Yes, Dublin city itself has more than enough to fill a holiday, but there’s so much more! Hop on the Dart (train) and travel the sweep of Dublin Bay to uncover a whole heap of treasures. Pretty villages filled with living history, fantastic food and great craic – all just a short ride out of town. And the funny thing is – they’re all different. Now all you have to do is pick your favourite…
Today, the village of Dalkey is home to some rather famous people – U2’s Bono and The Edge, Neil Jordan, and Enya. Dropping by for a visit have been Woody Harrelson, Michelle Obama, Penelope Cruz – and the entire crew from REM, who settled down for a pint in the well-known pub of Finnegan’s. You see, the surrounding hills and trees offer privacy, stunning views and a sense of escape, while the village itself is small, scenic and relaxed. Accustomed as the locals are to those passing by, there’s barely a second glance when a world-famous musician or a Hollywood director pops out for a loaf of bread or cup of coffee.
Despite its sleepy location in south County Dublin, Dalkey was vital in the Middle Ages, with Coliemore serving as Dublin’s main harbour. It’s a bit quieter these days, but there’s still a real medieval feel to the higgledy narrow streets that look out to the sea.
While you’re here, take a trip out to Dalkey Island. It’s only five minutes by boat from Coliemore and gives a really gorgeous view of the coastline. The island is uninhabited now – apart from a flock of wild goats, basking seals and thousands of seabirds – but in its time it’s been a holding pen for Viking slaves and host to St Begnet, the patron saint of Dalkey. Back in town, visit the Saturday food market in the Tramyard on Castle Street, go celebrity-spotting in Finnegan’s pub, or take a guided tour of
Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre, which details the area’s rich literary heritage.
Today Dun Laoghaire is all gracious streets and pretty marina, but one November night in 1807, over 12 dreadful hours a storm drove two ships on to the rocks and 400 people died. The tragedy pushed the government to build a harbour, and the result was two piers made of massive granite blocks. They have since become a refuge for seafarers, and also a glorious place to walk while appreciating the beauty of Dublin Bay.
Join the locals for a stroll down the pier and then go for coffee and a ‘99 ice cream at Teddy’s Ice Cream, which has been a much-loved, treat-filled fixture since 1950.
So I jumped on a bus to Dun Laoghaire, stoppin' off to pick up my guitar…
The pretty and hilly cobble stone streets of Dun Laoghaire are worth a wander, but your eyes will always be drawn back to the twinkling of the bay. It’s no wonder then, that Dun Laoghaire has three sailing clubs facing the harbour: The Royal, The National and the Irish National… even if you’re not out there yourself, grab a coffee and watch the learners attempt to navigate the swells.
The perfect way to arrive in Howth? By boat, of course. This charming little seaside village is intrinsically linked to sailing, and a great way to get here is with Dublin Bay Cruises from Dun Laoghaire. Step out onto the pier in Howth and in front of you, you’ll have the pick of some of the finest seafood restaurants in Dublin, from easy tapas to fishy fine dining to old-school salty fish and chips at Beshoff’s.
Howth has the kind of relaxed, easy-breezy atmosphere that will make you want to hang around.
You can walk the pier, take a boat out to the tiny Ireland’s Eye island, or take a longer hike around the Howth Head with the stunning Howth Cliff Loop.
Standing looking out to sea from here, you can almost imagine the sight of the first Viking invaders who arrived here back in 819. Those Norse raiders may be long gone, but you still get a sense of the past at Howth Castle, which can trace its history to 1235 and still remains a family home. You have to book castle visits in plenty of time, but you’re free to wander the gardens, where you’ll find a huge collapsed Stone Age dolmen known as Aideen’s Grave.
The leafy grounds of Malahide Castle are an incredible counterpoint to Dublin’s busy urban hub. Standing here, in the rich, earthy forest, you could be deep in the Irish countryside rather than a small seaside village north of the city centre. With 22 acres to explore, the grounds are a joy, but it’s the castle itself that really compels. With a history stretching back to 1175, this huge turreted structure has been in the Talbot family for over 800 years. And if it’s mystery and intrigue you’re after, this is a good place to start.
Legend has it that on the morning of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, 14 members of the family sat down to breakfast. By dinner time 13 of them were dead.
After exploring the castle, walk the few minutes to the seaside town of
Malahide itself. This salubrious coastal spot is popular with day-tripping Dubliners who come to enjoy the Georgian architecture, marina, beach and great little local cafés and pubs. And it’s a very welcoming place to stick around for a night or two, too!