Feel the need for some fresh air and spectacular cliff scenery? You don't have to to the West and head for the tourist-friendly Cliffs of Moher (or, way further to the North, the considerably higher sea cliffs at Slieve League). No, you can actually, do this on Dublin City's doorstep. In the quaint yet exciting seaside town of Howth. And public transport will even take you there. No more excuses then ...
Why You Should Walk the Howth Cliff Path Loop
To dedicated walkers, its pure existence might be reason enough. But to the tourist, usually pressed for time and willing to invest same only in "the best" (though "The Best of Dublin" will inevitably vary with individual tastes), there has to be a pay-off.
So, in a nutshell, here's what the Howth Cliff Path Loop will provide:
- A good walk of around two hours on way-marked trails of reasonable repair;
- fresh sea breezes most days;
- great views of the rugged coastline and cliffs, a panorama of Dublin Bay, another panorama of Howth Harbour and and almost aerial view of both the Baily Lighthouse and Howth Harbour Lighthouse;
- sea birds and often grey seals are there to be observed;
- easy access by public transport;
- pubs and restaurants both in the middle of the route as well as at the end.
Is the Howth Cliff Path Loop Suitable for All Walkers?
Generally speaking it is. There are no extremely steep or even dangerous passages, and the chances to get lost are next to zero (even in a fog, as long as you stick to the main path). Children should, however, be closely supervised - a quick dash off the path can end in a tumble or even straight plunge down the cliffs.
The Howth Cliff Path Loop is not really suitable for prams, buggies, or wheelchairs.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Minimal basics - good walking shoes, a rain jacket (though this may be unnecessary on summer days), some fluids and maybe a power bar or so. You can leave maps and compass at home, but if you head out very late, a torch might be a good idea.
The Howth Cliff Path Loop in Detail
The most convenient starting point is at the train station in Howth - from here you'll just have to follow the green arrows on the markers along the route. Take note that four loops start at the station.
From the station, you will first head along the seafront, along the harbour and the often busy main street. Beyond the entrance to the East Pier you are then 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 car park, start of the well defined cliff path.
Here you'll 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 (thankfully the path is so well used that it never becomes overgrown).
Following the path for about three kilometres, you will soon see the Baily Lighthouse in front and slightly to the left, perched upon a rocky outcrop and a favourite motif for photographers. 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 car park.
It is mostly downhill from here ... the signposted route returns you to the seafront on a path running parallel to the uphill journey, back to the station. If you want (and I recommend it), you can spice this return route up by simply walking down the main road, through Howth village, also a good opportunity to pay a short visit to Howth's old Saint Mary's Abbey.
Then some fish and chips ... you deserved them.
Howth Cliff Path Loop Essentials
- Distance: Six kilometres.
- Ascent: About 130 metres, in stages.
- Grade: Easy.
- Terrain: Paved walkways, laneways, and solid earth paths.
- Time Estimate: Ninety minutes to two and a half hours.
- 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: Anywhere near Howth seafront, free.