12 Top-Rated Day Trips from Dublin
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Visitors to Ireland are often surprised at how easy it is to reach most of the Emerald Isle's top tourist attractions in a single day out of Dublin. You can visit iconic places like Blarney Castle and the Ring of Kerry; world-class natural wonders, including the Cliffs of Moher and Giant's Causeway; ancient sites such as Glendalough and the megalithic tombs of Newgrange; and even the attractions of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, with its impressive new Titanic discovery center on the site where the great ship was built.
An efficient rail service and abundant package day tours from Dublin make it easy to arrange these trips without the need to rent a car or drive on the left. Getting to Ireland's top tourist attractions couldn't be easier. Learn more about the best places to visit with our list of the best day trips from Dublin.
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1. Cliffs of Moher
Ireland's most visited natural attraction, the soaring Cliffs of Moher rise to more than 214 meters above the crashing Atlantic in a wild and dramatic eight-kilometer coastline. Take time to walk the trail along the clifftop for views of the Aran Islands, and see displays about the geology and environment of the cliffs at the visitor center.
At the southwestern edge of the Burren, a region in County Clare that includes the wild, rocky landscapes of Burren National Park, the cliffs and the sea stack just off shore are home to thousands of seabirds.
On the way from Dublin you can stop in Kilfenora for a visit of the Celtic High Crosses, or in County Limerick to visit the 13th-century King John's Castle, built on a Viking settlement and considered one of the best preserved Norman castles in Europe.
As well as a drive along Galway Bay for views of the Aran Islands and the 12 Bens, some tours also stop at Dunguaire Castle. On a 13-hour Cliffs of Moher Day Trip from Dublin, you can enjoy the beautiful County Clare countryside from an air-conditioned bus as an expert guide explains the area's geology and history. After a leisurely stroll on the path along the cliffs, you can explore the tiny town of Doolin, known for its music.
2. Glendalough and Kilkenny
In a glacial valley below the Wicklow Mountains in County Wicklow, Glendalough was one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. It was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and became known as the Monastic City. There are many things to see here, the most impressive being the well-preserved, 30-meter-tall Round Tower.
Near St. Mary's Church is the 12th-century Romanesque Priest's House; a tall granite cross dating to the sixth or seventh century; and the largest church, which dates to the 11th and 12th centuries.
Near Glendalough are two other interesting historic sites: the 11th-century Trinity Church and St. Saviour's Priory, with Romanesque stone carvings. Information at the visitor center will help you find and identify the various landmarks, and you can also follow marked nature trails.
If you're driving to Glendalough from Dublin, stop to admire the scenery of the Wicklow Mountains, including Wicklow Gap and the dramatic Turlogh Waterfall. On an 8.5-hour Wild Wicklow Tour including Glendalough from Dublin, in addition to traveling through the beautiful Wicklow Mountain National Park, you'll have a guided tour of the tower and other historic sites at Glendalough. Tour bonuses are a chance to shop for Irish crafts at the famous Avoca Handweavers and a stop at Lough Tay, a film location for Braveheart.
3. Blarney Castle and Cork
For many, kissing the famous Blarney Stone is a highlight of their trip to Ireland, and it's easy to combine this with a sightseeing tour of the lush and rolling Irish countryside and visits to the cities of Cork and Cobh.
Even for those not interested in perfecting their Irish eloquence of speech by kissing the stone, Blarney Castle is worth seeing for its beautiful gardens and shopping at the famous Blarney Woollen Mills at the castle, an 1824 mill that has become a center for Irish weaving and knitting.
On the Blarney Castle Day Trip from Dublin, you can not only visit Blarney Castle and kiss the famous stone, but also visit the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. This spectacular hilltop medieval complex includes a 13th-century Gothic cathedral, a 12th-century round tower, a Romanesque Chapel with wall paintings, and a 15th-century castle. You'll also have time for some independent sightseeing in Cork City, where your local guide will recommend attractions.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cork
4. Giant's Causeway
Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the strange polygon columns of basalt known as the Giant's Causeway are the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. The columns form oversized stairs and stepping stones that legend holds to be the work of the giant Finn McCool when he crossed to Scotland to battle his nemesis, Benandonner. On a clear day, you can see the Scottish shore, several giant steps away.
