Beyond Dublin – 8 Must-See Day Trips from Dublin

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Dublin, with its lively atmosphere, rich history and busy pubs is most people’s introduction to Ireland. However, the true charm of our Emerald Isle lies beyond Dublin’s city limits and, as Ireland is reasonably compact, it’s easy to visit some of Ireland’s top spots on a day trip. Use Dublin as a base for your day-long adventures around the country and when you’re ready to start exploring, here’s 8 Must-See Day Trips from Dublin, perfect for adventurers, hikers and history buffs alike!

1. The Majestic Cliffs of Moher

Standing over 700 feet tall, the Cliffs of Moher offer an awe-inspiring view of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the rugged Irish coastline. Standing at the viewpoint atop the Cliffs is my motivation to keep revisiting the Cliffs of Moher. There’s more than just the scenery: the organisers want to help visitors get under the skin of Ireland’s geological past. The Visitor Centre is built into the hillside atop the Cliffs, with a treasure trove of information on the local ecology and geology. Remember, the Irish weather is fickle; wear layers and sturdy shoes (read my Complete Packing List for Ireland).

Cliffs of Moher
Photo by Patrick Hughes: Cliffs of Moher

If you’re driving, the journey will take around 3 hours from Dublin, a road trip worth it for the scenery alone. Alternatively, numerous coach tours offer a hassle-free way to experience the cliffs, often including other picturesque stops along the way.

Cliffs of Moher Tour Options

MOST POPULAR – From Dublin – Cliffs of Moher, Burren & Galway City Day Tour

Full-day trip including the Cliffs of Moher, the unique landscape of the Burren and time exploring Galway City.

From Dublin – Cliffs of Moher, Atlantic Edge & Galway City

Slightly different tour, including a coastal drive called the “Atlantic Edge”.

From Dublin – Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle and Ennis Shared Tour with Guide

A tour that takes in the super-popular Bunratty Castle and a guided tour of Ennis, County Clare.

Insider Tips

  • A day trip to the Cliffs of Moher will be long (12-13 hours). Pack comfortable clothes (see my Packing List), and take snacks and bottled water. No lunch is provided, but you’ll be able to get something in the places you visit.
  • Take the short walking tour in Galway City, then go wild visiting things you want to see.
  • All tours pick up in a central Dublin location, it does not include individual hotel pick-ups.

Planet Patrick Pick

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Air-conditioned bus from Dublin

Visit – Cliffs of Moher, Burren, Galway

Includes premium admission to Cliffs of Moher Experience (2 hours)

Short walking tour of Galway

Tour guide (live commentary)

BOOK THIS TOUR >>

2. Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough

Just a short drive from Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains have a wistful beauty to them, particularly when the heather is in full bloom. Glendalough, or the “Valley of the Two Lakes,” is tucked away within these mountains and is famed for its early medieval monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin. The serenity of the lakeside, combined with a stroll through the historical ruins, offers a peaceful retreat from busy Dublin activities. There’s a wide variety of hiking difficulties in the nature trails in the mountains, through ancient woodlands and near the water’s edge. Plus if you’re into movies, you’ll find scenes from Braveheart and P.S. I Love You to enjoy on your visit.

Photo of Glendalough by Hamed Alayoub via Unsplash
Photo of Glendalough by Hamed Alayoub via Unsplash

Public transport options are limited. Either self-drive if you have a car, or take a chilled organised tour from Dublin. As the distances are relatively short, these tours tend to be quite well-priced.

Wicklow & Glendalough Tour Options

MOST POPULARFrom Dublin – Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough & Kilkenny Tour

9-hour trip taking in the Wicklow Mountains, time at Glendalough (one of the most photographed parts of Ireland), and the historic lanes of Kilkenny to see the castle or take a guided tour. .

From Dublin – Half-Day Trip to Glendalough and Wicklow

Shorter 5 hour trip, allowing you to squeeze in other activities in Dublin in the morning.

Insider Tips

  • Nobody will feed you on these tours! So pack comfortable clothes (see my Packing List), and take snacks and bottled water.
  • A walking tour of Glendalough is well worth your time.
  • If you’re feeling fit, you can take a longer 2.5km hike at Glendalough to the Upper Lake, which has some epic views.
  • The tours pick up at one location in Dublin only. Be there in lots of time.

Planet Patrick Pick

Powered by GetYourGuide

Luxury coach from Dublin

Visit – Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough & Kilkenny

Wi-Fi & charging ports on board

Walking tours of Glendalough & Kilkenny

Tour guide (live commentary)

BOOK THIS TOUR >>

3. The Boyne Valley: Ireland’s Ancient Civilisation

Ancient carved stones at Newgrange
Photo by Griffin Quinn on Unsplash

The beautiful Boyne Valley opens the door to Ireland’s ancient history. The prehistoric passage tomb of Newgrange predates both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. This UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the mystical Hill of Tara, offers a unique glimpse into Ireland’s Celtic past. Just standing inside Newgrange is a memory that will stay with you forever.

