On a trip to Europe, we went looking for some real Irish charm. We found it, in Dingle, a town of 1,200 people on Ireland’s southwest coast.
The town is known for its pubs. Dick Mack’s has a walk of fame outside that lists the celebrities who’ve visited, among them Dolly Parton. Foxy John’s, a beloved spot, houses an old-fashioned hardware store and a bike rental business on the premises along with the classic pub.
Some Dingle pubs offer live music, from traditional Irish ballads to pop songs with an Irish flair. We started our pub tour at O’Flaherty’s, where performers played a variety of instruments, including guitar, banjo and accordion, along with a whistle and a hand-held drum called a bodhran. Later we wandered into O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub, where we heard a guitarist and a flautist/vocalist.
Some of the pubs were so packed with people that we didn’t stay long. But we found seats another night at The Dingle Pub, where a singer accompanied himself on a guitar. He alternated ballads with songs by the likes of the Beatles and Neil Diamond. The spectators were encouraged to sing along, and many did.
During the daytime, Dingle streets bustle with tourists enjoying shops and restaurants. We wandered through stores selling handmade Irish woollens, jewellery, candles, souvenirs and other gift items. We enjoyed some fine lunches and dinners at restaurants such as the Chart House (our favourite dinner place overall), Out of the Blue Seafood and the Half Door.
On our visit in late spring, the streets seemed to grow quiet as evening neared and the pubs began to fill. In summer — high season for tourists — the town gets very crowded.
Each December, Dingle hosts an annual concert called ‘Other Voices’ that features dozens of Irish and international performers. It’s recorded for TV over three days in a tiny Protestant church. The performances are edited and used on a weekly show that airs on Irish state television network RTE. The next concert takes place on December 2-4.
The town is compact, so everything is within walking distance. We stayed in a rented house on a hill outside of Dingle overlooking a sheep meadow (there seemed to be sheep everywhere), the town and the waterfront.
Outside Dingle, visitors can take advantage of a sunny day with a driving tour of Dingle Peninsula, where you can see the ancient Dunberg Fort (earliest features on the site date to 500BC), the Blasket Islands and some lovely views of the rocky coast.
Some scenes from the next Star Wars movie were shot last spring on a cliff on the Dingle Peninsula. The wrap party for the cast and crew was held, where else, at Foxy John’s.