Dublin’s best day trip could be considered a quick ride out to Howth, on the northern fringes of Dublin Bay. Which does not sound all that exciting, but in fact takes the visitor into another world. Howth is a tiny (well, at first glance at least) fishing village on the northern fringes of Dublin Bay, the last stop on the DART line, and a favorite spot for Dubliners who need to get out of "the big smoke".
And the town nestling around the harbor with its two long piers does not disappoint. Offering long walks, shorter alternatives, nature, history, good food, and a plethora of pubs. So, if you have at least half a day to spare when visiting Dublin, Howth should really be on your agenda. Because the peninsula is very welcoming to the visitor, easily explored, and a total contrast to Dublin's bustling city center. Plus full of surprises - whereas Dublin really gets wild in the evenings, you can still have a fairly quiet night out in Howth even on a Saturday. It might be busy on sunny weekends, but it never gets rough here. So, what's keeping you away?
Directions for Drivers: Howth can be reached by following the road from Connolly Station (Amiens Street) and the Five Lamps, past Bull Island and into Sutton. At the Sutton crossroads, the direct route and the scenic route are signposted - the first will take you straight to Howth Harbour, the second will more or less do the same, but via the not too straight way crossing Howth Summit.
There is parking at the Summit (not an awful lot, though) and at Howth Harbour (reasonably plentiful, but not all free). Spaces might be in short supply everywhere on weekends.
Generally speaking, the DART is much faster.
Weather Advice: Unless it is a very sunny day, always take some rain gear and a pullover with you, the winds from the sea can be freezing and wet. Avoid the East Pier and the Howth Cliff Path Loop in stormy and very wet conditions. It is also not really advisable to attempt the latter in darkness or thick fog.
What You Should See in Howth
Take your pick from any of the attractions and ideas from the list below:
- Baily Lighthouse - the Last Irish Lighthouse to be Automated, in a stunning location on Dublin Bay;
- Howth Castle - a Short History and Some Hints, though the interior is not open to the public;
- Howth Cliff Path Loop - Safe Cliffwalking Above Dublin Bay, this can also be tackled by those new to exploring the wild;
- Howth Harbour Lighthouse - Scene of the Gun-Running, and a great view towards Ireland’s Eye and the coast north of Dublin;
- Howth Summit - Top of the World, Sort of ..., one of Dublin’s favorite viewing spots;
- King Sitric's Restaurant - for the Discerning Seafood Lover, the adjacent B&B is also a great place to spend the night;
- The National Transport Museum at Howth Castle, old vehicles galore, many with a definite Dublin connection;
- Saint Mary's Abbey - Originally a Viking Holy Place, because the Norsemen were not the barbarians you may have thought.
How Much Time to Plan for Howth
Well, that all depends on what you want to do, doesn't it? There are no hard and fast rules. But you should plan for an hour if you just want a bracing walk down the pier, two hours if you want to add some fish and chips or a coffee to that, half a day for the cliff walk, and a full day if you want to really explore Howth. The choice is yours.
Also take note that navigating the crowds and, if applicable, finding a convenient parking space will eat into your Howth time ... which brings us neatly to the next point:
When Is the Best Time to Visit Howth?
Howth can be enjoyed in any weather, come rain or shine, you just need to dress for the occasion.
Bring layers, as the wind from Dublin Bay can be quite cold even on sunny days, and rain driven horizontally will soak a light jacket in no time. And, as always in Ireland, the weather is changeable.
One piece of advice: avoid looking extremely ridiculous by not trying to tame an umbrella in windy conditions. You are less likely stay dry than have somebody's eye out with it anyway.
Weekdays are generally quieter in Howth, so they might be the best time to head here. The time best avoided is a sunny weekend or bank holiday between noon and around six in the evening, as Howth will be full to capacity then.
Especially the pier and the cliff path are far from enjoyable on these days - and don't even think about getting a "quick" snack.