Ireland is a small island nation with about 5 million residents. The Republic of Ireland’s center of gravity is most definitely the capital city of Dublin. Ireland’s modest size is an advantage when traveling. You can drive to most places in Ireland in less than 3 hours and you can reach the farthest, most remote corners of the country in less than 5 hours by car (check car rental prices here
). Base yourself in Dublin and take advantage of a variety of day trip options rather than having the inconvenience of unpacking and repacking each day as you move from hotel to hotel. Read on for a collection of Dublin day trip ideas curated after nearly 10 years of living in Ireland. These day trips from Dublin range from super easy to outright ambitious.
Easy Dublin Day Trips
Day trips that are less than an hour’s drive from Dublin are classified as easy. You can enjoy a range of experiences less than 50 kilometers from Dublin City Centre.
Newgrange for History Lovers
Newgrange is a Stone Age passage tomb built 5000 years ago. No, that’s not a typo: Newgrange is five thousand years old
and is the ultimate Dublin day trip for history lovers. While historians can only speculate about why the ancient people of Ireland built this place, they do think it has significance related to the cycles of the sun. The most amazing thing about Newgrange is that as the sun rises on the morning of the winter solstice, the sunbeams perfectly align with the door to the chamber and lights up the interior. For 18 EUR per adult (28 EUR for a family, you can take a tour inside Newgrange. If you are claustrophobic, I recommend purchasing the outside-only ticket for 12 EUR since the chamber is quite small and can get very crowded. Inside Newgrange, the rocks are covered in neolithic art. Newgrange is an ancient feat of engineering that will simply capture your imagination.
Tea Time at Ardgillan CastleArdgillan Castle
is the perfect no-stress Dublin day trip for tea lovers. The manor house and bright green lawn of the associated demesne overlook the Irish Sea. Dating back to the 18th century, Ardgillan Castle was owned by the Taylor family for more than two centuries. Start with a guided tour of Ardgillan Castle for 6.50 EUR per person. Even though the furnishings are not original, you’ll get a sense of how the Taylor family lived and learn more about the history of the area.Time your visit for the last weekend of each month for a special treat: an adults-only tea service (25 EUR per person). Tea is served in the atmospheric drawing room with views of the demesne and Irish Sea. Sample savory and sweet treats served on an elegant multi-tiered tray.
A Walk in Mount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens
is a great place for a relaxing walk in County Wicklow. The admission fee is just 8.00 EUR per person and it would be easy to spend the entire day lazily exploring the grounds. Mount Usher Gardens features an arboretum with trees from all over the world. Keep an eye out for fascinating mushrooms growing in the shade. Colorful flowers will uplift your mood. Follow the river that runs through the property to see where it leads. Finish your day trip from Dublin to Mount Usher Gardens with a browse through the Avoca store on site and then stop in the cafe for a well-deserved cup of tea or coffee.
Dublin Day Trips on Public Transportation
Most day trips are easiest if you have a car. What if you don’t have access to a private vehicle or car hire? You can access these Dublin day trips using public transportation.
Hillwalking in Glendalough
St. Kevin's Glendalough bus service costs 20 EUR for a round trip ticket. The bus departs two times a day on weekends with the timetable designed to give you just enough time for a brisk hillwalk. Glendalough is probably the most popular Dublin day trip for visitors and the monastic settlement on site dates back 1500 years. Check out the round tower and Celtic crosses in the cemetery situated among the ruins. Spend some time exploring the historic site or decide to focus on getting a bit of exercise and take an ambitious walk around Glendalough Upper Lake. Take the Spinc and Glenealo Valley loop trail and you’ll be rewarded after the uphill climb with fantastic views of both the Lower and Upper Lake. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on the trail. In addition to amazing landscapes, you may be lucky enough to spot magnificent deer, mountain goats, and foxes.
Country Living at Powerscourt
Powerscourt is another Dublin day trip popular with tourists. Skip the organized tour and make your way to Powerscourt independently by taking Dublin Bus #44 from Dublin City to Enniskerry. You can reach Powerscourt on foot from Enniskerry (about a 1 km walk from town). Enter Powerscourt through the Palladian mansion. Access the world-renowned gardens for 11.50 EUR per person. Wander through the rose garden and admire the varied colors. Look for fountains hidden among colorful flower beds. Don’t miss the pet cemetery where previous residents of Powerscourt mourned the loss of beloved pets. Take some time to read the headstones:
- Modger - faithful little friend for 9 years
- Here lies Tiny, Pet of John Slazenger, a miniature long-haired dachshund. Died Aged 7
There is even an Irish Wolfhound buried in the Powerscourt pet cemetery. You’ll find memorials to Eugenie and Princess, beloved cows that had produced more than 100,000 gallons of milk.Explore the Japanese and Italian Gardens before heading back to Powerscourt Mansion to admire the views of the Wicklow Mountains in the distance.
