Trip idea: Dublin Bay

Howth Head, County Dublin
Driving Driving
51 Kilometres
2 days

Explored Dublin city centre to your heart’s content? Then make sure you take a trip between mountains and sea on what’s been called one of the most scenic commuter rail journeys in the world

The Dart – the train route that connects the north and south of the city – has plenty of places to stop off at and explore for an hour or two, a day or even overnight. 

Dublin Bay

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Dublin to Killiney

From any of the city centre stations, just hop on board the Dart sending you in the direction of Bray or Greystones in County Wicklow, and you’ll find some real gems at some of the stops in between! 

A driving 15 mins
Sandymount

Lively Sandymount

Just seven minutes on the train from Pearse Station in Dublin city is Sandymount station, gateway to the village of Sandymount. A hip yet well-heeled hub, Sandymount village was a popular seaside spot in the late 19th century and the pretty green you’ll find at its heart dates back to this time. Today, the green is surrounded by cafés, pubs and little boutiques, but the village still retains its Victorian charm and is famed for its smart, red-brick houses and upscale feel. Pop into Mulligan’s for fine gastropub food, feast your eyes on the deli delights at Brownes of Sandymount, or simply stroll around the bookshops and quirky shops before heading towards the sea. Immortalised by James Joyce in his novel Ulysses, the promenade is a few minutes’ walk from the village centre. Go at high tide to enjoy it at its most scenic, when the gorgeous green waters lap against the wall.  

Come for big sporting occasions:

Sandymount is near to the Aviva Stadium, host of the big rugby union and soccer matches, the atmosphere is electric – and this is your perfect base!

B driving 5 mins
People's Park, Dún Laoghaire

Dún Laoghaire a seafaring coastal town

A 23-minute train journey from city centre and you’re in the vibrant coastal town of Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary). Interestingly, the train line you’ve just travelled on was Ireland’s first ever railway which ran between Dublin and Kingstown, as Dún Laoghaire was known at the time. The vibrant town centre is a good place to seek out everything from bookshops to interior stores and little delis, but the star of this coastal gem is the 19th century harbour – home to the much-loved East Pier. Take the 2.6km walk here and you’ll have the Irish Sea at your side, with boats bobbing in the harbour and occasional seals popping up to say hello. Afterwards, treat yourself to a famed Teddy’s Ice Cream beside the People’s Park, or warm up with a coffee from Fallon & Byrne. Hungry? You’re in for a few treats in this part of the world. Try some fresh fish dishes at The Fish Shack, go Japanese at Michie Sushi, check out the local favourite of Olivetto’s or head to the beautifully situated Hartley’s, with its elegant interior in what was once the ticket hall for Kingstown Station. Here on a Sunday? Arts, crafts and plenty of artisan food is on offer at the People’s Park Sunday market where you can picnic, relax and enjoy the sea air. 

If you have more time:

Take the scenic route back to the city or over to Howth with Dublin Bay Cruises from the East Pier.

C driving 10
Caviston's, Sandycove & Glasthule

Sandycove and Glasthule: so good they share a station

Just 25 minutes from the city centre is Sandycove and Glasthule. Take a left exiting the station and you’ll be heading back to Dún Laoghaire; take a right, and you’re into the village of Glasthule. It might be small, but this is one buzzing little spot when it comes to food and drink. There’s the super-hip coffee nirvana Hatch, the acclaimed Indian restaurant Rasam, the legendary Caviston’s Food Emporium and Restaurant, and the very popular 64 Wine, a buzzy local favourite. Stroll further on to the tiny enclave of Sandycove and you’ll reach Fitzgerald’s, a friendly pub that swells with Joyce enthusiasts on Bloomsday. Walk down towards the coast from here and you’ll be greeted with one of County Dublin’s most scenic spots – the small sandy beach and swimming area of the Forty Foot, where locals brave the water all year round. Watch, join in or go all cultural with a visit to the James Joyce Tower and Museum, in which the opening of Ulysses is set. 

Come at festival time:

Sandycove and Glasthule are great places to be for during The Bloomsday Festival, a celebration of Joyce’s Ulysses. The villages are taken over with people in Edwardian dress and there are lunches and events in the local cafés and pubs. 