See more of the dramatic coastal scenery as you cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, suspended high over the sea. If the coast looks familiar, it was the location for filming Game of Thrones, and you may see the avenue of beech trees called the Dark Hedges, which served as the King's Road. Day trips from Dublin can easily include other attractions in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Highlights Day Trip Including Giant's Causeway from Dublin tour includes a stop in Belfast, Northern Island's capital, for a city tour in a traditional black taxi. After a scenic drive along the Antrim coast, there is plenty of time at Giant's Causeway to learn about the geology of this natural wonder at Visitor Heritage Centre, as well as to walk across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Address: Causeway Road, Bushmills, Antrim, Northern Ireland
5. Belfast and the Titanic Quarter
Northern Ireland's capital is a lively, colorful city that has faced its sometimes violent past and is determined to reinvent itself into a cultural capital. The prime tourist attraction is the waterfront Titanic Quarter, where the RMS Titanic was built more than 100 years ago and which was the epicenter of the city's long maritime heritage as the cornerstone of the British Empire's shipbuilding.
The striking star-shaped building of Titanic Belfast is already a city landmark, with state-of-the-art interpretive exhibits that trace Belfast's maritime history and the story of the Titanic with features that include an underwater exploration theater and re-created decks and cabins.
The Titanic Belfast Visitor Experience and Giant's Causeway Day Trip from Dublin combines Northern Ireland's two most popular tourist attractions into a single 13-hour excursion by luxury coach. After learning about the Titanic's voyage in the interactive discovery galleries and visiting the Ocean Exploration Centre to see how ocean behavior is tracked, the tour continues to the Giant's causeway, where there is plenty of time for the Visitor Heritage Centre and crossing the swaying Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge before returning to Dublin.
Address: 1 Queen's Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, Northern Ireland
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Belfast
6. Newgrange and Hill of Tara
Ireland's most important prehistoric sites lie close to each other, near the River Boyne. Newgrange is a huge passage tomb dating from the Neolithic period. Built around 3200 BC, it predates both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The circular mound is supported by a retaining wall of white quartz stones and large stones carved in spiral and other designs. Inside are passages and chambers, and at the Winter Solstice, the rising sun illuminates the interior. Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Hill of Tara plays large in Irish history and mythology as the traditional inauguration place of the ancient high kings. There are several stone structures here, the oldest of which is the megalithic tomb called the Mound of the Hostages, thought to have been built about 3000 BC.
Earthworks here include two linked enclosures: a ring fort and a ring barrow. Both these ancient sites are combined on the New Grange, Knowth, Trim Castle, and the Hill of Tara Day Trip from Dublin, a full-day tour accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide, who can discuss the history and mythology connected with both monuments. The tour adds a bonus: stopping at Trim Castle, the largest and best-preserved Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland.
Official site: www.newgrange.com
7. Ring of Kerry
Scenic drives don't get any better than the 177-kilometer route around the Iveragh Peninsula known as the Ring of Kerry. It offers a non-stop panorama of ocean views, islands, lakes, and mountains, dotted with postcard villages. Day tours from Dublin vary, but most include the magnificent inland Lakes of Killarney and stop at viewpoints for Macgillicuddy Reeks, the 17-kilometer mountain range that includes Ireland's highest peak, Carrantuohill.
These and more are covered on the 15.5-hour Ring of Kerry Rail Trip from Dublin, which begins with a train ride to Mallow, in County Cork, before meeting a local professional guide and traveling by coach to the region's most majestic landmarks.
The 47 acres of Powerscourt grounds were designed so the estate would blend harmoniously with the surrounding Wicklow countryside, especially Sugarloaf Mountain, which is framed as a stunning backdrop. More than 200 varieties of trees, shrubs, and flowers are arranged in formal beds along the promenades of the Italian Gardens and in other settings, including a charming Japanese Garden; a Rose Garden; and Kitchen Gardens, where herbs and vegetables share the grounds with flowers.
