No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to the capital city, however we would also argue that no trip to Ireland is complete without getting out of the city! Whether you’re looking for day trips from Dublin or scenic road trips throughout the Emerald Isle, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve now been to Ireland 4 times for a total of close to 10 weeks and besides our initial visit to Dublin, we haven’t been back to the city other than to fly in and out of the airport. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the city; it’s just that we believe you can easily see Dublin in a day, and then there’s still a whole country begging to be explored! But, before we move on to the best day trips from Dublin, let’s take a look at things to do in Dublin!
A great way to start off your visit to Dublin is with a walking tour, guided bike tour of the city, or by taking one of several hop on hop off Dublin bus tours. All of these are a great introduction to the city and will allow you to decide what you want to go back to explore further. Wander the campus of Trinity College and visit the Old Library to see the Book of Kells exhibit.
Tour the Guinness Storehouse to learn about Ireland’s most famous export. Enjoy a fresh pint on the rooftop bar where the views are said to be some of the best in Dublin. Purchase a priority entrance ticket in advance, so you don’t miss your chance to visit one of Dublin’s most popular attractions (ticket includes a free pint of Guinness). Maybe beer isn’t your thing and you’re more of a whiskey guy or gal. In that case, do a tour and tastings at the Jameson Distillery.
Of course, you can always wander, or stumble, your way through the Temple Bar district and sample an assortment of beers and whiskeys at a variety of colorful bars! And when you’re ready to put your sinful ways behind you, find your way to the beautiful St Patrick’s Cathedral. Other attractions in Dublin include St Stephen’s Green (park), Kilmainham Gaol (jail), National Gallery of Ireland (art museum), Dublin Castle, and Grafton Street, to name a few.
We’re not sure if it was the length of time we rented a car (21+ days) or the time of year (off-season -> February/March), but twice now we’ve gotten insane rental car deals with Hertz at the Dublin airport, (as in <$5 USD/day). So, you might want to check their prices if you are planning to rent a car during your visit to Ireland. We include tips and information on renting a car in Ireland in our Ireland Destination Guide.
Day Trips from Dublin
Ok, let’s get to the real reason you came to our site… you’re interested in learning about possible day trips from Dublin! Some of what we are about to recommend will only require a quick drive or train ride; others will require several hours in the car or on a bus; it all depends on what you want to see and do and how long you’re willing to travel!
Day Trips from Dublin Within 1-2 Hours
So, maybe you want a day trip from Dublin that doesn’t require being in the car or on a bus for several hours. Head on down the coast just 1 hour south of Dublin to Killiney. If you have your own rental car, you can make the quick drive yourself, or hop on the DART train, which leaves from central Dublin every 15 minutes.
In Killiney, you’ll find a wonderful hill walk that provides views of Dublin, Bray Head, the Irish Sea, and the Wicklow Mountains. We actually stayed in the town of Killiney and took the train in to experience St Patrick’s Day in Dublin when all of the hotels in the city center cost much more than we wanted to spend!
Couple your Dublin excursion to Killiney with a visit to the charming seaside village of Dalkey, located less than 10 minutes away. There aren’t too many things to do in Dalkey, but it’s a charming small town to walk around nonetheless. Duck into one of its many historic pubs or enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of several restaurants around town.
Swing by the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre for a fun tour including live performances on the history of the castle. Located a 5 minute drive from Dalkey is the James Joyce Tower and Museum, if you’re interested in learning more about the life and work of the author of Ulysses.
Just a little further down the coast from Killiney and Dalkey is the seaside town of Bray. (You can also reach Bray via the DART train from Dublin.) For a nice coastal walk, hike the 4.2-mile (7 km) Bray Head Coastal Trail which offers stunning views over Dublin’s Bay and the Wicklow Mountains. Though not necessarily Irish, we recommend you visit Caffe Letterario GattaNera, a delicious Italian café mere steps from the train station.
Not too far from Bray is the Powerscourt Gardens & Estate, voted the #3 garden in the world by National Geographic and home to Ireland’s tallest waterfall (Powerscourt Waterfall). You would need a car to reach Powerscourt from Bray, or you can take an escorted day tour from Dublin to Powerscourt Gardens and Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains (which we’ll take a look at momentarily).
