Discover every stop on the Dublin Coastal Trail

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Orla NeliganOrla Neligan is a freelance editor and journalist. She contributes a weekly column to the Irish Independent, as well as regular features on travel, business, psychology, interiors and lifestyle for the paper and other publications.
Media captionExplore the beautiful Dublin Coastal Trail.
People walking on North Bull Island in Co Dublin
Media captionExplore the beautiful Dublin Coastal Trail.

Right at the edge of Dublin city centre is the long and inviting coastline of Dublin Bay, dotted with medieval castles, scenic cliff walks, pretty parks and plenty of outdoor activities ready to fill a weekend of adventure.

Winding through 11 villages from Skerries in the north to Killiney in the south, the Dublin Coastal Trail is accessible by DART rail line and Irish Rail, making for an easy car-free day trip for those craving salt air and saltier seafood while based in the city. On a good day, you can also hop on two wheels with the Bleeper Bike share scheme, available in several places along the Trail, and freewheel your way along the coast.

From fish and chips in Dún Laoghaire to seal-watching in Howth, here’s everything you can get up to along the Dublin Coastal Trail.

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A seaside town worth its salt all year round, Skerries is full of great activities for a day out. This is the only stop on the Dublin Coastal Trail not accessible by DART – you’ll need to hop on a quick Irish Rail train from the city centre. The pretty harbour village is popular with visitors who come to ramble the coastal walk and the silvery strands of the North and South beaches. Head out on a paddleboard tour with Skerries Watersports or Paddle Tours, and follow it up with an award-winning ice cream at Storm in a Teacup on the pier.

Media captionHead to the beach in Skerries.

Those looking for a hit of history with a side of stunning scenery should take a dog-leg to Skerries Mills – a collection of historic windmills edged by ponds and crop fields with breathtaking coastal views. Get there on a Saturday and avail of some local produce at the mill’s farmers market. Alternatively, there’s delicious fishy fare at Blue Bar in the harbour, upmarket eats at Michelin-starred restaurant Potager and crowd-pleasers including chowder and sandwiches (with a side of pints) at Stoop Your Head.

Media captionBefore you leave, grab a bite to eat in Stoop Your Head.


Malahide’s smart layout with pastel houses and a slick marina belies its breezy coastal vibe. Shouldering the 12th century Malahide Castle on one side and the golden sands of Malahide beach on the other, with buzzy restaurants and boutiques in between, it manages to have it all. Tour the castle and gardens and learn about the Talbot family who lived there (and the ghosts that apparently roam the grounds). Spot over 20 species of butterfly among tropical plants in the exotic Butterfly House, or bring little ones to the Casino Model Railway Museum housed in the original hunting lodge near the castle gates.

Media captionRoam the grounds of Malahide Castle and Gardens, and spot the exotic butterflies.

Adventurous spirits can organise a trip to Lambay Island to scope out the isolated island’s castle, chapel and coastguard station. Spot local wildlife including seals, puffins and even a troupe of wallabies.

For dinner with a view, try fresh fish at The Greedy Goose in the marina or grab some traditional nosh and live music at Gibney’s pub on the main street.


Just 25 minutes from the city yet worlds away, Howth peninsula manages to straddle a busy fishing village feel with windswept coastal walks. Take in the village as you set off on the 6km Howth Cliff Path Loop from Howth, pier taking in Ireland’s Eye, the Bailey Lighthouse and dramatic sea cliffs. Or head for a guided hike of the peninsula with Howth Adventures, learning about coastal habitats and wildlife as you go.

Much of the town backs onto the extensive grounds of Howth Castle, built in 1564. The castle itself remains private, except for the historic kitchens, where you can take cooking classes with Howth Castle Cookery School. The gardens are worth a visit, most notably in summer when the rhododendron collections are in full bloom. You’ll find more beautiful species at Ardan Garden close to the summit.

Media captionLace up your hiking boots and take on the Howth Cliff Path Loop.

Dive deeper into Howth’s wild side and join a tour with Howth Foraging and take in the coast from the sea with Dublin Bay Cruises, then fuel up at one of the village’s many great eateries. There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants to choose from including King Sitric Seafood Bar, Wright’s and Beshoff’s. Travelling with the pooch? The Dog House welcomes you and your furry friend with a casual menu of bistro favourites. Or take a food tour with Hidden Howth Experiences.

Media captionChomp down on great seafood at King Sitric Seafood Bar.
Media credit@lovefingaldublin

Raheny & North Bull Island

With its dune-fringed beach and sea pool, North Bull Island is a fantastic area for a wildlife – it’s been tagged as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve for birdlife, which you’ll spot as you amble along the shoreline. You can wander the rose garden at nearby St Anne’s Park, then stop by the Saturday Red Stables Food Market or Olive’s Room for a wholesome breakfast or lunch. For lunch on the go, grab a toastie from Happy Out on Bull Island pier and watch the kite surfers tear up the waves. Or settle in for afternoon tea at Póg in Clontarf.

Media captionExplore the Red Stables Food Market.

Grand Canal Dock

The once run-down original terminus of the Grand Canal is now a thriving mixed-use urban quarter, part outdoor adventure scene, part cultural hub. During the day, Surfdock in the Docklands and City Kayaking on the Liffey facilitate a hive of activity, including paddleboarding and kayaking. You can also explore the area on a Viking Splash tour, which drives past the iconic Windmill Lane Recording Studios before hitting the water. It’s also a fitting location for the nearby EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, since it’s where so many emigrants bid farewell to Ireland. On the Liffey, you can also board The Jeanie Johnston famine ship, a replica of the 19th century tall ship that carried many Irish people from to America.

