From Cork to the Cliffs of Moher and Belfast to Glendalough, experience Ireland’s history and culture with these adventurous day trips from Dublin, Ireland.
In a city full of old-world wonders such as Dublin, it seems a feat to fit them all into one trip. The capital may be small and intimate, but it’s like an onion – layers of history peel from its buildings, streets, and parks. Amble down Dublin’s cobbled streets past pubs where famous writers once pondered over pints, marvel at pristine Georgian architecture, and be sure to join the fun with Dubliners and their larger-than-life personalities.
Still, there’s more Irish spirit to be captured outside of the city limits – especially if you’ve got a little longer than a weekend to play with. From Cork to the Cliffs of Moher, here are our favorite ways to make the most of your holiday in Dublin.
Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher
Experience the staggering natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher. Hugging Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast, the heart-stopping cliffs are 214 meters tall at their highest point, sprawling five miles along County Clare’s western seaboard. Once there, take a coastal walk, stop off at viewing platforms dotted across the landscape or even head out on a cruise along the base of the cliffs themselves. Once you’ve worked up a hearty appetite from all the exercise, drop into StoneCutters Kitchen where the staff plies you with bowls of Irish stew so big you could swim in them.
Getting There: Dublin by car to the Cliffs of Moher is a pretty straightforward 3 hour and 20-minute drive from east to west Ireland along the M6. You may want to stop in Galway (a little way north of the cliffs) on your way there and be sure to soak up the stunning views on your approach. There’s a decent-sized parking lot opposite the visitor center.
Dublin to Glendalough
A day trip from Dublin to Glendalough, or ‘the valley of the two lakes,’ provides the perfect antidote to heady city life. Its crown jewel, the Glendalough Monastic Site, is a hauntingly beautiful mix of the thousand-year-old Round Tower, cathedral ruins and a teeny church named St. Kevin’s Kitchen.
Spend a couple of hours taking in heart-melting views before tucking into a divine steak lunch at rustic family-run restaurant Wicklow Heather. If you have time, stop off at Powerscourt Estate on your return drive, as well as the 18th-century Palladian house, sweeping gardens and an ornamental lake, the highest waterfall in Ireland is close by at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.
Getting There: The more scenic driving route from Dublin to Glendalough is through the mountains and takes a little under two hours. From central Dublin head out on the M50 and then pick up the R115, also known as the Military Road.
This will take you along the Sally Gap, built by the British Army to flush out rebels from the hills during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It’s one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains and offers beautiful views of the surrounding blanket bog and mountains. It’s also worth stopping off at the picturesque Glenmacnass Waterfall at Laragh before you head into Glendalough itself, where there’s parking available at the Round Tower.
Dublin to Brú na Bóinne
Meaning ‘mansion’ or ‘palace’ of the Boyne, Brú na Bóinne is not only one, but a cluster of hugely important structures. The UNESCO World Heritage site, perched on a bend of the River Boyne, is one of the world’s most significant prehistoric landscapes. Three hefty tombs spanning back 5,000 years, packed with a mammoth collection of megalithic art, and an additional 90 monuments nearby make this one of the most spectacular best day trips from Dublin.
Getting There: It takes less than an hour to reach Brú na Bóinne by car on the M1. Once you arrive, head for the Visitor Center, which acts as a gateway to the prehistoric site.
Dublin to Belfast
Belfast has shaken off its troubled past and is a must-visit. Each of its ‘quarters’ is unique – start at the Cathedral Quarter in the heart of the city to explore its cobbled streets, lively pubs, and exceptional restaurants. Then there’s the green-tinged Queen’s Quarter, a charming place to go for a coffee and to roam the lush Botanical Gardens.
Don’t miss Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, where the fateful ocean liner was built. Round off your stay in the capital by clapping along to traditional music and dancing in the Gaeltacht Quarter, west of the city.
Getting There: From one capital to another, it will take you around two hours to get to Belfast from Dublin. Take the M1 then the A1 before rejoining the M1. Belfast is a compact city, so you should be able to take in quite a few sights before heading back.
Dublin to Cork
Cork is Ireland’s second city, making it a worthwhile destination for a day trip from Dublin. A rainbow of pastel-hued buildings reflected in waterways, snug pubs with sprightly music, meandering 17th-century alleyways – you’ll probably end up wanting to stay for longer.
Foodies will have a permanent grin here: its southern location means you can find fresh seafood by the truckload. Scratch more than just the surface of the city by booking a spot on a Fab Food Trail, then get your art fix at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery – admission is free and the architecture is spellbinding. It’s hard to miss festivals in Cork: even if you don’t catch the big-hitters, like the jazz festival and film festival, there’ll be another along in no time. In fact, the city averages two every month.
There are plenty of great spots to explore around Cork, too. On the way there stop off at the beautiful Cahir Castle near Ballyglasheen. Sited on a rocky island on the River Suir, it’s one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. You could also take a detour into County Waterford to check out the smaller Lismore Castle, once occupied by Elizabethan adventurer and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.
About five miles outside Cork is Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. For the past two centuries, millions of visitors – including the great and the good – have leaned backward to give the stone a kiss that is meant to be rewarded with the gift of eloquence.
Getting There: It will take you around three hours to drive from Dublin to Cork. From central Dublin head out on the M50, then join the M7 and finally the M8.
Do you have a favorite day trip from Dublin? Let us know how you dream of spending your days in Ireland by mentioning us on Twitter.