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Ireland: Hooked on Dingle

Perched on the westernmost tip of Ireland, the town of Dingle offers sandy beaches and ocean adventures

Ireland: Hooked on Dingle
Coumeenole Beach, Dingle. Image: Getty

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I sense a terrible rivalry building between my three sons as the middle one, Ripley, reels in his first codling. As he grabs at its wriggling, flapping body and then hefts it into the bucket that the skipper is holding out to him, the others recast their rods with furrow-browed intent, determined to emulate him.

The water out beyond Dingle Bay is calm today; not the best conditions to sea-fish, we’ve been warned. Maternal anxiety at the boys’ likely disappointment simmers in me. But I’m wrong to doubt. Before long, they’ve all caught several of the silvery young cod (as have my husband and I) and are beaming with pride.

Our greatest achievement, however, is getting to cook our own lunch, spanking-fresh from the Atlantic waters. Our family ‘Catch & Cook’ session continues at shiny, state-of-the-art Dingle Cookery School, where we’re all taught to prepare our catch along with accompanying vegetables.

Chef Mark Murphy couldn’t be more attentive, showing the kids how to wield the sharpest of knives, safely as they set about their messy business. Afterwards, we gather outside around a wooden bench in the May sunshine to share our feast, which culminates in the boys brandishing blow torches to caramelise the sugar on top of the crème brûlées they’ve prepared for dessert.

As we sit back smiling, bellies full, satisfied (and perhaps even smug), we all express amazement to think that just a couple of hours ago, much of our lunch was still swimming around in the Atlantic.

Top 5: Get active in Dingle

1 Go sea kayaking with Irish Adventures, exploring sea caves and meeting local celebrity, Fungie the dolphin. Or try lake kayaking in nearby Killarney, mountain biking, climbing and more besides. €50/£45 (adult), €45/£40 (teens), €40/£36 (under-12s).

2 Take a family surf lesson with Jamie Knox Watersports in Brandon Bay and the Maharees. There’s also stand-up paddle boarding (a multi-person board is ideal for families), sea trampolining and pedaloeing on offer. €100/£89, family of four; or €20/£18pp.

3 Take a boat trip with Dingle Bay Charters. On the five-hour Eco Tour, dolphins surfed in our bow wave and we spotted a minke whale, seals and puffins. Stopping at Great Blasket Island, we visited an abandoned village and petted wild donkeys. €60/£54; €30/£27, under-12s.

4 Drive part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile route through nine Irish counties and three provinces, including the Dingle Peninsula. Stop to explore beaches and admire the Ceann Sibéal headland, where a Jedi temple was built for the forthcoming Star Wars film.

5 Go horse-riding on the beach in The Maharees. €30/£27; €25/£22, under 16.

Essentials

Who
Who: Rhonda travelled with her husband and sons Ethan (13), Ripley (12) and Zac (eight).
Best for: Outdoorsy breaks with active kids aged eight and over.
Highs: Zac: “Catching the fish was amazing.”
Lows: Ethan: “I was disappointed surf wasn’t up and we couldn’t have our lesson, but the sea trampolining made up for it.”

How to do it
Catch & Cook: €90/£80pp.

Where to stay
The Green House, by the sea at Brandon in the north of the peninsula is among around 35 stylish, family-friendly properties available in the local area with YNA Dingle Cottages. Fitted with geothermic under-floor heating, and with all the mod cons, this eco-friendly property (sleeps up to six), also has an outdoor storage area for wetsuits, fishing rods and so on, plus a garden with a pizza oven. There are three pubs within walking distance — one on the harbour wall at Brandon Pier, where in summer you can dive, swim, spot dolphins and hire boats. YNA’s concierges can organise activities and excursions, as well as wetsuit and bodyboard hire. Rates at The Green House start at £110 per night.

Getting there
By car, so you can take all your kit. Irish Ferries’ return fares from Holyhead to Dublin for a car, two adults and two kids (4-15) from £273. Dingle is about four hours from Dublin.
Alternatively, the nearest airport is Kerry, one hour from Dingle town.

Published in the 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK)