Dublin - Where Nature Meets the City
You don’t have to walk far from The Croke Park to be reminded that Dublin is close to great natural beauty. From one of the city’s many vantage points you can gaze across the glittering expanse of Dublin Bay to the mountains in the south, stretching into County Wicklow, back to the coastal suburbs and towns that flank the city on its north and south perimeters. In these places, and a short ride from the city centre, you’ll find clean beaches backed by dunes, seals and even the odd pod of dolphins, wild and windy walks – and of course, the usual hospitable roster of cafes, pubs and restaurants in which to tarry and take stock.
A favourite journey is the coastal trail from Dublin down to the Wicklow Mountains National Park just over 20 miles away. Along this fabled route you’ll pass by handsome Dun Laoghaire, a seaside town with marina and harbour. In nearby Sandycove, each year, you’ll find an extraordinary Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot sea swimming hole, mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses and a magnet for the brave (or foolhardy). Pass then through the prosperous suburbs of Dalkey and Killiney and soon enough, you will reach the renowned early-medieval monastic ruins at Glendalough in County Wicklow. Set to the backdrop of a breathtaking glacial valley, with lush forests and clear lakes, this national heritage site is home to St Kevin’s monastic settlement, world-famous for its round tower and serving as a sanctuary during Viking raids - and as the backdrop for scenes in the films Excalibur and Braveheart. Hiking and rock-climbing are popular pursuits here. Also recommended is a stop in pretty Avoca: another screen star, this time as the location for TV series Ballykissangel.
Glendalough set to the backdrop of a breathtaking glacial valley, world-famous for its round tower and serving as a sanctuary during Viking raids
To the north of Dublin there are also some fantastic walking options. Go to the village of Howth, fortify with a hot drink, then set off on the Howth Coastal Path where on a good day you can look north and see County Down’s Mountains of Mourne (which as any aficionado of Irish song will tell you "sweep down to the sea"). To the south you’ll see panoramas of Dublin. Look out to sea, and looming up in the waves is the enigmatic island known as Ireland’s Eye, bereft of people but host to flocks of screeching seabirds. Howth Pier is a great place to stop for lunch or supper, hosting an increasingly famous stretch of seafood shops and restaurants, after which you can walk along the quayside and feed the all-too attentive seals.
There’s a host of specialist sporting experiences to try in Dublin, from GAA to kayaking, golf, swimming, horse-riding to stand-up paddle boarding - even rafting on the River Liffey. Wakedock is Ireland’s only cable wakeboard park located in the Grand Canal Dock, an expanse of water close to the centre of the city. Day sailing is on offer in Dublin Bay. Hikes are all around. And if you still have not got an idea of the extraordinary topography of Dublin, then walk the 1km out to the Poolbeg Lighthouse as the sun is setting – a great view of the city and a wonderful way to end an active day.
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