The Slea Head Drive: A Guide To The Best Stops (+ A Handy Map To Follow)

slea head drive dingle peninsula ireland
Photo left: Lukasz Pajor. Right: Violeta Meleti (Shutterstock)

The Slea Head Drive is up there with the best things to do in Dingle and it’s one of the most popular things to do in Kerry.

A drive or cycle along Slea Head on a clear day is hard to beat. Especially when you’ve a route to follow and you know where to stop (some stops are obvious while some aren’t).

I’ve driven this route 8 or 9 times over the years and it never gets old. If it’s your first time doing it, you’re in for a treat! There really are few places on earth like the Dingle Peninsula!

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from a Slea Head drive map (with the stops plotted) to where to grab a coffee with a mighty view.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Slea Head Drive in Dingle

slea head drive dingle
Photo left: Adam Machowiak. Photo right: Irish Drone Photography (Shutterstock)

For the most part, the Slea Head drive route is pretty easy to follow. However, there are sections of it where you’ll need to detour off the main route, which can be easily missed.

You’ll find some quick need-to-knows below, followed up with our Slea Head drive map and then a more detailed look at the stops.

1. Location

You’ll find the promontory known as Slea Head on the mighty Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry where it’s home to little coastal villages, ancient sites and scenery that’ll knock you sideways.

2. Where to start and finish the drive

The Slea Head Drive starts and finishes in the lively little town of Dingle. Aim for the Dingle Distillery and you’ll find the beginning of the drive without any hassle.

3. How long the drive takes

How long the Slea Head drive takes is entirely up to you. If you drove it from start to finish (the entire loop) without stopping, it’d take around 55 minutes. However, this would be pointless, as you need to hop out of the car. Allow at least 3.5 hours. 

4. Driving clockwise

It’s recommended that you drive the Slea Head loop clockwise, as you’ll avoid meeting large tour buses head-on. To be honest, I can’t see why anyone would drive it counterclockwise – you get a heap of great views when you spin along it clockwise.

5. The most popular Slea Head drive stops

Arguably the most popular Slea Head drive stops are Dun Chaoin Pier, the Dunmore Head viewpoint, the viewpoint at the white cross and Coumeenoole Beach, but there are many more stops worth adding to your Kerry road trip (see map below).

Our Slea Head drive map with stops plotted

The Slea Head drive map above outlines the ‘main’ stops along the route. It doesn’t contain some optional stops, like the Beehive Huts. If you zoom in on the map, you’ll find:

  • Start point: Dingle
  • Stop 1: Ventry Beach
  • Stop 2: The White Cross
  • Optional stop: Caife Na Tra
  • Stop 3: Dunmore Head Viewpoint
  • Stop 4: Coumeenoole Beach
  • Stop 5: Dun Chaoin Pier
  • Stop 6: The Blasket Centre
  • Stop 7: Ceann Sibeal View Point
  • Stop 8: Clogher Strand
  • Stop 9: Gallarus Oratory 
  • End point: Dingle

Now, the road itself could be easier to follow, as it’s well marked, but some of the Slea Head drive stops mentioned above, like Dun Chaoin, require a short detour off the main route.

An overview of the Slea Head drive stops 

Slea head drive map
Photo by Lukasz Pajor (Shutterstock)

Riiiiight! It’s time to start the drive. If you’re kicking it off from Dingle, follow the signs for Slea Head Drive R559.

If you follow the route from our Slea Head map, you’ll spin over Milltown Bridge and make your way past the lush woodlands at Burnham before arriving at stop 1 below.

1. Ventry Beach

slea head drive start point
Photo by Chris Hill

The first pull-in point is one of the most overlooked of the many Slea Head drive stops – Ventry Beach in, unsurprisingly, the little village of Ventry.

Located around 8km west of Dingle Town, this little village is home to a fine beach that’s perfect for a saunter along.

Hop out of the car (or off the bike) and make your way to Ventry Beach. This beach is around 3km long and backs up onto a small dune system and lake. 

Ventry Beach is one of the lesser trodden beaches on the Dingle Peninsula. It’s a gorgeous sandy blue flag beach that’s the perfect spot for a little ramble. Stretch the legs and gulp down a lungful of fresh air.

2. The stop that isn’t really a stop

starting the slea head loop
Photo via Google Maps

When you leave Ventry you’ll continue to spin along inland roads as you make your way to the second of our Slea Head Drive stops. You’ll pass plenty of fields, farms, abandoned houses and magnificent mountainous terrain.

