Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains, photos of the monastic settlement near the entrance

13 Fun & Relaxing Day Trips from Dublin

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Dublin is the capital of Ireland, and is a phenomenal city for an extended vacation. However, if you are looking to get out into the Irish countryside for a little more cultural immersion and exploration then consider taking one of these day trips from Dublin.

There are may quirky, beautiful, and off the beaten track places to visit in and around Dublin, and we’ve compiled 13 of the best!

13 Best Day Trips from Dublin

Avoca (Abhóca) Village

Avoca Mill is an iconic Irish wool weavers, who have been handweaving wool since 1723. Their weaving process is now automatied. Additionally, they now have 13 stores and cafes around Ireland (including one at the airport); however, a visit to the orignial Avoca Village is a must if you are into textiles, and handmade items.

Avoca Village is approximately 1 hour south of Dublin, located in Avoca, Co. Wicklow. A visit to the Avoca Village is a perfect day trip from Dublin, and you’ll need about 2 hours to explore. At the Mill complex you’ll find a handweaving mill, an automated mill, the Avoca Store, a Cafe and a visitor centre (outlining the history of the mill).

Take a strolle through the mill, and see how the yarn is spun, and the textiles produced. Next, take a stroll through the Avoca Store and peruse the handyworks.

Next, grab a coffe and lunch in the cafe, which has a variety of food for adults and children.

Lastly, stroll around the grounds (its not a very long stroll), and explore the outbuildings, a little clearning, and a little stream. Its an absolutley delightfully Irish experience.

If you have children they’ll love watching the automated mill, smelling all of the flowers, and stretching their legs in the clearing. There are lots of sensory experiences for little minds.

-Catherine of Traveling with the Littles

Weaving Mill, Avoca, Ireland

Belfast

Belfast is a charming town for a city break, where you could easily spend 5 days and still have a long list of things to explore. But even if you can only spare a day here, your visit will be one to remember!

Dublin is compact and buzzing, but walking around Belfast will immediately have you feeling like a local. It’s so densely packed with frolicking locals and tourists, unique museums, breathtaking architecture and picturesque landscapes.

The capital of Northern Island is only two hours by car from Dublin, and is a great day trip from Dublin. If you are not one for road trips, taking the train is an excellent option too. You can enjoy the equally stunning views along the two and a half hour ride.

If you did only one thing in Belfast, the RMS Titanic is a no-brainer. As the birthplace of this world-famous ship, you can learn more about its fascinating history. Additionally, you can walk down the recreated version of the iconic staircase from the movie. It’s a six-floor interactive museum where you’ll be transported back in time as you explore the relics and galleries.

Additionally, this sophisticated city teems with other historical charms, like the Crumlin Road Gaol, St. Anne’s Cathedral, the Grand Opera House, and leaning Albert clock. Don’t forget to see the beautiful Belfast murals too.

In terms of its culinary gems, there are plenty of sumptuous street foods and local pubs to explore. For example, St Georges Market was built in the late 19th Century and still hosts some of the city’s best events and markets.

-Bradley of Dream Big, Travel Far

Belfast City Hall
Photo Credit: Dream Big, Travel Far

Bray

The seaside town of Bray makes a perfect day trip from Dublin. Bray is easy to get to and the change of pace at the coast is a welcome change from Dublin.

The DART is the easiest way to reach Bray. The scenic coastal journey takes 45 minutes and Bray station is just a five-minute walk from the seafront. Visitors to Bray can stroll the 1-mile long promenade, play in the enclosed seafront playground, enjoy a paddle in the sea or view the boats and swans in Brays’ harbour. From the end of the promenade, join the Bray Head path to climb 218 metres to the concrete cross on the top of Bray Head. The path is uneven but easy to follow and takes around one hour to complete. The fantastic 360-degree views from the top are worth the climb! Alternatively, continue on the coastal path for 7 kilometres to reach Greystones from where you can catch the DART back to Bray or Dublin.

Kids will also love Sealife Bray, a seafront aquarium with themed zones ranging from jellyfish to reef animals, family friendly talks and feeding demonstrations daily. Bray seafront is lined with cafes and restaurants (The Martello welcomes families) and don’t miss an ice cream from Gelateria.

-Sinead of Map Made Memories

Bray
Photo Credit: Map Made Memories

Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange & Environs)

One of the most memorable day trips from Dublin is a visit to Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an astounding concentration of almost one hundred Neolithic burial tombs around a bend in the River Boyne. In fact, UNESCO recognizes it as, “Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art.” It is a top destination for anyone interested in creating their own archeological tour and will be greatly enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

The main sites are the massive passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. The whole area is brimming with important smaller sites, many on private property and still unexplored. The only way to visit the main sites is by going on a tour through the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Center.