The interior of the former manor house has been converted into an upscale shopping venue for Irish crafts and designs, including an Avcoa shop, one of Ireland's most revered brands. Powerscourt is often included in a scenic day tour of County Wicklow that also visits Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Address: Enniskerry, County Wicklow
Official site: http://powerscourt.com/
9. Boyne Valley and Loughcrew Celtic Tombs
If Ireland's ancient Celtic past fascinates you, the Boyne Valley and its environs are the place to go. Set in beautiful Irish countryside are some of the oldest sites in Ireland, including the well-preserved passage tombs at Loughcrew Cairns. You can walk through winding stone passageways inside to see 6,000-year-old stone carvings on the walls. On the River Boyne, Trim Castle was built in the 1170s, and is Ireland's largest Anglo-Norman castle.
In County Louth are the ruins of the early Christian settlement and famous 10th-century Celtic crosses at Monasterboice. The crosses have biblical inscriptions, and the 5.5-meter Muiredach's High Cross is considered the best in Ireland, covered in intricate Celtic stone carving. Above it stands a round stone tower more than 30 meters tall that protected the monks from Viking raids.
You can visit all of these sites, along with the Hill of Tara (see above) and the town of Drogheda, a Danish settlement in the days of the Vikings, on Ireland's Ancient East Day Trip from Dublin including Boyne Valley. The 10-hour tour travels across the scenic Irish countryside by bus, accompanied by a local guide who relates the history and legends of these ancient sites.
10. Connemara and Galway
The coast of western Ireland, north of Galway Bay, is an irregular one of bays and tiny inlets with sandy coves, islands, islets, and rocky points. Inland are rugged mountains, lakes, and villages of thatched cottages. At the center of the area is Connemara National Park, south of the scenic loughs (lakes) of Kylemore and Pollacapall, where you'll find the atmospheric 19th-century Kylemore Abbey with its lovely Victorian walled gardens. The coastal towns of Roundstone and Clifden, favorites for artists, are good stopping points for a seafood lunch.
On the Connemara and Galway City Day Tour from Dublin, you can combine highlights of Connemara with a visit to the historic city of Galway, Ireland's major trading port since the Middle Ages. On the included guided walking tour, you can still see reminders of the foreign influences its trade brought, such as the famous Spanish Arch.
If you'd like to spend more time here, the train ride from Dublin takes about 2.5 hours, and you'll find plenty of good places to stay in Galway.
11. Howth and Malahide
Just north of Dublin, the Howth peninsula is an easy day trip from Dublin by DART train, with plenty of things to do. Along with the tidied-up fishing village itself, you can see Viking ruins and the impressive Howth Castle. If you arrive with an organized tour group, you can tour the castle interior.
On the castle grounds is a Neolithic site, a dolmen with a 70-ton capstone. Views from Howth Head are spectacular, and on very clear days you can see the Dublin skyline. Also in Howth is the boyhood home of the poet William Butler Yeats. The DART train line also runs to Malahide, with a beautiful castle that's open to the public.
You can visit both of these seaside towns conveniently on the Malahide and Howth Day Trip from Dublin, which includes, along with a knowledgeable guide, entrance to Malahide Castle's medieval interior.
Walkers will enjoy the coastal path around Howth Head, with views of Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains, and looking north to Lambay Island and the Mourne Mountains. The trail is easy to find; it begins at the Howth DART station.
12. Dalkey and Killiney
South of Dublin, and reached from the city on the Bray/Greystones DART line, the neighboring towns of Dalkey and Killiney lie along the coast of the Irish Sea.
Dalkey once had seven medieval Norman castles, of which one, Dalkey Castle, survives and houses a Heritage Center. State-of-the-art interactive exhibits include fascinating anecdotes of local history, including tales from the time when Dalkey was the port of Dublin.
Just off shore, Dalkey Island was inhabited as long as 6,500 years ago, and has a burial cairn, two holy wells, and other early remains. The island is a short boat ride from either Bulloch Harbour or Coliemore Harbour.
Continuing south on the DART line, Killiney is a town of parks and affluent homes, with views of Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains. A popular seaside resort in the 1800s, Killiney has a pebble beach. For the best views of a panorama that 19th-century writers compared to Naples Bay (hence the abundant Italian place names), climb the steep hill to the summit of Killiney Hill Park
Official site: https://www.dalkeycastle.com