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There’s nothing better than living in a cool city surrounded by beautiful and interesting places. You can enjoy the dynamic urban lifestyle, yet take a break from it whenever you feel the need for peace and silence. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many day trip opportunities from Bucharest, my current home city. I usually plan two or even three-day getaways, if not longer. During my last year’s visit to Ireland, I’ve been impressed with the countless opportunities of day trips from Dublin. Dubliners are fortunate. They’ve got so many beautiful places to go for a half day hike or for a full day adventure!
On my way back from Killarney, I only had four days to visit both Dublin and the surroundings. How many places can you see in four days? If you have more time than I did, you may want to take a look at this gay Dublin travel guide. It might give you some really cool ideas of what to do in Dublin. Nonetheless, here’s my list of the best day trips from Dublin, whether I’ve done them or I’ve added them to my travel bucket list for 2020.
- 1. Malahide Castle & Gardens
- 2. Howth – The Harbor, the Cliff Walk & the Vintage Radio Museum
- 3. Cliffs of Moher
- 4. Giant’s Causeway
- 5. Blarney Castle and Cork Day Trip from Dublin
- 6. Kilkenny City and Glendalough Day Trip from Dublin
- 7. Belfast Day Trip from Dublin
1. Malahide Castle & Gardens
Malahide is a village located at about 10km from Dublin Airport. Getting to Malahide Castle from Dublin is a matter of 30-45 minutes. You can take the DART rail or the Dublin Bus no 42. If you want to get there straight from the airport, you need to take bus no 102. Apparently, you can take a taxi to get from Dublin to Malahide, but I haven’t considered it. Bus no 42 was perfect for me; it wasn’t crowded, and the journey took about 45 minutes. Later I found out that I could have taken a boat, as well.
If you prefer, you can visit Malahide on a half-day organized tour like this one, here.
The biggest advantage of taking a tour rather than going by yourself is that you’ll skip the line at the castle. Depending on the season, this could save you between 30 minutes and one hour. I’ve visited Malahide Castle in October and I only had to wait for about 20 minutes. However, I imagine it gets busy during summer, so make sure you check the opportunity to buy your tickets in advance.
The Malahide Park – Well Worth a Day Trip from Dublin in Itself
As you get off the bus, you arrive to the gates of Malahide Gardens. This is the entrance to a huge park surrounded by a forest. Take the path through the forest, and you’ll reach an immense clearing. This is the paradise of dogs and walkers, a place where I’d love to spend most of my weekends. As you follow the path, you’ll see Malahide Castle from a distance.
The walk through the forest and the gardens won’t cost you anything, as the access is free. The area is so big, that you don’t feel the pressure of crowds as you do in other places. You can take your time and relax, as nobody urges you to move faster. Such surroundings make Dublin a city I’d like to live in during my elderly years.
The Castle – History Lessons that Will Make You Shed a Tear
There’s no need to visit the castle to spend a lovely weekend day here. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to take a look inside, as I had a lot of time in my hands and no dog to walk. The ticket costs 12 Euro. Here’s what you get to see for the price:
- Castle History Museum (lots of items displayed in the room at the ground floor)
- Castle Tour (a nice guide will walk you through the entire castle)
- Botanic Garden Interpretive Centre (this is a room full of billboards that explain things about the various plant species and about the plant collecting passion of the 7th Lord Talbot of Malahide.
- Secret Walled Garden
- West Lawn Gardens
Malahide Castle is very beautiful on the outside, and the interior isn’t less spectacular. The best part of the visit is the Castle Tour. History can be amazing at times. You’ll find out how the Talbot family (the owners of the castle) used to bring their animals inside for the night, allowing them to sleep on the ground floor level of the castle.The castle had no central heating, but it was definitely warmer than the outside.
You’ll also see cool details that will blow your mind. All bedroom doors had a tiny hole which allowed a threat to pass through. This thread was attached to a bell, and its end was hanging above the bed. Whenever someone woke up, pulled the string to let the servants know they have to come upstairs with heated clothing to help the person get out of the bed. I didn’t want to ask how the poor servants were able to get out of their beds, but I felt sorry for the ones that woke up the first in that castle.
If you already feel sorry for the servants, you’ll have a chance to feel sorry for the Talbots as well. Oliver Cromwell decided he wanted a safe place, away from Dublin and the plague epidemics, so he kicked the owners off, and came to live here. The Talbot family got their property back only after the demise of Cromwell. You can read more of this history here.
The Gardens – Beautiful Creation of a Passionate Botanist
Although the free section of the garden is pretty impressive, the ones you get access by buying the ticket are well worth it. You’ll see huge trees, beautiful flowers, neat lawns, and a greenhouse with exotic plants and butterflies. Beware though, there’s a crazy humidity level inside the greenhouse. You’ll feel as if you were taking a steam bath with all your winter clothes on you. Take your photos fast, because your camera lens will soon become foggy. Make sure you don’t step on fallen butterflies.
