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Slea Head Drive: Route Map & the Best Stops! (2024)

If you’re heading to Ireland for the first time, one of my favorite places to send people is to the Dingle Peninsula! Specifically, Slea Head Drive is an amazing hidden gem that tourists often skip.

This circular route includes everything from gorgeous landscapes to historical sites dating back to ancient times and adorable Irish villages. In this article, I’ll share the ultimate guide to Slea Head Drive, including a detailed map, the best stops, and where to stay in the region.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you purchase a product or book a stay through these links at no extra cost to you.

What is Slea Head Drive?

Winding one-lane road along Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula, showing green hills and blue water in the distanceSlea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe in Irish) is a 30-mile (47-km) scenic coastal route on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. It forms part of the famous Wild Atlantic Way, which spans 1,553 miles along the country’s west coast.

Although Slea Head Drive is relatively short, it packs quite the punch between views of green hills, sea cliffs, and historical sites like the Beehive Huts, believed to be used by early Christian monks. For this reason, I think it’s highly worth a visit on any Ireland trip!

How long does it take to drive?

View from Dunmore Head Tail of Slea Head Drive and Coumeenoole BeachSlea Head Drive starts and ends in the adorable little town of Dingle, covering a distance of 30 miles (47 km). So, if you were to drive the whole loop without stopping, you’d be done in approximately an hour. However, the real charm lies in exploring Slea Head itself! So, I recommend dedicating at least half a day to the area.

At an absolute minimum, you’ll need four hours to appreciate the most popular stops along the drive, like Dunmore Head, Dunquin Pier, Coumeenoole Beach, and Dingle, without feeling rushed. Nonetheless, I believe this Dingle Peninsula drive is best explored in one to two full days.

Important tips for driving Slea Head

View of two-lane road on Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula, showing the coast next to the road and green hills in the distance.

Drive clockwise around the loop. 

By driving clockwise, you’ll flow in the same direction as the tour companies along the route. This will help you avoid meeting large tour buses head-on in sections of the road that become single lanes.

When you travel clockwise on the Slea Head loop drive, you’ll have unhindered views of the coast. 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’re familiar with driving in Ireland, remembering to stick to the left side shouldn’t be an issue. Plus, Slea Head Drive is easier to navigate compared to other loop routes like the Ring of Kerry. It’s also more manageable than Conor Pass, one of Ireland’s highest mountain passes!

Slea Head Drive is well-marked with road signs. 

Road sign for Slea Head Drive in Ireland, with the Irish translation "Slí Cheann Sléibhe" and the Wild Atlantic Way symbolRoad signs are marked with “Slea Head Drive” and the Wild Atlantic Way symbol, making them easy to follow. Additionally, most stops along this Dingle Peninsula loop drive are conveniently located off the main road, making it easy to return to the route after you’re done.

The road is narrow and, in some places, only big enough for one car.

Like many areas in the country, some streets here aren’t big enough to have two marked lanes, resulting in two-way traffic on narrower roads. When encountering oncoming traffic, you’ll need to utilize lay-bys for passing.

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, I recommend continuing to the next stop and then looping back later. 

Make sure to bring some cash.

Entrance gate to Dunmore Head Trail on Slea Head Drive, showing a donation box that asks visitors to donate one euro before enteringYou’ll need some euros in cash to pay the entrance fee at a handful of the attractions along the Slea Head route. I 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 highlights popular stops and optional places if you have extra time. Key attractions 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). Depending on your interests, you can tailor your journey to include scenic views, historic sites, or beautiful hikes!

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 Town

Photo of one of the main streets in Dingle Town, showing the Dingle Pub and other small businesses.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.

Before hitting the road, I suggest grabbing a coffee at Bean in Dingle and checking out one of our favorite souvenir shops, Dingle Candle. When you’re ready to begin, simply head west on Slea Head Drive R559. 

Photo of the inside of the Bean in Dingle coffee shop, showing a hand holding a coffee cup, pastries, and moreSince Slea Head Drive is so popular, 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.

Outside façade of the Dingle Candle Shop in Dingle Town, IrelandWhatever 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, I suggest the Irish Brown Bread.

Photo of hand holding ice cream cup with two scoops outside of Murphy's Ice Cream in Dingle Town, Ireland

Ventry Beach

View of Ventry Beach, showing the beige sand, ocean, and the grasslands backing up to the beachVentry, officially called Ceann Trá, is one of the first adorable Irish villages along Slea Head Drive. In particular, I suggest stopping by Ventry Bay Beach, a blue-flag beach west of Dingle.

This crescent of white sand, stretching about 1.7 miles (3 km), is especially popular in the summer months when lifeguards are on duty. Backed by a small dune system, lake, and wet grasslands, Ventry Beach offers a great outdoor space for swimming or a peaceful walk.

Fahan Beehive Huts

One of the Fahan Beehive Huts, a structure built out of stone with a corbelled roof. These ancient structures can be found along the Dingle Peninsula.Historians speculate that some of the oldest stone huts at this site date back to the 12th century. These beehive huts, also known as clochán, resemble those on Skellig Michael, which served as inspiration for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

This location is home to 19 souterrain and 18 beehive huts. Parking is convenient, and from the top, you can see an incredible view of Dingle Bay and the Blasket Islands. 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

Two baby lambs on a farm along Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula in IrelandYou’ll definitely want to add this stop 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 introduce you to his sheepdogs and show you how to hold (and maybe even bottle feed!) his cute lambs.

