Dublin has some beautiful walks, including some that are a great way to see the city's most important sights. But if you're up for a longer walk with some fresh air and no traffic to dodge, consider getting outside the city limits. Here are some suggestions that will take you from an urban beat to a really rural retreat.
Walk Along the Liffey
The most natural walk through Dublin would be along the Liffey. The river defines and divides Dublin, and it was also the very reason why the Vikings once established an important trading post and later a whole city here. The Norsemen sailed in from Dublin Bay and made their home near Dublin Castle, at the Dubh Linn, the Black Pool. Why not follow in the Viking’s wake when exploring the city? You can start at the Eastlink toll bridge, near the Point Village or the 3 Arena, and then make your way upstream until you reach the tranquil War Memorial Gardens. This route will take you past many attractions (plus the odd café to refresh). And there are numerous spots where you can back onto public transport. For a full description of a walk along the Liffey, use this guide.
Get Off the Beaten Path Along the Royal Canal
Experiencing Dublin along the banks of the Royal Canal is a walk though urban variety. If you start near the Five Lamps (north of Connolly Station), you’ll pass under the stands of the massive Croke Park stadium, you'll see poet Brendan Behan feeding pigeons (his statue, anyway), you'll stroll on the right side of the massive walls that surround Mountjoy Prison, follow the canal through industrial areas, and finally cross the M50 orbital motorway on just one part of a spectacular road, rail, and canal crossing on several levels. A good place to stop would be near Blanchardstown, here you can either have some retail therapy, or catch a bus back to the city center. For a full description of the Royal Canal Walk, use this guide.
Get a Taste of Art and Culture By the Grand Canal
Dublin’s third great waterway would be the Grand Canal, which defines the Southside and starts at the Grand Canal Docks, a recently massively rejuvenated area with the spectacular Bord Gais Energy Theatre designed by Daniel Libeskind. From there, you can simply follow the old towing paths along the Grand Canal through a much more genteel area than the Royal Canal on the Northside works its way through. Notable are the many small locks, and poet Patrick Kavanagh resting on a bench near the canal (again, as a statue).
Get Views of the Bay and Lighthouse
Make your way to Dun Laoghaire harbor. Here, the East Pier leads out to the lighthouse and commands great views of Dublin Bay and the coastline. The longer West Pier is more than often ignored by pleasure-seekers, due in part to its worse state of repair, but a walk along it is rewarding, especially for the opportunity to see the harbor and the lighthouse from a totally different perspective.
Just east of Dun Laoghaire harbor another walk can be an excellent alternative (or addition) on a sunny day. Follow the Queens Road and the park to Sandycove. There you’ll find the Martello tower dedicated to the memory of James Joyce, complete with a museum kept alive by volunteers. Right next to it is the famous Forty Foot bathing place.
Explore Some Irish History in Phoenix Park
Dublin has a large number of city center parks you can enjoy, but to get a real taste of the wild you should head out to Phoenix Park. This sprawling urban park is criss-crossed by roads and paths and needs a few days to be fully explored. Included are glimpses of wildlife, such as large herds of deer, and some manmade attractions that are often hidden away a bit. The Magazine Fort overlooking the Liffey was once Dublin’s main storage area for arms and ammunition. And Ashtown Castle, a tower house from the middle ages, is right next to some stunning gardens and the visitor center. If you make your way to the visitor center, you can also get tickets to visit Aras an Uachtaran, the official residence of the President of Ireland, on the weekends. If you are more of a sports fan, both cricket and polo matches are held in Phoenix Park. And if you are thirsty, the longest-running pub in Ireland, the “Hole in the Wall,” is right next to the park.
See the Gorgeous Gardens at St. Anne's Park
St. Anne’s Park between Dublin and Howth is totally different from the almost natural layout of Phoenix Park, mainly because it is a heavily landscaped park and was once the private property of the Guinness family. Today it is open to the public and a great place to explore, with fresh air wafting in from nearby Dublin Bay. There are famous rose gardens, activity areas, and even a wooded area with some imaginatively recreated classical buildings near a lake. A great place for a family day out. As for wildlife, you'll find loads of squirrels, if you care to look into the trees.
Walk Among the Dead
If you are up for an expedition into history, you cannot go wrong with a few hours spent exploring Glasnevin Cemetery. The museum is a good primer and also offers guided tours, but the enormous area is open to visitors for free. While the layout of the cemetery resembles that of a maze (it is often impossible to get from A to B in any sort of straight line), you will not lose your way if you stick to the main paths.
Grab a map from the information desk to find specific grave sites. Michael Collins’ grave for instance is easily found, but his that of his arch-rival Eamon de Valera is hiding in plain sight. Pride of place goes to two of the arguably greatest Irishmen of the 19th century. Charles Steward Parnell opted for a pauper’s burial in a mass grave, and the site is now marked by an immense boulder. In total contrast, you’ll find Daniel O’Connell’s last resting place (in a crypt open to visitors) underneath the largest round tower ever built in Ireland, so large that architectural consultants would not vouch for its stability, yet still it stands, despite fire damage some years ago.
Hit the Beach on Bull Island
Dublin is literally a seaside city, but to explore the sea proper, you should head further out. One favorite spot for Dubliners to spend a few hours tanning, kiting, and walking would be Bull Island, which is halfway to Howth. This huge dune was actually created by accident when the Bull Wall was built to protect Dublin’s harbor. Accumulated sand slowly formed Bull Island to the east of it. Now, it's a nature reserve and a great place for a bracing walk.
Take a Scenic Cliff Walk
For spectacular views, the Howth Cliff Walk should be at the top of your list. This moderately easy walk can be attempted by anyone of average fitness, provided sturdy and non-slipping footwear is brought into action. (The unpaved path is definitely not for sandals.) The path is easily identifiable, and you'll get splendid views of Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains, Dublin herself, and the venerable Baily Lighthouse on its promontory.
Wander Between Two Cliffside Towns
Another cliff walk leads from Bray to Greystones, following the coastline above the main rail link to Wexford. The path takes you below cliffs on the inland side, and you might see a few goats along the way. Both Bray and Greystones offer pubs and homey atmospheres, so you can enjoy the walk out, have a rest, and then head back again. Or you can follow it one way only, and take the DART back to your starting point.
Venture the Wicklow Way
And if you really want to get away from it all, the Wicklow Way is one of the best known and most popular routes in Ireland. It starts on the outskirts of Dublin at Marlay Park, leading down to Clonegall through Knockree, Laragh, Glendalough, Glenmalure, Drumgoff, Aghavannagh, Tinahely, and Shillelagh at a total length of 127 kilometers. This, obviously, is not an easy afternoon walk—to do the whole stretch, you’ll have to budget a week. The trail is generally manageable by anyone with hillwalking experience, even though there are strenuous parts. And you will need a map, despite markers.