There is a lot to do within Dublin itself, but sometimes, it pays to venture outside of Ireland’s capital and see the best of what this stunning emerald isle has to offer.
This list of the best half day trips from Dublin showcases how much you can see of Ireland, even if you only have limited time to travel. Even if you embark on just one or two of these day trips, you will be in absolute awe of this magical little country.
The Best Half Day Trips from Dublin
1. Powerscourt Estate & Waterfall
Just short of an hour’s drive from Dublin is stunning Powerscourt Estate, which is attached to huge gardens and parklands.
You can easily spend a few hours walking around Powerscourt, while admiring waterfalls, interesting buildings, and a myriad of different trees, plants and flowers. They even have some themed gardens including a Japan-inspired zen garden.
During this half day trip from Dublin, you could also include a visit to nearby Powerscourt Waterfall, which is about 5 minutes in the car from the estate. The waterfall requires a different ticket and a second fee to enter, but it’s such a stunning waterfall so is definitely worth it.
And while you’re here, you can also take some time to drive around the Wicklow National Park and mountains, although there is a lot here that warrants its own half day trip as well (as you’ll see from some of the suggestions below).
(Recommended by Justine from Wanderer of the World)
For a seaside break, take the DART suburban train from the center of Dublin just 25 minutes to the town of Howth.
When you arrive, walk to the left of the DART station toward the sea and take a little boat tour around the island of Ireland’s Eye just off the coast.
Have lunch at one of the seafood restaurants overlooking the water as you gaze toward the Howth lighthouse. Then, walk a bit inland to see other unique Howth highlights including the ruins of a medieval abbey and the Martello defensive tower built to watch for potential invaders from Napoleon’s army that is now a vintage radio museum.
Of course, you will want to see Howth Castle, still inhabited by descendants of the original Lord who arrived in Howth in 1177 AD. For a special experience, you may want to participate in a lesson at the Howth Castle Cookery School!
If you have the time and the energy, consider walking some or part of the 6 km (3.75 mile) Cliff Path Loop above the town. Wear sturdy shoes for this!
For more details about spending a half-day (or more!) in Howth, with maps and a podcast link, see this guide.
(Recommended by Cindy from One Perfect Day In)
3. Battle of the Boyne Site
To learn more about one of the defining moments of Irish history, a half day trip to the site of the Battle of the Boyne is well worth the effort.
Situated just under an hour by car northwest of Dublin, in County Meath, the battlefield today is a green and peaceful site on the banks of the Boyne river.
But on 12 July 1690, an epic battle between the forces of Protestant King William III of England and forces loyal to the deposed Catholic King James II met and fought on this site.
The small museum in historic Oldbridge House gives a great, easy-to-understand summary of the battle via a multi-media display; the museum also contains details of the two armies, recreations of uniforms and army camps, and displays of weaponry.
On the battlefield itself, actors in costume add their own commentary to the experience. The battle site itself is free to visit; the museum costs €5 for adults as of July 2018. To reach the battle site, head out of Dublin on the M1 motorway (tolls apply) to Drogheda, then pick up the signs.
(Recommended by Jill from Reading the Book)
4. Wicklow National Park
A day trip from Dublin to Wicklow National Park should definitely be on your Ireland itinerary.
It’ll take about an hour and a half to go from the capital city to Ireland’s largest national park. You can drive yourself or go on a guided/escorted tour. We personally recommend having a car, so you can visit the park at your own pace. However, if you don’t want to drive, there are plenty of tour options available.
Several hiking trails can be found throughout the park ranging in distance and intensity. Glendalough Valley is the park’s main attraction and contains several historic sites, in addition to an abundance of plant and wildlife species.
The Monastic City in Glendalough is made up of ruins of an early Christian settlement. If you take a stroll along the Upper Lake, you’ll eventually reach the remains of an old lead mine (Miner’s Village). Not feeling up for a hike? You can always take a drive through the scenic Sally Gap.
To make the most out of your visit to Wicklow if you’re just doing a quick half day trip from Dublin, we’d recommend 1) visiting Glendalough, 2) walking along Upper Lake, and 3) driving back to Dublin via Sally Gap.
Pack some snacks/meals, because although there are a few restaurant options out this way, they are few and far between. With this half day trip you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and connect with the beautiful nature of Ireland.
For more about Wicklow National Park and the other 5 national parks found throughout Ireland, check out this post.
(Recommended by Toccara & Sam from Forget Someday)
Located one hour from Dublin, the monastic settlement of Glendalough is part of Ireland’s fascinating Ancient East and is a perfect half day trip from the city.
Glendalough was founded in the 6th Century and the monastic ruins include a round tower, Celtic high crosses and the remains of several early churches. Many of the ruins date back as far as the 10th Century and the site sits against the backdrop of a glaciated valley with lush forest and two lakes: the name Glendalough means ‘The Valley of the Two Lakes’.
Glendalough is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland and we were amazed by both the natural beauty and the historical significance of the fascinating site.
Glendalough is a one hour drive from the centre of Dublin and the easiest ways to visit are by car or by joining a dedicated tour from Dublin. We’d recommend wearing comfortable shoes for walking through Glendalough and, if you are a movie buff, save some time to visit the filming locations of Braveheart in the nearby Wicklow Mountains.
