By Sydne Tursky
Dublin is a great city. There are plenty of things to do, from festivals to great markets to the plethora of crazy university events that are always on. The sunsets from the bridges on the Liffey are gorgeous, and Irish people are just grand.
But … It has a few downfalls too, like any city does. It doesn’t always smell the best. On weekend mornings, the streets sometimes have drunken detritus from the night before. Crossing the street is hard because no one seems to be overly concerned with following the traffic rules. Dublin is still amazing, and I am still so glad I live here, but sometimes I need a break.
I’ve made it a habit this semester of getting out of Dublin at least once a week for some fresh air and new experiences. Often that meant taking a weekend trip, like when I visited Killarney and the Ring of Kerry or Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Sometimes, though, I would simply take the train to a town close by for a little escape. These day trips, always on a Thursday because I don’t have class, became the perfect respite from Dublin’s car exhaust and busy streets, and I always had a new appreciation for the excitement of the fair city upon my return.
These are my favorite day trips from Dublin, in no particular order, because Ireland is far too beautiful and I just couldn’t choose a favorite.
Powerscourt is not the easiest place to get to. The best way to get there involves taking a bus from Dublin to Enniskerry, and then walking about 25 minutes uphill to Powerscourt Estate. However, I think the difficulties are worth it.
A view of Powerscourt Estate from the Italian Gardens.
Powerscourt’s gardens are amazing. The grounds are huge, and they have every kind of garden you can imagine, as well as gorgeous fountains, a little castle tower, a pet cemetery and mysterious woods to venture into.
The area surrounding Powerscourt is pretty gorgeous too.
I was by myself on this trip, and I spent several hours just wandering around; I only went back inside the house, which has been turned into a shopping center, when it started to rain! It might be best to save this trip for spring, when the weather will be warmer and the flowers blooming, but the gardens are open year-round. A ticket is required, but the grounds are so pretty that you won’t notice your lighter pockets.
Fair warning: Glendalough is not that easy to get to via public transportation; the best way to get there is in a car. But if you can manage it, it is so worth it! Glendalough is a glacial valley that houses a monastic village and amazing nature scenes. It is fun to explore the village and learn a little about its history, but the Upper Lake is the real star. In warmer months, this would be the perfect place for a hike, a dip in the creek and a picnic. Glendalough is exactly the kind of scenery I anticipated when I came to Ireland. It is, quite honestly, perfection.
The lake is so still and beautiful, you just can’t help hopping out onto it.
Yes, this is definitely the most touristy item on this list. You must pay to get in and it takes a pretty long and not very cheap train ride to get there. But somehow, Blarney Castle rises above all that and still manages to be awesome. Obviously, kissing the stone is something everyone needs to do in Ireland. However, the castle itself and the gardens around it are so overlooked!
The view from the top of Blarney Castle.
There are wishing steps and fairy glades and waterfalls and even a poison garden; it is all my childhood dreams come to life.
The Seven Sisters stones in the gardens.
Even though it is a bit farther from Dublin than the others, you can explore the castle and grounds and still make it into Cork for dinner and a little exploring before you have to catch your train back to Dublin. Bonus: you might find that you are especially eloquent after this little adventure.
I chose Howth as my favorite day trip thus far because it was somehow simultaneously one of the most relaxing, refreshing and exciting places I have been. It is just a short DART ride out of Dublin, and it is so worth the couple of euros. This little fishing village has ample opportunity for sea air and pretty pictures, but the real star is the hiking.
The cliff path literally winds along the cliff, so it is not advised for anyone afraid of heights!
I do not usually harbor a strong affinity for the outdoors, but I can appreciate a beautiful hike now and then. Howth has four trails of varying length and difficulty. I completed the easiest trail, the Cliff Path Loop, and it was absolutely breathtaking. The scenery was exactly the kind of city break I was looking for, and the hike was exhilarating. Just look at this:
Just one of the many cool views along the trail.
So worth the 6-kilometer walk, and I treated myself to chips afterwards. Howth has a special place in my heart.
Sydne Tursky is a junior at the University of Arkansas. She typically studies journalism, but is spending her semester at Trinity College Dubin buried in history books and is loving every second.