A lot of Slea Head guides only talk about the stops. Don’t get me wrong, the stops are great, but the breath-taking (and often nameless) scenery that you’re treated to as you drive, cycle or walk along this route is beyond special.

I love Dingle Town. But it can be a little bit mental at times. Especially during the summer months when it’s packed to the brim with tourists.

The Slea Head Drive provides a respite from the madness for a few hours. It’s only a stone’s throw from Dingle, but the early stages of the route feel like you’ve stepped back in time, as the wild landscape collides with the piercing blue of the Atlantic.

Enjoy this section of the route. The chances are you won’t have the option to stop or pull in anywhere but sneak a glance at what surrounds you when it’s safe to do so.

3. The White Cross

slea head Cross
Photo via Google Maps

There’s probably an official name for this stop, but for the life of me I can’t find it. The white Cross on the Slea Head Drive is arguably one of the most iconic stopping points on the Dingle Peninsula.

I remember stopping here on my very first visit as a child and I’ve stopped here every time since. You’ll find a little area to pull in right next to it that fits 4 – 5 cars, depending on size… and how efficiently each person has parked.

On a clear day, you’ll get a gorgeous view out towards the Blasket Islands from here. There’s also a fine view up along the coastline towards Dunmore Head.

Hop out of the car here or off the saddle. There’s a little wall that you can perch yourself on (do so safely with your feet on the road side).

4. A coffee with a view (optional)

slea head stops
Top right photo via: @leeanndaly on IG. Other photos via Shutterstock 

Our next stop is optional, but very recommended. The lovely little Caife Na Tra is located right before you arrive at Coumeenoole Beach.

And the views, as you can see from the top right photo above (cheers @leeanndaly), are sensational.

This is arguably one of the best stops on the Slea Head drive if you fancy kicking back and soaking up the scenery.

While sipping a coffee and munching away on something tasty, that is. If you rock up here on a clear day, try an nab a seat outside. 

5. The Dunmore Head viewpoint

dunmore head viewing point
Photo via Google Maps

A lot of the best stops on the Slea Head drive are the random little view points where you can pull in and admire the scenery. 

Our next stop is the viewpoint that offers views out towards the spectacular Dunmore Head. Now, if you’re following Google Maps, you’ll find this listed as ‘Slea Head Viewpoint’.

There’s a generous bit of space here to park up. You can soak up the view from the car park like the pair in the photo above or you can take a step down to a little grassy area just below.

If you’re a photographer looking to get a decent angle of Dunmore Head, the little area right below the wall in the photo above is a solid spot to set up.

6. Coumeenoole Beach

Coumeenole beach
Photo via Tourism Ireland (by Kim Leuenberger)

Our fifth stop on the Slea Head loop us to the beautiful Coumeenoole Beach. You’ll find it surrounded by rugged cliffs and endless coastal scenery.

If you’re a fan of the movie Ryan’s Daughter, you’ll recognise Coumeenoole Beach as it was one of the filming locations used by producers.

When you hop out here, you have two options: you can walk down to the beach on the left for a look, or you can take a longer walk to the right to have a gander at the cliffs up at Dunmore Head.

If you take the walk on the right, be careful – hopefully, it goes without saying that the cliffs are unguarded and you need to be cautious.

7. Dun Chaoin Pier

dun chaoin pier county kerry
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

You can easily miss the next stop, Dun Chaoin Pier, on the Slea Head Drive in Dingle, if you’re not paying attention.

It’s a short spin from our last stop and you’ll need to take a sharp turn to the left to get to it. Note to all that drive here: DO. NOT. DRIVE. DOWN. THE. PIER.

Every few years a photo of a rental car stuck (literally) between the walls of the pier goes viral.You don’t want to be that person. Park up near the little ticket booth.

If you struggle with mobility or if you arrive on a particularly manky day, you can admire the view from above (be careful – the cliff here is unguarded and the long grass can fool you into thinking that you’re further from the edge than you actually are).

If you read our guide to the best things to do in Dingle, you’ll know that Dun Chaoin Pier (pronounced ‘Dunquin’) is the departure point for the Blasket Island Ferry.

8. The Blasket Centre

Blasket Island Centre
Photo via the Dingle International Film Festival

You can combine lunch, a visit to the toilet and some history at Slea Head Drive stop number 7 – the Blasket Islands Centre. You’ll find it in Dún Chaoin, not far from the pier, on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. 

The centre is a fascinating museum that honours the community who lived on the Blasket Islands until they were evacuated in 1953 for safety reasons (if they were cut off from the mainland during a storm and there was an accident, they’d be unable to get help).

