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Has Dingle soured me on Rick Steves forever?

I flew back from Ireland on Memorial Day. I spent more days in Dublin than I would have liked. It couldn't be avoided. I had to pick up my girlfriend at the airport two days in and drop her there seven days later. My last weekend I flew over to Leeds, on Ryan Air, to visit friends for the weekend (there and back out of Dublin).

I took my girlfriend on a loop around Northern and northwest Ireland. I was happy with that part of my trip.

After dropping her off, I headed southwest to visit a few highlights I hadn't seen on my previous Ireland visit. Dingle was a highlight. After visiting, I wouldn't recommend Dingle to my worst enemy. It was a complete tourist trap in May. I can't imagine it during the summer months? The vast majority of "sights" charged admission, were reproductions not worth seeing and had operating hours clearly catering to bus traffic.

Now I recall how much I was disappointed with some of Rick's recommendations in the past (Cinque Terra, Lucca and Beaune come to mind). Since Rick's books focus almost solely on his specific recommendations I find myself wondering whether I'll read his recommendations primarily as places to avoid?

Posted by
2941 posts

I also really enjoyed Northern Ireland. It was a pleasant surprise. I didn't go to Dingle because I simply didn't have enough time. The question is, does Rick include places because they are popular or does Rick include places and then they become too popular?

I think that whatever travel guides you use, you are expected to use your taste and common sense. It won't always match with the guide. Personally, Galway is a city that I never need to visit again and I am quite sure that it is covered in every guide book on Ireland.

Posted by
5 posts

Carol, I am trying to decide how much of Galway we need to see. And how close/in town we should stay.

Hearing your comments, I am wondering if we focus more on the County/country area and sights and less on the town?

Posted by
381 posts

I find these comments full of irony...we are all tourist when we travel yet we want to be the only tourist visiting these attractions. I think we need to travel knowing that there will be others just as interested as we are in these areas....I don't mean for this to come across as rude but it is just my observation.

Posted by
1526 posts

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. I strongly disagree with your assessment of Dingle as I loved it and many others on this forum do as well. I was there last July. It didn’t feel too crowded or touristy to me at all ( except maybe with with the marketing of Fungi the dolphin) especially compared to other places in Europe. Take me to 🇮🇪!!!!

Posted by
20599 posts

I know. We buy guidebooks to guide us to the best tourist sites and then complain because there are tourist at the tourist sites. Is there some logic here that I fail to understand.

Posted by
3983 posts

does Rick include places because they are popular or does Rick include places and then they become too popular?

I think it's the latter. In at least one of his books, he quotes a merchant in Cinque Terre saying "Rick Steves made me a rich man." I've heard that the CT was a fairly quiet area, mostly visited by Italians and British until Rick started popularizing it. And now it's a madhouse, especially with cruise ships there.

We all want to be tourists in not-touristy areas. I always cringe when I see an article blaring "New undiscovered hideaway in..." (fill in the blank.)

I don't care if I never see CT again. I did enjoy Lucca and Beaune, but we got off the beaten track in both those towns as best we could. And of course we join in the throngs in Florence or Rome to see the "musts;" then we head to a back street or the river bank for a stroll, and to our quiet hotel just a couple of blocks off the busy thoroughfares.

Posted by
8293 posts

The OP used the words “tourist trap” with reference to Dingle. A tourist trap is one that fools the tourist with lies, exaggerations and false claims. The OP found Dingle to be over crowded with other tourists just like himself. That does not make it a trap. It makes it a destination best visited off season.

Posted by
11704 posts

I think there's something to Rick highlights a place and it becomes popular. I can see that in Cinque Terra. What used to be a little known area - and was nice because it was little known - becomes crowded with tourists seeking to avoid crowds. It certainly could be true of Dingle.

Lucca always seemed like a safe recommendation. It's near a train and flat (for the mobility impaired). In an area with wonderful hill towns, however, Lucca doesn't stand up as a good choice (unless you are mobility impaired).

