Any trip to Dublin is enhanced by is its proximity to some wonderful attractions, all so close to the center of the city. The city itself offers great culture, shopping, restaurants, pubs, entertainment, wonderful history and much more, all that you would expect to find in a cosmopolitan 21st century city, and yet just a short train ride along the coast brings you to a number of delightful small towns and villages with plenty to offer in terms of beautiful scenery, history and activities.
The best way to access these coastal towns and villages is on the rail system, the Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transport). It runs from Howth on the northside of the city to Greystones on the southside, along a coastal route with some magnificent views out over Dublin Bay. Trains arrive every fifteen minutes at peak times, and every thirty minutes at off-peak times.
Dun Laoghaire, one of the Victoria seaside and harbor towns along the route is a firm favorite of Dubliners who come, especially at weekends to walk the piers. The East Pier is 1,290m long, and the West Pier 1,548m long, each ending in a lighthouse. This harbor is the largest man-made harbor in western Europe, and a magnificent feat of engineering of the 19th century. It’s a pleasure to watch the activity all along the piers, from people taking exercise classes, to fishing, boating, walking, or just sitting enjoying the views, and watching the ferries coming and going in the harbor.
If walking the piers is not your thing, then there are many other attractions on offer. There are four yacht clubs on the waterfront, and a large number of water activities available, including windsurfing, diving, and sailing.
Just a short stroll from Dun Laoghaire along the coast you come to Sandycove, both places really merge into one, and for those of a literary bent, you can visit the Martello Tower where James Joyce lived for a time , and which now houses the James Joyce Museum. The collection includes letters, photographs, first and rare editions and personal possessions of Joyce as well as items associated with the Dublin of Ulysses (advanced bookings must be made). Or you can take a dip in the famous ‘Forty Foot’ bathing place, a deep sea water inlet hidden amongst rugged rock, so popular with Dubliners even in the depths of winter, and a place where James Joyce often swam, as would his famous character in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom.
Visit the George the 1V monument,this monument commemorates the building of the harbor, and the visit of George IV to Dun Laoghaire in 1821. The town was renamed in his honor ‘Kingstown’ and only returned to Dun Laoghaire after independence from England in 1922.
Another monument associated with Ireland’s past and its ties to the British Empire, is the Victoria Monument, which was erected to commemorate the disembarking of Queen Victoria in Dun Laoghaire in 1900, on one of her four visits to Ireland during her 63 year reign.
Dun Laoghaire is also home to the Maritime Museum, a theater, golf course, delightful Victorian park, cinemas and ample shopping, great restaurants, nightlife, food markets, regular antique fairs, and much more. The famous Royal marine Hotel over looking the harbor is a great place to stay for a few days, or just to enjoy a good meal.
For those who want to take to the seas, you can take a boat trip around the bay from Dun Laoghaire to Howth, an 80 minute guided adventure with Dublin Bay Cruises , taking in points of interest, the local wildlife, a history of the development of the modern city of Dublin, and a view of the coastal towns from the vantage point of the sea. You disembark at Howth and get back to Dun Laoghaire by Dart, but you can take the opportunity to explore the village of Howth, or walk the magnificent Howth head while you are there.
A further three stops along the Dart line brings you to the beautiful coastal village of Dalkey, a place that many celebrities such as Bono, and “The Edge” of U2 fame, Van Morrison and many more, have made home. Dalkey is truly a delightful place, a village that has kept all of its old charm, and has changed very little over the years, except perhaps for the building of some magnificent homes overlooking the bay. There is plenty to do in Dalkey. A visit to Dalkey Castle and Heritage Center is a must. Here you can explore the history of Dalkey and its landmarks and also take in a live theater performance.
No visit to Dalkey is complete without taking a trip out to Dalkey Island, which is situated just 300 meters off the shore. You can get a boat ride to the island from either Coliemore Harbour or Bullock Harbour. The island is uninhabited now, except for a herd of goats, but there is evidence that it was inhabited as far back as 6,000 years ago. It was also once used as a base by the Vikings. You can see the ruins of a 7th century church, and the Martello Tower built by the British in 1804 as an early warning defensive device against the one time threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. The island is a perfect spot to have a picnic, or to do some fishing.
Dalkey’s main street has a good selection of shops, restaurants, pubs, tea rooms, and one or two galleries. A walk around Dalkey Hill gives wonderful views over the whole area. After a day spent walking and exploring the village and its surroundings, why not join the locals in one of the famous pubs in the village, perhaps Finnegan’s where Michele Obama and her daughters, met Bono and his family for lunch on her recent visit to Dublin. It’s perfectly possible that you may bump into one or two celebrities as you sip your Guinness and enjoy your lunch.
A short walk from Dalkey will take you along the stunning Vico Road, with spectacular views over Killiney bay, and Killiney beach, and the lovely White rock area, where you can join the Naturist groups as they swim there every morning. You can admire the palatial, magnificent houses on the cliff over the beach.
Further along the coast you come to the seaside town of Bray, a town whose history predates the Normans. A walk along the seafront here is a pleasure. Or you could climb Bray Head and enjoy the wonderful vista all along the coast, or even better walk the coastal cliff path from Bray Head, a seven kilometer walk, to reach another lovely coastal town of Greystones. Here you will find plenty of places for refreshments, before you do the return walk, or if you feel less inclined to walk, you can take the Dart back along the coast to the destination of your choice.
However you spend your time in Dublin, a day spent on the Dart stopping at these lovely towns and villages will be very worthwhile and rewarding, and there are certainly endless accommodation options available all along coast to suit every budget.