The magic of Sleahead
If you are ever fortunate enough to get to Dingle, then PLEASE don’t leave without witnessing SLEA HEAD.
Most people do it with the aid of a bus or car, some walk, but in my opinion to get the real feel for this rare gem on Europe’s most Western outpost, take the bike. Then you not only feel this magic land but you live it!
Carrigcam (between Dunquin and Ballyferriter)
Leataoibh (between Ballyferriter and Dingle)
Towns en Route
7 out of 10
Area of Kerry
The road surface around Sleahead is on the whole excellent. Even on the most Western seacliff side, the road is good although at it’s narrowest. The land around Sleahead is mountainous, but thankfully the road loops around the mountains. The surface is mainly rolling to flat, with just the odd challenging hill.
Dingle to Ventry 7.5 km
On leaving the colourful fishing port of Dingle, follow the signs for “Sleahead tour” and take a left at the roundabout after the Marina and Ocean World. Head straight ahead on R559 and up the hill. Soon you are cycling along wonderful country roads lined with leafy trees and hedgerows. After just 4 km you start catch glimpses of Ventry harbour to your left. Further on the yellow sands of the Ventry beach are visible, with you horseshoe route mapped out in front of you.
Ventry to Dunquin 13.5 km
Once through the village of Ventry the road twists and turns as well as challenges you with some rolling hills. You soon start to catch glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean. In the distance you can view South Kerry, with it’s Valentia Island. Further in the distance you might be lucky to glimpse Skellig rock. Along this section is the road narrows, but the adventure really begins, with fantastic sea vistas, mountains to your right, the opportunity to soak up the history of the area by visiting the ancient beehive huts. Hang on tight as the road sweeps down to a hairpin bend and carries you through a crisp mountain stream.
Dunquin to Ballyferriter 8.6 km
From Dunquin you have nice views of the Blasket Island and just below is the winding road down to Cam Dhineol beach. Along this section you are challenged by some winding road and and challenging little hills. There’s a nice little diversion off the main route….head left down towards Dunquin pier and follow the road to the right. here you pass through Ballyickeen Commons and a taste of hidden Sleahead. You rejoin the main road at next to Krugers, the most westerly pub in Europe. Close by in this area you have the choice of visiting the Blasket centre, or even a trip to the Blasket islands in the Summer. For those on a tighter schedule the the road take a pull up a mountainous area and glides down towards Ballyferriter, with lovely views still of “The 3 Sisters” and “hidden” beaches and coves.
Ballyferriter to Dingle 11.7 km
Passing through the Irish speaking and somewhat sleepy village of Ballyferriter, you start to leave the sea views behind. This is replaced by the wonderful peaks of Mount Brandon in the distance. The road takes on an up hill angle with the difficult part being near Lateeve More and Ballynana. Here it becomes quite steep as it filters on to the main Gallarus – Dingle road. Thankfully the remaining road into Dingle is downhill and flat with some nice sweeping bends in the road. The road finally enters a T junction, where you take a left and back into Dingle town.
In and around Dingle the traffic is on the heavy side, but on leaving for Sleahead it thins out considerably.
The biggest build up of traffic on route is generally between Ventry and Dunquin, with cars and buses taking in the views. The bonus is that the road is narrow and the traffic is moving slow and stopping to look out to sea.
Beyond Dunquin and Ballyferriter things get a bit quieter as local traffic takes over. It goes without saying that the busiest time is during the Summer.
Over the years Dingle has grown to be one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations. So accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes and in general it caters well for the every need of the tourist. Outside Dingle on Sleahead, things can get quiet in the off season….BUT… in the Summer things blossom and boom into action! The route is dotted with every type of accommodation, there are many things to see and do, with small cafés adjoining the majority of businesses. In other words….on Sleahead you are never too far from a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and a bed for the night.
Dingle offers various cycle hire outlets.