With a population of about 1200, Dingle village is a tourist hotspot in the summertime, often practically overrun with tourists. The picturesque town is located on the Dingle Peninsula, a mountainous piece of land, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived in the late afternoon, on the last day of September. Tourist season had been over for a few weeks, and almost no one got off the bus except us. We hadn’t booked a room, the bus had taken all day, and we had run out of snacks. We were greeted by a young man encouraging us to take a room in a hostel up one of the mountains, about a ten to fifteen minute drive from the town. Having learned our lesson from Limerick, we hit the streets to find a room in town, not a short drive away. Dingle exceeded all expectations, and completely made up for our disappointing stay in Limerick. The sun was bright and warm, the tide was in and the ocean sparkled, and everything was absolutely green. Very few streets would have accommodated two cars passing at once, but fortunately, we encountered almost no one driving, as the town was so compact it would be silly to take your car anywhere. We found two cheap beds in a 12-bed dorm in the Grapevine Hostel, but unlike our other dorm stays, this one was empty. Apparently Dingle is not such a hotspot after early September, and we were some of the only backpackers in town. I have no idea why – it was almost like a secret haven of perfect Irish solitude, with friendly people and cobblestone streets, complete with cows and the waves lapping in the distance.
We dropped our bags, and headed out to find dinner, but got completely sidetracked by a trail leading past the harbour to the water. We walked down a road filled with now-deserted summer homes, to a small path that ran alongside the water, and emerged in a field of cows. Had traditional Irish fish and chips (and not so traditional but equally delicious pumpkin risotto) at a pub on one of the main streets, and on the walk back to the hostel discovered the Phoenix Cinema, a small, independent theatre, which just happened to have a movie showing! We popped in, paid a small fee, picked up one of those perfectly European mini ice cream containers, and joined the other locals from Dingle to watch Mr. Morgan’s Last Love, starring Michael Caine. Not only was it a very good movie, but it was a perfectly non-touristy moment, and the woman sitting next to us encouraged me to partake in the (free) tea and cookies being served before the show. We emerged onto the dark, quiet street, only to hear the distant sounds of a fiddle and accordion. Following the music, we discovered Murphy’s Bar, absolutely packed with locals singing along with the two older men playing their instruments and having a grand time. We were the youngest ones there by 30 years at least, but the music was great, and the bartender told us you could see live music almost every night in Dingle, often at two or three different pubs. For such a tiny town, the arts scene was alive and well.
The perfect end to a perfect, Irish night. The next day we found books and food, and we were happy. The Tree House Cafe featured a great Irish breakfast, and colouring pages for the many children who frequent the popular spot. Goat Street Bistro was a little above our price range, but it being the off-season, we couldn’t be picky. I highly recommend the leek and potato soup. Dingle features not one, but two bookshops, a public library, and two dozen other independent businesses, selling everything from fresh cheese to stationary. And Murphy’s, an ice cream parlour chain gaining popularity across Ireland, included not only excellent ice cream, handmade in Dingle, but also featured a small family from St. John’s, NL, who had got the same flight deal we had. Their 14 month old daughter had met another small Irish girl, and the two families were discovering the many things they had in common, as we all sat in our corner of the world, enjoying our ice cream. Dingle made our trip. We will be back.