfast is included in the room rate, and free parking is available on site.
Base Dingle is a boutique hotel situated in the heart of Dingle Town. Newly refurbished, it offers a modern and stylish base from which to explore Slea Head Drive and the Dingle Peninsula. This hotel is within walking distance of everything to see and do in the town of Dingle. It also features spacious rooms, strong wifi, and excellent bathroom facilities.
Dingle Benners Hotel
Dingle Benners Hotel is a classic boutique hotel located in the center of Dingle. The hotel has been stylishly renovated, retaining its original features while providing all the modern amenities guests would expect. Its 52 guestrooms feature free wifi, an award-wining Irish breakfast, complimentary parking, and spacious en suite bathrooms.
Slea Head Drive Tours
If you’d rather not have to worry about driving yourself along the Dingle Peninsula, you may want to look into taking a guided tour. Luckily, there are many options for guided tours of Slea Head Drive, leaving from Dingle, Killarney, Limerick, and Cork.
Additionally, many of these experiences take you to other attractions in West Kerry, including the famous Inch Beach. Here are our top recommendations for guided tours of Slea Head Drive:
- Group Tour with Dingle Slea Head Tours
- 3 Hour Slea Head Drive Tour – Personal Chauffeur Guided Tour
- 4 Hour Slea Head Drive Tour – Personal Chauffeur Guided Tour
- Dingle & Slea Head Peninsula Day Tour
- Full-Day Tour of the Dingle Peninsula, Slea Head, and Inch Beach
- Dingle Peninsula Full-Day Tour from Cork
- Dingle Peninsula Day Tour from Cork: Including The Wild Atlantic Way
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This post was first published in June 2022 and has since been updated.