Dublin Day Trips by Train
There are so many great destinations in Ireland to explore by train
. In fact, some of the best Dublin day trips are accessible by train. Hop on Irish Rail’s commuter service for a leisurely day out or take an intercity train for a more ambitious Dublin day trip.
A Maynooth Photowalk
Dublin to Maynooth takes just 45 minutes by train. Why visit Maynooth? It’s here that you’ll find some of the best photo opportunities in all of Dublin. Start with the ruins of Maynooth Castle and then make your way to Maynooth University. The Maynooth University campus features atmospheric buildings with picturesque facades. Zero in on St. Patrick’s College on the South Campus. Have a look inside the church on campus which features colorful decorations and a historic pipe organ. Take some time to seek out the interior courtyard where you can take beautiful photos of the doors and windows of the church. Don’t miss Maynooth’s Bicentenary Garden, a large park that includes a lovely walled garden.
Kilkenny for the CraicKilkenny
is located about 90 minutes by train from Dublin, making it an ideal, albeit ambitious, day trip. Marvel at Kilkenny Castle and take a long walk through the Kilkenny Castle demesne and forested grounds if the weather is nice. Walk the Medieval Mile to Rothe House, a well-preserved period dwelling once occupied by a prominent merchant. Enjoy the surprisingly spacious garden located at the back of the house. You might even spot a bird of prey look for its next meal. Kilkenny is best after dark. Grab a pint of Smithwick’s which was originally brewed here and is famous for being Ireland’s oldest beer. Keep an eye out for free gigs in the early evening before catching the train back to Dublin.
Ambitious Dublin Day Trips
We’ve covered a variety of day trips to suit lots of interests so far. Perhaps you’re an overachiever? Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more ambitious and off the standard tourist track? These final three day trips will push the limits of what you can accomplish in a day but you’ll return back to Dublin tired but grateful that you made the trip.
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve for Bird Lovers
If you visit Dublin in the winter, this day trip is perfect for birdwatchers. Every year, Wexford Wildfowl Reserve serves as the winter home to thousands of Greenland white-fronted geese. It takes about 2 hours to get from Dublin to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve and the final couple kilometers will leave you wondering if you made a wrong turn as you bump along a dirt track along the beach. Stretch your legs after the long drive with a walk around the property. Climb the tower which doubles as a visitors’ center and bird hide and watch those Greenland white-fronted geese and other species like Brent geese and whooper swans mingle and waddle about. Stay to watch an early sunset before hopping in the car for the ride back to Dublin.
The Family Sagas of Belvedere HouseBelvedere House
(8 EUR per adult) is located just a little over an hour’s drive from Dublin by car near Mullingar. Belvedere House is most famous for its follies, structures that look like they are historic but are really modern and built to add atmosphere to the property. In particular, the Jealous Wall is impressive. The Jealous Wall was created in response to a family feud that pitted two brothers against each other over alleged adultery. Robert Rochfort, owner of Belvedere House, built the Jealous Wall so he wouldn’t have to see his brother George who lived next door. All this family drama combined with the money to erect these follies means that the grounds of Belvedere House are a great place to spend the day, especially when the weather is fine.
Birr Castle to Experience Scientific History
Did you know that Birr Castle, located in Ireland’s County Offaly, boasted the world’s largest telescope for three-quarters of a century? Birr Castle is situated nearly 2 hours by car from Dublin and is actually a great place to stop and stretch your legs on a road trip from Dublin to Dingle
. Explore the castle, grounds, and the historic telescope for just 9.50 EUR per person. The telescope was the envy of every Victorian-era star-gazer. Spend some time strolling the grounds and marveling at the ladders and pulleys required to operate the telescope. This is a Dublin day trip perfect for science-lovers.There you have it:
10 Dublin day trips to suit a variety of interests. Whether you are looking to embark or a short or an ambitious drive or stick to public transportation, you’ll find that Ireland may be small but it packs a lot of history and charm into every kilometer.