When I picture a good time in Ireland it's in a local pub with amateur musicians coming together for a trad session. I'm talking to primarily Irish people about an assortment of topics. Maybe it's hard to hear or understand the difference if you aren't a musician? I consider amateur music in Ireland much better than the professionals (with some exceptions).

My first trip to Ireland I wasn't at all impressed with Temple Bar because they were crowded noisy bars with relatively few locals. Sure there's traditional music but it's performed by a couple professional musicians. It doesn't feel any more Irish than an Irish Pub in the U.S. Dingle reminded me of Temple Bar, not of any small town I'd want to visit.

If I was advising a friend traveling to Ireland today, I'd tell them to visit small towns nobody has ever recommended, go to the local pub and meet locals.

I also like ancient sights and sometimes expect a crowd there. Ironically, I went around Slea Head early so all of the tourist trap stops were closed and the Oratories (the best thing on the peninsula) were empty.

Posted by
11704 posts

My definition of tourist trap is the entire place is of, by and for tourists. If you go to a pub and literally everyone you talk to is a tourist, you're in a tourist trap. In Dingle all the stores are tourist focused, selling predictable tourist kitsch. There may be a working town there somewhere. If so, it's hard to find.

Posted by
11704 posts

That's why I call it "my" definition. I don't claim to be the expert. I'm here to give opinions that others can use, or not use, as they see fit.

Posted by
381 posts

For the record...we first visited Ireland in the summer of 2001 and fell in love with the Dingle Peninsula. Three years ago we went back and rented a house overlooking the Dingle Bay outside of the town of Annascaul. We settled in and lived like locals for a month. It was wonderful! Yes, we went into Dingle town on several occasions but also got to know the owners of the local pubs and shop keepers in Annascaul and some days just set out on foot and explored. I am sure there are similar experiences all over the world....

Posted by
3983 posts

I think Norma's definition is actually accurate, but most folks use the term the way Brad does. You'll see lots of references here to a restaurant being a tourist trap, when the writer means it's overrun with tourists, or only tourists eat there.

We need another term...

Posted by
16764 posts

I'm having a hard time understanding how you think Rick's guidebook misled you. The Dingle chapter has many references to tourist crowds and peak versus low season. It all seems to me pretty honestly described.

The vast majority of "sights" charged admission, were reproductions not worth seeing and had operating hours clearly catering to bus traffic.

I don't see charging admission as a crime, or even necessarily a negative, if it allows the site to operate, toilets to be cleaned, and staff to be paid. Looking through the loop drive description, I only see one suggested stop that is significantly reconstructed. There may be others, but Rick didn't suggest them, right?

I went around Slea Head early so all of the tourist trap stops were closed and the Oratories (the best thing on the peninsula) were empty.

Sounds idyllic! I always thought of the peninsula as the reason to visit, more than the town.

Sure there's traditional music but it's performed by a couple professional musicians.

So, the music was too good? Crowds were a known issue. Yes, a more spontaneous jam session might indeed be better found in a town you've never heard of, or pubs that don't promise a reliable music schedule.

Posted by
859 posts

It could just be that you don't like Dingle. No shame in that, and it doesn't necessarily mean it extends to a dislike of Rick Steves.

I was not a fan of Dingle either, but I'm not discounting all of RS just because of my lack of affinity for Dingle. I've found him to be dead-on for most other locations. I don't like RS's hotels, but I don't toss the baby out with the bathwater just because I'm not 100% in agreement with him on lodgings. Remember, it's his opinions and what he considers to be "the best of Europe" - of course some people will have differing opinions, KWIM?

Posted by
431 posts

I loved Dingle but not for all the tourist stuff you just mentioned. We found a quiet pub, full of locals, went in, sat down at the bar and had one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life. If you find yourself in a "tourist area" and don't want to be there, walk a few blocks away, you will find more locals. I live in NYC and the only time I go to Times Square is when I have to be a "tour guide" for family and friends. Also, if you go every where the tourist book tells you and want a non-tourist experience, you are going to be disappointed. Look at Mayo, beautiful area, cliffs are just as beautiful as Cliffs of Moher but no one was in Mayo.

To the woman that was reconsidering Galway, you do want to see Connemara, it is beautiful. Galway city is a bunch of tourists. If you do not want that, stay at a B&B outside the city.

