In a country as small as Ireland, it’s pretty easy to get around and see a lot of interesting and unique destinations. Most international flights arrive into Dublin airport, so it’s a convenient place to base yourself for an Ireland vacation. While Dublin itself has a lot to offer, you’ll want to get out and explore the countryside, too.
Renting a vehicle will give you the most freedom to explore, but Irish Rail serves many of these towns, as well as group tours that will make all the arrangements for you. We’ve rounded up some of the best day trips from Dublin, to help you plan your Ireland vacation itinerary.
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The most popular day trip from Dublin is Glendalough, in County Wicklow. Set in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough is best known for the 6th century Christian monastic settlement. Under 50 kilometers from Dublin, there are many tours available to take you to Glendalough for a day trip. Public transportation is somewhat limiting, so a car rental or private tour is the best way to visit Glendalough from Dublin. After walking through the monastic ruins, consider a hike in nearby Wicklow Mountains National Park. If you enjoy scenic drives, and have a rental car, check out Wicklow Gap Drive for spectacular views of the Wicklow Mountains.
Day trip ideas to Glendalough
Blarney Castle & Cork
Ireland’s most famous castle, and home of the Blarney Stone, is located near Cork, 260 km from Dublin. It’s a bit of a stretch for a day trip, but again there are many tour agencies who will take you as a day trip from Dublin. You can also take a train from Dublin to Cork, about 3 hours, and then a taxi to Blarney Castle. It will be a long day, and check the train schedules to make sure you can catch one back to Dublin. The city of Cork has a University, so it is a fairly vibrant town, with many interesting attractions. The Blackrock Castle Observatory is a 16th century castle along the waterfront.
Day trip ideas to Blarney Castle & Cork
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s West Coast are some of the most dramatic natural scenery in the Europe. Stretching for 10 kilometers along the Atlantic Coast, the Cliffs reach a maximum height of 214 meters above the ocean. Given the distance from Dublin, 260 km, an organized bus tour is highly recommended so you can leave the driving to a professional and enjoy the scenery along the way.
Day trip ideas to Cliffs of Moher
Howth Cliff Walk
If the Cliffs of Moher are a bit too far for your tastes, consider a trip to Howth. Less than 20km from Dublin, Howth is another excellent seaside escape from the big city. The Howth Cliff Path Loop is easily accessed by DART public transportation and has several kilometers of well-marked trails along the Howth cliffs. You’ll have excellent views of the coastline and the water, plus fresh air and wildlife opportunities. There’s even a few pubs along the way in case you need a rest from your hike.
Galway City is a favorite Irish city for many international tourists. Located directly west of Dublin on the coast, it’s about 2 hours along the M6. There are several daily trains to Galway from Dublin, as well as bus routes. Given that Galway is known for having the best craic (fun) in Ireland, you might want to rely on public transit so you can enjoy some Irish beer in Galway. Eyre Square is a central location in Galway, with a park, sculptures, shopping centers and tourist attractions. Galway also has a 16th century castle, Dunguaire Castle, and the Galway City Museum is a great place to learn about the history of this city. You can also hop a ferry to the Aran Islands from Galway.
Day trip ideas to Galway City
Ireland has some amazing historical sites, from castles, churches and manors. But Newgrange predates even Celtic Ireland by at least 2500 years. Newgrange is only 50 km from Dublin, making it an excellent day trip option. The site features an 80m mound surrounded by 97 stones, with a tomb inside. As is often the case with Neolithic sites, winter solstice is a special event at Newgrange. There is a small opening above one of the entrances, which allows sunlight through at dawn of winter solstice. There is a lottery for admission, as it’s quite a popular event at Newgrange. There is no direct access for visitors, as you must join a guided tour from the visitors center at Brú na Bóinne.
Day trip ideas to Newgrange
For a taste of a different Ireland, consider a day trip from Dublin to Belfast. It’s an easy, 2-hour trip by train or car, and a good chance to see a bit of Northern Ireland. In 1922, Southern Ireland became the Irish Free State, while Northern Ireland opted to remain with the United Kingdom. They’ve been two countries ever since, with Northern Ireland staying off the tourist route for decades due to violence. Today, Belfast is a popular day trip from Dublin. One of the main attractions in Belfast is the Titanic Belfast exhibit, opened in 2012. This is the world’s largest Titanic exhibit, at the site of the Harland & Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was built.