A sheepdog watching over sheep as they eat on a farm on Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland

Slea Head Viewpoint

A seagull sitting along the rocky road edge at Slea Head Viewpoint along Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula in IrelandCeann Sléibhe, or Slea Head, is a picturesque viewing point along Slea Head Drive. It offers breathtaking views of the coastline, featuring steep cliffs and crashing waves. Convenient pull-in parking is available, making it ideal for appreciating the Irish coastline’s beauty and snapping photos.

Cross at Slea Head

The white cross located at Slea Head, showing this statue scene across from the ocean on a rocky cliffThe Cross at Slea Head is 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 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, I recommend taking a photo and admiring the view of the Blasket Islands in the distance. 

Radharc na mBlascaoidí / Blasket’s View

The view at Radharc na mBlascaoidí / Blasket's View, showing Coumeenoole Beach, Dunmore Head, and an incredible view of the Atlantic OceanRadharc 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

Food set on a table at Caife Na Trá, with a view of Coumeenoole Beach in the distanceIf you’re ready for lunch, I highly suggest stopping at the beautiful Caifé Na Trá. This locally owned café offers sandwiches, snacks, and desserts. Plus, you can take in an unforgettable view of Coumeenoole Beach while you eat!

Woman in pink dress sitting at table at Caifé Na Trá on Slea Head Drive, with a view of the ocean in the distanceNote 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

View of Coumeenoole Beach, showing blue water, crashing waves, sea cliffs, and houses on the rolling green hills aboveCoumeenoole Beach, situated on the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula, is one of the most beautiful beaches in County Kerry. To reach this secluded spot, park at the Dunmore Head parking lot and descend the steep pathway to your left.

This sandy beach is known both for its views of the Blasket Islands as well as as a filming location for the movie Ryan’s Daughter. While it’s 100% worth a visit, please note that swimming is not allowed due to the strong currents.

Dunmore Head

View from the Dunmore Head Loop Trail of the Atlantic Ocean and Great Blasket IslandDunmore Head, the westernmost point in Ireland, provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby Blasket Islands. It’s also a popular destination for Star Wars fans since it was used as a filming location for Episode VIII—The Last Jedi (2016)!

However, even if you don’t like Star Wars, the 1.6-mile Dunmore Head loop trail, which takes about an hour, is still worth a visit. Just remember to bring €1 per person for a donation to Dunmore Head and wear comfortable shoes with good traction.

Cé Dhún Chaoin / Dunquin Pier

View of Dunquin Pier from above, showing winding roadDunquin Pier (Cé Dhún Chaoin) is a famous spot on the Dingle Peninsula and the departure point for the seasonal ferry to The Great Blasket (An Blascaod Mór), the largest of the Blasket Islands. While driving along Slea Head Drive, use GPS, as the pier isn’t visible from the road.

Don’t miss the sharp turn leading to the parking lot! The most popular place to take pictures here is standing on the grassy cliffs overlooking the winding road to the ferry entrance. Remember to exercise caution as there’s no fence–avoid standing too close to the edge!

The Blasket Centre

The Blasket Centre, situated at the midpoint of Slea Head Drive, is a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Blasket Islands, a remote group off the coast of Kerry. Although currently uninhabited, Great Blasket Island had an Irish-speaking population until 1954.

The Centre showcases permanent and temporary exhibitions on the islands’ traditions and way of life, along with a Viewing Platform offering panoramic views. Additionally, it includes a shop with books, souvenirs, and local crafts, as well as a small café.

Clogher Head

View from Clogher Head of Sybil Head (Ceann Sibéal), Clogher Beach, The Three Sisters, and Mount BrandonClogher Head, also called Ceann Sratha or Ceann Sraithe, is home to a panoramic view of Sybil Head (Ceann Sibéal), Clogher Beach, the Three Sisters, and the Sleeping Giant. Additionally, you can see the Mount Brandon hike in the distance on a clear day!

For those who enjoy Star Wars, you won’t want to miss the Jedi Temple viewing point here! Or, for an even more breathtaking view of Blasket Sound and the Blasket Islands, don’t miss the chance to hike west up to the top of Clogher Head.

The entire hike takes about 30 minutes and features tons of wildflowers. You’ll just want to make sure you’ve packed appropriate footwear and take care when parking, as the area can get quite busy during peak season.

Gallarus Oratory

Gallarus Oratory, an ancient stone church on the Dingle PeninsulaGallarus Oratory, likely the best-preserved early Christian church in Ireland, is a stone chapel dating back to the 12th century. Overlooking Ard na Caithne, it was constructed using techniques similar to the clocháns. As the only fully intact building of its kind, it’s a must-see stop on your 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. Moreover, a hearty Irish breakfast is included in the room rate, and free parking is available on-site. 

Click here to book your stay!

Base Dingle

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. 

Click here to book your stay!

Dingle Benners Hotel

Dingle Benners Hotel is a classic boutique hotel located in the center of Dingle. Its 52 guestrooms feature free wifi, an award-winning Irish breakfast, complimentary parking, and spacious en suite bathrooms. 

Click here to book your stay!

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Learn the best stops on Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland, where to stay nearby, and other insider tips for your road trip.

This post was first published in June 2022 and has since been updated.

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