Posted by
291 posts

I can't really bring myself to feel being popular or even overrun with tourists necessarily spoils a place for me.

Cinque Terre for instance - forgetting the tourists for a moment, isn't it still just an entirely remarkable place? Those little towns and villages, the steep cliffs and hillsides, the narrow streets, the colors of the buildings and the sea, the history of them and just how fascinating it is those towns came to be in the manner they did, where they did? Being unable or unwilling to appreciate that on account of it being so popular strikes me a bit as if one can't see the forest for the trees.

Granted, issues around overcrowding and over-tourism can go beyond just masses of people - if any authenticity goes out the window and shops and restaurants all get turned in to kitschy tourist stuff, a place can certainly lose its appeal. But I don't think being popular with tourists has to always mean a place is no longer worth seeing, and no longer a fascinating location in its own right.

Posted by
7126 posts

Brad, i do think you’ll find way more tourist crowds in places Rick (and other mainstream guidebooks) recommends. Maybe it’s time for you (and me) to look elsewhere for new places. Have you looked at the Michelin green guide? You’re such an avid traveler, i think you’ve graduated from the RS level and need a much broader, higher level guidebook.

Thank you for this post and your perspective, it’s helpful.

Posted by
485 posts

There are lots of places that can be called "tourist traps" under your definition that I would still visit. I really doubt that Rick alone got the majority of those travelers to go there. There are other guide books, guides, tour companies etc. that will put that will put that venue on their itinerary. If you really want to bring in the bus loads of tourists get your place designated as an UNESCO site.

Posted by
16 posts

I think it's all about your mind set going into the trip. When my sister-in-law and I did half marathons in Yellowstone several years ago in June, we knew it would be crowded and that we would be following tourists in RVs through the park. We also knew we wanted to do this half marathon series and see the park. Was it crowded - absolutely! Did the congestion make us crazy at times - you bet! Was there predictable, over-priced souvenirs - yep, we simply chose not to buy unless something really piqued our fancy. My 3 adult children and I are going to Ireland in the middle of August, right in the middle of high season - we know it will be crowded and have adjusted out itinerary accordingly but are including the things we really want to see as well as trying to stay off the beaten path.

Posted by
2361 posts

I would define a tourist trap as somewhere with an expensive admission that is not justified by the value of the site. By that definition, even DisneyWorld is not a tourist trap because they are really good at what they do.

Oftentimes, sites that are crowded with tourists are that way because they are so wonderful that everyone wants to see them, like the Sistine Chapel. That being said, Cinque Terra is on my "don't go"list. Cruise ship crowds really do put me off because they carry thousands of people.

Posted by
2225 posts

I'm just thinking of the nice lady with the beehive huts on her property. She told us she uses the proceeds of her 2 Euro admission price to go to New York each year to visit her grandchildren. Whether that's actually what she uses the money for or not I don't know, but 2 Euro to look at and discuss beehive huts struck me as a pretty fair deal. If I recall correctly (?) there was also a small charge at Dunbeg Fort...totally worth it.

Posted by
4498 posts

To me, a "tourist trap" is a place that claims to offer something of value or authenticity, but is really just junk.

A restaurant that caters to tourists can have excellent or good food. Not a tourist trap. But many cafes/restaurants on popular plazas and areas serve pretty average or worse food at inflated prices. On the other hand, if you don't mind paying for mediocrity for the view, you are at least getting something of value.

Most heavily touristed areas will have shops mostly catering to tourists. But those can be all junky trinket shops, or a mix of nice galleries and specialty shops. The former are tourist traps, the latter just cater to them.

There are tourist attractions that offer kitschy experiences, like recreations of historical events versus actually visiting historical sites. The former are tourist traps.

Posted by
11704 posts

Dare I say it? Those beehive huts aren't real, they're built solely for the tourist trade.

I did pay 2 euro, on the honor system, to see one round "fort" (probably a fortified farm with six buildings inside a ring). I thought it was a good, real, sight. The two ring forts near Cahirsiveen on Ring of Kerry are better, free and surprisingly off the beaten path.

