Insider Tips

Dún Laoghaire Dublin: An Itinerary

By Visit Dublin

16th December 2019

Having explored Malahide and Howth, writer Kate Burke and photographer Chloë Keogan continue along the Dublin coast to the scenic marine town of Dún Laoghaire.

Two images of a girl sailing in Dun Laoghaire

Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leery) is beautiful, inviting and every bit as charming as you might expect. Chloë and I hopped on the DART in the city-centre, and within just a few minutes, were enjoying a spectacular view of the Irish Sea and the magnificent south Dublin coastline.  In twenty minutes we’d arrived, and Chloë and I headed straight for the town’s West Pier. Having strolled down by the marina and admired the many boats bobbing on the water, we continued on to the harbour, where we were met by our two sailing instructors, Kenneth and Nick from the Irish National Sailing School & Club. Once we’d climbed aboard the yacht, they effortlessly navigated through the many sailboats docked in the harbour.

This is easy!

At that point, Kenneth turned to me and said, “Here Kate, take this.” ‘This’ being the tiller – the thing that moves the rudder, effectively leaving me in charge of where this boat might take us. “You see that lighthouse?” he asked, pointing towards the structure at the end of the pier, “just aim for that.” “This is easy!” I thought to myself, as the yacht gingerly made its way out of Dún Laoghaire harbour.However, once we’d left the harbour and were no longer sheltered by its walls, the real sailing began.  As a girl from the land-locked cornfields of Northern Illinois, the most water sport activity I’ve done is a bit of canoeing on a small private pond, so it took me a while to adjust to the sensation of the waves! I needn’t have worried though, as sailing in Dún Laoghaire is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. Making our way across the clear blue waves with the fresh sea air in our faces was the perfect adventure. What’s more, from the boat we had spectacular views of the pier and town, Dalkey Island and the iconic 300-year-old Poolbeg Lighthouse, which sits at the end of the Great South Wall leading into Dublin Port.

Maritime history

When we eventually made our way back onto solid ground, Chloë and I said goodbye to the guys, and took a stroll inland, to the National Maritime Museum of Ireland. This converted cathedral is home to an amazing wealth of maritime history – artefacts, maps, models and books, all documenting the rich, eventful and sometimes tragic relationship Ireland has had with the sea. From the infamous Titanic and the many shipwrecks dotted along the Irish coast, to the stories of captains past, and the fascinating history of Dún Laoghaire pier, the museum is an architectural treasure in its own right.


By this stage, we’d worked up quite an appetite, and were ready for lunch. We decided to continue exploring, with a short stroll to nearby village Glasthule, and stopped for food in Caviston’s. After a fabulous lunch of salmon and fresh veg, we couldn’t resist stopping in next door to their Food Emporium, where we sampled some delicious pastries, and picked up a variety of tasty artisan cheeses to go.

Enjoy a dip

The friendly staff advised us that our next stop, the James Joyce Museum (housed in Sandycove’s Martello tower), was just a ten-minute walk away. As we approached the tower that inspired Ulysses, we were met with the 40 Foot; a scenic Dublin swimming area where locals have enjoyed a dip in the ocean for over 250 years. Formerly a gentlemen’s bathing area, it’s now open to all visitors. If you’re planning on spending the festive season in Dublin, be sure to stop by on Christmas Day, as a host of swimmers make the brave leap into the chilly water each year!
The Martello Tower Sandycove


Deciding against an impromptu dip in the ocean, we headed inside the tower and were met by museum secretary and Joyce enthusiast, Sadie Delaney. While showing us around, Sadie explained that this tower was actually the residence of Joyce’s friend, Oliver St. John Gogarty, and that Joyce only ever spent about six days there. It’s said that over those few nights, Joyce was so inspired by the tower and the curious nightmares his fellow guest Samuel Trench experienced there (he dreamt of a black panther and fired his gun at it in a state of confusion!), that Ulysses was born.Sadie then showed us some of the fascinating pieces that live here, including Joyce’s guitar and one of two eerie death masks cast shortly after his death in 1941. Passing through second level of the museum (a living-room furnished almost exactly as it would have been when Joyce was a guest), we headed up to the top look-out level.

A rare gem

With 360-degree views of Dún Laoghaire, Dalkey, the Poolbeg towers, Howth Head and of course, the expansive Irish Sea, this building is a rare gem. Though it’s small in size, it’s absolutely steeped in history and literary inspiration, and well worth a visit.Leaving the tower, there was only one thing on my mind. I’d been told a trip to Dún Laoghaire just wasn’t complete without a stop-off at Teddy’s, the town’s much-loved ice-cream parlour. With a delicious 99 cone in hand, we ventured out along the famous East Pier, and gazed out across the stunning Dublin Bay.With our day almost reaching a close, we popped into Naughton’s Booksellers, a quirky little bookshop just opposite the pier. Situated right next to Dún Laoghaire’s People’s Park, Naughton’s houses second-hand books that range from relatively new, to old, to really old!
a view of a busy east pier in Dun Laoghaire
We then walked along Old Dún Laoghaire Road, to the last destination on the itinerary: The Purty Kitchen. The Purty, as locals lovingly call it, is a gastro-meets-local easygoing kind of pub.As Chloë  and I reflected on our day in Dún Laoghaire over a glass of wine, a familiar face approached to say hello.  It was Nick, our sailing instructor from the morning. We had a lovely chat about the rest of my adventure around the town, and as we said goodbye, I promised I’d see him on the open sea again soon! Chloë and I then tucked into a hearty dinner – as the day had been pretty action-packed, we were hungry enough to clean our plates. As night fell upon Dún Laoghaire, we made our way to the station, and onto the DART which would carry us back to the city-centre. Tired but happy, we thoroughly our adventure, and were already planning our return trip to Dún Laoghaire.

Read about Kate’s visits to Malahide, Howth and Dalkey.

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