The Irish capital most certainly boasts plenty to keep your dance card full, but we recommend getting out of the city for a day (or two) to explore the majestic Emerald Isle. Here are ten ideas for a day trip from Dublin.
Mythical Ireland warrants a deep dive–especially a road trip. Yet, for some driving on “the other side of the road” can be intimidating, and sometimes, it’s just comfy to set up shop in one place set out to explore via other means such as the train or an organized tour.
Dublin has plenty to see and do, and makes a nifty home base for setting out to explore the Emerald Isle. Just 171 miles at its widest and 302 miles at its longest, don’t let these seemingly small dimensions fool you–Ireland has plenty of ground to cover.
Here are ten ideas for a day trip from Dublin.
1. A taste of the seaside
To get a feel for the fabled Irish countryside without spending too much time in transit, head to Howth, a quaint fishing village. Just a mere 40 minutes from Dublin, this rural land shows evidence of prehistory, the medieval ages, the 18th century, and just about every era in between. See Sugarloaf Mountain, Yeats’ childhood home, Howth Castle, and more, and savor a delightful sea-to-table lunch. You can also opt for a Howth sojourn that includes a visit to Malahide Castle.
2. Kiss the Blarney Stone
If you feel like you could use some divine intervention when it comes to the gift of gab, head south to Blarney Castle in County Cork where planting a smackeroo on the Blarney Stone bequeaths the gift of eloquence upon the smoocher. However, this seemingly simple deed is no small feat: climb to the parapet, lie down, bend over backward limbo-style, and pucker up–don’t worry, the staff on hand will assist you through the process (and make sure you don’t fall!).
3. Explore the Wicklow Mountains
A majestic National Park, the boggy and wooded Wicklow Mountains are cloaked with a fairy-tale like aura of mystery. Admire the landscapes juxtaposed by the occasional glacial lake–in fact, you might even recognize some scenery from the silver screen. No, not “Game of Thrones” (that’s TV, and I ’ll get to that!), but from films like “P.S. I Love You” and “Braveheart”.
4. Stroll the Cliffs of Moher
Located on Ireland’s West Coast, the iconic Cliffs of Moher are easily recognizable from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (where Dumbledore and Harry uncover what is ultimately a non-horcrux) and “The Princess Bride” (the Cliffs of Insanity). Make a day out of this geological wonder and stop in Limerick and Doolin, and even visit Dunguaire Castle.
5. Newgrange and the Hill of Tara
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Newgrange is a Neolithic burial ground that predates the pyramids! On the way, stop at the Hill of Tara, an ancient seat of power once inhabited by 142 kings. On the way back to Dublin, make a quick stop in the said town of Howth.
6. In the hills of Connemara
You have to see Connemara to believe Connemara: undulating, rugged, dramatic, boggy, agleam, ethereal. This west coast region boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes not only in Ireland but the world. See Kylemore Abbey, take a boat ride on a fjord, and Galway city before you head back to Dublin.
7. The Celtic Boyne Valley
Located in County Meath, the Boyne Valley is one of the most historically significant places in Ireland. Visit the said Hill of Tara, see ancient ruins such as Loughcrew Cairns, Trim Castle, the Hill of Uisneacht, the point where the five provinces met and therefore one of the country’s most spiritual places, and more. A must for history buffs!
8. Follow in the footsteps of Finn McCool
Once upon a time, a giant named Finn McCool built a bridge to reach Scotland so he could settle some beef he had with Benandonner, a Scottish giant. When he gets there, he has second thoughts and immediately returns to Ireland. Yet Benandonner followed him. So Finn’s wife cleverly disguised her husband as a baby, and when Benandonner saw how large the baby was, he couldn’t fathom the size of the father so he returned to Scotland, and destroyed the causeway along the way.
That’s the legend behind the Giant’s Causeway, comprised of 50 million-year-old hexagon-shaped basalt rock formations found on this nook of the Antrim Coast (and also in Scotland). Hike one of the trails surrounding this UNESCO World Heritage site. By the way, the Antrim Coast is “Game of Thrones” territory. Most visits to the Causeway include a stop at the nearby Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge AKA where Balon Greyjob was thrown to his death by his insufferable brother Euron. Couple the visit with some free time in Belfast.
9. “Game of Thrones” goodness
It’s no secret that Northern Ireland, Belfast in particular, is practically synonymous with “Game of Thrones”. Dublin is within relatively close proximity to some of the top shooting locations, so head to the North! See Ballintoy Harbour (where Theon returned to the Iron Islands), the intertwined beech trees known as the Dark Hedges (part of The King’s Road), and more.
10. Make a day out of Belfast
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland is easily reachable by train, and the bustling city is worth an entire day or, if you feel like packing a bag, a night or two. The Titanic Belfast Experience is an extraordinary attraction on the site where the Titanic was built, familiarize yourself with the all to recent time of the Troubles and even sign the Peace Wall in West Belfast, and just enjoy the city vibes. By the way, “Game of Thrones” die-hards can take their pick from even more themed tours.