Our round up of the best day trips and half-day trips from Dublin you can take on your own and a the best organised day tours from Dublin to discover the best on Ireland from the capital.
One of my favorite things about living in Dublin is how close the city is to nature.
From Dublin, you can reach beautiful coastline and gorgeous mountain scenery in less than an hour and the compact size of the Ireland means that even farther away locations such as part of the West is within easy reach from the city.
However, this doesn’t mean you can see the whole of Ireland with a short day trip for Dublin and some of the advice I have seen on the web in this sense is frankly bizarre.
As much as you can be open to driving long distances, location such as the Ring of Kerry cannot be seen with a day trip of day tour from Dublin!
So in this post, I am presenting a round up of day trips from Dublin you can realistically take and a selection of good quality day tours that will allow you to cover longer distances.
I have organised this post in full day trips and half day trips from Dublin so you know exactly what can fit your travel plans and energy level and what doesn’t.
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Best day trips from Dublin to see coastal landscapes
Dublin is on the coast and if you want to see the sea, eat seafood and enjoy the Irish coastline, you can do so with less than one hour drive / train ride form the city centre.
However, if you are not shy or longer journeys, you can also reach some of the most famous coastal locations in Ireland such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Giants Causeway.
Here is how.
Cliffs of Moher: best for iconic Irish landscapes hunters (Full day)
The Cliffs of Moher are so famous that they are almost a symbol of Ireland. People flock from all over the word to see them and they never fail to impress, eve in the event rain and less the stellar weather. They are that amazing!
They are pretty far from Dublin, all the way out on the Western coast of Ireland (Dublin is in the East) but they are reachable within a day and many day yours from Dublin offer them as a destination.
While I am usually a fan of self driving tours, for this one I highly recommend taking an organised one: the long journey gets even longer if you are unsure of the road and you run the risk of driving when very tired on the way back, something that is never recommended.
Giant Causeway and Carrick-a-rede bridge: best for a taste of Northern Ireland (Full day)
Another long day trip and one I recommend tackling with an organised tour, rather than on your own, is a trip to the North. The area of Northern Ireland around the giant causeway and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, nearby, is simply stunning and, for me, one of the most beautiful in the whole of the island of Ireland. You can see more pictures here.
Several day tours from Dublin bring you here and, as mentioned above, I believe they are the best way to come to the area considering the distance between Dublin and the Antrim coast is significant.
Best half day trips from Dublin for coastal landscapes
The old fishing village of Howth: best for seafood near Dublin (half day)
Howth is part of Dublin but it feels a world away from the busy city centre area. It is one of the easiest days trips from Dublin and a great destination on a sunny afternoon.
It is a small fishing village on a hilly promontory stretching out into the Irish sea and it can be easily reached by DART, the urban train connecting Dublin city centre with the coast, car and boat (with a Dublin boat tour).
Here you can hike following the beautiful Howth cliff walk,buy and eat amazing seafood in the fish market and surrounding restaurants, see the resident harbour seals and even go to the beach.
Time needed to visit: half day / one day. It’s the best day trip for Dublin if you want to experience coastal Ireland without having to drive to the West.
Killiney beach: best for bay views (half day)
Immediately South of Dun Laoghaire there is beautiful Killiney beach.
This is a gorgeous stretch of coast with stunning views over Dublin bay and the Wicklow promontory and in the summer a lovely destination for a day trip from Dublin city centre.
Despite its name, Killiney beach is not a sandy stretch of sand, but a stony beach suitable for exploring tidal pools and swimming (experienced simmer only: the coast drops off quickly here).
The best way to visit the beach it walking up to it from nearby Dalkey, a residential and stunning part of Dublin with an artsy vibe, a small castle and a plethora or restaurants, cafes and shops ranging from traditional pubs to trendy artisan food shops.
Bull island: best for kite surfing (half day)
North Dublin bay and Bull’s island in particular are a great kite surfers hang out and a great place to spend an afternoon trying your hand at it or even just watching the pros.
This is not a day trip from Dublin as such in the sense that Bull Island is IN Dublin, but if you are staying in the centre of town this is a great place to spend the day so I am including it in this round up.
You can reach Bull island by Dart or car. There are several nice food shops along the seafront too which are great for a meal.
Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow: best for a day at the beach (half to one day)
Ireland may not be a sea and sun kind of destination but on a good day you can have the full bucket and spade experience in Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow.
Brittas has a large, sandy beach and is a great place for a pic-nic. Bring a wet-suit and sunscreen and don’t let the northerly latitude of the place fool you: the sun here is strong!
