As you plod the charming streets admiring the colorful doorways and drinking in the famous pub atmosphere, you might think that there’s nowhere you’d rather be than Dublin. To be honest, we couldn’t agree more, but if you’re lucky enough to have a few extra days to explore, Ireland certainly has a whole lot more to offer just a stone’s throw (a train or a bus ride) away. And that leads us to the world of Dublin day trips.
Read along for our recommendations for the top five Dublin day trips that will help you understand where the Emerald Isle gets its name.
Coast to Coast: Cliffs of Moher Tour from Dublin
If you’re craving a break from the city buzz and are eager to explore some of Ireland’s beautifully rugged landscapes, you need look no further than a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. This is probably one of the most quintessential (and most beautiful!) Dublin day trips.
Just a three-hour drive from the center of Dublin, you’ll quickly feel worlds away. While you could rent a car and make the trip yourself, there are a whole host of companies lining up to accompany you on your journey from east to west, providing insightful commentary along the way.
Departing from the city, it doesn’t take long for Ireland’s stunning scenery to make an impression. Of course, the route leads you through fairytale villages between green rolling hills, the anticipation building as you edge closer to the roaring Atlantic Ocean.
Running along the west coast in the Burren region of County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher stretch out for just under 9 miles, rising up 700 feet from the sea below. You can get surprisingly close to the edge at times too—just don’t look down!
Stepping off the bus, you are quickly greeted by a cacophony of waves crashing against the rocks. As you stroll along the coastal paths, the blustery winds and awe-inspiring views will quickly help you shake off any road-weariness and you’ll be glad you came.Many tours also include entry to the award-winning Visitor Center, home to an extensive selection of photographs, exhibits and experiences. The highlight here is the virtual reality cliff face adventure, an audiovisual spectacle known as “The Ledge Experience,” which gives you a glimpse into life on the cliff face both above and below sea level.
Giant’s Causeway Tour from Dublin
We won’t lie to you, this one is one of the fuller Dublin day trips.
In fact, it’s not even in the same country, but several operators run the route from the Southern Irish capital over the border, taking in Belfast and other impressive sites on the way. It’s a long old drive but in our opinion, it’s well worth it.
Legend has it that the breathtaking formation of over 40,000 rocks jutting from the ocean was built by the giant Finn McCool. The story goes that he created the causeway to reach Scotland, where he was to challenge a rival giant. While we might be skeptical about Finn’s role in sculpting it, there is no denying the magic in the air here. Treading carefully between the peculiar shapes to the soundtrack of the crashing waves, it becomes clear why the site has inspired a host of mythical tales.
If fantasy is your thing, several tour companies combine the visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site with the modern mythological phenomenon that is Game of Thrones. That’s right, from Winterfell to Castle Black and the Wall, Northern Ireland is home to around 25 filming locations from the HBO classic.
Did you know? The album artwork for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy is a photo taken at the Giant’s Causeway.
Lough Tay: Visit the Guinness Lake from Dublin
Having already traveled coast to coast, the first freshwater destination on our list is Lough Tay. There are more lakes than we could ever list scattered across Ireland, but this one is under an hour outside Dublin. Otherwise known as the Guinness Lake, it gets its name from the deep, dark color of the water and the unique shape that sees it resemble a pint of the black stuff from above.
The beautiful valley is picture-postcard Ireland. In fact, to get an idea of quite how spectacular the landscapes are here, just ask any fan of the History Channel drama Vikings. They’ll tell you Lough Tay does a pretty good impression of Scandinavia’s finest scenery, doubling as the fictional setting for Ragnar Lothbrok’s home town of Kattegat.
Much of the area is still owned by the Guinness Family Estate. In fact, Arthur Guinness maintained that a large part of his famous drink’s success was down to the unparalleled quality of the water used in the brewing process. To this day, Guinness insists that it uses only pure spring water pumped in straight from the Wicklow Mountains.
Find out more about how the world’s most famous stout is made by visiting the Guinness Storehouse with us on our Dublin in a Day: Book of Kells, Guinness Brewery, Distillery & Castle tour.
Malahide Castle: A Medieval Day Out from Dublin
Frankly, it should be a crime to even consider visiting Ireland without taking in one of its 30,000 castles (there really are that many). Luckily for you, just 30 minutes north of the city center, Malahide Castle makes a perfect day trip from Dublin—in fact, get up early and you can even be back in time for lunch.
The castle dates back to the 12th century, when it was originally built as a fortress. Over time, it became the opulent residence of the Talbot family, with the last Baron of Malahide, Lord Milo Talbot, living there until his death in 1973. Today, the elegant rooms filled with antique furniture and priceless artwork tell the stories of the generations who have called the place home. It’s a fascinating insight into Ireland’s rich and troubled history.With folklore bursting from its seams, the grounds at Malahide are the perfect setting for our highlight, the Fairy Trail. Young and old will enjoy this enchanting experience, a 1.8km whimsical route through the woods in the castle grounds.
A Seaside Day Out: From Dublin to Greystones
Our last recommendation (and probably one of the easiest Dublin day trips) is one that doesn’t often make these lists. A simple 45-minute train ride south of the capital lies the charming seaside town of Greystones—believe us when we say the name does this cheery, colorful village a real disservice.
The pretty coastal path is the perfect place to work up an appetite before heading into town for a bite to eat. Among the ample selection of cozy cafes and tasty eateries, one of our favorites is the Happy Pear. Having started out as a veg shop back in 2004, food-loving twins Dave and Steve have turned it into a thriving community café serving wholesome, plant-based food and great coffee. The emphasis on fresh and local makes this family-run spot our top choice in town for a quick breakfast or a healthy, hearty lunch.
In the end, there are many great options when it comes to Dublin day trips. No matter where you decide to head, Ireland will provide the warmest of welcomes and the most incredible settings!