D
Coliemore Harbour

A day trip to Dalkey

Almost half an hour from the city centre and you’re in Dalkey, home to Neil Jordan, Enya and U2’s Bono and The Edge. At some point, they’ve all experienced the hospitality of Finnegan’s, the lovely family-run pub just downhill from the Dart station. Views of the sea hit you as you walk towards Coliemore Harbour and up to the Vico Road. If the weather’s good, a trip out to Dalkey Island with Ken the Ferryman is a great idea. Uninhabited now – apart from a flock of wild goats, basking seals and thousands of seabirds – in its time the island has been a holding pen for Viking slaves and a host to St Begnet, the patron saint of Dalkey. Back in the village, take a tour of Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre, tuck into tasty steaks at DeVille’s, go for some home-cooked favourites at Country Bake, or grab some picnic supplies at Thyme Out deli. A walk up Killiney and Dalkey Hills will give you a hearty appetite for any of these...

Come at festival time:

This little village has more than one festival throughout the year, but the biggest has to be The Dalkey Book Festival (June) with global guests taking to the stage for talks and workshops.  

Dublin to Malahide and Howth

Set your sights north of the city centre and hop on board the trains that say Howth or Malahide - make sure to keep watch for when you have to change trains when the tracks split off.

E driving 45 mins
Bull Island

Nature’s playground at Bull Island and Dollymount Strand

Catch the Dart from the city centre to Clontarf, then take the number 130 bus to Dollymount Strand, and Bull island (about 50 minutes). Truth be told, Bull Island is actually a low-lying sandy beach and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and it’s the waders and wildfowl that people come to see (generally best around 1-2 hours before high tide). Another rather unmissable sight is the 70ft statue of Our Lady, which resides at the end of the walkway, leading out to sea. If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline kick, just pop down to Dollymount Strand. Kitesurfers have made this shallow stretch of beach their own. Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and kayaking are also big here. For a more leisurely affair, book a tee time at The Royal Golf Club – a challenging links that’s been testing golfers since 1885.

Come at festival time:

Battle for the Bay (May) is Ireland’s annual kitesurfing and SUPing competition on Dollymount Strand. The concept of the festival is simple: wind, water and lots of fun!  

F driving 40 mins
Howth Head

Hike around Howth Head

Arriving in Howth courtesy of Dublin Bay Cruises is pretty wonderful, but if you can’t do that, the Dart will get you here in just under half an hour. Perched on the Howth Peninsula, the village and its harbour are the definition of picturesque. Step out near the pier in Howth and you’ll have the pick of some of the finest seafood restaurants in Dublin, from tapas and fine dining to moreish fish and chips at Beshoff’s. For the panoramic bay views, though, the Howth Cliff Loop Walk starts from the station and brings you up to the clifftops. Pick a trail length that suits your ability and see the sights, including Baily Lighthouse, Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye, Howth Castle, The National Transport Museum and the Martello Tower. You'll need to book a tour of Howth Castle well in advance of your visit, but you’re free to wander the gardens, where you’ll find a Stone Age dolmen known as Aideen’s Grave. 

If you have more time:

Give shore fishing a try from the piers, coves or rocky shores – you can generally hire rods and tackle near the harbour. Or maybe charter a boat from Dublin Fishing Charters at Howth for some offshore fishing.

 

G
Malahide Castle

A split in the tracks takes you to Malahide

Pretty as a picture, take the half-hour journey by Dart to Malahide, and enjoy the sights and sounds of this Dubliners’ day trip treasure. Be drawn in by the Georgian architecture, marina, beach and great little cafés and pubs, and stick around for a night or two to make the most of this welcoming village! Make sure to visit the leafy grounds of Malahide Castle and Demesne, set on 250 acres of parkland and gardens, then enjoy lunch in the Avoca Café. The Castle’s backstory is compelling: home to the Talbot family for more than 800 years, legend has it that on the morning of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, 14 members of the family sat down to breakfast... and by dinner time 13 of them were dead. 

If you have more time:

Experience a Fish and Trips boat ride to Lambay Island or take on the walk from Malahide to Portmarnock.

 

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