Best day trips from Dublin for castle lovers
Ireland has an inordinate amount of castles. Many are in remote locations but some are withing easy reach from Dublin. You can see a full list of our favourites here.
Blarney Castle, Co Cork (Full day)
The most famous of all Irish castle, Blarney castle, is in County Cork, in the South West of the country. It is a long day day tour from Dublin but one that is very popular due to the popularity of the castle itself: if this is your only time in Ireland and want to see it from Dublin, the long drive is worth it!
The best way to reach it it to join an organised bus tour from Dublin: once there, you will find not just the castle and its fabulous gardens but also the lovely village of Blarney where you can have a nice meal.
Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary (full day)
The rock of Cashel is an ancient fortress perched on a hill overlooking the town by the same name, in County Tipperary. The rock is an incredibly atmospheric site: built mostly between the XII and XIII century it sits on a high hill overlooking the otherwise flat land and immediately casts on the visitor a sense of power and might.
Stepping in leaves you no doubts about the ancient origins of the rock and it is easy to believe the legend that says that this is the location where St Patrick converted to Christianity the then Kings of Munster!
Birr castle, Co Offaly (one day)
Birr castle is in Co Offaly, about 150KM from Dublin city and we very fond of it as it is a great place for both adults and kids.
The castle has amazing grounds and you can spend a day just wandering among its beautiful tress and lakes. The castle used to be an important centre for astronomy and hosts what used to be the words biggest telescope, a small science centre, and something kids adore: an adventure playground with the largest tree house in the country!
Read all about Birr Castle and what it has to offer to visitors in our review here.
Trim Castle, Co Meath (one day)
Mel Gibson fans are in for a treat when visiting Trim castle, in Co Meath.
The castle sits in the centre of the small town of Trim and landed its imposing walls to the filming of Braveheart (yes, that was not Scotland you saw!).
The castle is pleasant to visit and the guided tours available are cheap and well made, with guides touching on the history of the castle but also of its Hollywood past. Taking the tour is worth it, both for the information provided and for the chance it gives to climb to the top of the castle, from which you get wonderful views of the country nearby.
Best half day trips from Dublin for garden lovers
Powerscourt house and waterfall, Co Wicklow (half day)
Maybe the most popular of all day trips from Dublin is visit to Powerscourt house and garden, in Country Wicklow.
The Powerscourt estate is large and elegant and comprised of an award winning Italian style garden, a smaller Japanese one, a manor house now hosting shops and restaurants and a beautiful waterfall.
Mount Usher gardens, Co Wicklow (half day)
These award winning gardens are one of the most pleasant day trips from Dublin you can take if you are after a quite day walking in stunning gardens with a side serving of mountain scenery.
Located in Ashford, just outside Wicklow, these gardens are a real gem: created in the Robinsonian style, they are a heaven of tranquility and can be visited in all seasons, although as expected they are at their very best in spring, early summer and autumn, when they dress up with flowers or foliage for the delight of wanderers and photographers alike.
Stud farm and Japanese gardens, Co Kildare (half day)
Despite its name, the national stud farm is much more than a place to just see horses. A large estate well worth a long visit, the centre has the studs but also some stunning wonderful Japanese gardens, St Fiachra’s garden and of course the playground – always a useful addition to any site!
Best half day trips from Dublin for mountain lovers
The range of mountains immediately South of Dublin is stunning and offers incredible views to both hikers and cultural explorers. Sites that should not be missed include.
Glendalough lakes and monastic site
One of my favourite sites in the whole of Ireland! An ancient monastic site, lakes, easy hikes and a cafe/restaurant where to have an earthy lunch: a busy spot but lovely in all seasons. You can read my full post about it here
Lough Tay and Lough Dan
Nestled in the Wicklow mountains, Lough Tay and Lough Dan are two beautiful lakes close to each other but offering to the visitors two very different experiences: Lough Tay is private and can, as such, only be admired from above, while Loch Dan is accessible can be reached with an easy hike.
They are both stunning and can be easily reached by car: combining the two makes for a day out made of gorgeous landscapes and, for me, one of the most scenic of day trips from Dublin you can ever have
Best day trip from Dublin for history lovers: Boyne Valley
The Boyne valley sits to the north of Dublin and is a place of great historical importance.
Here you can visit world famous sites like neolithic Newgrange and the site of the Battle of the Boyne, a cornerstone event in the history of Ireland. It is one of the best day trips from Dublin for history lovers.
Best half day trip from Dublin for city lovers
Kilkenny is about an hour and a half from Dublin but is well connected to the city by a motorway, which makes driving there easy and straightforward.
