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On the Irish coast, a small town with a big heart

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    A dog lies on a rock near a beach on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland. Visitors to Ireland can expect spectacular scenery, bountiful seafood and many pubs.

DINGLE, Ireland >> 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 vocalist who played flute.

During the daytime Dingle’s streets bustle with tourists enjoying shops and restaurants. We wandered through stores selling handmade Irish woolens, jewelry, candles, souvenirs and other gift items. We enjoyed some fine lunches and dinners at restaurants such as the Chart House (our favorite 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 crowded.

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, 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 from 500 B.C.), the Blasket Islands and some lovely views of the rocky coast.

>> Dingle, Ireland: Located on the southwest coast of Ireland, about 225 miles from Dublin. Bus service available to Dingle from Shannon Airport, 110 miles away, and from Kerry Airport, 31 miles.

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