Ireland is the land of ‘Saints and Scholars’ and to get a better feel for the green fields and scholarly aspects, tourists should try to get out of Dublin city if only for a while. For anybody visiting Dublin for 3 days or more I would recommend that you head out to one of the sights outside the city for a day. Below I have listed my 5 things to do around Dublin which are within 1hrs drive from Dublin city centre and some only 30minutes away. This list is outside the city and is different to the 5 things to do ‘in’ Dublin which I wrote about here. I’ll put what I think is the best first and work down from there
Time to Do: If you had a car it would take 3 days to to the 5 sites but if you are using public transport it would take 4 if not 5 days.
5 Things to do Around Dublin – Newgrange, Co.Meath
I think this world heritage site is one of Ireland’s greatest places. This circular passage tomb was built over 5000years ago (almost 600yrs older than the pyramids and 1000yrs older than Stonehenge) and is a wonder how people that long ago were able to build such a structure. The large circular structure is 12mtrs high and consists of over 50 kerbstones, the heaviest of which weighs over 10tonnes and was brought from 25km away. The most fascinating aspect is that there is a narrow passage way into the middle of the tomb of which the sunlight shines directly to the end of the passage only during the winter solstice. How people 5000years ago people were able to work this out with rocks weighing several tonnes is astonishing. At the end of the narrow chamber is graffiti. You may think this is a disgrace except it is all from the English in the 18th and 19th century so is history in itself!
To access Newgrange you must go to the visitor centre at ‘Bru na Boinne’ which is between Slane and Drogheda, west of the M1 motorway. It is 56km from Dublin city centre. There are several other similar tombs/temples in the area such as Knowth and Dowth in the Boyne Valley. Once at the centre there are shuttle buses that bring you the few minutes to whichever site you paid for. You cannot drive to the historical sites. The opening times vary a little but from Oct-Apr 09:00-17:00 and May-Sept 09:00-18:30. Admission: Centre and Newgrange €6 (2hrs), Centre, Knowth and Newgrange €11 (3hrs). www.newgrange.com. There are no public transport routes to Newgrange but Mary Gibbons Tours provides a bus to and from Dublin for €35 including entrance to site. http://newgrangetours.com
Only 11km further north of Newgrange is Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice which are great historical sites if you have your own transport. Mellifont Abbey was built in the 12th century for the Cistercian Monks which housed the centre of Irish learning and also housed William of Orange (King William III of England) in the 17th century. Now only the ruins remain. Monasterboice is the historic ruins of an early Christian settlement founded in the 5th century and was the hub of Irish learning until Mellifont Abbey opened. Today it is famous for its round tower and 10th century Celtic high crosses which can be over 5mtrs (15ft) high.
5 Things to do Around Dublin – Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
This monastic settlement is beautifully situated in the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin. The site founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century is as tranquil now as it was then. These religious settlements still stand today and include a 30mtr round tower, St. Mary’s church as well as many crosses and other stone buildings. The name Glendalough comes from the ribbon lakes lying in the valley created by glaciers which are great places for trails and walks including the Wicklow Way. The village of Laragh right beside Glendalough also contains many historic sites from the 11th and 12th centuries. The visitors centre in Glendalough is beside the ruins and provides a historic background as well as maps of the area. www.glendalough.ie
Glendalough is beside the village of Laragh 49km south of Dublin city centre in the Wicklow Mountains. Getting to Glendalough is easy if you have a car by going west to Laragh at Newtown Mount Kennedy or at Ashford when going south on the M11. There is no public transport to Glendalough but St .Kevin’s tours (www.glendaloughbus.com) have a bus for €20 return from Dawson Street in Dublin at 11:30am each day.
5 Things to do Around Dublin – Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow
This 47acre estate south of Dublin city has history, walks, waterfalls and gardens all to be admired. The huge house which dates from 1741 contains 68 bedrooms in case they were stuck for some accommodation when their cousins were over! The house was restored after a fire and can be enjoyed today although not as glorious as it once was. The gardens in front of the house are dated from the 18th and 19th centuries and are a great place to relax between the trees and flower gardens. The highest waterfall in Ireland is located in the Powerscourt Estate but is 5km from the house. It is 121mtrs high and is a perfect place to go for walks between the beech trees or have a picnic.
