Dublin is one of my favourite cities in Europe, and although there’s plenty to keep you entertained there, it’s also a fantastic base for exploring more of Ireland (and Northern Ireland!). If you’re short on time you might want to spend a couple of days in the city and then plan some day trips from Dublin to see other amazing sites. To help you do so, I asked my travel blogger friends to help me out with the best day trips from Dublin.
While I firmly believe most of these places deserve more than a day trip, that’s sometimes all the time you have, so this will help you decide what Dublin day trip is best for you and how you can make it happen. I’ve seen other day trip from Dublin lists that include places like the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry. In all honesty, I think these are much too far away to be done on a day trip, or at the very least, to actually do justice to! I’ve tried to keep this list to realistic places you would actually want to travel from Dublin and that would be worth it within the day.
So here goes!
Table of Contents
- 1 Wicklow Mountains & Glendalough
- 2 Game of Thrones Locations, Nothern Ireland
- 3 Blarney Castle
- 4 Cliffs of Moher
- 5 Belfast, Northern Ireland
- 6 Aran Islands
- 7 Kilkenny
- 8 Boyne Valley & Newgrange
- 9 Connemara & Galway City
- 10 Bangor, Northern Ireland
- 11 Bray Head Cliff Walk
- 12 Howth
- 13 The Grave of Arthur Guinness
- 14 Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
- 15 Cork & Cobh
- 16 Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland
Wicklow Mountains & Glendalough
By Marta from Learning Escapes
One of the most scenic and easy day trips you can take from Dublin is an excursion to the Wicklow mountains and the mystical site of Glendalough.
Located about 1 hour South of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains are an area of great natural beauty stretching parallel to the Irish coast. They are easily accessible by car or organised tour and offer a huge variety of activity options ranging from hiking trails to visits to manor houses.
My favourite way to visit this part of Ireland is to drive from Dublin to the Sally Gap and slowly make my way down to Glendalough monastic site.
The Sally Gap is one of the mountain passes in the area and one of the most scenic spots in the county. You can drive up following a narrow road and, from the top, you get sweeping views of the so-called ‘Guinness lake’, with its dark a waters and white sands, the valley below and the Irish sea.
Making your way down from it, you soon encounter probably the most famous attraction in the area, the medieval site of Glendalough. Glendalough dates back to the 6th Century and it is said to have been where St Kevin’s settled. It now has the remains of a monastic village, a cemetery and a round tower that makes it one of the most atmospheric sites in this part of the country and one I always recommend to include in your Ireland itinerary.
Game of Thrones Locations, Nothern Ireland
By Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
Dragons, swords, fire, and ice – there’s only one thing I can be referring to, Game of Thrones! Did you know that Northern Ireland is home to many of the GOT filming locations? If you take a day trip (or two) from Dublin to Nothern Ireland’s capital you can hop aboard a Game of Thrones tour hosted by an extra?
If you prefer to hit the road yourself, head to the stunning Dark Hedges (picture Ayra walking through) in County Antrim, stop off at Cushendun Caves to see where Melisandre gave birth and while you are in the area you might as well see what all the fuss is about at the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
By Priyanko from Constant Traveller
People generally visit castles to relive a bit of history while walking up its walls and ramparts. Blarney Castle is different and hence worth the effort to get to on a day trip from Dublin.
You see, people actually form a queue to get to the top of Blarney Castle. No, not because the view from the top is great, but because the castle itself has something to offer – that’s too for free – to anyone who comes to it. Be warned though – like all great things, it’s not easy to get what the Castle has to offer.
You have to surrender yourself to a minder who’s waiting for you once you reach the top of the castle. Then, you lie on your back while the minder pushes you to the edge of the castle walls. Forget your fear of heights and simply lean back while you kiss the walls of the castle. Voila, you’re done.
According to Irish legend, anyone who kisses the cold stone castle walls automatically receives the gift of the gab. Ponder where you think it worked when you’re walking through the poison garden located next to the castle walls. Or when you discover the green fields and small waterfalls that form part of the castle’s estate.
Blarney is located just outside of Cork. You can get to Cork from Dublin by train and then join a sightseeing bus that will bring you straight outside the gates. There are regular buses as well as taxis from Cork that stop at Blarney village as well or take an organised day tour from Dublin to Blarney Castle.
Cliffs of Moher
By Laurence from Finding the Universe
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most famous natural attractions. Spanning for around twenty miles along the west coast of the country, these cliffs feature vertigo-inducing vertical drops to the waters below.
