Last updated on February 6, 2024
If you’re flying to Dublin for a few days, you’ll want to explore the city in depth. But the beautiful surrounding area is also…
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A trip to the sea? Or to the mountains? By public transport or by car?
The possibilities are endless. What is certain is that there are a whole range of worthwhile excursion destinations in the area surrounding Dublin.
So if you don’t just want to explore Dublin city centre, but also the beautiful surroundings of Dublin, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article I will give you some great day trips that you can do by public transport, by boat, by car or with a bus tour company.
By the way, I know the area around Dublin very well, as we have been living (second home) south of Dublin ourselves for several years. We are originally from Germany. Here, on the edge of the beautiful Wicklow Mountains, we run our motorbike rental business (https://www.easycruiser.tours) and our guest rooms (https://www.the-view-accommodation.ie) in the summer.
But now let’s move on to my personal tips for your day trip from Dublin:
Day excursions with the “Dart”
The Dart is a local commuter train that runs north from Dublin Connolly Station to Malahide and the Howth Peninsula, and south to several places along the coast, as far as Greystones.
So you can easily reach many beautiful places along the coast with the Dart. The Dart departs many times a day, sometimes with a few minutes interval. See: https://www.irishrail.ie/en-ie/train-timetables/timetables-by-route.
Free tip: You can hire a bike in Dublin and take it with you on the Dart. Stop at a coastal town, cycle a bit and get back on the Dart at the next town or the one after that.
Let’s move on to a few excursion destinations:
The Howth Peninsula
This is the northernmost station of the Dart. The small peninsula lies directly in front of Dublin on Dublin Bay. There is a nice little harbour and several beautiful walks. The interior of the small peninsula is hilly and from the top you have very nice views of the bay. There are also restaurants and pubs in the town.
Malahide is located in the northern part of Dublin, not far from the airport. It has a lovely park with a beautiful medieval castle and a marina.
South of Dublin, Dún Laoghaire is located directly on the water. The town is primarily a large and sheltered sports harbour and a popular excursion destination. In the harbour you can go for a walk on the pier and enjoy the sea, go stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking or go on boat trips.
Dalkey and Killiney
Dalkey is a pretty seaside town with a nice centre, beautiful coastline and small coves. It is also a place where many wealthier Dubliners live, as well as some celebrities. Killiney, just a little further south, is less densely built up and boasts beautiful rocky hills and a lovely coastline with rocky cliffs.
Bray is a seaside resort where Dublin society travelled by train in the 19th century to spend a few pleasant days by the sea. The town is lively, but also interesting.
Bray has a beautiful seafront promenade with a marine aquarium, cafés and restaurants. The coarse shingle beach is not necessarily inviting for a swim, but is beautifully framed by hills on both sides of Bray.
There is a beautiful coastal footpath to Greystones. But even the short walk around the Bray Head Cliff Walk and up to the summit cross (Bray Head Cross) is very beautiful.
Kilruddery House and Gardens is an old manor house south of Bray, easily reached by taxi or a short walk. Beautiful old manor house with beautifully landscaped gardens.
The Dart ends in Greystones, or begins here – whichever way you look at it. The coastal town is somewhat quieter than Bray, but nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, very beautiful. There is a marina and several beautiful sandy beaches. If you want to go swimming, I would recommend Greystones. You can also walk the coastal path in the opposite direction to Bray and get back on the Dart there, or cycle along the coast for a while.
Day trips by car
By car you are of course much more flexible and your day trip can go a bit further. I would recommend that you don’t use a car in Dublin. The traffic is no fun, parking spaces are hard to find, public transport is good and you can easily walk around the city centre. But for a day trip into the surrounding countryside, you can hire a car for a day.
This will open up the following excursion destinations or options for you:
Powerscourt House and Gardens and Powerscourt Waterfall
Wicklow is considered to be the garden of Ireland, as there are many manor houses here from the time when English lords ruled the area and of course lived appropriately. They also built beautiful gardens and parks that you can admire today. Powerscourt is probably the largest and most impressive example of this. Just outside the parks is Powerscourt Waterfall in the middle of the forest. It is the highest waterfall in Ireland.
The Wicklow Mountains with Lough Tay, Sally Gap and the Wicklow Gap
The Wicklow Mountains begin on the southern edge of Dublin. There they are still called the Dublin Mountains. The low mountain range stretches for many kilometres southwards, always parallel to the coast. At its centre is the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
If you drive from Dublin via Glencree to Sally Gap, you will pass through it. At Sally Gap you can turn left to Lough Tay and Roundwood, straight on to Laragh and Glendalough, or turn right to Blessington Lakes. Either direction is fine.