This is one of my favourite day trips from Dublin and one I take regularly with the kids.
Things not to be missed in Kilkenny are its stunning castle (with cool playground), the city’s amazing cathedral and the colourful houses in the city centre. You can find more about how to spend a day in Kilkenny here
Best day trips from Dublin for city lovers
Galways is a lovely university city on the west coast of Ireland and a favourite with locals and tourists alike.
It is a lovely town to visit in one day and it is even better if used as a base to discover the beautiful nature nearby, namely the Burren and Connemara.
Cork is a big, lively town and a great day trip from Dublin. the best way to enjoy the city is to stay the night but if you are short on time, you can still get a sense of it thanks to day trips from Dublin to this area.
Belfast is conveniently connected to Dublin by train and is an interesting as well as very pleasant day trip from Dublin.
The city of Belfast deserves more than one day to be discovered properly, but even with only a few hours available it is possible to get a taste of its significant past.
Depending on your interests and party, consider a city sightseeing tour (the bus tour of the city is excellent) or a visit to the Titanic museum (find tickets here).
Best half day trips from Dublin for families with small children
Some of our best days out as a family have been visiting farms. I find farm visits one of the most fun ways to enjoy the countryside while keeping the kids entertained and the variety of locations and activities means adults can get a glimpse of the Irish landscape without compromising on fun for the kids.
Malahide Castle, Co Dublin (half day)
One of our favourite day trips from Dublin city centre is Malahide, worth a visit for both tits famous castle, its massive grounds and a lovely village.
A trip to Malahide doesn’t have to take a full day but between the train / car ride and the time to explore, you will want to come here in the morning and make a full day out of it.
This day trip is particularly suitable for families with young kids thanks to the large castle playground.
Ardgillan Castle, Co Dublin (half day)
Another fantastic castle within easy reach from Dublin is Ardgillan: it boasts lovely grounds, a pleasant walk in the woods (dotted with fairy doors) and a large playground that overlooks the sea, which makes it a favorite hand out for families.
It is a lovely place for a family half day trip near Dublin and the sea view makes the playground a good stop for parents as well as kids!
The castle has a small cafe’ with tea, coffee and small snacks.
Russborough House, Co Wicklow (half day)
Russborough house is located in Blessington, a short drive out of Dublin.
It is a beautiful manor house and offers several activities suitable for the whole families, including nature and fairy walks, a falconry centre, a large playgrounds and a labyrinth (not to be taken lightly: it looks innocent and small but it takes quite a while to negotiate your way to the centre and then out!).
Kilruddery House, Co Wicklow (half day)
Located in Co Wicklow, Kilruddery house and gardens are a beautiful estate offering many family activities. Its large grounds host a small farm, a fantastic sandpit for small kids and seasonal events such as the Halloween pumpkin patch that attract local and tourists alike.
On the same grounds of the house, although price separately, there is also a tree adventure experience where kids can experience the thrills of zip-lining! Be warn: kids can only go zip lining with an adult so prepare to buckle up!
Greenan farm (half day)
One of my favourite farms is Greenan Farm, in Co. Wicklow. This is a lovely farm and it’s in a beautiful part of Wicklow, with lush hills and woods. Inside, you will find farm animals, a nature fairy trails dotted by fairy doors and animal facts, a maze and a playground. There is also a great coffee shop with lovely sandwiches, soups and home baked cakes.
Lullymore heritage park (half day)
Lullymore is another lovely farm, this time in Co Kildare. The landscape is very different from the one in Wicklow as it’s less hilly but there is plenty to do for the kids. As well as a fairy trail, the farm has a road train, a heritage museum and an indoor and outdoor play centre.
What I found most interesting is the wetlands of the bog, typical of this part of Ireland, while the kids were mostly impressed by the playground. Still, I hope the educational value didn’t get completely lost for them! if you have very small kids, this can be a particularly pleasant day trip from Dublin for them.
Glenroe farm (half day)
Another gorgeous farm and one of the best half day trips from Dublin for families with young kids is Glenroe farm in Co. Wicklow.
We were there on a rainy day and despite this, we loved it! It has a wonderful nature trail with a sensory garden (lovely for adults) and a secret fairy garden (amazing for all ages) and one thing that made special for the kids: the petting corner, where you can hold one some of the cutest animals: rabbits and guinea pigs.
I hope you enjoyed this selection of best day trips and half day trips from Dublin. Safe travels!
This post was originally written in 2015 and has now been fully updated to reflect current tours and transport options.