At the cliffs themselves, the most popular activity is to take a hike, and you can either take a short hike near the visitor centre, which is home to some of the most impressive parts of the cliff. Alternatively, you can take a longer hike along the Cliffs of Moher walking trail, which is around 18 miles long and will take you to much quieter parts of the cliffs, away from the other visitors. Here you’ll have the chance to spot birdlife, as well as take in those spectacular coastal views.
Visiting the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin makes for a full day trip. It’s between a three and four-hour drive from Dublin, depending on route and traffic. As such, it’s worth doing this as a full day trip and seeing a number of other sights in the area, such as the Burren, a vast rocky landscape. There are also castles, old churches and plenty more to fill a whole day of adventure.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast is certainly one of those places that deserves its own trip of more than a day. However, if you’re short on time then you can still see the highlights within a day trip to Dublin from Belfast. The capital cities are about 2 hours 20 minutes from each other by train from €30 or from €13 for the bus, just over two hours by car, or you could join an organised tour to take you around the sites and give yourself some relaxation time on the way there and back.
The top sites to see on a Belfast day trip are the Titanic Experience, on the site of the shipyard where the Titanic was built, and the Belfast Peace Wall. I highly recommend taking a Black Cab Tour to take you around the city and help you to understand it a lot more. I went with Paddy Campbell’s and it’s one of the best tours I’ve ever done anywhere!
By James from Travel Collecting
The Aran Islands, three tiny rocky islands off the coast of Galway, are well worth a visit. Even the largest, Inishmore (Inis Mór in Gaelic), is small enough to see in a day. The best way to get around the Aran islands is by bicycle and you rent a bicycle on arrival to Inishmore. The barren island is covered in tiny fields separated by short rocky fences, which make for unique Irish views, but there is much more to see.
The cliffs along the southern edge of the island are dramatic and beautiful. There are puffing holes here and the Worm Hole (Poll na bPeist) is a naturally-created square in the rocks at the bottom of a cliff that is well-known for cliff diving. There are several stone churches and standing stones including the haunting ruins of the Seven Churches (na Seacht DTeampaill). You can buy a woolen sweater to keep you warm against the chill at the Kilmurvery craft village – Aran Island wool is famous throughout Ireland. There is also a seal colony on the island.
However, the star attractions are the ancient stone forts and pagan sites. Highlights include the circular rock fort Dun Eochla, the oldest of the forts Dun Duchathair, and the most famous Dun Aonghasa (Dun Angus), which consists of three concentric semi-circular walls perched dramatically on the edge of a cliff.
There are two options to visit the Inishmore as a day trip from Dublin. You can take a tour, which will include the ferry ride or even a flight, or you can rent a car and drive. Ferries to Inishmore cost 25 Euros return and leave from Rossaveal (Ros a’ Mhil), which is about 23 miles from Galway City. The drive from Dublin to Rossaveal is 245km and takes about 3 hours. The first ferry to Inishmore leaves at 10:30 am and the last ferry back is at 5:00 pm (6:30 pm in July and August). Whichever option you choose, a visit to these isolated islands will not disappoint.
By Nina from Nina Near And Far
Kilkenny County is a medieval Irish town, only a 1.5-hour drive from Dublin. There you will find an impressive castle, beautiful gardens, and medieval-style streets to explore. The town has an interesting history, as it was once the medieval capital of Ireland. The town began with a settlement in the sixth century, and grew through the addition of churches and castles to become what it is today. While it’s a cute town with an umbrella street today, Kilkenny’s history is full of stories about curses and witchcraft.
While in Kilkenny, walk the medieval mile through Kilkenny. This well-marked route will take you throughout the town, to various historical sites including castles, cathedrals, an abbey, and converted- restaurants.
Next, visit Kilkenny castle. Explore the grounds and the gardens outside, and then go inside to have a look at the rooms, halls, and art. Kilkenny Castle’s gardens are nice, but there’s an even more beautiful and expansive garden concealed just across the street, at the Butler House. These gardens can be found behind the National Design and Craft Gallery, a building that once served as the stables for Kilkenny Castle.
When you’ve had your fill of history, explore the shops and art galleries. Kilkenny is something of a crafting community, so you will find lots of beautiful handmade goods and works of art. It’s also home to a number of breweries, if you can for a drink.
Boyne Valley & Newgrange
By Elisa from World in Paris
Newgrange is a very nice day trip from Dublin, especially if you like history and archeology. When I visited Newgrange I took a direct shuttle from Dublin but I don’t think this shuttle is still working. However, there are many organised tours from Dublin to Newgrange, with transportation included.
Newgrange is an archaeological site located in Boyne Valley, 56 km South of Dublin. This is a construction from Prehistoric times, more than 5000 years ago, and it is part of a bigger site called Brú na Bóinne. This site was built by a community of farmers and they must have been very skilled and organized because the quality and perfection of the different constructions is outstanding.
Newgrange is a kind of mound with a circular chamber inside it. The circular chamber is built with giant stones perfectly aligned and you can reach it through a 19 meters long passage. The most common theory about Newgrange is that it was a funerary chamber for a very important person. However, the fact that the passage and chamber are aligned with the rising sun at the Winter Solstice could mean that it is a kind of spiritual and astrological sanctuary.
If you go to Newgrange, read the information panels at the Visitors Center first, to get the most out of your visit.
Connemara & Galway City
By Leo from Safari Nomad
The real beauty and traditional Irish culture can be seen in a region called Connemara, located in the west of Ireland. This is the area of incredibly diverse scenery with rivers and lakes, woodlands, bogland, Meadowlands, mountains and stunning coastline of sandy beaches and unpolluted water.
There you can enjoy the landscape with various outdoor activities and take your time to know interesting attractions that you will hardly forget.
One of the attractions most visited there is Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden where all the family can enjoy. Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery where you can explore restored rooms, the neo-Gothic church, and Mausoleum. Afterward, take a shuttle bus or walk about 20 minutes to Victorian Walled Garden. The Garden is divided into two parts – the formal flower garden, glass houses and vegetable garden, fruit trees and herb garden.
One hour drive away is Galway City, a place worth to visit. The city is rich in culture, art, numerous events and festivals which will give you an impression like stepping back to Medieval Ireland. This is also home to most of the pubs, live traditional music in bars. The city’s icon is the Spanish Arch, also the Cathedral and Eye Square.
Currently are no direct flights to Galway, but it is accessible from Dublin airport by bus which will take you about 2 hours and a half. If you need some further information, don’t hesitate to check this useful travel tips about Ireland.
Bangor, Northern Ireland
By Allan from Live Less Ordinary
Bangor has lately become a popular destination with old folk from Dublin, ever since the introduction of free cross-border Senior Citizen train travel, and this is partly for nostalgia’s sake where Bangor was once (in the 1950s) one of the busiest seaside destinations in all of Ireland. This is when the town would be flooded by travellers in the summertime, crossing the sea from Scotland and Northern England, before the ‘troubles’ and cheap air travel arrived.
Now Bangor is a bit low-key, where it’s not really a profitable “tour bus” destination, given the coastal town is a lot easier to reach by train via Belfast (20 mins down the line), and the main attractions in Bangor can be easily explored independently.
Its low-key tourism works as well to our advantage, where the Museums are free, the forests parks are free, and the coastal path is unobstructed and easily accessed. The main draw for the town is the seafront views, with Northern Ireland’s largest marina, the Eisenhower Pier, and Pickie Fun Park (for the kids).
But the highlight would otherwise be the North Down Coastal Path, which leads from Holywood (1 train stop out from Belfast City Airport) right up to Bangor Town Centre. Although Bangor is definitely the best starting point for this coastal walk along Northern Ireland’s ‘Gold Coast’. Found along the coastal path are many well-known local attractions such as the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Helen’s Bay Beach, Grey’s Point Fort, and Crawfordsburn Country Park. Not to forget the beaches, forest parks, and stunning scenery along the way.
To reach Bangor on a day trip from Dublin, regular trains leave from Dublin Connolly Station to Belfast, passing scenery which is an attraction in itself. Then to Bangor, it is roughly 20 mins down the line. The journey will take between 2 – 3 hours in total, so it’s best to start early, and then the latest return train from Belfast is at around 8 pm.
Bray Head Cliff Walk
By Jennifer from The SoFull Traveler
While Dublin may be a hotspot for travelers in Ireland, you’ll find about as many tourists as you will pints of Guinness (and if you haven’t been to Ireland yet, that’s a lot). Thankfully, many day trips, either on your own or with a tour guide, are available to some of Irelands best-kept spots.
If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, away from the hustle and bustle of commercialized Ireland, make your way south of Dublin to the town of Bray. Here you can find the start of the Bray Head Cliff Walk. The journey on the Bray Head Cliff Walk offers stunning coastal views of the Irish Sea on one side and the Wicklow Mountains on the other. A one-way trip takes between 2-2.5 hours to complete and ends in the charming town of Greystones where the hungry hiker can stop for lunch or a pint of beer.
