While Dublin is chock full of things to do, taking a day trip outside the city will add some variety to your travels. Hikes, castles, and beautiful Irish countryside are accessible by public transportation, so grab a day pack and your camera and set off on a one-day adventure!
1. Bray to Greystones Coastal Walk
The Bray to Greystones walk is a relaxed trail that runs beside the Irish Sea south of Dublin. A DART train will drop you off in Bray where you will begin a 7-kilometer walk along the cliffs leading to Greystones. This route has great coastal views and a variety of plant life and birds. Once you arrive in Greystones, there are plenty of restaurants and pubs to kick your feet up in and have a meal, but our favorite is The Happy Pear for delicious vegan food and a healthy dose of smiles and good cheer. If you’re looking for a cozy place to enjoy a pint or a specially-crafted cocktail, Mrs. Robinson’s homey décor and comfy armchairs are just the ticket. At the end of your day, simply take the DART from the Greystones station back to Dublin city center.
2. Malahide Castle & Gardens
Among the oldest castles in Ireland, Malahide Castle was built in 1185 and inhabited by the Talbot family for nearly 800 years. In 1975, the property and grounds were sold to the Irish government and opened as a museum and heritage center. Admission to the castle includes a tour of the castle itself and access to the museum, as well as three different gardens.
Malahide Castle is said to have a ghostly past. As legend has it, the court jester, Puck, was stabbed to death outside the castle after it was discovered that he had fallen in love with a prisoner kept within. With his last dying breath, he swore that his spirit would haunt the castle forever. Guides tell of mysterious body-shaped indents left on beds among other spooky sightings.
Glendalough has hiking routes ranging from 45 minutes to 4 hours with varying levels of difficulty. There are many sights to see around Glendalough, both manmade and naturally occurring. Regardless of which route you choose, be sure to wear sturdy shoes and pack plenty of water.
A short walk from the Visitor’s Center is a monastic city founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. It is one of the most important sites of early Christianity in Ireland. The majority of the buildings at this site date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. Continuing on, the Spinc and Glenealo Valley White Route will take you past ruins from an 18th-century mining community. Scaling the top of a steep hill just beyond, you’ll have fantastic views of the valley and its famous “Guinness Lake,” so named for its resemblance to a pint of the black stuff. Looping back around, be sure to stop off at the Poulanass Waterfall and plunge pools.
At the end of your hike, grab a pint or a snack and rest awhile at The Glendalough Hotel near the bus stop. It’s the perfect way to reward yourself after a long day of exploring.
St. Kevin’s Bus provides roundtrip transportation from Dublin city center to Glendalough in County Wicklow. Tickets can be booked online or bought on the bus, space permitting.
An hour train ride takes you to Kilkenny Castle, built in the 12th century, along with Black Abbey, St. Canice’s Cathedral, and many other ancient buildings and attractions. Considered the craft capital of Ireland, you can find beautifully handmade gifts by local and national artists in the Kilkenny Design Centre and National Craft Gallery.
For a quirkier side to the city, visit Kyteler’s Inn on St. Kieran’s Street. Established in 1324, its first owner was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Luckily, she was able to escape to England safely before the execution day. Since then, the inn has had many different owners but its reputation as a local venue to celebrate birthdays, weddings, or just a Friday night out on the town remains unchanged. During high tourist season, live traditional music sessions are held every night of the week.
5. Howth Cliff Walk
Located about 25 minutes north of Dublin’s city center by Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) train, the Howth Cliff Walk has beautiful sea views in a quaint town to check out. The loop path is 6 kilometers long which will take around 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete. It is graded as an easy hike, so bring the whole family. On clear days, your views will include Ireland’s Eye, an island bird sanctuary, as well as Lambay Island. Don’t forget to snap a picture of the iconic Bailey Lighthouse, first constructed in the 17th century, which is located on the southeastern part of Howth Head.
Enjoy a post-hike meal at Octopussy’s Seafood Tapas or any of the other restaurants along the pier offering locally-caught seafood and fish. There’s something for every price range from sit down, formal dining to take-out fish and chips you can eat picnic-style in the grass by the harbor. If you’re in the mood for something more traditional, The Dog House Blue’s Tea Room has a wide range of reasonably-priced fare with numerous vegetarian options. Once you’ve eaten your fill, sip a pint on the front patio of Wright’s Findlater located on the main strip; people watching at its finest!
The Howth Market has a mix of shops and stalls selling everything from local artisan jewelry to sweets and fresh-baked bread.
6. Paddywagon Tours
Different from your typical guided tours, Paddywagon Tours allow tourists the opportunity to explore each destination on their own. Highly affordable day trips run from Dublin to a variety of locations across Ireland including Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, Connemara and Galway, and Ring of Kerry. Each tour includes multiple stops at iconic and picturesque places and offers the opportunity to have lunch (not included) at a village mid-way through. The guides are knowledgeable and witty, peppering in Irish cultural points among the historical information. Paddywagon Tours are the perfect way for those without a car to get a wider sampling of the country; all without breaking the bank.