Currently, due to the pandemic the tombs can only be visited from the outside and by self-guided tour. Normal operations include a visit to some of the breathtaking interior passageways, informative guided tours, and access to the educational Visitor’s Center. Purchase your tickets in advance and plan to spend the whole day exploring the area. 

Brú na Bóinne is a highly sought-after international destination and so it is often crowed. There is a nearby hidden gem for those who want a more intimate experience. Four Knocks is a smaller, seldom visited burial tomb and you are likely to be alone during your visit. A little research in advance will send you on a quest to get the key so you can visit this free site.

The whole area is only 40 km from Dublin making it less than an hour away by car. If you want to visit Four Knocks, a car is necessary. If you will just be visiting the main sites, there are both public buses and tour buses that allow for easy transport.  Your day trip visiting Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, will inspire you for years to come.

-Erica at Trip Scholars

Newgrange, Brú na Bóinne

Glendalough

Nestled in Wicklow Mountains National Park, Glendalough is one of the most breathtaking day trips from Dublin, and will not dissapoint. Located approximately 1.5 hours from Dublin city center you can drive to Glendalough (~1.5 hours), take public transportation (~2 hours), or joint a tour from Dublin. If you can manage driving out to Glendalough I recommend doing so, as you’ll be able to explore the area at your leisure.

Glendalough is a sixth century monastic settlement, that you can explore at your leisure. Many of the churches and houses are still standing, along with the 30 meter high ’round tower,’ which is a focol point. If you feel like hiking you’ll find 9 hiking trails sprawled throughout the Glendalough Valley. I recmmend the Green Road Walk, its a nice leisurely walk, and a great place for little ones to stretch their legs.

If you arrive early you can explore the monastic settlement in as little as an hour (not recommended), or take the entire day to exlore the settlement along with the Glendalough Valley.

Lastly, there is a small visitors center, gift shop, and hotel at which you can grab lunch or a cup of coffee.

Given is proximity to Dublin, the monastic settlement, and the breadth of outdoor beauty, Glendalough makes for one of the most stunning and relaxing day trips from Dublin.

-Catherine from Traveling with the Littles

Glendalough village, monastery, County Wicklow

Howth

Howth is a gorgeous seaside town and one of the best day trips from Dublin. Located only 10 miles (13 km) north of Dublin, it’s a great small town in Ireland for a getaway.  

You can take the Number 31 bus or drive for about 30 minutes to get to Howth. Next to the DART station is the Howth Market, where you can find idyllic Irish jewelry, antiques, and other souvenirs. Sample some of the food like olives, cheeses, nuts, and even chocolate. Less than a ten-minute walk is Howth Castle and Grounds, surrounded by St. Mary’s Abbey. For the traveler who also enjoys cooking, you can take a cooking class in the Kitchen in the Castle! 

Howth is a walkable town – from the beauty of Howth Head to Lambay Island and the Baily Lighthouse – enjoying nature is a must-do. If you prefer to hike, there are a few hikes along the cliff that have a variety of terrains. The Bog of Frogs is about 6 miles (10 km) long and has really unique views of the countryside. 

In the evenings, head to the Abbey Tavern for some live music and dancing with traditional Irish food. No matter what you decide to do in Howth, you’ll enjoy this day trip from Dublin!

-Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Coast of Howth
Photo Credit: The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens

If you love horses, botanical gardens, and the beautiful Irish landscape, then you’ll consider The Irish National Stud & Gardens in Tully, Co. Kildare, one of the best day trips from Dublin. This thoroughbred horse breeding facility and picturesque Japanese gardens is located about 45 minutes by car from Dublin. 

The easiest and most convenient way to visit is by car. However, you may take a train to Kildare train station from Dublin and then hail a taxi. It is about a 5 minutes drive from Kildare Train Station.

Tickets to the Stud & Gardens may be purchased via their website in advance.  

A notable stud at the Irish National Stud is Invincible Spirit. He is a beautiful, majestic horse and has proudly won seven races and nearly 400,000 Euros between two and five years of age.

The Japanese gardens are reminiscent of perhaps a Monet painting, with the pond blanketed lily pads and the arched pedestrian bridge. The gardens were created between 1906 and 1910 and evoke a sense of peace and tranquility. 

The Irish National Stud & Gardens is a perfect destination to visit with the whole family. Their play area caters for children of all ages. There is no need to pre-book. Play equipment includes climbing frames, swings, slides, and picnic tables for guests’ leisure. The Fairy Trail is a particularly fun activities for families. Children will receive a fairy trail map which you can follow through their enchanting woodlands and discover many types of trees and flowers. 

