Walk 43: Dingle Town Centre: Where’s Dick Mack’s?

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Roughly 2 miles (3.22 kms)

Time to walk: Another walk with no time limit as it takes in the sights and sounds of fantastic Dingle, plus it will take all day if you fancy saying hi to Fungie

Difficulty: All on hard paths & generally flat

Parking: Plenty of free on street parking

Public toilets: Bars, cafes etc

Map of the route: 

Map

This walk was part of our tour of Ireland. The only town on the Dingle Peninsula, Dingle sits on the Atlantic coast, about 40 miles northwest of Killarney, which we’ll visit later

Principal industries in the town are tourism, fishing & agriculture. The town was developed as a port following the Norman invasion of Ireland. By the 13th century more goods were being exported through Dingle than Limerick & in 1257 an ordinance of Henry III imposed customs on the port’s exports. By the 14th century importing wine was a major business & by the 16th century, Dingle was one of Ireland’s main trading ports, exporting fish & hides & importing wines from Europe. French & Spanish fishing fleets used the town as a base

If you’re driving to Dingle then we suggest you approach it over the Connor Pass, a twisty one-lane asphalted road. The drive, inadvisable in bad weather, is considered one of the most beautiful of Ireland & the scenic road weaves its way around the sharp cliff faces & past high corrie lakes

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Dingle’s one of the most colourful & vibrant towns in Ireland, but we struggled to find any walks or history about the place – the Tourist Information Office was basically useless. So we headed to the library, borrowed a pen & paper, did some research & this is all our own work…enjoy!

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts at the top of Main Street where it joins Goat Street – in fact it starts outside The Goat restaurant…

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Dingle’s a real tourist town & there’s more restaurants than you can shake yer shalali at!

2. On the corner of Goat Street & Green Street is a large Temperance Hall

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The plaque on the wall refers to The Treaty of Dingle which was signed on 28th April 1529. The treaty concluded between James FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Desmond & Ambassador Fernandez gave a formal legal & constitutional foundation to the rights of citizenship & other privileges that Irish exiles enjoyed in Habsburg Spain, Habsburg Austria & Habsburg Netherlands from the 16th to the early 20th centuries

3. Head down Green Street, but pop through the archway immediately on the right…

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4. The large orange building in this courtyard has history attached to it…

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This is an 18th century wine merchant’s house to which the French Queen Marie Antoinette was to have made a dramatic escape in 1792. The house, known as The Presbytery & also The Rice House, after the Dingle wine merchant whose son, Count James Louis Rice, was central to the plan to rescue the queen

Count James Louis Rice joined the Austrian army where he was an officer in the same regiment as the future emperor, Joseph, Marie Antoinette’s brother. At the time of the French Revolution, Count Rice passed as a Frenchman to visit the queen. He had bribed the gaolers, hired a coach & relays of horses all the way to the coast where one of his father’s wine ships was waiting to bring the queen to Dingle

The plan fell through at the last minute because she would not leave without her husband, King Louis XV & was therefore sent to the guillotine

Amazing story & we wouldn’t have found it out if we hadn’t visited the library & the owner of the shop below in the same courtyard who told us about it too

Apparently it’s also the highest house in Dingle too!

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5. We were also told to watch out for the old builders’ logos as we moved down Green Street which signified the ‘trader’ that lived in the property

So let’s head on down & unfortunately there’s no bike above the first shop – love the name though!

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Dingle’s got a few of these too & this one’s a good page turner…

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And one of the things we loved was the signpost below, which was actually painted on the wall – so impressive!

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6. There’s so much to see down this street, but before we get into the fun stuff, let’s have a look at St Mary’s Church on the right…

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Built in 1861 it replaced another church built on this site in 1812. Walk through the gates & pass on the right side where you can see the tunnel the nuns used to pass from their home, The Sisters’ Refectory on the right into the church…

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7. The gardens are peaceful & well worth a stroll around…

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The gardens are split into different walled areas, the first includes a Labyrinth…

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Next is the Prayer Garden…

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And then comes the Family Tree Garden…

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8. Head back to the church to have a look inside…

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It’s a very attractive church…

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9. Right…come on we’ve done enough of the religion for a time…let’s go party & over the road’s the perfect place, probably one of the most interesting pubs in Ireland…Dick Mack’s…

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There are a few truly iconic pubs in Ireland, whose name is known to more or less every person in the land. Dick Mack’s is one of those pubs

Dick Mack’s opened in 1899 &, three generations later, is an institution. Tea & sugar bins stamped with the Mac Donnell family crest & motto ‘As you like it’ are relics from the early 1900s, when Tom Mac Donnell, who was stationmaster at Tralee & Dingle Light Railway & Tramway opened the bar to provide light refreshments to its passengers

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Tom ran a grocery & general store up until his death in 1938. During this time he would purchase two small casks from the Jameson Distillery in Dublin which were delivered then placed behind the bar. These would be used to make a simple form of blended whiskey which was then bottled into ‘Tom Mac Donnell’s Whiskey’. Today there is only one known empty bottle which contained this whiskey in Dingle

After Tom’s death the pub was taken over by his son Richard Mac Donnell who established a successful boot store. It was then that the pub became known as Dick Mack’s & his name was put above the door, a ‘k’ added for aesthetic reasons. Walk into Dick Mack’s today & timber floor to ceiling shelves are still filled with shoe boxes, shoes, buckles, trimmings, tools & nails…all a reminder of times past

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Today the bar is owned by Dick Mack’s son, Oliver MacDonnell, the eldest of twins, an eccentric character who is as big a draw as the pub itself. Oliver continued the leatherworks & used to travel to the Dandelion Market in Dublin to sell leather belts & carry out shoe repairs. He also laid down one of Dingle’s most famous landmarks, the Walk of Fame outside the pub, honouring some of the famous actors, writers, politicians&  sportspersons who have enjoyed a tipple at the bar

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Dick Mack’s grandson, Finn runs the bar & the tradition of entrepreneurship hasn’t been forgotten nor has a respect for the past & its traditions. Finn has resurrected the shop half of the bar &, after years of silence one can once again hear the ping of hammer on leather on iron as custom made leather belts are crafted to the delight of customers young & old during the summer months. The phrase ‘Step Up & Get Waisted’ is back!

