The Howth Cliff Path Loop: A Complete Guide

Part of the Howth Cliff Path Loop - rugged, but perfectly safe.
Part of the Howth Cliff Path Loop - rugged, but perfectly safe.

Bernd Biege

Feel the need for some fresh air and spectacular cliff scenery? The good news is that you don't have to go all the way to the tourist-friendly Cliffs of Moher (or, way further to the North, the considerably higher sea cliffs at Slieve League). Instead, you can actually do this on Dublin City's doorstep in the quaint yet exciting seaside town of Howth. The walks along the seaside cliffs are great for even a casual stroll. You can even get there using public transportation, so there is no reason to put off the Howth cliff walk any longer.

Here is a guide to the Howth Cliff Path loop, plus how to prepare for your day out walking. The route will take you about an hour and a half to two and a half hours, depending on your walking pace.

Why You Should Walk the Howth Cliff Path Loop

It is understandable that many Dublin visitors are pressed for time and are looking for the top sights to see. Your Dublin itinerary will depend on individual tastes and the time you have to spend in the Irish capital. However, it could be worthwhile to get out of the city's main part to discover everything Dublin has to offer.

If you decide to take on the Howth Cliff Path Loop, you can expect a good walk of around two hours on way-marked trails in reasonably good condition. Since the trail curves around the ocean, you'll be treated to fresh sea breezes most days and incredible views of the rugged coastline and cliffs. A panorama of Dublin Bay and Howth Harbour, and an almost aerial view of both the Baily Lighthouse and Howth Harbour Lighthouse, are other sights to look forward to on the trail, as well.

There are plenty of birdwatching opportunities along the coast, and you might even spot grey seals in the ocean on some days.

This path is accessible by DART (public transportation) and has pubs and restaurants in the middle of the walking route (perfect for breaks) and at the end.

Keep in mind that the trail might be busy on weekends when the weather is particularly good, but it will not be worth the effort to walk the path in very foggy conditions.

Is the Howth Cliff Path Loop Suitable for All Walkers?

Yes, generally speaking. There are no extremely steep or even dangerous passages, and the chances of getting lost are next to zero (even in a fog, as long as you stick to the main path). Children should, however, be closely supervised because the path does pass close to the side of the cliffs in certain areas.

The Howth Cliff Path Loop is well maintained, but it is not really recommended for strollers or wheelchairs.

What Equipment Do I Need?

Minimal basics—good walking shoes, a rain jacket (though this may be unnecessary on summer days), some water, and maybe a small snack. You can leave maps and your compass at home, but if you head out very late, a flashlight might be a good idea. Bringing a fully charged phone is always a good idea if you want to be able to track your progress or keep in touch along the path.

The Howth Cliff Path Loop in Detail

The most convenient starting point to tackle the trail is at the train station in Howth—from here you simply have to follow the green arrows on the well-posted markers along the route. It is also the easiest way to arrive in Howth if you are coming from Dublin. Take note that there are four loops that start at the station.

From the station, you will first head along the seafront, along the harbor and next to the (often busy) main street. Beyond the entrance to the East Pier, the path then begins following the coastline, climbing a modest incline, and finally rounding the "Nose of Howth." Simply turn right at the end of the promenade, onto Balscadden Road. This will bring you to the Kilrock parking lot and the start of the well-defined cliff path. Though that might sound like a lot of steps, it is very easy to follow in person.

At this point, you will have reached the clifftops and can enjoy the view, especially of Ireland’s Eye and Lambay Island. On the other side, the whole of Dublin Bay will be in view, along with parts of the Wicklow Mountains. The Howth Cliff Path Loop then continues on through a thick undergrowth of heather and gorse (but thankfully, the path is so well used that it never becomes overgrown). You can take in the beauty of the plants without having to actually walk through them.

After following the path for about two miles (three kilometers), you will soon see the Baily Lighthouse in front and slightly to the left, set atop a rocky outcrop and making for an excellent photo opportunity. Before you reach the lighthouse, however, you will be guided to the right (the purple loop, much longer, continues straight ahead), uphill, and onto the Howth Summit parking lot.

The Howth cliff walk is mostly downhill from here, and the signposted route will bring you back to the seafront on a path that runs parallel to the one you took uphill and leads you back to the station.

For a chance to see even more, you can spice this return route up by simply walking down the main road through Howth village. This small change in the route is also a good opportunity to pay a short visit to Howth's old Saint Mary's Abbey.

Then stop for some fish and chips—you deserved them.

Howth Cliff Path Loop Essentials

  • Distance: Approximately 3.5 miles (six kilometers).
  • Ascent: About 430 feet (130 meters), in stages.
  • Grade: Easy.
  • Terrain: Paved walkways, laneways, and solid earth paths.
  • Time Estimate: Ninety minutes to two and a half hours depending on the speed of the walkers.
  • Public Transport: Howth Railway Station (terminus for the DART service) is the most convenient place to start the Howth Cliff Path Loop, but the Dublin Bus stops nearby may also be of use.
  • Parking: Free anywhere near Howth seafront