I can’t believe that after living in Dublin for 6 years I am only after discovering this fantastic hidden gem. I love all the seaside towns that Dublin has, so the fact that I still hadn’t made it to Howth was starting to bug me. Plus I had heard that’s where you can get the best fish in Dublin. If that’s not a selling a point, I don’t know what is!
We had planned on doing the hill walk around the whole peninsula (referred to as the Bog of Frogs Loop), which is supposed to take 3 to 4 hours. There are up to four different walking trails with different lengths, all of which are signed with different colored arrows throughout. The Bog of Frogs Loop is the longest trail and is marked by purple arrows.
Once we got off the DART, we began by walking towards the harbor. The views around this area are already stunning, as is usually the norm in any seaside town in Ireland. As we passed the harbor and started walking up, unexpected beautiful views of the town and the islands surprised us through the bushes. I was already loving this walk, completely unaware of what was coming!
We continued walking until we reached a small car park. The car park was the last of civilization we were to be in contact with for a couple of hours. We followed a narrow lane through heavy vegetation until we reached what I am going to call the “Staircase to Heaven”, simply because there is just no other way to call it. At this stage we actually sat down for a while to take in the views over the whole bay. It was such a relaxing spot!
Funnily enough, our trail did not continue up the stairs but rather to the left, right at the edge of the cliffs. Blue sky and sea to one side, and a combination of green and other contrasting colors to the other. We were walking for over an hour along the edge of the cliffs and it was certainly one of the most relaxing walks I have ever taken. It is usually the most simple of things I enjoy the most!
I hadn’t seen any pictures of the trail, so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought that what we were seeing was as good as it got, and that we would just keep on walking for another 2 hours through similar landscape. And I was more than happy with the prospect of that. That’s why when we reached this point I was completely taken aback.
This is definitely one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It truly is majestic. Irish Beauty at its best! Maybe it was due to the fact that I was not expecting it at all, but I’d like to think that was only a small contributing factor. Here is an interesting fact: this lighthouse (Baily Lighthouse) was the last one in Ireland to be operated by a keeper. From this point you can also get a first glimpse of Dublin Bay and even Dalkey Island in the background. Airam (my boyfriend and loyal walking companion) had to drag me out of this spot. I would have happily sat there for hours…
At the cliff where the lighthouse is located there are a couple of options. You can actually walk all the way down to the lighthouse itself, which we didn’t do. There is also another path leading to the top of the hill, which we thought would be some sort of viewing platform. It turned out to be just a car park. You can follow the road from there all the way back to the town if you don’t want to continue hiking, and I think there is also a bus stop. So if you are visiting Howth, but you are not the walking or hiking type, you should definitely get a bus to this point to see the amazing views while avoiding the hike. Also this is where most of the other trails turn around back into town.
The best part of the trail however was definitely waiting ahead. The path from this point on becomes quite narrow and there is a lot overgrown vegetation. It was really easy to forget that we were still in Dublin!
For this part we were walking completely on our own most of the time. Every now and then one of the locals would walk past us, most of them giving us a cheeky smile. I think they could tell by the look on our faces we were completely shocked by the views. We could tell by the look on theirs that our shock filled them with pride.
I am really struggling to put into words how amazing we felt at this stage. Completely on our own, walking through the wilderness; the sun shining AND the temperature being warm (which is an extremely rare event); behind us, breathtaking views of Baily Lighthouse; ahead of us, small deserted beaches. I mean… hello Dublin? Is that still you, or did someone just suddenly transported us to northern Spain?
This was probably the stretch of the trail that took us the longest to walk, and not because it was the longest, but because I just had to stop every couple of meters to take it all in. Also, you may have noticed that the beaches look pretty much inaccessible, although there were a couple of people in one of them, so there must be a way down. However, we decided we were having enough of an adventure as it was, and continued with our route. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we arrived at a small beach that we had completely to ourselves. Do you know how hard it is to be out in Dublin on your own on a sunny day? Irish and non-irish residents come out like lizards when it is sunny and warm outside and the whole city starts buzzing – happy people everywhere. And here we were, with a beach all to ourselves (not a big one, but one nonetheless).
If there was ever a moment in the last six years that I believed in leprechauns, it was this one. OK, seriously now. I’ve always loved Ireland; I fell in love with its beauty and its people years ago and decided to stay. But I think in the last couple of years that love got lost in translation. I forgot where I was. I stopped getting out and seeing places. I think the reason I enjoyed this hike so much was because it took me back to the beginning, it restored my admiration for Ireland and most importantly: it reminded me why I chose to stay. Although don’t get me wrong, you do not need a love-hate relationship with Ireland to enjoy the hike and admire the views!
Now back on topic. We stayed in the beach for a while taking a break from walking. Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have a chance to go swimming, so not surprisingly, I wasn’t carrying a bikini with me. I therefore had to content myself with just dipping my feet in. I would have happily stayed forever, but we were only half way through the trail at this stage so eventually we moved on to discover what else had Howth prepared for us.
The next stage was definitely the hardest one. There are quite a lot of uneven stairs, constant up and downs and there are parts in which you have to duck down to avoid the overgrown vegetation. But it was still worth it every step. We continued past a couple of small rocky coves taking in the views of Dublin Bay in the background. We did not pass another single soul on the way! Eventually the Martello Tower came into sight ahead, which meant we had reached the end of the coastal path.
At this stage the path turns inland, leading back into town. It also becomes much less clear and you really have to watch out for the posts with the purple arrows marking the way. As we veered away from the cliffs, the trail eventually disappeared and we found ourselves in a grassy meadow. Luckily for us we weren’t lost, there just wasn’t a defined trail any more, which we realised after we eventually spotted the handy purple arrow pointing us in the right direction.
We continued on across a road and around Sheilmartin Hill until we reached a golf course. You read that right: the trail actually goes through a golf course… only in Ireland! This was definitely one of the strangest things I have ever done. We felt extremely out of place, and to make things more difficult the trail isn’t signposted any more. However, the views are definitely worth crossing for. You can see all of the north side Dublin coast, with Malahide to the right and Bull Island to the left. The downside is you can’t stay there admiring the views for too long or you might risk getting hit by a golf ball!
After our little golf course adventure, we went around the Ben of Howth, which you can actually go up to (it’s only another 100 – 200m) if you want to take in more views of the beautiful coastline. We skipped this as we were feeling quite tired at this stage, and instead, continued on through a small forest, which led us back into civilization.
This is as of now, my favorite place in Dublin. Pictures don’t even come close to doing it any justice.
So if you haven’t been, I suggest you put this on top of your list. You won’t regret it!