Conversation flows at Dick Mack’s & it was during the course of a conversation & a tipple on a quiet winter’s evening, that Finn met Peter White of the Irish Whiskey Society, where they set in motion what would be Dick Mack’s next undertaking. This would be to increase the already impressive whiskey selection available to its customers. This has now been achieved & there is now a superb choice of Irish whiskeys including some limited additions as well as whiskeys from every region in Scotland together with some impressive international names. Whatever your taste in whiskey, you’ll find it in Dick Mack’s, together with enthusiastic staff, smitten tourists & friendly locals alike

Finally, another unique feature of Dick Mack’s is the fact that the water used in the pub & surrounding buildings is drawn from their own well!

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Last piece of advice: the front bar with its two small snugs in Dick Mack’s is so great, that you are likely to completely forget to explore the rest of the pub. Well, do. There’s more great little quirky rooms at the back & the side of the bar. If you decide to try a different whiskey in each different room, you could be in for a long night!

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As they say in Dingle: Where is Dick Mack’s? Opposite the church, where is the church? Opposite Dick Mack’s!

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10. Behind the pub’s a courtyard with a very good bakery & a few other interesting shops…

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Fab place

Fab place

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Did that say Pie above…we think it did!

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But you’re never away from the quirkiness of Dick Mac’s…here’s the back door

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11. Right…we feel in need of a coffee so carry on down Green Street

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On the left’s Dingle Crystal which has an interesting story…

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12. Ah finally a coffee shop… the lovely Bean in Dingle

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Outside is one of the old signs of what these properties used to be…

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13. Over the road apparently was the local brothel…

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What we really liked though was the advert for the local raffle…

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14. Now then…every so often you come across a gem & there’s one here…The Little Cheese Shop

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This is a real foodie heaven…

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If you’re there, as well as the cheese, pick up one of their amazing filled baguettes!

15. Cheesed out then continue down Green Street & turn right along colourful & vibrant Strand Street…

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We’re now in the land of tourist shops, but mixed with some very good local bars, businesses & restaurants. If you fancy an ice-cream there’s no better place than Murphy’s – try the brown bread ice-cream!

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16. This is such a beautiful place (yes…we know it’s aimed at the tourist!) & the houses here were once the homes of the local fishermen

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Who said the weather in Ireland’s bad!!

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17. There’s some really good eating places along here…

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We visited John Benny’s a couple of times – good food, but the staff could do with some customer experience training…

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18. However, nearby is another gem…Out of the Blue

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This is a serious seafood lovers joy &, as they say on the door…we don’t do chips! Basically the menu changes daily as what comes off the boat over the road gets cooked & when it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s no typed menu – it’s a handwritten blackboard

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We visited one night & had seafood chowder to start & then amazing turbot to follow – fabulous place!

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If you like this type of restaurant & are ever on the Isle of Mull then try the hot platter at Cafe Fish

19. Let’s cross the road & have a look at the harbour which is a mixture of fishing & leisure. It’s a bit of a beautiful sight…

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Walk along & down the pier to see the town from the other side…

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The clouds on the mountains make it a mystical place

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2o. Head back along the harbour towards the town – there was a group experiencing sea kayaking for the first time…

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21. On the right is the fishing dock with the ice house at the end…

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There was a boat which had already off-loaded its catch & was undergoing net maintenance

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22. Back at the road end there’s a seating area & a statue of one of Dingle’s most famous residents…Fungie the dolphin!

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Fungie, also known as the Dingle Dolphin is a wild, male, bottle nose dolphin that was first seen in the harbour in 1983

About 13 feet in length & weighing around 250kgs, the media named him in the early years & although there is no meaning in the Irish language for the word ‘Fungie’, it does suggest he is a ‘Fun-Guy’. There are numerous boat trips out to see the dolphin & many people decide to become one with nature & brave the cold waters of the harbour

23. Continue back along Strand Street & Holy Ground, turning right into Bridge Street & left up The Mall…

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The stream flows down the left side of the road

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24. Over the road’s the Old Courthouse…

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…but next door is a fantastic pub & traditional music venue, O’Sullivan’s Courthouse

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We visited one night & the music was excellent – click on the link below

25. At the crossroads turn left into Main Street…

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On the right’s St James Church which has a very old & somewhat derelict graveyard that is worth a look at – you wouldn’t want to be in here after dark!

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26. Continue up Main Street passing another couple of Dingle’s old bars…

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…to arrive back at Goat Street where we started this walk

So that’s a brief stroll around lovely Dingle &, for most of the time, the sun shone & showed it at its colourful best. If you’re in the area you must visit & stay for the night when the bars really come to life

Now…a boat trip to see Fungie, or a pint of the black stuff?

Go Walk!