The sprawling city of Dublin is surrounded by an expansive transportation system lining the coast, better known as the DART. Each stop showcases individual cities surrounding Dublin Bay that offer rich history, recreational activities and a delicate twist to the Irish culture blanketing the country. From hiking across castle grounds in Howth, biking coastal paths in Malahide and strolling down piers that hug harbors in Dun Laoghaire, the country of Ireland’s vast palette of cityscape to lush countryside is waiting to be explored, and it is calling visitors and locals alike to come to it.
Howth Dublin, Ireland An hour north of Dublin
As the fast approaching DART pulls into a platform north of Dublin, the Irish Sea and Dublin Bay appear from behind residential homes, marinas and businesses that line the coast. The smell of fish and the squawking of seagulls is overwhelming. People lay in the grass while the warmth of the sun beats onto their skin, and they picnic and chase one another into the late afternoon. The salty air leads you to the shore to revel in its beauty and recreational activities.
Sean Dolan, a staff member at the island’s information center, encourages those seeking adventure to trail along the clifftop’s sweeping views, bound through the natural golf course towards Howth Castle, wander to the summit for a panoramic view or bask in the many activities maritime life offers. Howth is a brilliant all-day excursion just outside of Dublin that has something for everyone of all fitness levels and ages. It is a place where those looking to get lost can follow their eager spirit into the wild unknown.
Malahide County Dublin, Ireland 30 minutes north of Dublin
Riding north on the DART to Malahide from the heart of Dublin is like watching a picture book rapidly flip from one landscape to another. A new depiction is painted before your eyes as the colors become richer and the view from the naked eye follows the countryside to the horizon. After departing the train car to the platform, the crowd scatters and the signs towards Malahide Castle tower in the sky. The castle, gardens and village offer an abundance of hiking across the grounds and along wide coastal routes for leisure and exercise. Bike rentals can be found for those looking to explore the town or venture down the coastal path from Malahide to Portmarnock. Shane Breen, an executive of the Irish Centre for Cycling, recommends renting bikes for the day and venturing down to Howth and back to witness the sapphire vastness of the Irish Sea. Upon returning to Malahide, it is imperative to wander through the on-site gardens, breathe in the aroma of wildflowers, stroll through the hum of bugs, follow dirt paths to secret enclaves and walk among the birds inhabiting the area. This castle is great for family outings, history connoisseurs or those looking for an afternoon excursion. Malahide’s natural and recreational elements highlight this historical gem just north of Dublin.
Dún Laoghaire Dublin, Ireland 30 minutes south of Dublin
Southbound on the DART from Dublin lies the East Pier and Harbour of Dún Laoghaire, “The crown and jewel of this town,” according to Anna Scudds, the honorary secretary of the Dún Laoghaire Borough Historical Society. The pier is historically known for being one of the biggest enclosed harbors in the world and dates to the early 1800s. The pier is a place of interest to many because of its expansive history relating to storms, reconstruction and engineering. Both locals and tourists come to visit and take a stroll to the end of the pier, swim in the harbor, fish from the staircase leading to the king’s blue water, enjoy the aquatic life and breathe in the pure, unpolluted air. It is a brilliant blast from the past for photographs and recreation and highlights a prevalent city just south of the capital. The pier is bustling on a warm afternoon with runners, power walkers, swimmers, fishermen and sea life. There are loud conversations, locals taking lunch breaks, kids running with ice cream dripping down their hands and tourists snapping pictures of the sailboats anchored in the Irish Sea. The pier is a beautiful way to immerse yourself in Irish history for a day while also enjoying the benefits of exercise, fresh air and exceptional views.
Sandycove Dún Laoghaire, Dublin Ireland 45 minutes south of Dublin
The Forty Foot is historically known as a gentleman’s swimming hole that was opened to women and children in the 1970s after being isolated to one gender for 250 years. John O’Reilly, a volunteer tour guide at the James Joyce Martello Tower & Museum informs, “It is even the opening setting for James Joyce’s infamous ‘Ulysses.’” Following the winding road upward past the tower reveals the promontory at the tip of Dublin Bay. Many jump from the rocks lining the hole and plunge into the bitter sea crashing below. Locals, Philip Barry and Dilba Saunders, find it to be a source of adrenaline, a place of healing and a form of exercise. Many do not warm up to the piercing cold and the gushing wind creates a frigid air that tempts divers to stay in the water instead of entering the almost unbearable outdoor changing area. Yet, I decided to try it for myself. As I made my climb to the top of the main rock, my heart was pounding. The mantra of “don’t think, just jump” was replaying in my head. As I fell, salt water filled my nose and the penetrating chill cut through me as water surrounded my body. Coincidentally, I felt a sense of accomplishment as I slowly returned to the warmth of my garments. I had immersed myself in the homegrown culture of Dún Laoghaire. I understood the significance of this inimitable gathering place.
Jumping into the sea at the Forty Foot is a terrific way to spend an afternoon if you are looking for a thrilling activity that congregates an eclectic mix of ages from all walks of life. It is a place for those looking to take part in an experience that is a local favorite year-round. It is a place that is not for the faint of heart. It is a place of sensation and inspiration. It is a place that will encourage you to live a life of fearlessness without the hassle of a long-distance commute from Dublin.
The eastern coast of Ireland is rich in history, outdoor recreation and natural beauty. Wandering along the coast will allow unimaginable sights to be seen while unwinding from the bustling life of the city. The DART winding along the coastline makes trouvaille, a chance encounter with something wonderful, possible. The emerald green expanse outside of the city is within an arm’s reach and is calling families and individuals to experience it for themselves. So, do not be a fool. Run towards the adventure Ireland offers. Then, stand there, breathe in the fresh air and be thankful for the opportunity to experience beauty to an endless degree. You will be glad you did.