Media captionHop in a kayak and see Dublin city from a whole new perspective.

When the sun goes down, catch a show at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and grab a bite to eat – choose from buzzy restaurants like Allta and Charlotte Quay or family-friendly Herb Street. Or pair a burger or a slice of pizza with a craft beer from BrewDog while watching paddleboarders float by. 


Nobody takes a beach day for granted in Ireland, but even on rainy days you’ll find Sandymount Strand dotted with walkers heading along the Great South Wall walk past the Martello Tower towards Poolbeg Lighthouse or savouring the view of the iconic Poolbeg Chimney stacks. Sandymount’s easy-going village attitude is tailored for a post-beach refreshment at neighbourhood favourite Crudo, or you can grab a coffee and pastry from the Arty Baker and head to the village green or nearby Herbert Park to feed the ducks.

Media captionPay a visit to the Poolbeg Lighthouse and Chimney Stacks.

It’s impossible to miss the looming 50m-high façade of the Aviva Stadium, home to Irish football, rugby and world-class concerts, that seems at odds with the casual atmosphere of its neighbourhood but promises some high-octane fun.

Salthill & Monkstown

Join the sea swimmers at Seapoint Beach before strolling into nearby Monkstown village for a browse in one of the boutiques that range from homewares at The Blue Door and fashion favourites at Seagreen to organic fare at Avoca. Sandwiched between Sandymount and Dún Laoghaire, this high-energy suburb is a busy enclave that packs a punch for its small size. There’s plenty of food offerings from fine dining at Bresson Restaurant and steaks at F.X. Buckley to traditional favourites at 8a Brasserie.

On clear days it’s worth hiring a bike and enjoying the cycle tracks that hug the coast – you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views all the way to Howth.

Media captionSavour the coastal views on a cycle of Monkstown.

Dún Laoghaire

When the sun shines, you’ll find many heading to Dún Laoghaire Marina, marked by the great granite walls of the East pier – a wonderful walk in any weather and where you can grab fish and chips while watching the boats bob. Hop on a Goat Boat Tour to explore the Bay. The West pier may not be as busy but offers an equally lovely stroll and a chance to test your water skills at Discover SUP and BigStyle Paddleboarding. When you’re done splashing about head to Oliveto at Haddington House, a family favourite that serves excellent pizzas. Or flake out on the grass at People’s Park where kids can hit the playground and on Sundays you can grab lunch from the farmers market.

Media captionLearn something new at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland.

There’s plenty to do on rainy days too with the National Maritime Museum, located in a 180-year-old church, the impressive Lexicon Library on the seafront, and a whole host of cosy coffee shops.

Sandycove & Glasthule

Stroll along the promenade or grab your bike and follow the cycle routes on the short hop from Dún Laoghaire to Sandycove, with its charming little harbour and sandy beach. For a donation of €1, James Joyce fans can get a stunning view and a history lesson at the James Joyce Martello Tower & Museum before heading to the Forty Foot – a bathing spot ­with over 250 years of swimming history where swimmers descend stairs into the cool blue. It’s a crowded spot in summer, but refreshment is guaranteed.

Media captionStop by the James Joyce Museum before jumping in the deep end at the Forty Foot.

Dry off and head to Sandycove Store and Yard where you can warm up with a coffee and a sauna before hitting Caviston’s – one of the best fish and seafood restaurant in Dublin – for fresh sardines, charred swordfish and scallops. Or, grab some mussels and fish tacos to go at The Fish Shack along with a bottle of wine from 64 Wine or Mitchell’s & Sons.


It might be compact in size, but this tiny seaside enclave has managed to draw the attention of a host of famous Irish residents including Maeve Binchy, Bono and Enya. A stroll through Dalkey’s narrow streets and you can see the appeal: the 14th century Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre where you can catch a medieval evening with some literary legends, The Dalkey Book Festival in June, dubbed “the best little festival in the world” by Salman Rushdie, The Dalkey Lobster Festival in August for a seafood splurge, and the Ken the Ferryman ferry service, which will take you across the water to appreciate the isolated beauty of Dalkey Island.

Want to work up a sweat? The old Dalkey Quarry has been converted into a popular rock climbing centre. Under the watchful eye of expert instructors, you can learn the ropes and make your way up the rock face before abseiling your way back down. For a sea view of the Dalkey coastline and a close encounter with its resident seals, head out on a kayaking tour of the bay with

Media captionGo back to medieval times at Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre.

There’s a glut of great restaurants and pubs to boot. Head to Finnegan’s or The Queens for some good gastro grub and a pint. There’s lively music and vegan options at the pet-friendly Dalkey Duck and excellent surf and turf at Ouzo’s on the main street.


The Dublin Coastal Trail concludes with the dramatic finale that is Killiney and its lofty position overlooking Dublin. For the best views, head up Killiney Hill where you can walk one of the many wandering trails or simply take in the view which stretches as far as Wales (on a good day) to the east and Wicklow Mountains to the south. A park highlight is the iconic granite obelisk erected in 1742 as a famine relief project. Below you you’ll see Killiney Beach and the Vico Baths, both popular swimming spots. Golfers can also factor in a game at the 9-hole Killiney Golf Club which offers stunning views of the city and surround.

Media captionCap off your trip along the Dublin Coastal trail with some incredible views in Killiney.

Experience the Dublin Coastal Trail

With unforgettable experiences to enjoy up and down the Dublin coast, all that’s left to do now is decide where to start your Dublin Coastal Trail journey. 

Browse our guides to Dublin's coastal villages and begin exploring the city's coastline.