The best way to visit the Boyne Valley is to self-drive from Dublin. It’s under one hour and a drive will give you flexibility to make additional stops at other monuments as well as the charming seaside village of Howth on your return (for fish and chips!).

Boyne Valley Tour Options

PLANET PATRICK PICK – From Dublin – Newgrange, Bru Na Boinne, Monasterboice Monastic Site

8-hour trip with a guide, in a small minibus, visiting 3 locations and including entrance fees to Newgrange and Bru Na Boinne.

PRIVATE OPTION – From Dublin – Private Guided Tour from Dublin to Boyne Valley and Beyond

6-hour trip with pick-up, exploring Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Experienced guide, time allowed at Howth Village for food. Entrance tickets not included.

From Dublin – Celtic Boyne Valley & Ancient Sites Day Tour

10-hour trip from Dublin, exploring the Hill of Tara, Trim Castle and more sites.

4. Howth: A Seaside Escape

If you’ve got limited time in the Dublin area, Howth delivers a picturesque slice of Irish coastal life that’s just a stone’s throw from Dublin. Howth is a lively fishing village well suited to a gentle stroll, or a more active hike on Howth Head for great views. If history is your groove, check out the medieval Howth Castle. If you eat seafood (I’m not a fan of shellfish), I’m told the fresh catch at local eateries is excellent. I’m good with fish and chips and enjoyed an old-fashioned fish supper at The Bloody Stream on my last visit.

Ireland's Eye from a boat
Photo © GetYourGuide

For a unique experience, take a ferry from Howth that includes Ireland’s Eye, a haven for birdwatchers and history enthusiasts. But Howth works beautifully on a budget too – it’s very accessible by public transport and a nice long walk in the sea air is deliciously free!

Howth Tour Options

From Dublin – Howth Coastal Half-Day Bus Tour from Dublin with Live Guide

Half-day, transport both ways, guided cliff tour, time in Howth Village.

PLANET PATRICK PICK – From Howth – Howth Coastal 1 Hour Boat Tour (Ireland’s Eye Ferries)

1 hour, 11 people max, captain/guide, great photo opportunities.

From Howth – Dublin Coastal Hike with Howth Adventures

3 hours starting at 12 noon, guided small-group tour of Howth and cliff path loop.

From Howth – Dublin Howth Small-Group Guided Tour on E-Bike

3 hours, e-bike is INCLUDED, small-group tour.

5. Northern Ireland: Belfast & the Land of Giants (Causeway)

Belfast is surprisingly close to Dublin at just under two hours by car or train (when I was a child, it could take 4 hours by car!). Northern Ireland is an easy day trip from Dublin, and is very much worth it, particularly time spent at the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway, with its hexagonal basalt columns, is a natural marvel steeped in myth and legend. You can enjoy Belfast’s rich history, culture and witness its regeneration, visiting the Titanic Belfast museum and seeing the historic murals. And the historic walled city of Derry is worth a visit (easiest if you’re self-driving). If you loved the Game of Thrones, you’ll definitely want to visit the Dark Hedges, or spend time at the Game of Thrones Studio Tour – as Northern Ireland was one of the principal filming locations!

Photo © GetYourGuide

Public transport options are available, are reasonably priced and take 2 hours from Dublin to Belfast. However, it can be difficult to get onwards public transport to popular sights, especially if you only have one day. I’d suggest that you visit Northern Ireland either by rental car, which will give you freedom in your itinerary. Alternatively, for some visitors, joining a guided tour will give time to comprehensively explore the North’s iconic sites.

Northern Ireland Tour Options

PLANET PATRICK PICK – From Dublin – Giants Causeway, Dark Hedges, Dunluce & Belfast Tour

Full-day return to Dublin, with time at the Giants Causeway, ancient Dunluce Castle ruins, the Dark Hedges (Game of Thrones) and Belfast City Centre.

EXCELLENT REVIEWS – From Dublin – Northern Ireland Highlights Day Trip Including Giant’s Causeway from Dublin

Full-day visit to the North, combining a trip to the Giant’s Causeway with a Black Cab tour of Belfast’s conflicted history including the famous murals.

PRIVATE OPTION – From Dublin – Day Trip to the Dark Hedges & Giants Causeway

Full-day trip for up to six people in a wi-fi enabled luxury vehicle, with personalised attention (customisable).

Insider Tips

  • The currency in Northern Ireland is the pound sterling. Most places you visit will accept a debit or credit card to save you changing currencies ahead of time.
  • If you take a day trip, it will pack a lot in. There’s a substantial amount of walking, so pack comfortable clothes and shoes (see my Packing List), and take snacks and bottled water. No lunch is provided, but you’ll be able to get something in the places you visit.

