A day trip to Howth is one of the highlights of visiting County Dublin. It’s a beautiful village on the stunning Irish coast and is just a 12-mile journey from the centre of Dublin.
Howth, Ireland is a picturesque place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There are oodles of things to do too, from indulging in sumptuous seafood dinners and boat trips to Ireland’s Eye to windswept hikes along the cliffs and wildlife spotting in the harbour.
- About Howth
- A brief history of Howth
- How to get to Howth from Dublin
- Is Howth worth visiting?
- Day trip to Howth | What to do in Howth
- Visit Ireland’s Eye
- Eat Irish Food
- Spot Grey Seals
- Stroll on Balscadden Bay Beach
- Take a coastal cliff walk of Howth
- Visit the Church of the Assumption
- Walk along Howth Pier
- More Ireland Inspiration
- Staying in Howth longer?
- Where to stay in Howth
- More things to do in Howth
- Useful links for your trip to Howth
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A brief history of Howth
Howth’s name originates from the Norse Viking invaders who brought the Danish language to Ireland. Hǫfuð means ‘head’ in English.
Howth village is located on a peninsula that juts out into Dublin Bay. Archaeological evidence has shown it’s an area that has been home to human life for many thousands of years, and it is named in Irish mythology. It was also the last bastion of the Norse invaders after they were defeated by the King of Ireland, Brian Boru, in 1014.
The first Earl of Howth built the original castle, and the one which now dominates the village skyline replaced it 700 years ago. The castle grounds are open all year round. However, this wasn’t always true. A pirate from the 1500s, Grace O’Malley or Granuaile, had the gate to the castle shut in her face. So, when the young son of the family who disrespected her paid a visit to see her impressive ship, she took him out to sea, and the ransom was that his parents always welcome visitors in the future.
This pretty place was originally a tiny fishing village, and the Howth pier and harbour were built in the early 1800s for the mail ships serving Dublin city. It was also the harbour at which 900 rifles were landed in 1914 for use in the Anglo-Irish war.
How to get to Howth from Dublin
Getting to Howth couldn’t be easier easy whether you decide to take public transport, drive or go on a tour.
- DART trains from Dublin to Howth run every 10 minutes, costing approx 5 Euros. Check the train timetable for the latest information.
- Book a group half-day tour to Howth if you want to see the highlights on a luxury coach, and a guide.
- Hire your own wheels with Discover Cars. Driving to Howth will take 50 minutes via the R807 and R105.
Is Howth worth visiting?
It’s only a 30-minute journey from Dublin to Howth, and the spectacular views of the Irish Sea and dramatic coastline make it a place worth visiting.
So, what to do in Howth? There’s moorland to discover, with heather that turns violet in late summer and gorse that blooms yellow in spring, friendly locals and excellent seafood restaurants.
If you love wildlife, a boat trip from Howth Pier to the seabird and seal haven of Ireland’s Eye is a great idea, and those interested in history will enjoy exploring Howth Castle.
Day trip to Howth | What to do in Howth
Visit Ireland’s Eye
Visiting Ireland’s Eye was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Howth. So, as soon as I arrived, I made my way to West Howth Pier and hopped on the first boat out to this fascinating little island.
Ireland’s Eye is an inhabited, windswept island that offers travellers a taste of splendid isolation just a short sail from harbour. It’s a protected nature reserve home to thousands of noisy seabirds and cute and curious grey seals.
Ask your friendly skipper to chug past the dramatic sea stacks and the mysterious caves at the base of the soaring cliffs. You might see a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the boat if you’re lucky.
On land, there’s an ancient church to explore and the Martello Tower, which acted as an essential link in the defence of the Irish coastline during the Napoleonic Wars.
Eat Irish Food
In Howth, Ireland, there are many fantastic restaurants to choose from, and they serve tasty food to suit every taste and budget, from basic to fancy!
Eating out in Howth village is a joy for people who love fresh seafood. However, if you’re veggie or vegan, there are plenty of delicious options to suit you too.
If you’re in the mood for simple, traditional dishes with ingredients from the local seas, head to the smaller restaurants along the West Pier. After working up an appetite hiking, I took a cosy table at The Oar House and enjoyed mouth-watering mussels and a pint of creamy Guinness.
Spot Grey Seals
As you meander along the West Pier, you might be lucky to see grey seals bobbing around in the harbour waters. They are cheeky creatures who love to hunt for fish scraps being hurled by the trawlers.
There’s also a grey seal colony on Ireland’s Eye, and you’ll see them lounging on the beaches, chilling on the rugged rocks and swimming along the shore.
Stroll on Balscadden Bay Beach
Heading away from the village towards the coastal path, you will find Balscadden Bay Beach. It’s opposite Howth harbour and is popular with locals, tourists and the local seals. Unfortunately, there’s not much sand. (Not necessarily a bad thing if you hate the stuff!) However, the gorgeous views of the cliffs and Ireland’s Eye are worth the trek down the steep stone steps. There’s a great restaurant on the shore too.
Take a coastal cliff walk of Howth
If you’re a hiker, the question of what to do in Howth is a no-brainer. The Howth Cliff Walks are a series of well-marked paths of varying lengths and difficulties, but all offer magnificent views of this spectacular part of the Irish coast.