Though we haven’t yet been there ourselves, we’ve heard that the Howth Peninsula is another great nearby excursion from Dublin offering a 15th-century castle, 19th-century tower, and the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, along with a wonderful coastal walk that some say rivals Bray Head.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Established in 1991 as Ireland’s largest national park (79 square miles/205 sq km), Wicklow Mountains National Park certainly has a lot to offer. The park’s main highlight, Glendalough Valley, is an area containing an abundance of wildlife species and several historical sites, including the Monastic City, ruins of an early Christian settlement.
The national park boasts a great network of scenic walks ranging from a 30-minute stroll to a multi-day trek crossing the Wicklow Gap. For a gentle walk, take a leisurely stroll along Upper Lake (in Glendalough) until you reach the remains of an old lead mine (Miner’s Village). Glendalough in Wicklow National Park is easily reachable by car from Dublin and will take about an hour and a half. (Be sure to read our post featuring all 6 of Ireland’s national parks.)
If you’d prefer someone else do the driving, you can join in on a full-day escorted tour of Wicklow or go on the Wicklow & Kilkenny Full-Day Tour from Dublin to combine a visit to Wicklow with the nearby medieval town of Kilkenny.
Whether you drive yourself or go on an escorted tour to Wicklow Mountains National Park, chances are you’ll be making a drive through Sally Gap. Located in the Wicklow Mountains, this scenic route offers expansive open spaces with nothing but natural beauty as far as the eye can see. It sits at an elevation of over 1,600 feet (503m), and for this reason, you may want to avoid Sally Gap in the winter months when snow is present, as it is not cleared by the local authority.
Avoca Wool Mill
About 30 minutes south of Glendalough is the Avoca Handweavers Wool Mill. Established in 1723, it is the oldest working woolen mill in all of Ireland. Here you can tour the factory, which is still in operation today, eat in the café, peruse the shop and purchase a truly authentic Irish souvenir!
Full Day Tours from Dublin
Up until this point, we’ve focused on day trips from Dublin that can be easily reached within 1-2 hours. However, there are plenty of day trip options that require a little bit longer of a round-trip journey in the car or on a bus.
Personally, we recommend that you consider staying over night near the destinations we are about to recommend, but if your time in Ireland is limited and you plan to base yourself in Dublin for the duration of your visit, know that you still have options to see some of Ireland’s most spectacular landscapes as a day trip from Dublin.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is usually the number one attraction most visitors want to see on their trip to Ireland. We like to think that the luck of the Irish was on our side the day we visited the Cliffs of Moher, because the skies were clear and the sun was shining!
The drive from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher is about 3-4 hours (each way, depending on traffic and stops). This highly-rated Full-Day Cliffs of Moher Excursion is an excellent choice if you want to let someone else do the driving, so you can simply relax on the journey cross-country.
For this day trip from Dublin you actually have to cross a country border, but there isn’t really a border control or passport check to worry about. If you make any purchases, know that you will be paying in British Pounds, as opposed to Euros, for when you enter into Northern Ireland, you are entering into the United Kingdom. The drive from Dublin to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is about 2 hours.
However, to get to the most scenic parts of this country you’ll need to continue on about another hour and a half north. Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the Dark Hedges are among Northern Ireland’s most popular sites. Double check that your rental car agreement allows you to take your car into the UK or simply take an escorted full-day bus tour and leave the driving and border crossing up to someone else!
More Available Guided Day Trips from Dublin
We have personally visited all of the places recommended above, though we want to provide you with even more options of available day trips from Dublin, so you have plenty to choose from!
Visit one of the oldest and largest Neolithic burial chambers on the Newgrange & Hill of Tara Tour. Or if you simply must kiss the Blarney Stone on your trip to the Emerald Isle, check out the Full-Day Blarney Castle and Cork Tour. Finally, experience some of Ireland’s most historic sites on Ireland’s Ancient East Tour.
No matter where you go in this gorgeous country, we can almost guarantee you will love the history and beauty of Ireland.
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