If you plan to enjoy more than just a short break in Dublin, then we recommend you take a detour to explore more of the beautiful Emerald Isle. One of the great benefits of a holiday in Ireland is that every county – and there are 32 – has its own unique flavour and special attractions. Here is a list of five wonderful places outside of Dublin that we recommend you see during your holiday in Ireland.
Wexford is in the South East of Ireland, about 90 miles South of Dublin. A train service to Wexford from Dublin runs every few hours from Connolly Station – this service takes around two and a half hours to arrive. During your holiday, Wexford makes for a great overnight stop. Whilst there will be enough to keep you entertained in Dublin no matter how long your holiday, a trip further afield to a place like Wexford will add some real colour and great memories to your experience in Ireland.
Wexford faces the Irish Sea and is served by the River Slaney. The town of Wexford is famous for its waterfronts, and the county of Wexford has a ferry crossing from Fishguard to Rosslare. For many people, the county of Wexford is their first point of call in Ireland, and Wexford town is the first major town or city that they get to see on their Irish holiday.
Due to its location, Wexford is famous for its fresh fish dishes and local foods. More than this though, it is renowned for its beautiful seafronts, fresh air, and being the location for the famous beach invasion in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Wexford is also famous for being the birthplace and home of novelist John Banville. No prizes for guessing the location that inspired his 2005 Booker Prize winning novel ‘The Sea’.
Given Wexford’s beautiful coastal location, its great food and proud culture, a trip to Wexford during your Dublin holiday is easily recommended. If you decide to take the Fishguard-Rosslare ferry to Ireland, and are driving, then after you have seen Wicklow, we also recommend the drive up North to Dublin through the stunning Wicklow Mountains.
There are many hotels in Wexford – most are of excellent quality and they all foster a real homely environment and genuine Irish experience. Among the very best is Glen Na Smole, which is only a 15 minute walk from the city centre. This hotel has excellent service and really friendly staff, who can’t do enough to ensure that you enjoy your trip – they are also a wealth of information on Wexford’s history and numerous tourist attractions.
Wexford also boasts a proud culinary tradition, particularly for seafood. As a town that attracts a lot of tourists, some of the restaurants tend to be quite expensive, however there are some excellent cheap options too. The Silver Fox Seafood Restaurant offers excellent value for those on holiday with their families.
If you are travelling to Dublin during October and you are on holiday for a couple of weeks or more, then we definitely suggest a trip to the Wexford Festival Opera. As Autumn takes hold in the rest of Ireland and the leaves drop, you can still find a real Spring in Wexford as the town comes alive for three weeks in October. To complement the Wexford Festival Opera, a host of other traditional events and exhibitions spring up too. The whole town becomes a party with traditional music festivals and the showcasing of local artwork.
October in Wexford is a real treat for the Dublin holidaymaker. Refreshed and invigorated after a weekend in this beautiful town, your senses are enlivened as you return to the excitement of Dublin.
The Wicklow Mountains
A trip to the Wicklow Mountains offers some of the most stunning beautiful views in all of Ireland. You can actually see the beginnings of the Wicklow Mountains from the centre of Dublin, as the Wicklow mountain range extends all the way into the County of Dublin where they are called ‘the Dublin Mountains’. If you are basing your holiday in Dublin, then it would be a real shame if you did not take the short one hour drive south to see these mountains up close.
There are a number of ways to get to the Wicklow Mountains. The northern-most part of the mountain range actually starts at Bray, which is served by the DART. The gentle walk South between Bray and Greystones will give you an excellent introduction to this stunning part of Ireland. This path, which never strays from the coast, features some excellent coastal views into the Irish Sea. You will also see some of Ireland’s birds in their most natural surroundings. To get to Bray you can take the DART from Connolly Station – the walk to Greystones will take you about two and a half hours. You can then take the DART all the way back to Connolly Station from Greystones – all in all, this trip can be done in an afternoon and will be well worth the effort – it would be a shame to holiday in Dublin and not take in some of the incredible coastal scenery that is only an hour away.
In order to travel further into the Wicklow Mountains from Dublin, there are a number of options available. One of the most beautiful and famous features of the Wicklow Mountains is Glendalough, which means valley of the two lakes, and holds Ireland’s most impressive monastic settlement. The monastery was founded by St Kevin in the 6th century and parts of this monastery still stand in Glendalough today. Michelle Obama famously visited Glendalough with her two children whilst her husband attended the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. Due to its international reputation, many buses run to this part of the mountains directly from Dublin city centre. St Kevin’s Bus is a twice-daily service that runs from opposite the Mansion on Dawson Street, which is just next to St Stephen’s Green. The buses leave Dublin at 11:30am in the morning and at 6pm in the evening. Between its 1500 years of history and its beautiful lakes, Glendalough is a must-see destination for those who want to know more about Ireland and its history.
For those who are even more adventurous still, Wicklow is one of the best camping areas in Ireland. Many local Dublin folk escape the hustle and bustle of Dublin by taking camping trips to some of the various woods in the Wicklow Mountains where they are often joined by adventurous travellers from all over Europe. A great place to set up camp is at Knocksink Wood in Enniskerry. These woods are served by the Glencullen River which provides fresh, crystal-clear water year-round. Knocksink Wood is just behind Enniskerry village. The number 44 bus runs regularly from O’Connell Street, right in the centre of Dublin, all the way to Enniskerry. From Enniskerry we suggest you speak to one of the locals and get directions into the woods – they will most likely be only too happy to give you advice, directions and suggestions.
The Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is known, amongst the Irish, as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. A visit to this most unusual Irish natural landmark will clearly show you how the Giant’s Causeway came to be so famous in Ireland and the wider world. The legend of the Giant’s Causeway is as old as the island of Ireland itself. The legend says that an Irish giant called Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced Finn McCool) looked across the sea and saw a Scottish giant called Benandonner, who became his rival. Fionn built steps through the sea that separates Ireland and Scotland, so that Benandonner could come to Ireland for a showdown. However, when Benandonner arrived, Fionn realised that he was far bigger than himself so he fled to the mountains. Whilst Benandonner searched for him, Fionn cleverly disguised himself as a baby. When Benandonner saw how big this baby was he thought the father Fionn, must be far bigger than himself so he fled back to Scotland, ripping up the steps that Fionn had built up behind him.
When you see these ‘steps’ it is fairly easy to see how this legend held such credibility for such a long time in Ireland’s history. The ‘steps’, which are formed by the sea coming into the coast at different angles, look like they have been made by master craftsmen. One of the most memorable things you can do on your holiday in Ireland is step onto these amazing rock formations, and climb between each of these steps, each of which is like a miracle of nature.
A cheap way to get to the Giant’s Causeway is to take the 7am train to Belfast from Connolly Station. You can then join one of Allen’s tours – they run coaches to the Causeway from the train station in Belfast. If you are only taking a short break in Dublin then this trip can feasibly be done in just a day, however if you are going to stay a night in Belfast then the choice of hotels is huge and you will find the accommodation in Belfast to be slightly cheaper than in Dublin.
Kilkenny town and Kilkenny Castle
The Medieval town of Kilkenny is around 70 miles from Dublin and makes for a great destination for a day trip or an overnight stay during your Dublin holiday. Kilkenny is most famous for its castle and its long tradition of creating excellent hurling teams that tend to win the all-Ireland Hurling finals more often than not.
Kilkenny Castle is a real gem of a holiday destination: its grounds, gardens and stately rooms are among the most impressive in Ireland and second only to Dublin castle in terms of grandeur. The Great Hall is the most impressive room in Kilkenny Castle – it is a long wooden pillared stately room that dates all the way back to the 12th century. The room is full of old paintings and furniture, adding to the grandeur and sense of history. Equally impressive are the splendid lawns that surround the castle. The lawns are so big and beautifully preserved that you may feel you are looking out over a quiet sea of green when you see them from inside the castle. What better way to spend an afternoon of your holiday, than strolling slowly around some of the most beautiful gardens in the whole of Europe?
Kilkenny Castle is fairly cheap to get around – prices are set at 6 Euros and include an audiovisual presentation. Irish Rail have regular trains that go to Kilkenny from Dublin Heuston Station – you can expect the journey to last around an hour and a half. If you and love splendid gardens and grounds, and also like to combine a bit of history with your holiday, then Kilkenny Castle is truly the best choice of venue for a day-break from Dublin during an extended holiday.
As a magnet for tourists, staying in Kilkenny is not cheap, however, there are some budget options available. The Laurels B&B Guesthouse is a nice place to stay if you are looking for a cheap and cheerful option – a twin room can usually be booked online for far cheaper than 100 Euros. There are also several standard hotel options in Kilkenny, including the Hotel Kilkenny, which is right in the centre of Kilkenny and only minutes away from all the major local attractions. Kilkenny enjoys a fine reputation for excellent restaurants; it is also famed for its lively and welcoming nightlife. You can combine the two experiences with a trip to the 12th century Kyteler’s Inn where cheap food can be found as easily as great stories, lively traditional music and fun.
Tipperary and the Rock of Cashel
In recent years Tipperary, which is situated in the Midlands of Ireland, has become increasingly popular as a destination for tourists from all over the world, and the Rock of Cashel is the county’s star attraction.
Tipperary is a predominantly rural county that has many attractive towns and villages with a fresh and warm feel to them. All visitors are always made welcome and the ambitious traveller can really gain an understanding of the county, which many see as the true heart of Ireland. In fact, a visit to Tipperary during your Dublin holiday will give you a glimpse of the two opposites of Irish life: the hustle and bustle of a major European city; and the rural charm which whilst now lost to Dublin is not lost throughout Ireland and certainly not in Tipperary.
Cashel was the capital of Munster for many centuries before the Norman invasions in the 1100s, and is now a site that attracts many visitors to Tipperary. Whilst much of this old castle has now fallen to ruins, there are still some impressive parts left standing. The Round Tower is the oldest surviving part of the castle – at 900 years old it remains an impressive, imposing piece of architecture. Round towers used to be used by monks who would escape the attention of invaders by locking themselves in and climbing to the top with their treasures.
There is a wonderful little guesthouse in Cashel called Bailey’s which is very near the Rock itself. This hotel has excellent rooms and the service is some of the best you will encounter anywhere in Ireland.
Cashel does not have its own train station – the nearest station to it is in Thurles. Once in Thurles you can very easily find a bus that will take you to Cashel. Bus Éireann also has a service that goes from Dublin to Cashel – this is a cheaper method of travel but will take longer.