I was surprised I liked Ring of Kerry better. I had been around it before but didn't stay overnight - like the vast majority of people. Staying overnight near Portmagee was night and day vs. Dingle. Not devoid of tourists but not packed with (literally) busloads either.

When Rick covers something, I like his coverage better than any other guide but there's a lot that isn't covered so I pack a Michelin Green Guide as my packing splurge. I wish they came in Kindle version because one Green Guide seems like a lot of added weight in my bag.

Posted by
8569 posts

You need to do your best to get away from the guidebook suggestions. Remember, Rick's books were orignally written as guides for his tour participants and today most of his suggested places to visit are places his tours go.

That being said, it is possible in most areas to find places tourist don't go. Or at least don't go in droves.

I liked Dingle. Rather than hang out near the seafront and the hordes of tourists, we found a pub a few blocks away that was holding Irish Dance lessons for free. My small group were the only Americans in the place. Most were Irish and we had a great time. They couldn't have been nicer to us. (We were there in October when the town was beginning to shut down for the season so it really wasn't crowded.)

Lucca was another place I enjoyed (been there twice)--once you got away from the hordes of tourists. (Difficult to do during the day.)

You can keep the Cinque Terre. It's hopeless.

Rick alone sells a million guidebooks a year. You can't expect anyplace he recommends to be empty. I do check his guidebooks as one of the many resources I use when planning a trip. Relying on just one guidebook or resource limits your exposure to a destination.

Posted by
11704 posts

I'm assuming you're referring to the beehive huts Rick suggests? From Rick Steves Ireland 2019: "While reconstructed, these mysterious stone igloos ... are a better sight than similar groups of beehive huts down the road." That could mean they were ruins and rebuilt. Many places in Ireland the term "reconstructed" meant they were made recently using similar techniques as the real thing. The beehive huts at cliffs of Kerry for example.

Posted by
48 posts

Rick helped popularize a lot of these places with his English speaking readers. But in some cases it may have killed the goose that laid the golden egg, so to speak. I visited Dingle with his book back in '88 and it wasn't as overrun yet. Already in 1988 the Hotel Mittaghorn in Gimmelwald, Switzerland was packed with Americans armed with 'Europe Through the Backdoor". Cinque Terre is similarly overrun now, but I took Rick's advice on a place in the less hectic village of Corniglia and have enjoyed going back there a few times. Maybe he needs to come out with a book with all new 'back doors'.

Posted by
5817 posts

"Rick Steves" is very much a North American thing. He, and his business, is not well known, even known at all, elsewhere in the world.
You are therefore probably giving him too much credit for causing overcrowding in Dingle etc! Dingle was a popular tourist town long before he came along and most people visiting will never have heard of any american travel experts. Just because he, or you, think it is a "back door" doesn't mean it actually is.
You visit a popular tourist town in Ireland in May, with its public and school holidays, it's going to be crowded and you are part of the crowd.....

Posted by
2225 posts

The Beehive Huts we saw, with a guide, were at Fahan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahan,_County_Kerry#Cloch%C3%A1n

Fahan is an area on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland, noted for a collection of clochán, or drystone beehive huts. Fahan lies below Mount Eagle on the southern coast of the Dingle peninsula, to the west of the fishing village of Ventry and to the east of the steep cliffs of Slea Head.[1] Fahan has many antiquities, including cave dwellings, stone beehive huts, stone monuments and forts.

The collection of beehive houses at Fahan is said to be the most remarkable in Ireland.[7] The date of the Fahan clochán is uncertain, since stone huts with this design have been built from Neolithic times to the twentieth century.[8] Some of the earliest may have been built by hermit monks.[9] However, it is thought that most of the clochán in this grouping dates to the twelfth century, when Norman invaders forced farmers from more prosperous areas to move to the marginal lands of the Dingle Peninsula.

Posted by
1878 posts

I was in Dingle in early May 2016 and did not find it overtouristed, sorry your experience varied. I did find the music scene to be more Irish inflected pop that traditional though. Elements of traditional music perhaps. The loop and not the town is the real attraction, and the loop lived up to expectations. There are plenty of great places to visit in Ireland though and Dingle is over-hyped.

