My first visit to Howth, Ireland was not planned. I had just arrived in Ireland the evening before from London. I got on the DART train and headed for a day in the city center. I intended to browse a few museums and have lunch. My plans changed when I picked a seat next to a friendly woman named Mary.
I greeted my seat-mate on the train and we started a conversation. When I told Mary about my plans for the day she had a definite opinion. She said, “Oh, no. What you need after your trip to London is a day outside in the fresh air! Why don’t you come for a hike?”
I thought about Mary’s suggestion for a minute, knew that she was right, and checked my footwear. Since I was wearing sturdy boots, I said, “Sure; that sounds great!” I stayed on the train and went north to Howth. Mary and I spent the day hiking along the beautiful Irish coastline and taking in the wonderful fresh air.
Howth (which rhymes with “both”) is a scenic fishing village at the end of a long peninsula north of Dublin. In the early 1800s it was the port for the sea crossing to Wales. The port location has changed to Dun Laoghaire, south of Dublin, but Howth remains as a quaint and gorgeous spot for a day trip or even a base for your travels in Dublin.
You can drive to and from Dublin city center on Howth Road for 10 miles (16 km), but since summer traffic is heavy, the DART is the best way to go between the two places.
You may want to stop in at the National Transport Museum, which is a short walk from Howth’s DART station. The unusual vehicles include a restored open-topped tram and a horse-drawn bakery van.
The Howth Castle Gardens are next door to the Transport Museum and are accessible from the Deer Park Hotel. The castle, built in 1654, is not open to the public, but you can see the ruins of a tall 16th century castle and a Neolithic dolmen.
When you continue east toward the harbor, you will pass some shops and restaurants. To the north is Ireland’s Eye, an island that is the site of a 6th century monastery and a Martello tower. Martello towers were built in the early 1800s to defend the coast from French invasion. If the weather is calm, you can hire a boat ride over to the island from the Harbor.
The highlight of my trips to Howth has been the coastline hike that Mary introduced me to. I had a glorious day on my first visit and later took my children back for the same hike.
You can ask a local where the coastline path is. It’s a little hard to locate, although my children and I just kept walking on the streets heading east until we ended up on the path. You can also get to the path by asking directions when you get off the DART.
You will have stunning views from the cliffs as you walk east and then south along the coast. On a clear day you can see the Mourne Mountains and the Wicklow Mountains. The largest seabird colony on Ireland’s east coast is in Howth. Thousands of birds, including fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots, nest on the cliffs you will hike along.
Eventually, you will see the Baily Lighthouse and Dublin in the distance to the south. There is a detour off the path up a long flight of steps to the lookout at the Summit. The path continues or cuts back to town.
When you get back to Howth, you will want to eat dinner at one of the local spots or get some fish and chips to eat as you sit by the harbor.
If you add a trip to Howth during your stay in the Dublin area, you won’t be sorry. Get out into the fresh air and enjoy!