After a guided (or self-guided) tour, visit The Japanese Gardens Restaurant for traditional and local Irish cuisine. Choices include a quiche of the day, sandwiches, salads, wraps, scones, freshly baked brown bread and even afternoon tea.

The idyllic setting, tranquil gardens, and activities for children make the Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens one of the best day trips from Dublin.

-Vanessa of East End Taste

Irish National Stud
Photo Credit: East End Taste

Kilkenny

The city of Kilkenny is a well-preserved medieval city in the southwest of Ireland and is one of the best day trips from Dublin. If you are looking to explore more of Ireland, Kilkenny has several idyllic cathedrals, a grand castle, and a myriad of small independent boutiques, shops, and pubs.

The city can be easily reached by car or bus with no transfers necessary. By car, head straight out of Dublin city center and catch the N7 heading southwest. The fastest way to get to Kilkenny from Dublin is to take the M9 route and turn right when you hit the N10. The trip should take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. If driving a car in Ireland is not your cup of tea, the bus route can be caught at Stop 339 of the Burgh Quay in Dublin City South. The bus will take you to Ormonde College in Kilkenny in about 1 hour 45 minutes. 

Kilkenny Castle is really the feature here and is showcased in the center of town. Sprawling green lawns, classic rose gardens, and a quintessential medieval design make the attraction a must-visit and is reminiscent of a storybook castle.

The town is also known for having several well-kept cathedrals, including the St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower. Take an hour to peruse the interiors and venture up the tower for a great view of Kilkenny. If you are traveling with little ones, try the Kilkenny Road Train Tour. The road train will take you on a 30 minute trip through the streets of Kilkenny passing by all the main attractions. 

Last but not least, end your day at Kyteler’s Inn, one of the oldest haunts in the town for food and entertainment. 

-Haley Blackall of haleyblackall.com

River Nore, Kilkenny, Ireland

Maynooth

Maynooth is a quaint little town that is just 40 minutes from Dublin city centre. What makes it one of the best day trips from Dublin, is that it is full of beautiful old buildings, castle ruins, local pubs and some world class golf courses. While you can drive fairly easily from Dublin, the easiest way to visit is to take the train from Connolly station and it will drop you right into the heart of Maynooth town centre. The journey is also slightly quicker, taking just over 30 minutes.

Exploring the town and its close surroundings is a great way to spend the day as almost everything to do here is within easy walking distance. Maynooth Castle sits right at the end of the main street and takes just a couple of minutes to walk to. These 13th century ruins give you a great insight into the history of the area and there is a small exhibition as you first enter the castle which gives you a brief history of the castle.

Right next to Maynooth castle is St Patrick’s College. The ivy-covered buildings and church are wonderful to walk around and the gardens in the middle of the college, filled with rose gardens, are extremely picturesque. We also recommend checking out Royal Canal Greenway, Carton Avenue and if you are a golf enthusiast you can play at one of the two amazing courses at Carton House. Or if you would prefer a more relaxing day, you can enjoy their luxury on-site spa.

Maynooth is such a pretty town and its close proximity to Dublin, and easy access via public transport makes it one of the best day trips from Dublin.

-Luke & Roxy from Wild About BC

Maynooth
Photo Credit: Wild About BC

Mourne Mountains

Despite being a different country, Northern Ireland is closer to Dublin than many of Ireland’s provinces, and day-trips across the border are well worth considering. This includes the majestic Mourne Mountains which is an area of outstanding natural beauty, just across the border following the main road from Dublin to Belfast.

This area of Northern Ireland is also wild and off-the-beaten track so it is best to be explored by car or on a road trip. There are also many different places to start although each would be similar in distance between 1.30-1.50 hours drive from Dublin City Centre.

One of the more popular entries to the mountain is at the Silent Valley reservoir where it is just a short walk to reach some of the more iconic mountain scenes with views over Ben Crom. Another favourite is Tollymore Forest Park, which is an attraction in itself, with some rather fascinating forest walks through the foothills of the mountains. For the more dedicated walker, taking a hike to the top of Slieve Donard, the highest peak in Northern Ireland, is a must. Most people will begin this hike from the coastal town of Newcastle where there is a path leading directly from the town centre to the top of the mountain.

The Slieve Donard Hotel is a great place to base an overnight stay or to grab some food at their restaurant. Note, there will be a few changes crossing the border including currency (British Pounds instead of Euros), and roads signs distances (miles instead of kilometres).  However, all tolled, its close proximity to Dublin, and natural beauty makes visiting Mourne Mountains one of the best day trips from Dublin.

