Dublin has certain “must-sees”, like Temple Bar, Guinness Storehouse, the Spire, Old Jameson Distillery, Book of Kells, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Kilmainham Gaol. After checking them all off your list, it’s time to expand your horizons.
The last time we were there, we found a photography tour that would take us out of town. Howth is a fantastic seaside town on Dublin’s northern outskirts, and it sounded like we might encounter a few unusual sights along the way.
Here’s a list of some of the best things to see in Howth and North Dublin.
Our tour started on a cold, early October morning, when our guide met us at our hotel and escorted us to his van. Happily, this was a small group tour, which meant we wouldn’t have to worry about getting in each others’ shots.
I had absolutely no idea that Dublin has a nature reserve within its city limits! Bull Island is a UNESCO biosphere nature reserve, a 300 hectare island of dunes, scrub and marsh on Dublin Bay.
Cameras in hand, we walked along the North Bull Wall (proposed by Captain Bligh!), past the Men’s and Women’s bathing areas, dated from times gone by when sexes were separated at the beach.
Across the bay is the wall’s twin, the Great South Wall, also with a lighthouse at the end.
As the cold October wind whipped our scarves and chilled our fingers, we couldn’t help but marvel at a few swimmers who were braving the frigid waves in the bay. Anyone who says that the Irish can be crazy won’t get any argument from me
At the end of the wall, there’s a lighthouse and a statue of Mary, Queen of the Sea. After all, we’re in a Catholic country. I’m not Catholic so I don’t understand why Mary seems to be the queen of everything.
Our tour guide offered to take a portrait of Dan and me with Dan’s camera. We were thrilled. We don’t get many photos of us as a couple that are in focus, and very few are as good as this one. Do you agree?
Saint Anne’s Park
Only a few minutes down the road, we came to Saint Anne’s Park. In Ireland’s early Christian days, St. Anne blessed a holy well in the area. Though the well has been lost over the centuries, they say it lies somewhere on the parklands, hence the park’s name.
Saint Anne’s Park is the second largest municipal park in Dublin, we learned. It has playgrounds, parkland walks, follies (decorative buildings), a golf course, and more. Dave took us to a pretty little duck pond along its edge. At the far end is one of the follies, a small temple. It was modeled on the Temple of Isis at Pompeii.
Back on the road, we headed further north. Dave kept the drive interesting with his commentary about the area’s history and sights along the way. We finally ended up at Howth (rhymes with both). It’s a charming seaside village that sees a lot of holiday-goers. First stop: Howth Harbour.
The first pier, at the left of the marina, is a working harbor and boatyard. We walked past restaurants and shops, where I made friends with a mannequin diver and passed fishermen repairing their nets.
Dave told us to try to find the footsteps of King George, who visited during his reign. His shoes were immortalized in stone.
How did they do that?
At the end of the pier were some anglers. Apparently it’s a favorite fishing spot.
We needed the van for our next stop. Passing cafés and restaurants, a playground and grassy areas, we wound up on the other side of the marina at the second pier. Seagulls swooped overhead, vainly searching for any treats we might drop as we walked.
Walking along the second pier eventually brought us out to the very unimpressive lighthouse.
Just offshore, a small, uninhabited island called Ireland’s Eye beckoned our cameras. Dave pointed out has some ecclesiastical ruins and a Martello tower, as well as a sizeable bird population. It’s a nice boat trip and walk in good weather, he said.
We were just as impressed to see more anglers along the rocks, waiting for a big catch. It seems that Irishmen really like to fish, doesn’t it?
Once an island, Howth now sits on a peninsula. Drive uphill, through a residential area, and you’ll end up atop craggy, gorse-covered cliffs that give a stunning 270-degree view of the surrounding area. Others climbed up the path to where we were standing, but we preferred to stay at the overlook. From there we could see Dublin Bay, Howth, Howth Castle, and the Wicklow Mountains.
Should you be visiting on your own and have a lot of energy, take the sign posted “cliff walk.” This will take you around Howth with some spectacular views overlooking Dublin Bay on the way.
Want a guided tour?
Howth is a popular site and its cliff walk is its top attraction. If you’d like to check out Howth from Dublin, Get Your Guide offers a couple of tours that might appeal to you:
- Howth: 6-Hour Guided Tour from Dublin – Take a short train ride from Dublin to Howth and find yourself heading back in time to a place where mysterious Neolithic standing stones share a hill with medieval ruins and lonely lighthouses. Walk along the cliffs and marvel at spectacular sea views.
- Howth Village Walking Tour & Malahide Castle Tour – Visit Malahide Castle, its gardens and Howth and enjoy a scenic rustic coastal view and fresh sea air at Dublin Bay. (8.5 hours)