2. Howth – The Harbor, the Cliff Walk & the Vintage Radio Museum
Getting to Howth from Dublin is as easy as getting to Malahide. You can take the DART train from Connoly Station. There are trains every 15 minutes or so. Make sure you jump on the Howth train, and not on the Malahide one. The direction is the same, but the stops are different. If you prefer the bus, you have several options. Just check out the Dublin transport map.
Alternatively, you can book an organized half-day tour. Check out this one at the price of today, Tuesday, November 19th 2019. You’ll do most of what I describe below. You’ll benefit from a knowledgeable guide who’s going to tell you interesting things about Howth. Make sure to wear proper hiking shoes and you are in good health and able to hike, because this tour includes the Howth cliff walk.
I went to Howth by train, but returned by bus, and I enjoyed both. In fact, I appreciated a lot the public transport in Dublin, and across the entire Ireland for that matter. Bus drivers are polite and helpful, signs are easy to understand, tickets are easy to buy, and everything appears to be designed to make travelers feel at ease.
Speaking of train and bus tickets, I highly recommend getting a Leap Visitor Card. It grants you unlimited travel over your selected period of time, and it includes all Dublin buses, the Luau (Dublin trams) and the DART in the Short Hop Zone (which includes these day trips from Dublin).
The Howth Harbour – A Glimpse into the Past
The harbor of Howth is a beautiful mix of vintage houses and old boats, smelling like fish, sea and sweaty sailors. Thousands of seagulls beg for food, tiny birds try to steal crumbles off the wooden tables while tourists and workers do their things. As you walk by the pier, you may see an old guy offering you a boat tour. For 15 Euro, he’ll take you on a tour around the small, rocky island full of birds. This is a good photo opportunity, provided that you get there on a sunny day. I’ve done my best to shoot those birds, but the light wasn’t friendly with my camera. I enjoyed the tour. However, if you are on a budget, you can skip it with no regrets. For less than 15 euro, you can have some fish and chips to savor under the eyes of beggar seagulls.
The Cliff Walk – Fabulous Scenery, Good Exercise, Fresh Air
I’ve chosen Howth as one of my day trips from Dublin for its cliff walk. I had seen this trail on a map, but I didn’t know anything about it. I only hoped I’d get there and I’d be allowed to walk around the peninsula and to take photos. Over the past year, I’ve discovered a strong passion for photography which I’m currently pursuing.
This scenic walk appeared to be the perfect place to test my newly acquired photography skills. It was a great choice. The walk isn’t steep, the trails are clear and well marked, but the terrain is rather rocky. It’s best to wear low rise hiking boots, but you can be fine wearing tennis shoes, as well. The trail is suitable for children, but not for wheelchairs or trolleys.
The walk is very safe and it takes about two hours. You’ll stop many times on the way to enjoy the breathtaking views of the coves and rocks. If you’re lucky, you can see dolphins and sea lions. I didn’t, but the views were gorgeous anyway. Seeing that it is so close to Dublin, the Howth Cliff Walk can be the perfect spot for a refreshing Saturday morning workout. I’d trade the treadmill at the gym for this walk any given time.
Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio – Lovely Childhood Memories
Located in the Martello Tower overlooking the harbor, Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio is a must-see for technology enthusiasts and not only. This museum hosts the collection of vintage radios, gramophones and other old stuff belonging to Pat Herbert. This guy has gathered an impressive amount of stuff, which is all displayed in this museum. Small on the outside, the museum of vintage radio can easily eat up two hours of your life. When you first step inside it, you may think you’d only take about five minutes to see it all. However, as you start looking at the items on the shelves, you can easily spend hours without even realizing it. You’ll see the device Marconi has invented, but also your grandmother’s radio. If you are in your 50s, you’ll recall some toys and radios from your childhood. There’s even an alarm that was used during the war to send warnings about enemies approaching. The nice lady welcoming the visitors you will let you try this alarm, as well as the electric arc generating machine.
If you travel with kids, take them to this museum. They are going to love it. The museum is opened daily from 11am to 4pm (May to October). From November to April, you can visit it only during weekends. Here’s their website, check it again before you get there. The Martello Tower isn’t visible from the harbor. As you start climbing towards the starting point of the cliff walk, by the time you reach the last houses of Howth, you’ll see a narrow path climbing to the top of the hill, to your right. That’s the way to the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio.
3. Cliffs of Moher
There are many full day tours from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher. Although driving may be nicer, if you don’t dare to do it in Ireland, you should explore the opportunity of joining an organized tour. Here are a few interesting ones:
a. Full-day tour from Dublin to Cliffs of Moher, Burren and Galway
This tour starts very early in the morning and it doesn’t include pick up from your hotel. You’ll need to show up at the meeting point by 6:45, the latest.
You’ll visit Galway and the SF landscape at Burren, as well as the ruins of Kilmacduagh Monastery. You can read reviews or book this tour here.
4. Giant’s Causeway
5. Blarney Castle and Cork Day Trip from Dublin
6. Kilkenny City and Glendalough Day Trip from Dublin
7. Belfast Day Trip from Dublin
I’ve written about the first two day trips from Dublin from my own experience. The other five are on my to do list for my next trip to Dublin. I’m currently planning a road trip across Ireland, so I hope to come back with lots of beautiful photos.
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