48 hours in Dublin and Wicklow
Wondering how to fill your heart with Dublin and Wicklow in just two days? We've got you covered!
From the charm of Dublin's seaside towns and welcoming pubs to the splendour of Wicklow's rugged mountains and grand estates, this trip will show you just what makes a visit to Ireland such a warm, fun-filled experience.
Head south from the city and you'll discover Victorian piers, maritime history and a swimming spot made famous by novelist James Joyce.Explore Day 1
Blow the cobwebs away
If you want to get to know a place, follow the locals. And the locals LOVE a walk on Dún Laoghaire's East Pier. You’ll see them strolling, dog-walking, jogging and just hanging out on the 2.6km pier with its Victorian bandstand and food trucks selling everything from ice cream to fried shrimp. Walk to the end of the pier and you’ll be rewarded by amazing views of Dún Laoghaire. It’s a wonderful way to start your day!
It’s also a great way to work up an appetite, so breakfast is next on the itinerary. Try INK Café in dlr Lexicon, the town’s state-of-the-art library and cultural hub, for homemade granola or poached eggs on sourdough toast and excellent coffee.
Explore Ireland’s maritime heritage
Right beside dlr Lexicon, you’ll find the 180-year-old Mariners Church – home of Ireland’s National Maritime Museum. This amazing building is one of the world's few remaining custom-built places of worship for seafarers and is a testament to Dún Laoghaire’s maritime heritage.
As you explore the museum, watch out for the Baily Optic, the massive light from the Baily lighthouse that first went into operation in 1902 and was mentioned in James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses.
Get your feet wet
Speaking of the great novelist, your next stop is right out of the pages of Ulysses – it’s time to join the locals in the ever-popular Dublin pastime of sea swimming in the famous Forty Foot bathing spot. Trust us, that “snot-green sea” that Joyce describes is a lot more appealing than it sounds and there’s nothing like the camaraderie you’ll find here.
You might need a coffee to warm up after your dip so make your way to Sandycove Store and Yard, just minutes away from the sea front.
Discover a literary legend
You may have noticed Sandycove’s Martello tower while you were swimming in the Forty Foot. This squat round fort is one of many that were built around the coast in the 19th century to defend Ireland from invaders. This one is particularly significant for anyone with an interest in literature.
It was here that James Joyce set the opening scenes of his famous modernist masterpiece, Ulysses. Today, the tower is home to the James Joyce Tower and Museum, where you can find everything from first editions of Ulysses to letters, photographs and personal possessions of the author. But most importantly, you can stand in the tower and become a part of the Ulysses story yourself. What could be more thrilling?
Soak up the atmosphere
There’s no better place to spend an afternoon than in one of Dublin's lively coastal towns. Your next stop is Dalkey, a pretty heritage town to the south that’s probably best known for its famous residents (U2 singer Bono, Enya and director Neil Jordan, to name a few). But it’s also a popular spot to eat, drink, shop and socialise, so here’s how to get the most out of your visit.
You’ve earned a treat so enjoy lunch in The Queens pub, which has been serving hungry patrons since 1745. Then step next door to visit the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre and dive into the past with the Living History experience, where costumed actors bring you on a whirlwind tour of the medieval town.
When you come back to the present, it’s time to just wander along the streets and visit some of the quirky local businesses that make Dalkey unique, such as The Gutter Bookshop, Country Bake and Hark hardware store.
Enjoy a night by the sea
Back to Dún Laoghaire where you can expect a relaxing evening after your busy day. Check in to the Royal Marine Hotel, a venerable old institution that has hosted everyone from Laurel and Hardy to Frank Sinatra. Enjoy a drink in the Bay Lounge with its views of Dublin Bay and the East Pier and plan your evening.
Dún Laoghaire has plenty of places to eat so you’re spoilt for choice. But you can’t go wrong with nearby Oliveto at Haddington House, known for its for superb Italian food.
And if you still have the energy, you can take in a show at the Pavillion Theatre, with its eclectic programme of music, theatre, dance and cinema.
Set out on an adventure that takes in the wonders of County Wicklow, with epic estates and the natural beauty of the Wicklow Mountains National Park.Explore Day 2
Escape to the country
One of the acknowledged wonders of County Wicklow is Powerscourt, an achingly beautiful estate set in the shadow of the Sugarloaf Mountain. The gardens, with their cascading terraces, magnificent statues and manicured lawns, have been voted number three in the world’s Top 10 Gardens by National Geographic and it’s a real pleasure to gaze at lily pads drifting on the ornamental lake and stroll through the pretty Japanese gardens.
Relax in the Terrace Café after exploring the gardens and enjoy coffee and a delicious homebaked treat before browsing in the craft shops in Powerscourt House, which stock a range of handmade Irish fashions, crafts, furniture and jewellery. If you have time, you can take in the Powerscourt Waterfall (about 6km from the Estate).
Powerscourt is about a 20-minute drive from the city but if you’re leaving the car behind, you can get a bus from Dublin to the nearby village of Enniskerry and take the 25-minute walk to the estate.
Follow a famous mountain pass
There’s no point in coming to Wicklow if you’re not going to explore the Wicklow Mountains – a national park of spectacular beauty right on Dublin's doorstep. From Powerscourt, follow the Glencree Valley towards the Sally Gap – a crossroads high up in the Wicklow Mountains where you’ll be treated to scenery that has been wowing location scouts for years. TV shows such as Vikings and films including Reign of Fire and PS I Love You have all been filmed here.
It can feel like you’ve reached the end of the world up here – with blanket bog stretching towards the horizon but it’s a popular spot with sightseers enjoying a scenic route through the Wicklow Mountains.
Public transport isn’t really an option for this section but bear in mind that this region is traversed by the Wicklow Way long-distance walking route. If you have the time (and the energy!) to tackle it, it will bring you breathtaking views over Wicklow and Dublin.
Find a lake of the "Black Stuff"
Think we’re joking? Not at all! Known as the Guinness Lake, Lough Tay is one of the most photographed spots in the Wicklow Mountains. Its dark waters and the white sand on its northern edge give it a whimsical resemblance to a pint of Guinness, the black stout that Ireland is famous for.
But while nature was generous in endowing Lough Tay with stunning good looks, the illusion needed a little helping hand. That white sand was imported by the Guinness family (yes, the brewers) who own the land on the lake's north shore and liked the notion of celebrating their famous pint on a grand scale.
Lough Tay is on private land so you won't be able to dip a toe in its inky depths. But whether you’re driving, cycling or walking, you can stop at the viewing point on the road to drink in its beauty and marvel at the eccentricities of the wealthy.
Visit a stately film set
As the star of numerous movies and TV shows including Far and Away and The Tudors, this grand County Wicklow estate has plenty of star power. But there’s more to it than film-star glamour. Elegant Killruddery House is very much a family home, and can be visited on a guided tour. The 800-acre Killruddery Estate is a working farm that produces ingredients for the onsite restaurant, tea room and farm shop, and the gardens are an exquisite example of 17th century formal garden design.
This is the perfect place to while away an afternoon, exploring the house and gardens, enjoying lunch at the Grain Store Café and browsing in the market. When you’ve looked your fill, it’s time to head back to the city. Dún Laoghaire is just a 20-minute drive (or a walk and a train ride) away. Close out the day with dinner and drinks in the Purty Kitchen (serving the public since 1728) – a relaxing end to an epic trip.