(Recommended by Elaine and Dave from Show Them the Globe)
A few years ago, we spent a long weekend in Dublin. We were looking for a quick trip to get out of the city and stumbled upon Bray. It would be a quick trip to the beach by public transportation.
Granted it was October, so it was a bit grey and not what you might typically consider beach weather, but we’re not your typical beach people, so we went for it. We took the DART from the Dublin city center to Bray. It runs every 15 minutes and takes about 45 minutes.
The train runs along the coast, so once out of the city, we were treated to some lovely (albeit grey) scenery. And when we got to Bray, we were pleased with our decision.
We walked along a beach which was surrounded by craggy rocks. We had the company of many others, most of whom were out walking their dogs, which of course made us even happier! Seeing dogs frolic on the beach and happily jump in and out of the water was a treat.
We then had another treat – a visit to one of the best bars in the world! The Harbour Bar, established in 1872, was named best bar in the world by Lonely Planet in 2010. Being the middle of the day on a weekday, we were its only customers, which suited us just fine.
We had the whole place to ourselves and got cozy in one of its snugs. Our day got even better when we learned the best food in Bray was being served right outside the best pub in Bray! We had the most decadent sandwiches on picnic benches outside the pub before making our way back to the train and back to Dublin.
(Recommended by Sarah & Justin from Travel Breathe Repeat)
Down a shady country lane, you will find one of Ireland’s most revered and historic sites known as Monasterboice. Not an easy place to get to by public transport, Monasterboice is home to Ireland’s most impressive and historic high crosses and was in its day a seat of great learning and teaching, and home to remarkable writers, artists and poets.
Founded in or around the 10th century, Monasterboice is home to not only 3 amazing High Crosses but also a 1000-foot round tower and some of the best medieval ruins in the country. The site is tucked behind a small Irish cottage and its gardens and even today is still used as a local graveyard.
Vikings captured the site in 968AD and as you pass by the High Cross of Muiredach, you can see one of the panels that details the Viking raids. Monasterboice’s round tower is over 3M (110 feet) tall and was divided into four or more stories inside, connected with ladders. As with other round towers in Ireland, this was used as a belfry, watchtower, and a refuge for monks and valuables during times of Viking attack. Records indicate that the interior went up in flames in 1097.
(Recommended by Faith from XYUandBEYOND)
The photogenic and friendly town of Kilkenny, Ireland is one of the first places travelers usually pick for a day trip from Dublin. This cute, medieval town is located just under a 2 hour drive from the city of Dublin and has roots going back to the 12th Century. There are several buses that also make the trip.
The city center is full of bright cafes and shops selling a variety of wares including pottery and jewelry. There are ancient city walls and picturesque alleys as well as several churches and monasteries dating from the 14th century. If museums are what you enjoy, they have those too.
There are small train tours, walking tours and biking tours available to learn more about the area. My favorite part of the city is Kilkenny Castle. The castle (built in 1195) is large and is a perfect spot to socialize and explore. The grounds include plenty of space to run, hike, and play soccer. There is also a wonderful playground. If you’d like a glimpse of old Ireland, Kilkenny makes a great day trip from Dublin.
(Recommended by Lori from Fitz5ontheGo)
9. Loughcrew Cairns
Loughcrew Cairns are a collection of around 30 ancient burial tombs that you can visit in just over an hour’s drive from Dublin.
Dating back to 3000 BC there is beautiful neolithic artwork carved into the stone in and around the chambers, with the most important burial chamber being aligned with the rising sun on the spring and autumn equinox.
The main site is on top of a steep hill which takes about 20 minutes to climb and even on a cloudy day, the views all around the cairn are mighty impressive. Being inside it, imagining the years of careful alignment and engineering of the structure and the beautiful mysterious carvings inside, will leave you awestruck at the genius of these people that lived over 5000 years ago. It can be visited by taking a private tour or hiring your own transport.
My top tips are: be prepared for all kinds of weather and wear sturdy shoes; between May and September is the best time to visit; bring some tracing paper and a pencil and bring home your own artwork from inside the tomb!
(Recommended by Neil & Orla from All The Ways You Wander)
My favorite half day trip from Dublin is to the village of Kildare, which is about a 40 minute drive from Dublin.
Kildare is known for several things, but the most well-known are being the home of St. Brigid, Ireland’s Patroness Saint, and National Stud, Ireland’s training yards for championship racehorses. Neither may seem like a reason to visit Kildare, but both provide a wonderful understanding of Irish culture.
St. Brigid founded the village of Kildare, with an abbey that served the surrounding community. Today, her Cathedral still stands, as well as the site of her eternal flame and round tower. The tower can be climbed during the summer months. Two holy wells blessed by the Saint can be visited, one with prayer stations. There are both a village heritage center and Solas Bhride, which teach about Brigid and the associated sights of her life in Kildare.
National Stud features stable tours, a foaling area, and a horse racing museum. For horse lovers, this may fill more than half a day. But the center is also renowned for its two fabulous gardens, St. Fiachra’s Garden, and the Japanese Garden. Both are amazing, but I particularly loved the Japanese Garden, with its quiet, meditative areas.
(Recommended by Roxanna from Gypsy With A Day Job)
So, now you know what the best half day trips from Dublin are, which ones will you embark on first? Let me know in the comments section below…
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