Posted by
57 posts

If you're looking for towns in Ireland where you don't encounter tourists, then Dingle shouldn't be on your list.

If you're looking for towns that are budget-friendly, Dingle probably shouldn't be up there either (intrigued about the sights that charged admission - most of what you should be looking to see on the peninsula is free, unless you're there for the visitor centres, or looking to take a ferry to the Blaskets).

That being said, there are definitely some tourist traps (places where you get little or no value for your money and are generally gimmicky), but you can usually avoid them.

If crowds of tourists that bother you, then that's hard to avoid in a town like Dingle (not as intense as Killarney, at least...)

That being said, it's the mix of tourists and locals that give Dingle some of its magic.

I've been to Dingle 11 or 12 times at this point (from Ireland and living in Dublin) and, for me anyway, a big part of what makes it great (aside from the proximity to some of the best scenery in Ireland) is the mix of tourists and locals, especially when it comes to settling down with a few pints after a day of exploring.

I spent a night in Dick Mack's pub a while back with my dad.

We spent half the night chatting to a random aul lad about hurling and the rest chatting to a couple from Canada over on their honeymoon.

A cracking night that we've been chatting about since.

Hopefully the experience in Dingle didn't sour the rest of the trip for you!

Posted by
243 posts

I just returned from 2nd trip to Ireland and Dingle and loved Dingle. We spent an afternoon kayaking; we did have to share the water with a few other kayakers, Fungi, and a strong wind. We felt like we had the bay to ourselves. Another day we cycled the loop. Totally enjoyed the Scenery with ocean views, green fields with stone fences, and sheep. A stop in a tiny village for fish chowder and more incredible views. We stopped at the South Pole inn which had our group of 8 and a few locals. The music in some pubs was better than others. The food was amazing- great seafood. The negatives were the streets right along the harbor which sold a lot tourist crap. But just up the street were shops that had fine jewelry, crafts, and clothes. We spent an hour at the church and its garden which was another great stop.
I do want to Also give kudos to CT since it was discussed in this post. I was there in early July and had a wonderful time and would go back at the same time of year. We spent our 3 days on the trails which had a few other people but not nearly as bad as some trails in US National parks.

RS guides target a few noteworthy sites in each country that he wants to include. He states this in his books and recommends other sources. He is spot on with his advice that is not included in other books. His guides will state when a site is worth visiting and when it is waste. I’ve used his books for 20 years and have not been disappointed. When there are regions or towns that he doesn’t include, I find my own back Door.

Posted by
1 posts

We have followed Rick’s books since around 1990, when they were virtually unknown. He typically offers great advice and as others have said, usually warns you of crowds and the best timing. I recall he suggesting in Venice that if you go to St. Mark’s square in June (the most crowed area at the most crowded time) and complain about crowds you have no reason to complain. We have been to Venice about 3 times and Bruges at least 5 times. Both can be loaded with tourists. But when you look at how unique and beautiful they are, why wouldn’t people flock there? You need to plan your time, go during shoulder season, visit sites early or late and find some back street gems. We still love those places and do not like the crowds. Everyone needs to understand what they are getting into and plan accordingly. We find it often best to mix a few larger cities with respites in tiny rural locations.

Posted by
38 posts

This is the reality of our increasingly populated world, and more affordable travel. I have been travelling for the last 25 years or so, and have definitely noticed a huge difference now compared to when I started. It must have been even better when Rick started going to Europe. One has to accept that nowadays anywhere that is mentioned in any guidebook is going to be busy except in off-season, as long as the place has a true off-season time. And it is true that Rick Steves is almost a victim of his own success. When I first discovered and started travelling with Rick's books, very few people I encountered had ever heard about him. I spread the word of Rick, and now wish I had kept my big mouth shut (although I'm sure that wouldn't have changed how successful he's become). Nowadays, I will encounter people holding his books at almost every sight I visit in Europe. So his recommendations may no longer be the hidden gems they used to be, but I still find his advice better than other books most of the time.