If you love nature, endless fields and a beautiful landscape, Ireland is the place to go. The country has so many great spots which I always wanted to discover. So I didn’t hesitate and planned my trip to Ireland’s capital Dublin. I had the chance to hike the coast of Howth, I visited the iconic Cliffs of Moher and drove along the magnificent wild Atlantic west coast. No matter which spot I explored, it always left me speechless – fascinated how pure and wonderful nature can be.
Due to the fact that most people tend to stay a couple of nights in Dublin, I’ve thought it’s good to have a list of the perfect day trips starting from there. So here I summed up my favorite spots which you can easily reach from Dublin.
Dublin wouldn’t be Dublin without its beautiful coast and bay. Howth is the most popular area to spend some quality time at the ocean – not just for tourists, but also for the Irish. The cute little peninsula is located north of Dublin and is about 30 minutes away by train. Once there you don’t feel the rush of Dublin anymore. Instead you get an easy-going lifestyle including a nice harbor, a pier and several good restaurants.
But the most beautiful thing you can do in Howth is a hike along the spectacular cliff walk. All in all, there are four different trails (green, blue, red and purple) starting from Howth and leading to the famous lighthouse. They take about 2-4 hours there and back and offer the perfect opportunity to have a picnic somewhere at the cliffs. I preferred the purple trail which is the coastal walk. It just gives you the best view of the ocean and the cliffs.
If you have no clue what walk is the best for you, don’t worry! There is a visitor information which can provide you with a map and help you find the best way.
Giant’s Causeway & Game of Thrones
You always wanted to visit one of the film locations of Games of Thrones? In Ireland you get it! Lots of operators offer a tour to the fascinating sites featured in Game of Thrones. The tour takes you to the most pictured sites in Northern Ireland where you learn some insider information from the guides. They will also show you clips from the show which indicate that you are in the exact spot where the filming took place. One example is “The Dark Hedge”, which fans know as the “King Road”. It’s a real adventure and a must for every Game of Thrones fan.
Due to its closeness, the Giant’s Causeway is mostly included in the Game of Thrones tour package. And because it’s a beautiful, natural phenomenon at the coast, I recommend doing this kind of combi tour. The Giant’s Causeway is not just part of the UNESCO world heritage site, but also known as the 8th wonder of the world. It consists of over 40.000 interlocking hexagonal stone columns which will surely blow your mind! So it should be definitely on your bucket list when visiting Ireland!
The tour costs between 60 and 70€ (70-82$) depending on the operator and takes about 12 hours. Students get a 5€ discount when booking through the Dublin visitor center (in front of the Trinity College).
Cliffs of Moher
If you book a Cliff of Moher tour, it usually includes the Burren region and Galway City, which are absolutely worth seeing spots. But one thing is for sure: the Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction – with good reason! They offer you a spectacular experience and magical views of the wild Atlantic and were once thought to be the edge of the world.
The cliffs stretch for more than 8 km (5 mi) along the coast and reach up to 214 m (702 ft) at their highest point. You might know them from numerous movies such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or Leap Year. Most of the time it gets really windy there. So make sure you bring a hat.
The second stop of the Cliffs of Moher tour is Burren – just a 20-minute ride from the famous cliffs. The Burren area is the largest exposed limestone region in the country and is filled with wild beauty which is unique to Ireland. I loved walking around the lunar type landscape which is simply captivating. In addition, you will be taken on a coastal route where the wild Atlantic ocean and this barren landscape collide.
Third and last stop of the tour is Galway City. Before you get back to Dublin, you have the chance to visit the arty, bohemian city of Galway. It is renowned for its brightly painted pubs, live music and cafés. But it’s also a city steeped in history. You can explore the meandering streets and listen to the many street performers from around the world. Remnants of the medieval town walls lie between shops selling Aran sweaters, handcrafted Claddagh rings and stacks of vintage clothing and book stores.
All in all, the tour takes 12 ½ hours and costs 50€ (58$) per person. My operator was Irish Day Tours that did an awesome job!
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is one of the most interesting and quickly changing cities in Europe. It takes about 2 hours to get there from Dublin and is especially a tour for all Titanic fans. Or for those who are interested in the political, religious and cultural view of Irish history.
You get the chance to see the Belfast Peace Wall which divides Catholic and Protestant communities and provides great insight into two different communities. You will see the St. Patrick’s grave (patron saint of Ireland). And you will have a chance to visit the heart of Belfast City including the Titanic Shipyard – the birthplace of the world-renowned Titanic. Besides the Belfast’s City Hall and the Queen’s University, you will see many more great attractions full of history.
Killarney National Park (Kerry County)
Killarney is one of the best spots and probably the most breathtaking national park in Ireland. Unfortunately, it’s about 4 hours away from Dublin and although there are day trips to Kerry (Irish county) I suggest a 2-day trip to get a real impression of the park and to enjoy its beauty.
The national park was established in 1932 and is the first of its kind in Ireland. During the tour you will enjoy the magnificent views of the Lakes of Killarney. You will have a look at the Black Valley. And you are going to visit the beautiful Torc Waterfall which is 18 m high. All in all, the Killarney National Park gives you an opportunity to walk through an amazing landscape and spend some time strolling along the lakes.
It’s just incredible and I can highly recommend doing it in 2 days. That way, it’s more comfortable, stress-free and you have enough time to see this mystical and unspoiled region of Ireland.
A day tour costs about 65€ (76$) and takes approximately 14 hours. For a 2-day trip you can rent a car and drive on your own or you can book a tour for example through viator.
My favorites for short weekend trips
If you go to Ireland only for a couple of days or even just for the weekend, there is not much time to see everything. That’s why I recommend spending a day in Howth. You don’t find there the Cliffs of Moher, but the picturesque landscape is almost the same. This way, you also save time driving all the way to the west coast.
If you rather want to see another city, then Belfast will be a good alternative to Dublin. It’s not too far away and you get an impression of how Ireland’s cities look like. Moreover, you enter the border to Northern Ireland which is part of the UK.
I hope this guide helps you to get an overview and to decide what option is best for you. I for my part enjoyed it a lot and will definitely go back. What about you? Have you ever been to Ireland?
If you want to read more about Ireland’s capital, you can check out my Dublin City Guide which provides you with all the details you need to know for your next trip!
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