Powerscourt Estate is 25km from Dublin city centre and is beside the village of Enniskerry. The 185 and 44 bus (www.dublinbus.ie) goes to Enniskerry and you can then walk to the estate. The DART train will bring you as far as Bray town. The Powerscourt Gardens are open from 9:30-17:30 daily. Admission €8.50. Waterfall is open Nov-Feb 10:30-16:00, May-Aug 09:30-19:00, Feb,Mar,Sep,Oct 10:30-17:30. Admission €5.50. www.powerscourt.ie
5 Things to do Around Dublin – Hill of Tara, Co. Meath
This ancient site north of Dublin was the seat of the High King of Ireland and the spiritual and political capital of Ireland for over 2000 years. Scholars differ as to the sites true purpose but they are sure it was a sacred site and used for important rituals by the Celts. The site dates back to before Christianity to about 2500 BC and although no buildings exist there now there are still large earthworks and forts outlines visible. Within Tara there are several earthworks such as a mound with a chamber where hostages were kept, the Kings Fort among others as well as the ‘stone of destiny’ where the kings were coronated. The power and mysticism of this site is still visible in Ireland today with many people continuing to go there for both the winter and summer solstice as it brings home the connection with mother nature and a sense of peace. The ruins are all outdoors so make sure to come prepared for any weather as Ireland is the land of ‘four seasons in one day’.
The Hill of Tara is 43km north west of Dublin city centre just west of the M3 motorway at Skryne, exiting the motorway at junction 7 and it is only 5min south on the R147. By bus it is possible to get the BusEireann 109 bus to Navan which can be got from Busaras (main bus station) in Dublin city centre. This bus will leave you on the R147 north of Dunshaughlin and it is a 10min walk from there. Just make sure to say it to the bus driver. The timetable is here. Mary Gibbon also does private tours http://newgrangetours.com for €35 return. Access to the site is all year round with guided tours being given from May-Sept 10:00-18:00. Admission €3. http://hilloftara.org
5 Things to do Around Dublin – Howth Head, Co. Dublin
This is the easiest of all 5 to do and get to. This coastal walk in north County Dublin gives superb views of the Mourne Mountains to the north, the city and Wicklow Mountains to the south and the islands in Dublin Bay to the east. The walk starts in the beautiful fishing village of Howth looking out on the coast littered with yachts. Howth also has historical towers in the centre such as the Martello Tower and the lighthouse further out. The walk is full of birdlife such as gannets and guillemots and maybe you might see grey seals off shore if you’re lucky. The walk is easy and breezy but if you have kids just be careful around the cliffs.
The walk is around 7.5km depending on your route and starts at a car park just to the east of Howth village. You have the choice of the Upper or Lower Cliff Walks or can do both to end where you started. Alternatively you can continue to venture south passing Baily Lighthouse which gives great views of Dublin city on a clear day and leads you back to Sutton which is perfect if you are getting the DART train. From Howth village around by the south coast to Sutton train station is 11km (~2.5hrs). In my opinion the Lower Cliff Walks might be better on a good day as it is closer to the cliffs but the path is also narrower.
By car Howth is 16km from Dublin city centre by following the North Strand Road (R105)out of the city centre and taking a right onto the Clontarf Road (R807) after Fairgreen Park after 3km. Follow this road for approx 11km until you see signs for Howth. By train, take the DART in any of the city centre train stations and this will bring you to Howth or Sutton.
Practicalities – About Dublin
- €1 =€1, USD$1=€0.77
- Language = English
- Flights- www.aerlingus.com , www.ryanair.com(budget), www.ba.com but most European airlines have flights to Dublin or Cork
- Bus Eireann (www.buseireann.ie), Kavanagh buses (jjkavanagh.ie) are the nationwide bus companies that serves other towns and cities across Ireland. Their main bases are in busaras on Store Street in the city centre for Bus Eireann and for Kavanaghs.
- www.dublinbus.ie has an extensive route around the city the fork out from the city centre. Will always be running but not exactly at the time they tell you.
- www.luas.ie. A very slick light rail system through the streets of Dublin. There are 2 lines (red and green) with one going from west of the city centre through O’Connell Street to West Dublin and the other going from Stephens Green southwards. This service is always on time.
- www.dart.ie (brings you to the irishrail site)The DART is a rail service goes along by the coast from north County Dublin through the city centre at Pearse Street and Tara Street and heads southwards to Greystones in Co. Wicklow with plenty of stops on the way
- www.irishrail.ie: This train service goes from Heuston Station or Connelly Station to the rest of Ireland
- Accommodation – €50 per night for an average double room in the city
- Population – 1.27million
5 Things to do Around Dublin – Map of Dublin and Surroundings
Newgrange, Meath, Ireland
Mellifont Abbey, Louth, Ireland
Monasterboice Round Tower, Louth, Ireland
Glendalough, Wicklow, Ireland
Powerscourt Estate, Ireland
|Hill of Tara|
Hill of Tara, Meath, Ireland