For decades, the Ring of Kerry’s undertouristed counterpart has remained more laden with ancient sites than with tour buses. Only recently has the Ring’s tourist blitz begun to encroach upon the spectacular cliffs and sweeping beaches of the Irishspeaking Dingle peninsula. Many visitors explore the area by bike, an especially attractive option given the scarcity of public transportation.

IT TRANSPORTATION. Dingle Town is most easily reached by Bus Eireann from Tralee (H4hr. 4-6 per day, ‚8.60); other routes run from Dingle to: Bally- david (Tu and F 3 per day, round-trip ‚4.80); Ballyferriter (M-Sa 2 per day, ‚4.80); and Dunquin (M-Sa 2 per day, ‚4.80).

DINGLE TOWN. Lively Dingle Town, adoptive home of Fungi the Dolphin (now a major focus of the tourist industry), is a good base for exploring the peninsula and a fabulous tourist town in its own right. Sciuird Archaeology Tours leave from the pier for 3hr. whirlwind bus tours of the area’s ancient spots. ( 915 1606. 2 per day, ‚15; book ahead.) Moran’s Tours runs great trips to Slea Head, passing through mEyestic scenery and stopping at historic sites. (915 1155. 2 per day, ‚15; book ahead.) The tourist office is on Strand St. (915 1188. Open mid-June to mid-Sept. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 10am-5pm; late Sept. to early June daily 9:30am-5:30pm.) iSBall- intaggart Hostel (IHH) O, 25min. east of town on Tralee Rd. in a gorgeous stone mansion, is supposedly haunted by the murdered wife of the Earl of Cork. For the less supematurally-inclined, Ballintaggart’s draws are its enormous bedchambers, cobblestone courtyard, and elegant common rooms. (915 1454. Dorms ‚13-20; doubles ‚48. Camping ‚11 per tent, ‚13 per van.) The laid-back Grapevine Hostel O, on Dykegate St. is just a brief stagger from Dingle’s finest pubs. Rooms are small but comfy, and the staff is very accommodating. ( 915 1434. Dorms ‚ 13-15.)

VENTRY, SLEA HEAD, AND DUNQUIN. By far the most rewarding way to see Slea Head and Dunquin’s cliffs and crashing waves is to bike along the predominantly flat Slea Head Drive. Past Dingle Town toward Slea Head sits the village of Ventry (Ceann Tra), home to a sandy beach and the llCeltic and Prehistoric Museum, 6km from Dingle Town, a massive collection that ranges from sea worm fossils to Millie, a 50,000-year-old woolly mammoth. (915 9191. Open Mar.-Nov. daily 9:30am-5:30pm; call ahead Dec.-Feb. ‚5, students ‚3.50.) While in Ventry, stay at the marvelous Ballybeag Hostel O, a secluded, yet convenient, place to unwind. A free shuttle runs to Dingle Town 7 times per day. ( 915 9876. Bike rental ‚7. Laundry ‚2. Dorms ‚10; singles ‚15.)

North of Slea Head and Ventry, the scattered settlement of Dunquin (Dun Cha- oin) consists of stone houses, a pub, and little else. Past Dunquin on the road to Ballyferriter, the IlGreat Blasket Centre has outstanding exhibits about the isolated Blasket Islands. (915 6444. Open July-Aug. daily 10am-7pm; Easter-June and Sept.-Oct. 10am-6pm. ‚3.50, students ‚1.30.) At An Oige Hostel (HI) O, on the Dingle Way across from the turnoff to the Blasket Centre, each bunk has an ocean view. (915 6121. Breakfast ‚3. Reception 9-10am and 5-10pm. Lockout 10am- 5pm. Dorms ‚13-15; doubles ‚32.) Kruger’s , the westernmost pub in Europe, features pub grub, music sessions, and great views. ( 915 6127. Entrees ‚7-13.)

TRALEE. Tralee (pop. 20,000) is a good departure point for the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula, with the hustle and bustle appropriate for the economic and residential capital of County Kerry. UlKeriy the Kingdom, in Ashe Memorial Hall on Denny St. features a high-tech history of Ireland from 8000 BC to the present. (712 7777. Open mid-Mar. to Oct. daily 9:30am-6pm; Nov. noon-4:30pm. ‚8, stu-dents ‚6.50.) During the last week of August, the nationally-known Rose of Tralee Festival brings a horde of lovely Irish lasses to town to compete for the title Rose of Tralee. Trains depart from the station on Oakpark Rd. for: Cork (2V6hr. 3-4 per day, ‚25); Dublin (4hr. 3-4 per day, ‚52); Galway (5-6hr. 3 per day, ‚52); and Killamey (40min. 4 per day, ‚7.50). Buses leave from the train station for: Cork (2V&hr. 10-14 per day, ‚14); Galway (9-11 per day, ‚17); Killamey (40min. 5-14 per day, ‚6); and Limerick (2V4hr. 9 per day, ‚13). To get from the station to the tour1st office in Ashe Memorial Hall, head down Edward St. turn right on Castle St. and then left on Denny St. The well-informed staff provides free maps. ( 712 1288. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 9am-6pm; May-June and Oct. M-Sa 9am-6pm; Nov.-Apr. M-F 9am-5pm.) Westward Court (IHH) , Mary St. has spotless dorms and quality showers. (718 0081. Breakfast included. Curfew 3am. Dorms ‚17; singles ‚24; doubles ‚44.) Whitehouse Budget Accommodations and B&B , Boher- boy St. offers incredibly clean rooms with hardwood floors. Relax in the adjoining pub with trad on Thursdays. ( 710 2780. Dorms ‚19; singles ‚30; doubles ‚50.)


Even Dubliners will tell you that the west is the most Irish part of Ireland; in many remote areas you’ll hear Gaelic as often as English. The potato famine that plagued the island was most devastating in the west entire villages emigrated or died. The region still has less than half of its 1841 population. Though miserable for farming, the land from Connemara north to Ballina is great for hiking and cycling, and for those who enjoy the isolation of mountainous landscapes.


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