GuidesThings to do in Howth
Travel 30km north of Dublin’s city centre and you can learn how to kite surf, go paddle boarding at sunset, or simply watch the fishermen pull in their catch while you nurse a cocktail on the shore.
From seaside strolls along the headland to kayaking in the bay, here are some ideas for relaxing things to do when you’re in Skerries.
Get acquainted with the landscape on the 1.5km-long Skerries Coastal Trail, a path that loops around the headland of Red Island and links both South and North beaches. The exposed strand on the south side is more rugged and rocky, while the calmer North Beach is sheltered by the headland and a better bet for families.
Start off at the wilder South Beach and follow the trail around the spit of land, circling the Martello Tower. There are plenty of benches along the way, where you can watch the crashing waves and look for the Mourne Mountains on the horizon. Composer Percy French did just that and was so inspired that he wrote a song about the mountains that “sweep down to the sea.” The lyrics of the now famous song are on a placard that marks the spot.
Continue around the headland to the harbour and the more tranquil North Beach, where you can paddle in the shallow waters or stretch out on the sand.
There are also fine views of the coastline and the Mourne Mountains from the children’s playground at Ardgillan Demesne, on a rise between Skerries and Balbriggan. The 81 hectares of the estate also include woodland, meadows and the original 18th century manor house. You can take a tour of the castle and its manicured gardens, or live out your Downton Abbey fantasies with Afternoon Tea in the drawing room.
You’ll often spot adrenaline junkies out on the water, but if you want to try your hand at kite surfing it’s best to do it on North Beach and leave the pros to the waves on the South Strand. As well as kite surfing and windsurfing, you can enjoy the more sedate activities of kayaking and paddle boarding with Skerries Water Sports, making the most of the flat waters of North Beach. You can also explore the harbour on a stand-up paddle board (SUP) with Skerries Paddle Tours, paddling around at sunset for the full wow factor.
If you fancy a dip, the swimming is more serene on the sheltered North Beach. But if you’re an experienced swimmer, there are two great bathing spots on the south side, known as the Captains and Springers. The flat concrete at the latter means you can dunk straight into the water, but the waves and strong currents mean it’s most definitely not a spot for newbies. You can often watch the local swimming club powering through the waters though.
To enjoy the water without breaking a sweat, Skerries Seatours runs daily boat tours to Rockabill Lighthouse and Lambay Island. You’ll explore the bay on a whistlestop tour of the Skerries coast, spotting some local wildlife along the way. Who knows? You might even be joined by some dolphins playing in the wake…
From the beach you’ll be able to spot windmills belonging to Skerries Mills, where flour has been milled since the 12th century. You can have a go at grinding the grain yourself on a guided tour, and see up close how the waterwheel works. Saturday visitors can stop by the farmers market, the stalls packed with local produce like native lobster, juices and homemade jams. If you spot strawberries or queen potatoes from the neighbouring town of Rush, snap them up. Both are considered local delicacies, and with good reason.
When Potager opened in 2019, critics swooned about how it made Skerries a foodie destination. High praise for founder Cathal Leonard, whose first solo venture is built on his experience as head chef at Michelin-starred Chapter One in the city centre. The seasonal menu puts a strong emphasis on Irish produce, like slivers of wild halibut dotted with pea shoots and dense fermented bread slathered in handmade Cuinneog butter.
Things are a little more laidback at Stoop Your Head on the harbourfront, a seafood joint where you can tuck into crispy tempura prawns, creamy chowder or crab claws from Rockabill doused in garlic butter. A few doors down, Blue Bar serves up great waterside fare, like gambas pil pil, fish and chips and award-winning spicy chicken wings.
If you fancy something sweet along with a view, stop by Storm in a Teacup for an ice cream. This teeny stone cottage is at the harbour’s edge on Red Island, with upturned boats made into little seats where you can eat your cone as the water laps at your feet.
You’ll find top notch 3fe coffee in Goat in the Boat, a nautically themed café that opens out into a lifestyle store. If you’re feeling peckish, get a scoop of their homemade ice cream, sprinkled with caramel nibs or chunks of cookie. Nearby Olive Deli also serves great coffee (from local roasters Farmhand Coffee) as well as freshly made green smoothies and healthy ingredients for a picnic.
If the seaside vibes are putting you in the mood for a margarita, 5 Rock's menu of cocktails are shaken up with homemade shrubs and bitters. Their selection of spritzes go down well on a sunny day too.
Fancy seeing what else you can see along the shore? Explore the stops along the Dublin Coastal Trail.