-Allan of It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor 

The Mourne Mountains
Photo Credit: It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel makes for one of the best day trips from Dublin. This historical site in the town of the same name was founded in the 12th century at a site that was formerly the seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

Located in County Tipperary, about a 2-hours drive from Dublin, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions. The best way to reach this site is either to drive to Dublin along the M7 from Dublin, taking the M8 southbound (for Cork). The other option is to join a tour from Dublin .

The Rock of Cashel holds many interesting buildings, including the remains of the stunning abbey, the featured building which comes into view, sitting majestically on the hill, as you approach Cashel. Although the roof is gone, having been removed in 1749, you can still get a feel for how it must have looked by the roof arches that are still in place. There is also a 12th century Round Tower and chapel and examples of Irish high crosses in the graveyard.

The entire site is walled and you will easily spend an hour or two exploring inside the Abbey, wandering the graveyard, or checking out the 15th-century castle which acts as the entry point to the site and holds a small museum.

There is no gift shop or café and no toilets at the site, but all of these can be found either at the public car park for the site or in the town of Cashel itself. Note that the car park is payable as is entry to the site.

The best time to arrive is early in the morning or later in the afternoon if you are not on a tour, as during the middle of the day the site becomes busy with tour groups and buses.

The Rock of Cashel is one of the best places to visit in Ireland, along with being a phenomenal day trip from Dublin.

-Cath of Travel Around Ireland

Rock of Cashel
Photo Credit: Travel Around Ireland

Rock of Dunamase

Rich with history and just over an hour drive from Dublin, the Rock of Dunamase makes for a perfect day trip from Dublin. 

Up a steep hill from the small parking lot is a stone curtain wall and entrance gate. Further up the climb is the castle, a breathtaking 360° view of the Slieve Bloom mountains, roaming sheep and the patchwork valley below.

The land at the top of the 46 meter high rocky limestone outcrop had been occupied since as early as the 9th century. That fort was destroyed by Vikings and then rebuilt in the late 12th century. All that remains now of the sprawling defensive stronghold are scattered castle ruins and a stunning view.

The Rock of Dunamase is now a protected National monument. It is free to visit and is open 24/7 year round. The castle doesn’t draw large crowds and visitors usually have plenty of quiet and space to explore.

The best way to get to Rock of Dunamase from Dublin is to rent a car and enjoy a little drive out in the fresh air of the country. Take M7 out of the city south towards Portlaoise. Follow the sign for The Heath just before Portlaoise and take the 2nd left at the roundabout. This leads right to the parking area. 

Before heading back to the city, stop at Treacy’s, (less than 10 minutes away) one of Ireland’s oldest traditional pubs for a Guiness and a bite to eat. This 200 year old pub has a thatched roof, great food and unique charm.

Take a refreshing ride out of Dublin to the ancient Rock of Dunamase, one of the most tranquil day trips from Dublin. Travel to where the crowds thin, the roads narrow and the natural beauty of Ireland is all around.

-Carol of Is This Even a Road

Rock of Dunamase
Photo Credit: Is This Even a Road

Wicklow Mountains

The Wicklow Mountains National Park makes a great day trip from Dublin for people who are looking for stunning nature to escape the city for a while! Located only about 45 km away from Dublin, these untamed hills and deep glacial valleys are reached within fifty minutes by car.

The Wicklow Mountains cover an area of 220-square-kilometre so you will need a car to visit all the highlights and access the hiking trails. Alternatively, you could book a tour starting in Dublin. However, you won’t be able to explore the park at your own pace.

Some of the must-see places include the highest waterfall in Ireland (Powerscourt Waterfall), The Sally Gap, The Coastal Walk connecting Bray to Greystones, Lake Guinness (Lough Tay, one of the most photographed places of The Wicklow Mountains area), and of course a visit to Glendalough (find out more about visiting Glendalough in the post above!)

The best hiking trail is a seven-day trail called The Wicklow Way, that takes you from County Wicklow to County Carlow. Even if you’re not planning on doing a seven-day trail, you could still experience part of the trail and only hike one section. Or opt for the other popular trail that takes you up the Great Sugarloaf.  However you decide to spend your day, Wicklow’s close proximity to Dublin, and the Mountains natural beauty, make the Wicklow mountains one of the most breathtaking and relaxing day trips from Dublin.

-Lara of The Best Travel Gifts

Sugarloaf in the Wicklow Mountains

Takeaway

Enjoying the Emerald Isle is easy, exciting, and relaxing; however, many folks do not venture outside the great city of Dublin. If you’d like a little bit more of Irish culture, countryside, and adventure then we encourage you to take a day trip from Dublin, and let us know how your adventure goes!

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