Dingle, Ireland

051108_dingle2.jpg Dingle, Ireland, isn’t a crowded hot spot where you’ll find up-to-the-minute fashions and haute cuisine — but that’s precisely what makes it such a charming place.

Where: Dingle, the gateway to Ireland’s westernmost peninsula, lies 50 miles west of Killarney, County Kerry.

Why: Ancient sites at every turn, a verdant landscape fed by 100 inches of rain per year, and some of Ireland’s finest music-making.

Top Outing: The 30-mile drive around Dingle Peninsula can easily take a full day. From June through September, fuchsia drips from roadside hedges, turning the pavement from grey to crimson. Shaggy, wild-looking horses graze alongside 3,000-year-old beehive-shaped stone huts on the meadows overlooking Ventry Bay. Farther on are the Great Blasket Islands, off Dunmore Head. They’re so isolated that the inhabitants’ Gaelic traditions and language survived unchanged into the 20th century. On the way back to town you’ll find 1,300-year-old Gallarus Oratory (a stone church), and at nearby Kilmalkedar graveyard, there’s an abandoned Norman church, Christian crosses, and an ancient sundial.

Also Worth a Look: Enjoy traditional Irish airs at a concert at St. James Church. Or for a great pub “session,” you can’t beat O’Flaherty’s Bar. The fusion of musicians and onlookers makes for a spellbinding experience. Are you more gregarious than musical? Settle in at a local bar for a chat. Irish drinkers expect their bartenders to provide first-class craic (pronounced “crack,” meaning good company and storytelling) in exchange for top tips, and some are so good at it that you’ll wonder if they’re closet millionaires.

051108_dingle1.jpg Where to Eat: Most local pubs serve lamb-filled Irish stew with traditional Irish soda bread or fish with crispy chips. Eaten with a pint of Guinness stout, they make a fine, inexpensive meal.

Where to Stay: Best Western Benner’s Hotel is a good bet in town, or for a homier experience, head for local bed and breakfast inns such as Heaton’s Guesthouse, Emlagh House, or Pax House.

When to Go: In late summer, locals repeat a hopeful refrain: “The rain will stop when the kids go back to school,” and they’re right. Go in early September for smaller crowds and fine weather.

How to Get There: Take the white-knuckle drive over Connor Pass for the most dramatic scenery. The nearest international airport is in Shannon.

–Betsy Malloy