In the month and a half that I’ve been in Ireland, I’ve taken day trips almost every weekend that I’m not already on a weekend trip. As many Americans think of Ireland as the land of “gorgeous green fields”, I’ll have those who haven’t visited the country yet know that it absolutely is… and more. There are mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, cliffs, farms, beaches, and yes, many green fields. Here are five of the best day trips that I’ve taken so far! (I would say these are ranked in no particular order, but I actually do have opinions, surprise surprise.)
My definition of a “day trip” is, well, a trip that you can take in one day, leaving from your main location (mine being Dublin) and returning to the same location by the end of the day. These trips usually last 5-8 hours, travel and meal time included. I’ll also note that many of those include walks/hikes, as being a lover of nature I’m quite partial to hiking, but I’m definitely not the most hardcore of hikers.
#5: Ticknock Forest
About an hour's bus ride south, Ticknock consists of forests, mountains and hills (some adorned with sheep and other animals), and if you follow a certain path or two, you reach the Fairy Castle atop a mountain with some of the most stunning sights I’ve ever seen. It’s extra fun for mountain bikers, as there are trails for that as well.
I’ll add a fair warning that it’s definitely a capital-D Day trip, as this walk took me and my friends about 6 hours from when we left the bus to when we caught the one home (9 hours total with the meal we grabbed before leaving plus bus travel time), but it was well worth the scenery and the adventure. If you have the energy and means and leg-power for it, I highly recommend it, but plan ahead regardless. (And bring a portable phone charger! That was a lifesaver.)
#4: 40 Foot
40 Foot is a beachy lake site that’s a must-visit for swimmers or people who just enjoy being near water. It’s about 45 minutes by car and an hour by train from central Dublin. There are busy areas during the peak hours of sun and heat, with rocks that people can jump off of, and less busy beach areas surrounding the main corner. People swim, lounge on the beaches and rocks reading, take walks around the coast, and more.
I went with a small group of friends in mid-September, when it wasn’t the warmest of times but far from the coldest—we wanted to catch it before it got colder. We swam for a bit, some just dipping their toes in, some going fully in the water. We sat on the rocks for a bit then, reading and chatting, and when we were done, we popped by the nearby town, where we visited a couple of local shops and markets for lunch.
I am definitely biased, as an avid swimmer myself, about the swimming aspect of 40 Foot, but do be warned that the water is quite cold. When I say “quite cold”, I don’t mean Lake Superior water or ice water – it’s definitely swimmable, especially on hot days. But it’s far from your heated swimming pool. This trip was also one of the shortest ones we took, with us leaving at around 9:30am and getting back into Dublin at around 3pm. I definitely recommend this for a quick day’s getaway; there are plenty of tourists in the area (and I’d imagine more in the summer), but also options for calmer areas for a simple beach read or market walk.
#3: Causey Farm
Located in County Meath, about an hour and a half drive away from Dublin, is Causey Farm, a historic farm with lots of animals, singing tour guides, and traditions around the fall and wintertime that bring many back. IES Abroad took us on a guided tour in the second week of our study abroad program, and it was some of the best fun I’ve had all term. We made bread from scratch, learned a traditional Irish dance, visited friendly rabbits, pigs, chickens and alpacas, and visited the nearby Girley Bog where many of us (me included) jumped in. The staff was fantastic and lots of fun, and it was definitely a great bonding experience for us, having been in the program together for not quite two weeks at that point.
I do recommend bog-jumpers to bring clothes that you don’t care about too much and are fine with getting very, VERY dirty. I thrifted some clothes ahead of time, and while they survived with a shower rinse, extra detergent and a heavy laundry cycle, not all clothes do.
Howth is on the very coastal tip of Dublin county, about a half-hour train ride from Connolly Station in Dublin. There are amazing cliff walks, lots of restaurants and markets nearby, and an overall timeless energy to the space with historic castles mingled in with modern homes.
I have to go back to the cliffs though, because they’re simply incredible. They just feel magical—if you go on a decent day weather- and visibility-wise, you can see sights that remind you of music videos and make the travel pamphlets seem a bit more real. There are options for different hike lengths, and it’s open to beginners as well as hardcore hikers. I would be wary if you are particularly afraid of heights–while the trail structure does give plenty of room between you and the edges of cliffs, it can be a bit nerve-racking, and I generally would encourage anyone to exercise caution around the area anyway.
This trip was one of the easiest for me and my friends to take, as far as planning and travel time. We left Dublin around 10:30 am, went for a few hours’ hike on the cliffs, stopping plenty of times to take in the sights and chat, and then walked to the pier to sit down for some fish and chips before heading back to Dublin, arriving by around 4 pm.
Glendalough was definitely my favorite of the day trips. IES Abroad took us for a morning/afternoon trip, which started with an hour drive south to Glendalough’s home in County Wicklow. There we walked through the site of an old monastery, complete with graves, towers, and old structures, and afterwards, then walked through a wooded area to a small lot at the bottom of the mountain, where there were a pack of food stands with snacks, loaded chips, donuts, and hot drinks. After loading up, we started to hike around the mountain, reaching lakes and an old miner’s village.
Glendalough is absolutely gorgeous. It feels like such a homey site with hikes that aren’t super intense (but can be intensified if need be) and the woods and mountains are beautiful. There is a main roadlike path that can be taken through the woods and miner’s village, and there are also side paths that go up the mountains and a few that take you down to the lake (though it is a no-swimming lake, sadly :(). It’s just such a soul-healing place.
For day trips, I’d say one of the best things to do is go with a group that you gel with, as it can be the best bonding experience ever. For some of these, they were in the first couple of weeks, so I went with people I didn’t know that well, and ended up coming back with the same people when I knew them better. It’s important too to look out for one another – bring enough food and water, see what’s nearby, and know each other’s comfort levels with activity and such. And if you have a good camera, take plenty of pictures! I feel torn whenever I’m in such pretty areas of nature between taking lots of pictures and just “enjoying the moment unplugged”, and ultimately I believe that a balance is what’s best for me. I unplug to walk and laugh with friends, and then stop to take pictures a few times, which I can look back on later and smile remembering how happy I felt in the moment. You definitely don’t have to be traveling for days and weeks on end to make great memories!
More Blogs From This Author
he/him -- I'm studying Creative Writing and Studio Art at Knox College, class of 2025! I mostly dabble in cartooning, poetry, creative nonfiction, portraits, and humor writing. Outside of my majors, I play guitar and electric bass and sleep a lot.