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Even in the darkest days of deep midwinter, a stunning marine palette impresses and flora and fauna abound on Slea Head, as Kelli Marjolet found out.

We were four girlfriends (three American, one Irish) embarking on a post-Christmas road trip to the west that included a day trip to the Dingle Peninsula. The landscape, with its rich greens and deep blues against a gunmetal sky, despite the depths of midwinter, was hard to believe real.

Herds of grazing deer, Muckross Lake.


Our basecamp for the Kerry leg of our road trip was a holiday home off Muckross Road in Killarney that we booked on Airbnb just a couple of days in advance. Before setting off for the Dingle Peninsula we had time for a morning hike in Killarney National Park where we visited Torc Waterfall, hiked up the nearby path for panoramic views of Muckross Lake and Lough Leane and then down through the forest, past herds of grazing deer.

  • Slea Head Drive


By 10:30am we were on the road, Dingle bound. We arrived in quaint Dingle town just in time for lunch. And after a short saunter along the harbour and through the town, we set off for what would not only be the highlight of the day but of the entire trip: Slea Head Drive.

To not push past Dingle, westward, would be a tragic misstep for any visitor looking for Ireland’s most dramatic and breathtaking views, where rugged land meets the wild North Atlantic Sea.

From Dingle town, take the R559 to Ventry and then follow the signs to Slea Head Drive. Travelling on the R559 is exactly what you imagined rural roads to be in Ireland, definitely not an exercise for the spatially challenged!

  • Lough Leane, County Kerry
  • Relax on sandy shores
  • The dramatic Kerry coastline

While the road is smooth, it is not wide and you’ll find yourself having to pull over to allow for oncoming traffic to pass. Perhaps in most every other setting you might find this lack of lane width to be a burden or even stressful but the brief interactions you’ll have with other drivers is part of the charm and experience as they politely give you a nod of thanks when you yield for them. Speaking of road traffic, our American hearts nearly burst with delight when we came upon a flock of sheep being herded along the R559!

Throughout the circular route that is the Slea Head Drive there are multiple turnout areas for you to stop and take photos at. We stopped a few times along the way and each time we were treated to a different, remarkable view.

While our visit was in late December, we were pleasantly surprised by the richness of the fauna and plant life. It was, however, extremely windy (at times even comically so) and cold so be sure to bundle up for the coastal route! Also, don’t forget to time your trip around the daylight hours – after 4.30pm in late December you won’t see much of anything! Certainly the tradeoff for the wild wind and shortened days this time of year was the lack of other tourists and tour buses on the road.

At times we felt we were the only ones on the peninsula, a feeling for which I’d happily endure some wind, cold and early darkness!

Find more mesmerising ways to enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way right here.


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