On the way to Laragh you’ll pass Glenmacnass Waterfall. Look back, otherwise you’ll miss it. After Glendalough, on the way to Hollywood, you’ll come across the Wicklow Gap, a pass road with beautiful views.
The Blessington Lakes and Russborough House and Park
You can drive once around the Blessington Lakes. They are also called Poulaphouca Reservoir because they are reservoirs. There are cafés and restaurants in Blessington and Russborough House & Park a little to the south. This is also a large, former manor house with all kinds of leisure activities and lovely places to visit.
Glendalough Monastic City
Glendalough is my personal highlight. It is well visited and not an insider tip, but still well worth a visit. Glen-da-Lough comes from the Gaelic and means “the valley of the two lakes” and that is very true.
The valley is mystically beautiful, surrounded by steep rocky paths, wooded and with two beautiful lakes. The small early medieval monastery complex with its typical Irish round tower is well worth a visit and there is a good selection of well-marked hiking trails.
The Spinc Trail leads from the valley up to the rocky heights, around both lakes and back down to Glendaloug and offers wonderful views of the valley and the surrounding mountains.
Brittas Bay and the sandy beaches of the east coast
Brittas Bay is more of a neighbourhood than a place. Many Dubliners have holiday cottages here where they spend their weekends. There are several beautiful sandy beaches and if you want to spend a relaxing day by the sea, this is the place to be.
You can also follow the small coastal road further and further south and visit Old Bawn Beach, Morriscatle Beach, Ballinesker Beach or Curracloe Beach. The latter has very beautiful dunes! You are then almost in Wexford, where you can have a nice meal in the centre, above the harbour, and then drive back to Dublin via the motorway (M11).
Wicklow Town and Harbour
A shorter trip can also take you to Wicklow Town, see the seals in the harbour, stroll through the colourful little town, visit the lighthouse, visit the Wicklow GAOL, formerly a prison and now a museum and a place of interest and you will also find food and drink here.
Skerries is a very nice harbour town north of Dublin. There are beautiful windmills, a lovely coastal promenade, offshore islands and a very nice little harbour where you can eat good fish – and other dishes too. Skerries is a little off the beaten track and perhaps that’s why it’s so beautiful.
Kilkenny is certainly one of my favourite towns. It has a beautiful castle, which is well worth a visit inside and out. The location above the river is also charming. The old town near the castle is also a great place to stroll and linger. Beautiful old houses, nice shops, food and drink – it’s a great place to spend some time.
You can also take a walk along the Canal Walk below the castle and back through Castle Park. Take a look inside the old stables opposite the castle. There you will find small galleries and shops. In general, you can simply go on a little discovery tour in Kilkenny!
Day trips by boat
Dublin is by the sea – so what better way to spend a great day than by and on the sea?
Dublin Bay Cruises
Dublin Bay Cruises offers excursions by boat in Dublin Bay. You can go to Howth at the north end of Dublin Bay, or to Dub Laoghaire at the south end of the bay. Or both!
My tip: You can also travel just one way by boat and then return by dart. See: https://www.dublinbaycruises.com/.
Island Ferries in Howth also offers tours. You can cruise from Howth harbour around Howth and around Ireland’s Eye, also as a Sunset Tour and as a Cruise & Dine Experience. See: https://www.islandferries.net/.
Dublin Boat Tours
Dublin Boat Tours in Dún Laoghaire operates a sailing vessel and a motor vessel in the wider Dublin Bay, offering tours along the coast and to the islands. There are also trips to see seals and seabirds and there are also dolphins and whales in the bay. See: https://dublinboat.com/.
Organised day trips with tour bus companies
Of course, you can also join a tour bus company and take part in guided day trips. The classics are: Galway and Connemara, Belfast and the Giants Causeway, Kilkenny, Cliffs of Moher and Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains, but there are more destinations too. Some companies you can check out are:
Paddywagon Tours: See: https://www.paddywagontours.com/tours.
Wild Rover Tours: See: https://wildrovertours.com/.
Finn McCools Tours: See: https://www.finnmccoolstours.com/tours-from-dublin/.
Irish Day Tours: See: https://www.irishdaytours.ie/de/.
By land or water, by public transport or by car, in the mountains or by the sea, nature or culture – there are many beautiful options for your day trip to the Dublin area.
In this article, I’ve listed some of the options and hope to help you plan your holiday.
Wherever you go, I wish you lots of fun in Ireland’s east!
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Picture credits cover picture: Fishing boats at Skerries harbour, photo by Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (www.easycruiser.tours, www.the-view-accommodation.ie, www.irland-insider.de, www.ireland-insider.com)