Dingle Town: 48km (30 miles) W of Tralee, 80km (50 miles) NW of Killarney
North of the Iveragh Peninsula, the less visited Dingle Peninsula also has much to offer. To call it “undiscovered” would be a stretch—in the summer, little Dingle Town is busy with travelers—but, unlike the Ring of Kerry, it’s rarely overrun. And from time to time, even in the high season, you can find yourself blissfully alone amid its natural beauty.
West of Dingle Town, there’s a stunning coastal drive lined with archeological sites, known as the Slea Head Drive. (It’s also a memorable route for cycling.) Some of Ireland’s finest beaches line both sides of the peninsula, while walkers can tackle the challenges of the Dingle Way.
You Say "Dingle," I say "An Daingean"
The whole region was embroiled in heated controversy after the Irish government ruled in 2005 that as it was in an Irish-language area, Dingle must have a Gaelic name. Since nobody could remember what Dingle's Irish name originally was, the government helpfully invented one for it. Cute little Dingle, it decreed, would now be called "An Daingean," which translates as "the Fortress."
Aside from being less than catchy, the new name caused an explosion of outrage among Dingle residents and business owners who had grown up in Dingle, lived in Dingle all their lives, and didn't want to live in An Daingean now.
Surveys found that more than 90% of An Daingean residents wanted to be Dingle residents. Meetings were held. Voices were raised. In a move clearly not decided to calm tempers, the government minister responsible for the name change threatened to kick Dingle out of the Gaeltacht (the government-supported Irish-language region) if it refused to change all road signs from "Dingle" to "An Daingean." It even forbade it to keep the word "Dingle" on any signs, no matter how tiny the print size. Being dropped from the Gaeltacht would cost Dingle millions in government support.
Given that the minister involved was Eamon O Cuiv, the grandson of Irish rebel and founding prime minister Eamon de Valera (also a vociferous supporter of the Irish language), it's possible that this all should have come as no surprise. But residents were still furious.
In 2006, road signs were changed, and "Dingle" disappeared from government maps, but nearly all private businesses kept the Dingle in their names. A local artist built a huge, wooden Hollywood-style sign on a hill above the town reading DINGLE. It was short-lived, but the battle was far from over. Locals called for a referendum, and it seemed that every window in Dingle Town had a sticker calling for both names to be represented on road signs and maps. In October 2006, a vote was held over whether to change the name back; the motion carried, with a grand total of just 81 votes against. But because it had no legal basis under Irish law, the government still refused to agree. Locals began spray painting "Dingle" onto signs that only used the Irish name, only for it to be washed off -- and then sprayed right on again.
In 2011, after six years of debate, the town won the right to change its name back to Dingle.