Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
The Dingle Peninsula, a 40-mile strip of land cluttered by scenic farms, historic towns, and local color, juts off Ireland's rugged west coast into the chop of the North Atlantic. Continuously inhabited for 6,000 years, Dingle is so full of monuments that no one knows what many – specifically the ones from the neolithic age – were intended to commemorate. The myriad prehistoric sites sit alongside 18th-century mansions, seaside fortifications, and fields first cut into the landscape in the Iron Age. This being Ireland, there are also dozens of quaint bed-and-breakfasts, authentic pubs, wide beaches, rocky headlands, and sweeping vistas. With so much to see in such a small area, a car only gets in the way. The real pleasure is biking down the narrow, fuchsia-lined roads.
The simplest route – the R559 – cuts through the country, then along the coast from the town of Dingle itself about halfway up the peninsula toward Gorman's Clifftop House and Restaurant on the far northwest tip. Once they've arrived, cyclists reward themselves for pedaling through the wind with heaping helpings of fish and chips. The house is also a good place to spend the night.
The pubs in nearby Ballyferriter, an old Norman town built in the 12th century, are perfect places to sample a pint or two of the black (that's local slang for Guinness or stout) on the way back toward civilization. Reasc Monastery, a mandatory stop, offers long views of the coastline and the chance to see ancient carved stones and ruins up close. If biking isn't enough exercise, you can also climb Mount Brandon, which, at 3,130 feet, is Ireland's second-tallest peak. On a clear day, the vast swathe of the countryside and ocean is visible from the summit.
This entire paved loop to the edge of the peninsula and back to Dingle is less than 29 miles. Because the population here is so small (Dingle has roughly 1,200 permanent residents), it is totally possible to ride it all in a single day without getting passed by many cars. Still, we recommend slowing down a little and taking a few days to enjoy one of the Emerald Isle's most iconic stretches of coastline. Renting a bike for a day or a week is easy, and local outfitters like The Mountain Man Shop with Corca Dhuibhne Cycle Tours can provide a guide or detailed map along with bike and helmet rentals.
As the signs on the side of the main road say, Tog Bog E. That's "Take it easy" in Gaelic.
More information: Bicyclists who are a bit less serious about their ride can head to Paddy's Rent-a-Bike in downtown Dingle and negotiate for a basic road bike.