Our round up of the best day trips from Dublin and family days out, including areas of natural beauty, manor houses, farms and rainy day ideas.
One of my favourite things about living in Dublin is how close the city is to nature. In the city itself and less than an hour drive from its busy centre you have the sea, the mountains, forest walks and country estates tempting visitors with beautiful interiors, family activities and cakes
In this post, we share the best day trips from Dublin that will show Ireland’s beautiful nature ,history and family friendly side.
Best day trips from Dublin: the coast
The old fishing village of Howth
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 for families, even with young children 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)
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.
The main attractions in Howth are the fishing port, with colourful fishing boats, and the seals! The seals come to the port hoping for some fish and while you can’t be sure to see them, more often than not there will be enough fish in the water for them to make an appearance. Look for them alongside the first pier, where restaurants are.
Whenever we go to Howth, we always have a fish based lunch. My favourite place is probably ‘the bloody stream‘ just below the DART station: it has a lovely pub-like atmosphere, very cozy especially in winter. With kids, we also love ‘Crabby Jo’ that has a nice menu and offers crayons and paper to little guests.
Please note: these are my personal recommendations and I received no compensation of any kind for this mention.
Howth is also great for a walk on the beach (just behind the DART line) or, if you have older kids, the scenic cliff walk. The cliff walk has beautiful views but is not something to do with toddlers or strollers and kids should definitely be kept very close!
Dun Laoghaire is also on the coast, just on the opposite side of the bay from Howth. It’s a lively part of town with a great artsy vibe about it and a great park here you can find a busy market on Saturdays and a playground, as well as many lunch places and shops.
The most beautiful part of Dun Laoghaire is the sea. You can stroll down the pier to the lighthouse, head to Sandycove to access the beach or even just catch the sun on the long lawn along the coastline. In the summer, you can also catch one of the passenger boats cruising the bay
You can reach Dun Laoghaire by DART and especially on a beautiful summer day the car is best avoided as parking can be crazy!
Time needed: half day / one full day if you include the cruise
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 out. 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.
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.
Time needed: half to one day
Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow
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: Castles, houses and estates
Malahide Castle, Co Dublin
One of our favourite days out on the North side of Dublin, Malahide is worth a visit for both the castle itself, its massive grounds (with lovely Avoca cafe, managed by the same people who now run Mount Usher Gardens in Wicklow) and a fabulous playground. My kids adore it, so much that I confess I never visited the castle inside as they always refused to be peeled away from the toys!
Time needed: half day
Ardgillan Castle, Co Dublin
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. It is a lovely place for a family day out 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.
Time needed: half day (easy to combine with a visit to the Skerries mills)
Skerries Mills, Co Dublin
Not far from Argillan, the Skerries mills are a great place for adults and kids alike. The windmills look out of a fairytale (or an episode of ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – do you have them on TV?) and there is a nice coffee and souvenir shop that will warm you up if visiting, like we did, on a cold winter day. Tours of the mills are available, kids are welcome.
Time needed: half day
Avondale House, Co Wicklow
One of my favourites is Avondale house, in Co. Wicklow: you can visit the house but the best part of it, for the kids, is its grounds. There is a playground there, but most of all a great nature walk that includes an exotic trees trail with eucalyptus trees. Really magical and the smell is just amazing!
Time needed: half to one day
Powerscourt house and waterfall, Co Wicklow
The Powerscourt estate has two parts: the main one with house and gardens and one with the Powerscourt waterfall. The part with the waterfall is my favourite: it’s beautiful and includes a playground so if you visit the main house, I’d suggest you do get the ticket that includes the waterfall (you can also opt to visit the waterfall only).
Time needed: half to one day
Top tip for families with young children:The main house has a wonderful toy museum with old school toy and a pretty impressive collection of toy cars.
Russborough House, Co Wicklow
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!).
You can read more about it here. Time needed: half to one day
Kilruddery House, Co Wicklow
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!
Time needed: one day
Wells house, Co Wexford
Wells House is in Co Wexford and therefore further from Dublin than the attractions mentioned above. Despite this, if you don’t mind driving, this is a fantastic place for kids. A beautiful manor house, Wells house is surrounded by a large park with nature walks, a Gruffalo trail, a large playground, a falconry centre and an archery patch.
Time needed: one day
Birr castle, Co Offaly
Birr castle is in Co Offaly, about 150KM from Dublin city and is therefore quite a long way to go for a day trip from Dublin. We are, however, very fond of it and we highly recommend as a family destination because of the may attractions for kids it contains. The castle used to be an important centre for astronomy and hosts what used to be the words biggest telescope, a small science centre, an adventure playground and something kids adore: the largest tree house in the country!
Read all about Birr Castle and what it has to offer to visitors here. Time needed: one day
Interested in castles? Read here our guide to the best castles in Ireland
Trim Castle, Co Meath
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. The castle is suitable for visiting with kids but be prepared to climbing several flights of stairs to get to the top – the view from there is worth it!
Stud farm and Japanese gardens, Co Kildare
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!
Time needed: half day
Best day trips from Dublin to the Wicklow mountains
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
Dublin day trip to the 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.
You can read all about it here. Time needed: one day
Day trip from Dublin to Kilkenny
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 our favourite way to spend a day in Kilkenny here
Belfast is conveniently connected to Dublin by train and is an interesting as well as very pleasant day out.
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 shipyard.
The best way to visit Belfast is as part of a longer Northern Ireland itinerary such as this one
Best 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.
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
Lullymore is another lovely farm, this time in Co Kildare (full review on the way, stay tuned). 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.
Another gorgeous farm and one of the best 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 from Dublin. Safe travels!