There’s clearly a lot to like about Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. Why else would it be such a popular tourist destination? You can easily spend a few days in Dublin, filling your time with castles, churches, and yes, Irish pubs. But there’s also much more of Ireland to be found beyond this one city. Making the most of your time in Ireland means saying goodbye to Dublin for the day and seeing what else the Emerald Isle has to offer.
Ideally the best places to visit from Dublin are ones that show you something of Ireland you can’t see in the capital. That could mean lush green countryside, epic coastline, or romantic castles; the choice, after all, is yours. To help you decide what to do, we’ve assembled a list of the best day trips from Dublin for a holiday you won’t soon forget.
1. Cliffs of Moher
One of the best places to visit in Ireland, a visit to the Cliffs of Moher is not to be missed. Found on the country’s west coast, not only are the Cliffs of Moher a majestic sight, but they also offer views out over Galway Bay to the gorgeous Aran Islands. Stretching 8 kilometers along the coast of County Clare, it’s best to begin at the Visitor Centre and follow the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk from there. While with good weather you’ll be treated to stunning views, perhaps the best views are from the top of O’Brien’s Tower. It’s here at this stone tower that the cliffs are at their highest, standing 214 meters above the water. Down at the southern end of the cliffs you’ll spot the 19th-century Moher Tower overlooking the point known as Hag’s Head.
Getting there: Simply too far to reach by public transport for the day, your only good option for a day trip here is to visit with a guided tour or by renting a car.
2. Giant’s Causeway
Even though there’s plenty to see in The Republic of Ireland, who can resist the opportunity to cross over into Northern Ireland to see the legendary Giant’s Causeway. This incredible landscape and World Heritage Site is understandably one of the most popular Dublin day trips thanks to its unique look and entertaining legend. After arriving, walk across the iconic hexagonal basalt rocks which sit like stepping stones along the coastline of County Antrim. Be sure to learn about the local legends surrounding the site, a tale that features Finn the Irish giant. Next, continue along this dramatic coastline with the Causeway Coastal route and enjoy more of this gorgeous scenery. Not far away you’ll spot Dunluce Castle, medieval ruins atop cliffs that create a picture-postcard view.
Getting there: Again, too far to reach from Dublin by public transport, the best way to get to the Giant’s Causeway is either by driving or visiting with a guided tour.
Visiting Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, is definitely one of the best side trips from Dublin. Not only is Belfast a fascinating destination in its own right, a visit here will really add another dimension to your Irish experience. Birthplace of the famously doomed RMS Titanic, the story and legacy of this fateful icon in history can be explored at the Titanic Belfast museum. Over in the city center enjoy some of the historic architecture of the city with the elegant City Hall and St Anne’s Cathedral. Taking a trip out to the Belfast Peace Wall and the surrounding streets will show you a collection of murals that detail the history between the city’s Catholic and Protestant populations. Of course, there are also museums that present this contentious history, such as the Ulster Museum and the Republican Museum.
Getting there: There are both regular buses and trains that journey from Dublin to Belfast, with the trip taking roughly 2 hours each way. If you’d like a guide to take you through the city’s history, it’s best to book a guided tour.
4. Blarney Castle & Cork
Easily one of the most well known attractions in Ireland and a classic day tour from Dublin is Blarney Castle in County Cork. This dramatic medieval castle is home to the world famous Blarney Stone. Few visitors can resist the temptation to awkwardly hang upside down to kiss the stone and be blessed with the gift of the gab. Afterwards, take a stroll through the castle grounds to see the so-called Poison Garden full of poisonous plants and the Witch’s Cave rock formation. But Blarney Castle isn’t the only attraction worth visiting in Cork. The county is home to beautiful countryside full of green fields and views out to the Galtee Mountains. There’s also the city of Cork, home to the striking St. Finbarre’s Cathedral and the lively English Market.
Getting there: To reach Cork and Blarney Castle from Dublin, take a 2 ½ hour trip on the hourly trains to Cork. From there, you can take a 20 minute bus ride out to Blarney Village. Alternatively, a more straightforward option is to go with a guided tour and let them handle the transport side of things.
When it comes to things to see in Ireland outside of Dublin, the enchanting County Kerry is not to be missed. This county in the southwest of Ireland is bursting with memorable attractions to visit. A good starting point is the town of Killarney as it’s the gateway to Kerry. Full of historic character, the highlight of town is St Mary’s Cathedral. Just outside the town you have Killarney National Park which centers around Lough Leane lake. By the lakeshore you’ll spot the medieval stone tower of Ross Castle, as well the charming gardens and mansion of Muckross House. Next, set out on the wonderfully scenic driving route known as the Ring of Kerry, this route showcases the countryside and coastline of the stunning Iveragh Peninsula. Along the way, make sure to stop in at quirky Killorglin, where a goat is crowned village king at the annual Puck Fair.
Getting there: Because of the distance and the fact that you’ll want a car to explore the Ring of Kerry, public transport isn’t suitable. Instead, either hire a car or allow a guided tour to show you the highlights of this region.
6. Galway & Connemara
After Dublin, one of the next most popular cities in Ireland is Galway, which is out on the country’s west coast. Begin your tour of the city in the old city center and delve into Galway’s history at landmarks like the medieval Spanish Arch and the Galway City Museum. Then, treat yourself with either Galway’s lively pub or food scenes, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Beyond the city there’s also all of County Galway to discover, including the breathtaking district of Connemara. In Connemara National Park you can see diverse landscapes that showcase Ireland’s versatility, from mountains to lakes to bogs. But Connemara is also full of proud Irish heritage, and traditions like the Irish language and Irish dancing have been kept alive.
Getting there: Regular buses and trains journey from Dublin to Galway, taking 2 ½ hours to cross the country. To see more beyond just the city, it’s easier to go with a guided tour which will show you around.
7. Newgrange & Hill of Tara
To explore the ancient history of Ireland, there are few places better than Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Both found in County Meath to the northwest of Dublin, they make for a great little day trip. Begin with the UNESCO World Heritage site of Newgrange, where you can see what remains of an ancient megalithic tomb. Hidden within a large earthen mound is this passage tomb from the Stone Age dating back 5,200 years. Not too far away you’ll also find the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland at the Hill of Tara. Firmly part of Irish mythology, the Hill of Tara was where ancient kings were inaugurated. Today, a number of landmarks can be seen at this national monument, including a passage tomb, burial mounds, and a standing stone called the “Stone of Destiny”.
Getting there: You can reach the Hill of Tara from Dublin by regular public buses, the trip lasts around an hour. Newgrange can’t be easily reached by public transport though, which is why a guided tour is best if you want to see both.
For a pleasant day away from the city, you can’t beat a trip to the lovely medieval town of Kilkenny. Begin your visit to Kilkenny at the Cathedral of Saint Canice, an impressive medieval building, and its Round Tower, which is the oldest building in town. Then there’s the Black Abbey, one of the first places of worship for the Dominican Order in Ireland. Next, take a stroll through the town’s narrow streets and you’ll come across shops selling all sorts of local crafts, from pottery to paintings. A trip to Kilkenny wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the distinguished Kilkenny Castle. Built by the Normans back in the late 12th century, there’s a lot of history to explore in this grand old castle and the castle grounds are quite nice too.
Getting there: An easy train trip from Dublin, it takes only 1 ½ hours to reach Kilkenny by train. Alternatively, you can visit Kilkenny as part of an organized tour that visits various places from Dublin.
9. Malahide Castle & Howth
You really don’t have to travel far from Dublin to find excellent destinations, as both Malahide Castle and Howth prove. Both are barely outside the city of Dublin, making them perfect for a short day trip. Start with Malahide Castle, one of the best castles in Ireland, thanks to the curious design of the castle and its wonderfully curated interior. Beyond strolling through the gardens and admiring the building’s architecture, it really pays to visit inside this 12th century castle to see the period decor and collection of important Irish portraits. Howth Harbor, a small fishing town, makes a nice companion to Malahide. There, you get fantastic views of Dublin Bay and also the chance to take a boat to the nearby islet of Ireland’s Eye where you’ll find a puffin sanctuary.
Getting there: Both Malahide Castle and Howth are just a short trip from Dublin, taking roughly 30 minutes to reach by train from Dublin. Of course, having a guide explain their significance is sure to add a lot to your visit and is why a guided tour is a good idea.
10. Glendalough & Wicklow
Journeying south from Dublin you find County Wicklow, whose sights include the historic Glendalough valley, the Wicklow Mountains, and more. Home to gorgeous scenery, Glendalough is best known for the ancient Glendalough Monastic Site which features a collection of churches and ruins from the former monastic settlement. From Glendalough you have easy access to the mountains and twin Lough Bray lakes of Wicklow Mountains National Park, one of Ireland’s most stunning national parks. On your way there, or coming back, it’s worth a stop in at Powerscourt House and Gardens. This stunning country estate boasts gardens that have been used as the backdrop to many movies including Braveheart.
Getting there: There are only two buses a day that travel the 1 hour journey from Dublin to Glendalough. If you don’t want to worry about bus timetables, a more relaxed option is to go with a guided tour.
That sums up the most popular options you have for entertaining day trips while in Dublin. With them, you’ll get to experience far more than is possible if you simply stay in Dublin the whole time.