Planet Patrick Pick

Powered by GetYourGuide

Comfortable bus from Dublin

Visit – Giants Causeway, Dark Hedges, Dunluce, Belfast City Centre

2 hours at Giants Causeway

Photo stops at Dunluce & Dark Hedges

Tour guide

BOOK THIS TOUR >>

6. Blarney Castle and Cork: The Land of Legends

Is a trip to Ireland complete without a visit to Blarney Castle, where kissing the Blarney Stone might give you the gift of the gab? I have to confess, I’ve never kissed the Blarney Stone, but plenty would argue I’m more than talkative enough!! At Blarney Castle itself, the castle grounds and gardens are worth exploring too, with hidden spots like the Witch’s Cave adding to your adventure.

Photo © Viator

Cork is a short drive away from Blarney and I think the gastronomic scene in Cork is underreported. You’ll find a proper array of local and artisanal foods that come from close by.

Driving from Dublin to Blarney and Cork will take the best part of 3.5 hours. For an Irish person (or at least for me), that’s quite a long drive, particularly if you intend to return to Dublin the same day. However, the journey does put Blarney within touching distance for visitors with limited time in Ireland who want to experience the charms of southern Ireland.

Blarney Castle & Cork Tour Options

PLANET PATRICK PICK – From Dublin – Blarney, Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castles Tour

12 hour day trip from Dublin – visiting the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle & Cahir Castle.

PRIVATE OPTION – From Dublin – Private Blarney Castle Day Tour

9-10 hour day trip including pick-up – visiting the Rock of Cashel, Cork City and time at Blarney Castle & Gardens.


7. Limerick and Adare: From King John’s Castle to Thatched Cottages

Limerick is known for its compact city streets, popular university and culture (visit the Limerick City Gallery of Art and the Hunt Museum). The city’s museums and galleries tell the stories of its past and present. Nearby Adare is what we might dream that Irish villages really look like, with its charming thatched cottages. Both Limerick and Adare are an easy drive from Dublin (about 2 hours and 20 mins) and you’ll pass through some of Ireland’s richest farmland on your route.

Photo of Limerick, Ireland by Michael Starkie via Unsplash

Limerick is a bit of an overlooked gem in Ireland’s tourist crown, but it has historical significance, not least King John’s Castle, a 13th-century fortress overlooking the River Shannon. Plus if you’re a lover of sport, Limerick is home to Thomond Park Stadium, a pilgrimage site for rugby fans!

Limerick or Adare Tour Options

PLANET PATRICK PICKDublin to Limerick, Cliffs of Moher, Galway by Train and Coach

Unique day trip from Dublin by train and coach. Includes city tour of Limerick, Bunratty Castle & folk park, driving along Galway Bay.

PRIVATE OPTION – From Adare – Private Walking Tour of Adare

For groups of up to 15 people, 1.5-2 hours with a professional guide who brings the history of Adare alive with stories.


8. Kilkenny & Waterford: Medieval Architecture & Crystal Wonders

Kilkenny, with its very well-preserved medieval architecture, is the perfect small city to let you deep-dive into a sense of medieval Ireland. The city’s ancient streets and the imposing Kilkenny Castle are a must-visit if you’re interested in landmarks and history. Waterford, the country’s oldest city, is synonymous with the world-renowned Waterford Crystal. A factory tour here provides insight into the intricate craftsmanship behind the this crystal art which is renowned around the world (and graces even my own shelves!).

Photo © Viator

Kilkenny or Waterford Tour Options

PLANET PATRICK PICK – From Dublin – Waterford Crystal and Kilkenny Full-Day Rail Tour from Dublin

Begins in Dublin, exploring Kilkenny along the Medieval Mile, then Waterford City including a tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory. Professional tour guide and all transport included.

From Dublin – Kilkenny and Wicklow Mountains Full-Day Tour

Great value day-trip from Dublin, with time in Kilkenny to explore, plus a visit to Glendalough in County Wicklow.



The main reasons you should book a day trip from Dublin

There’s three ways to visit the sites that I mention on this page: day trips, self-organised trips and longer organised tours of Ireland. Each type of trip offers some pros and cons. Day Trips have some compelling pros: it removes the stress of hiring a car and navigating unfamiliar roads and parking, particularly if you’re not used to driving on the left. You get to enjoy your day out with no responsibilities! Having said that, if you’ve got an ambitious schedule, driving your own car does allow you to be flexible and add in (or drop out) particular experiences during your day trip.

The main reason to book a day trip from Dublin is that day-long tours are time-efficient. The tour has been curated to see the best of the sights within a limited timeframe, helpful if you want to maximise your time in Ireland. Plus if you have a real-life tour guide, you get access to their knowledge and see hidden gems you’d miss when travelling on your own.

Summary

I hope the shortlist of 8 Must-See Day Trips from Dublin has helped you feel a little more inspired about where to go beyond Dublin on your itinerary. Have no doubt, these locations are some of the most popular in Ireland for a reason: they showcase our natural beauty and stunning landscapes on a trip that packs in more than most of us want to organise for ourselves! Yes, there are alternatives and other fun places to visit but if you’re on a trip that features a few days in Dublin, it would be nice for you to get out of the city for at least one day and feel the power of the Wild Atlantic Way or a little of the monastic history of Ireland at Glendalough. I’m excited to hear about your experiences exploring Ireland!

I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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