There are loads of things to see and do in Dublin, but while you’re staying here, you’ll also have many options for some fabulous day trips. If you’re having trouble deciding how to spend your time in Dublin, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
What are the best destinations for a day trip just outside of Dublin?
The best places around Dublin for a quick day trip include:
- Glendalough, Wicklow National Park
- Sally Gap and the Hike from Lough Tay to Lough Dan
- Brittas Bay
- Powerscourt House and Gardens
- The Titanic Museum, Belfast
These are some of the best trips from Dublin, all of which can be enjoyed within a 90-minute drive and often much less.
Glendalough, Wicklow National Park
“Valley of the Two Lakes,” as it translates to, offers spectacular natural beauty and rich ancient heritage, located just an hour’s drive from Dublin.
Not only can you enjoy sparkling bodies of water and scenic hiking trails but explore a monastic settlement founded here in the 6th century. It was once a thriving city with a cathedral, homes, churches, and other buildings as one of the greatest ecclesiastical centers in the country. The main entrance is through the Gateway, built using intricately cut stones, while the primary structure is the round tower that’s almost entirely unique to Ireland.
Sally Gap and the Hike from Lough Tay to Lough Dan
Some of the most beautiful scenery near Dublin can be found just 40 minutes from the city in the Wicklow Mountains.
The area known as Sally Gap has been featured in many television shows and movies, from 2007’s “P.S. I Love You” with Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank to the History Channel’s “Vikings” series.
In fact, Lough Tay, also known as Guinness Lake, which is featured in “Vikings,” is where the village of Kattegat once was. The Luggala Mountains around the shoreline look rather Scandinavian, providing an ideal backdrop.
Those who are up for a hike can take the trek between Lough Tay and Lough Dan. Seven miles round-trip, you can pick up a map in the greeting area for directions to Pier Gate. You’ll descend the trail after walking through, enjoying views of the mountains and a stream that runs between the lakes. Keep an eye out for deer, as they’re plentiful here.
Less than an hour north of Dublin, Newgrange is a 5,200-year-old passage tomb in the Boyne Valley. Built by Stone Age farmers, it’s older than Stonehenge, with the chamber and passage aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice and mornings around it. It’s surrounded by 97 large stones, some of which are engraved with megalithic art. The most impressive sits right at the entrance.
Learn more about it at the Bru na Boinne visitor center and then take a guided tour where you’ll be able to step inside and experience a re-creation of what visitors get to see on the winter solstice, something that requires winning a “lottery” to attend.
Howth is a fishing village about 30 minutes from the city center of Dublin. Here you can walk the pier for a fabulous of the island of Ireland’s Eye. It’s also possible to walk Bog of Frogs Loop for a picturesque view of a lighthouse and enjoy a long, sandy beach.
You can also visit the James Joyce Tower and Museum, which displays some of the Irish writer’s possessions and other items. Joyce stayed in the tower for six days, and you’ll see a living space designed as it was in 1904.
There are many great seafood restaurants and a fish market in Howth as well, with King Sitric made famous after the late chef/author Anthony Bourdain called it one of his world favorites.
Less than 30 minutes north of Dublin along the coast, the town of Malahide boasts pretty streets lined with shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants.
Visitors can also enjoy the Velvet Strand, a stretch of beach along the Irish Sea, ideal on a sunny day when many locals come out to enjoy a variety of water sports.
But Malahide Castle and Gardens is the top draw. The castle was built as a fortress and private residence, inhabited for nearly 800 years. A tour will bring you into its fascinating past, which includes many reports of hauntings.
There are said to be at least five ghosts still hanging around, including a 16th-century caretaker named Puck – some have seen his shadow as he ascends the stairs.
The castle sits on 260 acres of parkland, which includes the gardens and Butterfly House. Enjoy walking the fairy trail with sculptures and fairy houses, picnicking, and discovering some 5,00 different plant varieties from around the world.
If you want to spend a day at the beach, Blue Flag recipient Brittas Bay is one of the most beautiful on the east coast of Ireland, with over three miles of sand dunes edging calm blue waters ideal for swimming during the warmer months.
Less than an hour from Dublin, it’s home to unique habitats with rich bird and plant populations There are whitethroats and chiffchaff warblers that nest among dense thickets, and you might even spot a red fox burrowing in the sand. Be sure to look for the vibrant pink pyramidal orchids that grow in the dunes.
Powerscourt House and Gardens
This spectacular estate in Enniskerry, about 40 minutes from Dublin, includes a grand house and landscaped gardens covering about 47 acres. The house was originally a 13th-century castle and today it includes a range of craft shops focused on Irish design as well as a café serving Irish home-cooked dishes.
The grounds are what most come to see, created in the 18th century. It’s a sublime mix of lush, green parkland, ponds, waterfalls, sculptures, and lakes, complete with secret hollows that would make for the perfect fairy home.
Named among the world’s best gardens by National Geographic, highlights include the Italian Garden, Japanese Gardens, and Walled Gardens. The formal landscapes and cascading terraces were planned with carefully designed winding paths to frame the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
About a 90-minute drive south-east of Dublin, Kilkenny is one of the country’s most magnificent cities. It includes a high concentration of historic sites in a small area in the heart of the city center, although it’s best known for Kilkenny Castle. The star of the show, it dominates the city skyline and overlooks the River Nore.