The centre tells the story of life on the islands and offers insight into traditional life, farming and fishing. Visitors can expect interactive displays, artefacts, audiovisual presentations and more.

9. The Ceann Sibéal viewing point (one for Star Wars fans)

Ceann Sibéal dingle
Photo via Google Maps

Our next stop on Slea Head is the Ceann Sibéal viewing point. This is one for the Star Wars fans. God, that picture above isn’t great quality-wise…

I could have popped a high-quality stock photo in here, but I just think it’d be more useful for you to see what the pull-in areas look like before you arrive at them!

Now, if you’re looking at Ceann Sibeal (the big aul headland in the photo above) and thinking that it looks familiar, it’s because you may have seen it at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The production company filming the movie used the area here to recreate the beehive huts from the Skellig Islands

10. Clogher Strand

clogher strand slea head
Photo by Melissa Bobo (shutterstock)

Clogher Strand is one of the lesser-know Slea Head stops, and it’s one of our favourite beaches in Kerry (especially if you arrive as the sun starts to drop).

It wasn’t until my 3rd or 4th time that we found this place and went for a ramble along the sand.

The bay at Clogher is circular and the gorgeous little beach is surrounded by jagged cliffs. If you visit, look out towards the sea and you’ll see the outline of ‘Fear Marbh’ (‘Dead Man’ in English).

Fear Marbh is the most northerly of the three Blasket Islands. If you arrive on a clear day, hop out of the car or off the bike and head for a saunter along the sand.

11. Gallarus Oratory

Gallarus Oratory visitor centre
Photos by Chris Hill

The final stop on our Slea Head drive route is Gallarus Oratory. This is arguably the most well known of the handful of man-made tourist attraction on the Dingle Peninsula. 

It’s believed that the Gallarus Oratory dates back to the 11th or 12th century. The interior of the oratory is pretty small at just 4.8m long by 3m wide.

The entire structure is illuminated by a single window and there’s a lovely local legend that says that the person who climbs through the window will be guaranteed access to heaven.

12. Heading back to Dingle

Pax House terrace area
Photo used with the Permission of Pax House Dingle

When you finish up at Gallarus, it’s time to head on back to Dingle Town. If you’re planning on staying in Dingle, the guides below should come in handy:

Wrapping up our guide to the Dingle Peninsula drive

And that is a wrap. Hopefully the guide above will make your spin along the Slea Head loop nice and straightforward.

As we tend to say in most of our guides here, the above should be used loosely, and you should chop and change it however you see fit.

For example, you could easily deviate off the route above to do the Mount Brandon Hike. Or, you could combine the Slea Head drive with a visit up to Conor Pass, too.

At the end of the day, it’s your trip so do it however you see fit and, most importantly, enjoy it!

FAQs about the Slea Head loop

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what’s the best Slea Head drive route to which is better, Slea Head or the Ring of Kerry.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How long does the Slea Head Drive take?

Personally, I’d allow at least (emphasis on ‘at least’) 2 to 3 hours to explore this chunk of the Dingle Peninsula. The more time that you have here the better, as you’ll want to hop out of the car regularly.

Which is better the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry

Personally, I prefer the Dingle Peninsula as it tends to be much quieter than the Ring of Kerry, however, both pack a mighty punch. Here’s a full guide to the Ring of Kerry (packed with photos) so that you can compare the two.

What are the best stops on the Slea Head Drive?

In my opinion, the best stops are:

  1. Dun Chaoin
  2. The Ceann Sibéal viewing point
  3. The Dunmore Head viewpoint
  4. Coumeenoole Beach

Have you any tips for tourists driving Slea Head?

Yes! Here are five tips that are applicable to all of Ireland, not just the Dingle Peninsula or the Wild Atlantic Way:

  1. Drive on the left side of the road… hopefully, this goes without saying
  2. Be mindful of cyclists and walkers
  3. ONLY pull in and park at designated points (don’t be the tool that stupidly pulls in at a bend and jumps out of the car)
  4. Keep an eye out for lay-bys (points in a road that allow drivers to pull in to let traffic pass at narrow sections of the road)
  5. If there’s a sheep in the middle of the road, don’t panic – stick on your hazard lights and wait for it to move

Is this the same as the Dingle Loop?

Nope! The Dingle Loop is an unofficial name that was given to a looped drive of the entire Dingle Peninsula. It takes in places like Inch Beach along with many often-missed Irish speaking villages.

Have a question about doing this drive? Let me know below!

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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