- The Black Linn Loop – Red Route – 2.5 hours – 8 km
- The Bog of Frogs Loop – Purple Route – 3 hours – 12 km
- The Howth Cliff Path Loop – Green Route – 2 hours – 6 km
- The Tramline Loop – Blue Route – 2 hours – 7 km
- The Howth Summit Walk – 1.5 hours
All the walks, apart from the last, which begins at Howth summit, start at the DART station in Howth village. The paths are well maintained, but you’re walking along a coastline with steep cliffs and strong winds, so stay well away from the edge!
I chose to walk the green route, the Howth Cliff Path Loop, as I had limited time. From the top of the cliffs, I could see far out to sea and had fab views of Ireland’s Eye. At my feet, the pretty varieties of flora and fauna were attracting colourful butterflies, lazy bees, and a type of bright yellow gorse called furze carpeted either side of the path.
Admire views of Bailey Lighthouse
Bailey Lighthouse is tucked into the rocks on the southeast tip of the Howth Peninsula. It’s a picture postcard view with the lighthouse’s bright white walls standing out against the lush green of the craggy land around it and the steel blue sea of Dublin Bay in front.
Find the Eire 6 sign
Getting to see the Eire 6 sign was one of the reasons I chose to walk the green cliff path. It’s on the upper cliff road, and the giant sign, designed to be seen by pilots in WW2, has been lovingly refreshed and preserved in recent years. The Eire 6 sign is among the many along the Irish coastline that proclaimed and defended the country’s neutrality during the conflict.
Visit the Church of the Assumption
The Church of the Assumption is a small yet beautiful Catholic Church not far from Howth Harbour. It’s still a working place of worship, but all are welcome to go in and experience peace and tranquillity. The stained-glass windows and depictions of the stations of the cross that hung on the walls are fantastic.
Walk along Howth Pier
Howth Pier is on the harbour’s east side and is the ideal place for a leisurely stroll. The lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s cottage are protected buildings and represent Howth’s history as the main port for Dublin’s mail.
As you wander, try and spot the grey seals and enjoy a waffle cone of some of the best gelato you’ll ever taste from Ginos. When you’re done, stroll back to the West Pier and listen to the traditional Irish buskers you’ll find there. The music and dancing will make the perfect end to a fantastic day in gorgeous Howth village.
Staying in Howth longer?
Where to stay in Howth
Howth isn’t too far from Dublin but if you fancy a slice of seaside life and decide to look for accommodation in Howth, here are a few ideas;
King Sitric is a guest house on the East Pier with incredible sea views and is perfect for seafood lovers as they specialise in cooking the local catch from Dublin Bay.
Sweet Inn – Gorgeous Howth II is a beautiful holiday home with 3 bedrooms and a patio to sit out and enjoy the sunsets.
Gleann Na Smol Bed & Breakfast is run by super-friendly hosts near Burrow Beach of Howth.
More things to do in Howth
A day trip to Howth is terrific, but it’s also an excellent place for a holiday. So, if you have a little more time to play with than I did, here’s what to do in Howth.
Howth Castle – This magnificent building and its gorgeous grounds and gardens are open throughout the year. There are lots to explore; a cookery school based in the 18th-century kitchen, a colourful rhododendron garden, woodland walks with caves and ancient relics and 15th-century architecture.
St Mary’s Abbey – The Viking King of Dublin founded the first church on this land in 1042. The existing abbey ruins are from the 14th century, and from the ruins, you will have breathtaking views of Howth harbour.
Howth Market – If you’re looking for gifts from your holiday or simply want to treat yourself, Howth Market is the place to be! Locals and tourists all love this modern market. You’ll meet friendly stall holders selling everything from jewellery, clothing and antiques to baked goods, meat, fruit, and veg.
Walk the Bog of the Frogs Loop – This is the longest and most challenging of the Howth Cliff Top Walks. It’s 12 km long and should take around three hours. So, if a good hike along the cliff tops, with the sea and cliffs on one side and heath and moor on the other, sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon in Howth, Ireland, follow the purple arrows from the DART station in the village.
Take an E-Bike Tour – An E-Bike tour is an excellent way to discover the delights of Howth village with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll peddle past Howth harbour, the castle and Deer Park, take in the panoramic views from the cliff-top paths and explore the quiet side of Howth near the Sutton Martello Tower. Tours are almost daily at 11 am from Howth Yacht Club.
Coastal Hike and Pints – Follow in the ancient footsteps of the first people who lived in and around Howth, Ireland. This lovely guided walk, along coastal paths and through St Mary’s Abbey, is led by a local historian who will tell you all about the Viking and Norman invasions, explain how religion played a part in the area and regale you with Irish cultural tales. The walk ends at a cosy pub for a pint and a chat.
Take a Howth sunset cruise – End a day of exploration with a sunset cruise. You’ll set off from the West Pier of Howth harbour late afternoon or evening and sail into Dublin Bay. The lights appear along the coastline as the sun goes down, and the stars begin twinkling above you. The views are superb, the skipper has lots of tales of these seas and the area’s history to tell, and you might even catch sight of the local grey seals or a pod of dolphins.