Dublin is a charming, architecturally spectacular capital where medieval and modern history blend to create a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere. Yet Dublin offers much more. The county is home to often undiscovered villages, beautiful scenery and ancient castles.
Dublin is my home town, so forgive me if today I sing her praises with pride. Dublin is not only a “fair city,” but a historical county and my childhood home.
Dublin is located on Ireland’s eastern shore and is part of the ancient province of Leinster. As I researched this post I learned that in 1994 Dublin was split into three separate administrative regions. A Local Government Act went so far as to state “the county shall cease to exist.”
I was shocked, but no matter what legal or administrative divisions were created for ease of governance, Dublin is, and always will be, a county in the eyes of Irish men and women.
This wonderful satellite image from NASA shows Dublin city surrounded by its less densely populated county. Dublin Bay is the horseshoe shape at the center, with Howth Head to the North and Dalkey Hill to the south. The Dublin Mountains lie to the south adjoining County Wicklow and its spectacular mountain range.
Dublin City dates back over 1000 years, it’s origins attributed to a Viking settlement in 841 AD. It’s name literally means Black Pool, from the Irish word ‘dubh’ meaning black, and ‘linn’ meaning pool.
To truly do Dublin justice, this post should include hundreds of photos and stories. Instead I plan to limit our city center tour, so we can focus on the hidden gems of the county. But rest assured, we will explore Dublin City in many more posts and photos in the future.
I could not visit Dublin, however, without mentioning my alma mater, Trinity College. This peaceful, beautiful campus with cobblestone squares, elegant gardens and classical buildings, lies right in the center of our bustling city. Official, student-guided tours of the campus are available. You can also see the Book of Kells on display in the magnificent old library building.
The River Liffey bisects the city and county into northern and southern regions. The banks of the river are lined with magnificent old buildings like The Custom House, which opened in 1791.
Grafton Street is the main shopping thoroughfare on the South Side, with Henry Street being retail central for the North Side. A little rain never slows down Dublin shoppers who always carry umbrellas for emergencies.
Dublin Castle was first established in 1204 AD, and has played a prominent role in Irish history ever since. Informative guided tours are available.
Kilmainham Gaol (or jail) housed Irish prisoners between 1780 and the 1920’s. Unoccupied today, tours of the jail tell the story of Ireland’s tumultuous past.
West County Dublin:
The Phoenix Park lies to the west of the city center. With 1752 acres it is the largest enclosed park in any European capital city. The Wellington Monument is a memorial obelisk dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, who was born in Dublin.
A herd of fallow deer still roam the Phoenix Park. Dublin Zoo dates back to 1831 and is located within the park.
The National Botanic Gardens are located in Glasnevin to the northwest of the city center. Founded in 1795, the gardens are home to many beautifully restored glass houses.
Farmleigh House and Estate once belonged to the Guinness family. It is now owned and operated by the Office of Public Works. Guided tours are available. Many cultural events are scheduled here throughout the summer season.
The western county boasts a beautiful landscape of green fields lined by blooming summer hedgerows. The Dublin Mountains lie to the southwest overlooking this verdant valley.
North County Dublin:
Marino Casino lies to the north of the city. Built between 1750 and 1775, this casino is not associated with gambling. Its name is derived from Italian and means small house. Despite its name this casino actually contains 16 rooms.
Home to the Lords of Howth, the St. Lawrence family, Howth Castle dates back to the 14th century. In 1576 the famous Irish sea queen, Granuaile or Grace O’Malley, attempted to visit the Baron of Howth. She was informed the family were at dinner and was refused entry. In retaliation, she abducted the Baron’s son, only releasing him when she was promised, from that day forward, a place would be set for visitors at the castle’s dinner table. This agreement is honored to this very day.
Howth is a magical fishing village with a magnificent pier, two lighthouses, cliffside walks and breathtaking views. Home to some of the finest seafood restaurants in Ireland, a great meal can easily be washed down by a cozy drink in one of Howth’s warm, inviting pubs.
The islands of Ireland’s Eye and Lambay can be spotted to the north of Howth.
Moving futher north along the coast, Pormarnock is home to a magnificent golf course which has hosted the Irish Open on many occasions. It’s beautiful sandy beach was one of my favorite summertime haunts.
Malahide Castle is located in the quaint, seaside town of the same name. Home to the Talbot family for over 800 years, it is supposedly home to five ghostly figures, often spotted in the castle windows.
Located in Donabate, Newbridge House and Farm is an old Georgian Mansion and Demesne with a wonderful playground, beautiful gardens and a model 18th century farmyard. It is one of my children’s favorite spots to visit.
Skerries is a picturesque town with a watermill and two windmills, sandy beaches and a scenic harbor.
Ardgillan Castle lies a little further north, with magnificent views of the Irish Sea. On a clear day, the Mountains of Mourne can be seen in the distance. Look closely at the photo above, and you can see the shadowy mountains on the horizon.
South County Dublin:
Rathfarnham Castle dates back to Elizabethan times. It is open to the public and home to a collection of 18th and 19th century toys, dolls and costumes.
Dun Laoghaire lies about seven miles south of Dublin city. It’s harbor and pier offer lovely views of the bay and Howth Head.
Further south in Sandycove, the Forty Foot was a “gentlemen only” swimming club in days gone by. Not until the 1970’s did women gain the right to swim here.
Dalkey Island can be seen in this photo taken from Killiney Hill.
Looking south from Killiney Hill the beautiful coast can be seen as far as Greystones in Co. Wicklow. The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train line runs all the way from Howth to Greystones along the shores of Dublin Bay. A trip on the train provides access to some beautiful scenery.
The Dublin mountains lie to the south and are home to some spectacular peaks, mountain trails, and ancient megalithic sites and stones.
And so we conclude our quick trip around County Dublin. Forgive me if I have omitted your favorite site or attraction. I never even mentioned Dublin’s most famous daughter.
So here is a picture of Molly Malone with her cart to bid you all farewell.
Some great sites for planning a trip to Dublin include:
As I publish each new county post, I will add a link to the alphabetical list on my Ireland: County-by-county page.
Slán agus beannacht!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom