If there’s one part of Dublin that is vastly underrated, it’s its stunning coast. To both the north and the south of the city, the seaside is lined with charming seaside villages that make the perfect escape from the hustle of the city center for a day. And in addition to these towns, Dublin’s coast offers spectacular views and hiking. For a breath of fresh Irish air, look no further than the suburbs. Both Howth and Bray/Greystones offer stunning coastal cliff hiking trails that make for a perfect daytrip from Dublin. You don’t even need a car – both cities are easily accessible by way of the Dublin DART light rail.
BRAY TO GREYSTONES
Bray to Greystones? Or Greystones to Bray? You can begin your hike in either town, depending on your itinerary for the day. I hiked Bray to Greystones, but if I had to give you my ideal route, I’d actually tell you to do it the other way around. Both are incredibly charming, so start your journey by fueling up in Greystones and end with a stroll down the promenade in Bray!
Start your hike by taking the DART to Greystones. Walk through town to catch the beginning of the trail. On the way, stop for sustenance at The Happy Pear – a charming cafe and market full of organic, vegan, and natural eats. I recommend picking up some snacks here for a picnic along the trail!
On The Trail
Starting in Greystones is recommended as well because the first stretch of path isn’t quite as scenic as being up on the hill is and felt like an anti-climatic end to the journey. The trail begins at the marina – just follow the signs. The first couple of kilometers of the trail stretch along the coast from the village away from the sea, leading up to Bray Head mountain.
Eventually this turns into narrow pathways lined with all kinds of flora and fauna, until before long you’re standing at a stone wall looking over the harrowing drop of the cliff’s edge to the sea below. The last half of the trail as you approach Bray is by far the most scenic. The hillsides are covered in gorse and heather, and the path widens into a road that winds around the mountainside.
The trail was used during the construction of the rail line that it follows to allow movement of men and supplies. Along the way you’ll pass the ruins of Lord Meath’s Lodge as well as Brady Hole, a seafront cavern once used for smuggling in contraband during the 18th century.
This linear hike is about 7 kilometers in length and takes around 2 hours to complete, depending on your pace. With few hills, the hike is great for all levels of hiking experience. From Greystones it’s a straight shot on to Bray – you won’t lose your way. If you’re feeling up to it towards the end of the hike, you can also turn and hike up to the top of Bray Head itself for even more views – or come back and make two days out if it!
You’ll end your hike in Bray, another charming seaside town with a lively promenade lined with great restaurants. Treat yourself with an ice cream from the famous Teddy’s or pizza at Platform’s, voted best ‘za in Ireland.
To the north of Dublin city at the end of the DART train line sits Howth – another idyllic coastal town. Stepping off the train, you’ll find yourself in a marina surrounded by welcoming eateries offering fresh seafood. If you’ve been looking for fish and chips, this is the place to try it.
On The Trail
The cliff walk begins at the dart station and continues through town. On the opposite side of the marina, the main road curves upwards. Green arrows will lead you to the hilltop, where eventually the road will end and become a dirt path. You can choose to hike up to the summit of the hill, or sit and dangle your feet off the edge of the cliffs.
The stunning views overlook Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye, and Dublin Bay. At this point you can descend the way you climbed back into town, or continue on with the hike that continues on to make a loop, taking a parallel route back into town. You can also extend the loop by taking an alternative route towards the lighthouse.
Along the route you’ll see Howth’s Martello Tower, the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey dating back to the 15th century,Balscadden House once home to W.B. Yeats, and more. This hike is approximately 6 to 10 km and takes 2-3 hours, depending on your pace and detours. Though uphill and variably steep, it’s an easy and great hike for anyone regardless of hiking experience.
Have you hiked them both? Which was your favorite and why?