Originally built in the late 12th century, over the years, it’s seen many alterations and additions, resulting in the remarkable structure that stands out so dramatically in the medieval city of Kilkenny today. Public tours are available, which include family portraits in the Long Gallery of the Butler Dynasty, who lived here from 1391 through 1935.
The 1225 AD Black Abbey is also worth a visit for its gorgeous stained-glass windows and it’s enjoyable just to walk the maze of cobbled streets.
An artsy city, you’ll find plenty to explore among the centuries-old buildings.
Be sure to pop into Kyteler’s Inn, which dates back to 1224. Today it’s a popular bar that includes the original structure with arches and vaulted ceilings. Live bands are frequently hosted here, every night between March and October.
The Titanic Museum, Belfast
Belfast is a bit farther than the other destinations but very doable as a day trip, about an hour and 40 minutes from Dublin. The top attraction is the Titanic Museum, which features an incredible array of artifacts from the infamous ship that sank in 1912. Rooms and clothing the passengers wore have been recreated, and there are virtual reality rooms, multi-media displays, and a room where you can look through the floor to learn about underwater salvaging that’s being done today as well.
Cliffs of Moher
As the most popular day trip from Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher is not to be missed. These dramatic 390-foot cliffs snake along the Atlantic Coast, starting in Hag’s Head and traveling north up to Doolin.
While you can enjoy the views from almost anywhere along the way, a stroll along the 11-mile Cliff Walk will allow you to see the rugged rocks up close and personal.
The trail passes by the visitor center, which features an interactive exhibit about the history and geology of the cliffs. Continue your walk to O’Brien’s Tower, the highest point on the coast.
From here, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean and the nearby Aran Islands. Getting to the Cliffs of Moher is easiest with a car (3.5 hour drive), although it can also be done with a combination of trains and buses.
Rock of Cashel
This medieval complex of 12th-century buildings is a great day trip for architecture and history lovers alike. There are numerous sites to see during your visit, including the Romanesque Chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, the Gothic Cathedral, and a 90-foot round tower.
The Rock of Cashel is particularly important to Ireland as it was home to the seat of the Kings of Munster, who rules during the Iron and Middle Ages. By car, you can reach the complex in just two hours from Dublin.
Located just over an hour south of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains is major attraction thanks to its jaw-dropping scenery.
Hop in the car and head down the Military Road, which runs past Liffey Head Bog, the Sallly Gap, and the Glenmacnass waterfall. It’s a twisty drive full of hairpin turns but the views and sights along the way make it worth the effot.
Another big highlight is Glendalough, a picturesque valley with numerous trails for hikers. Keep an eye out for the wildlife here. Feral goats, sika deer, and red squirrles are just a few creatures roaming through the valley.
Although it makes for a long journey (~3 hour drive), visiting Blarney Castle is a must for many visitors in Ireland. The castle houses the Stone of Eloquence, which you may know by its more common name, the Blarney Stone.
Visitors who hang upside down to kiss the stone are believed to receive the gift of eloquence. But even if you don’t believe in the magic, it’s still a tradition nonetheless!
At over 600 years old, many parts of the castle are now in ruins. However, you can still wander through the rooms to see the Murder Hole (a torture chamber) and the Dungeon. The surrounding gardens are also noteworthy and full of flowers, trees, and even carnivorous and poisonous plants.
This picturesque estate 35 minutes from Dublin is 47 acres of nature and beauty. From floral Italian gardens to sparkling lakes and ponds, Powerscourt is a tranquil destination for those who want to spend time outdoors.
In addition to strolling through the gardens, you can also visit the manor house. This building has been converted into a handicraft shopping center, where you can buy locally made clothing, furniture, and souvenirs.
There’s also a whiskey distillery and golf course on the property as well. So, stop by and see why Powercourt was voted in the top 3 of the World’s Top Ten Gardens by National Geographic.
This colorful city on Ireland’s west coast has a lot to explore. There are a couple of historic sites (the Spanish Arch, the Galway Cathedral, St. Nicholas’ Church), although Galway is best suited for those interested in city life.
You can wander down the cobbled streets, people watch in Eyre Square, or grab a pint at one of the many pubs in town.
To learn more about the city, head into the Galway City Museum. This modern glass building is hard to miss amongst the century-old houses. Inside, you’ll find an eclectic collection of objects found and donated by Galway locals. Although Galway is 2.5 hours away from Dublin, there’s a fast intercity train that makes traveling between the two destinations a breeze.
While many people make Dublin the focal point of their Ireland trip, there’s something breathtakingly beautiful about being in the countryside. Getting outside of the city will allow you to immerse yourself more in Irish culture.
Soak in the fresh salty air of the coast. Stroll through the peaceful gardens next to the century-old castles.
Chat with locals over a pint. These day trips may not be as action-packed as staying in the city, but they’re guaranteed to create memorable moments that you’ll have for a lifetime.