You can either hike to return to Bray or take the DART (Dublin-Area-Rapid Transit) back to your home destination. The easiest way to travel from Dublin to Bray is by the DART. Tickets are usually anywhere from 3-5 Euro (1 way) and it takes about 45 minutes.
By Pamela from Travel Like a Chieff
There is so much more to explore in Ireland other than Dublin. And some of these places are closer to the city than you think! Of all the day trips from Dublin, a visit to Howth is one that we do very often. Only 45 minutes north of Dublin’s city center by car, this quaint fishing village has something for everyone. You can also get there by DART, Dublin’s electrical rail system, which only takes 30 minutes. If ground transportation is not your thing and you want to take a more scenic route, you can hop on the Dublin Bay Cruise which departs from Dun Laoghaire.
Howth is known as one of Ireland’s best coastal walks because of it’s beautiful scenery. I recommend working up an appetite by hiking the Howth Cliff Path Loop Walk. There are several loops to choose from which span from 6 to 10 km and take anywhere between 2-3 hours to complete. If hiking sounds too exhausting, you can sit by the sea while you savour a takeaway of fish and chips from Beshoffs Bros.
For those who desire a sit-down meal, you can opt for Aqua or for a more casual option Beshoff The Market. Both serve delicious fish and chips, but Aqua has a gorgeous view of the sea. Make sure to leave room for dessert! Howth Market is only open on weekends from 9 am to 6 pm, and here you’ll find the best churros in Ireland. My husband begs me to make the drive almost every weekend just for the churros! I hope Howth makes it on your list of day trips from Dublin, I promise it’s worth it.
The Grave of Arthur Guinness
Arthur Guinness the famed founder of Guinness was born in County Kildare and it is also the location where he chose to be buried. As many visitors to Ireland will know, visiting a graveyard will almost certainly be part of your trip, but it depends where you choose to go.
As the famed storehouse is many peoples number one destination visitors tend to forget about the man himself. But as a local of Kildare, I can tell you a visit to his gravesite is definitely worth a day trip from Dublin.
The gravesite is in an area known as Oughterard near Celbridge. Having a rental car would be your easiest option but as this may not be feasible, then a bus to Celbridge and a taxi from there to the gravesite would be the best option.
The number 67 bus from James gate in Dublin is the most convenient and regular option. The journey should take in the region of 50 minutes. Most local taxis will know the area, so this should make the journey a little easier.
You will find the graveyard is set amongst a beautiful farming backdrop and there is also the ruins of an old abbey and a round tower on the grounds of the graveyard. Not the most typical of trips and one you surely won’t forget.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Although a day trip to Giant’s Causeway from Dublin is much more accessible from Belfast it’s still possible and a popular trip for those who are short on time, but who want a taste of some of the best of Northern Ireland’s scenery.
Giant’s Causeway is an area where an ancient volcanic eruption took place, leaving thousands of basalt columns. They look like something that would have been created by man rather than nature!
The National Trust maintains all the paths there that are accessible through a public right of way, but take some time to go to the Visitor Centre and learn more about the area, and even take a guided tour.
Cork & Cobh
Cork is often seen as a great base for exploring other areas of southern Ireland, but it’s also a fantastic day trip destination in its own right. With a great food scene, thanks to the nearby coast and surrounding farmlands, it’s worth visiting the cafes, restaurants, and pubs alone! There’s also the Cork City Gaol, English Market, and St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
Close to Cork is the small town of Cobh (pronounced Cove). It was the last place the Titanic docked before heading across the Atlantic on its fateful journey. You can take a Titanic Trail tour to learn more, or visit the colourful “Deck of Cards” houses.
Visiting Cork and Cobh on a day trip from Dublin may be included on a Blarney Stone tour, or add them in yourself if you’re driving.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland
You may have seen pictures of this bridge that crossed high above the Atlantic when looking at things to do in Northern Ireland. It connects the mainland to a small island called Carrickarede, and bridges are thought to have spanned the 20-metre gap for some than 350 years, although not all were as sturdy as the current one!
The site does become very busy with organised tours and road trippers keen to check it out. Given its distance from Dublin, you’re more likely to also include it as part of a wider day trip. The bridge is also managed by the National Trust, and it’s possible to pay a small fee to cross it for yourself if you dare.
Technically there are more than 16 awesome places to visit from Dublin listed here, but some of them could also be ticked off on the same day trip! So where would you choose?
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