Dublin from the DART: 10 top stops for a train tour of city and coast
Dublin's DART covers 53km of city and coast, offering a tourism express train right on your doorstep.
Forget expensive sightseeing tours.
Here's a way to hop on and off at 31 stops stretching from Howth and Dublin Bay to Bray and Greystones in Co. Wicklow.
That's what Dublin off the Dart, a new guide published by Munster-based Southern as part of its Best of Ireland series, encourages visitors and locals to do.
With adult day tickets from €11.70 and family tickets from €20, we think it's a whizz idea, so we've picked ten of our favourite stops along the route.
What are yours?
1. Killiney Bay
As views from the tracks go, it's hard to top Killiney Bay.
Long-compared to the Bay of Naples (the pricey Sorrento Terrace is aptly named), this is a stretch where the commuter line really transcends its workaday purpose.
It takes just two minutes to walk from station to strand, as Dublin off the DART points out, with a long stony beach granting great views of Bray Head and Dalkey Island. Swimming, walks and picnics are all options here, and you might even see the bottlenose dolphins known to frolic offshore on occasion.
The hidden gem? That'll be White Rock, a sandy cove stashed away at the northern end of the Bay. At low water, this neat little niche appears a mere appendage to the bigger beach, but at high tide it really comes into its own.
DART Station: Killiney
Did you know: Killiney is a notorious black spot for Wi-Fi... the perfect excuse to look up from your smartphone and enjoy the glorious views.
2. Howth's Cliff Walks
The Howth Coastal Walk, recently awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, starts at the car park at Balscadden Bay (a few hundred metres east of the village), as Dublin off the DART describes.
From here, a path leads up and around the Nose of Howth and onto the cliff tops. If you continue uphill, there are excellent views of Lambay Island and Ireland’s Eye (be careful on the cliff edge) and a slight detour to the south takes you to Baily Lighthouse (pictured). At the highest point of the walk (171m), you'll reach the Ben of Howth - marked by an ancient burial cairn. The 7km takes 2-3 hours.
Did you know? In 1576, the pirate queen Gráinne O’Malley was turned away from Howth Castle on a courtesy visit. In retaliation she abducted Lord Howth’s grandson and heir. Her ransom? A promise that unanticipated guests would never again be turned away. An extra place is still laid at the table for meals.
DART Station: Howth
Details: fingaldublin.ie; howthcastle.com
3. Platform Pizza Bar, Bray
There are no end of foodie stops on the DART line. Think of Blackrock Market, The Workshop gastro-pub next to Tara Street Station, or the entire village of Dalkey.
OK, it's not exactly in Dublin, but Platform couldn't be closer to the DART, and its crisp pizza bases, zingy cocktails and finger-lickin' wings are an ace excuse to disembark the train. Platform, according to The Sunday Independent's Lucinda O’Sullivan, is “perfect for those who enjoy a glass of something and want to let the DART do the driving”. Be sure to book ahead though - it gets super-busy.
Did you know: The Dublin and kingston Railway was extended to Bray in 1854.
DART Station: Bray
4. Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland, owned by the Talbot Family for almost 800 years. It's steeped in history, but a recent refurb allows visitors the opportunity to browse an interactive interpretive area on the ground floor. Guided tours are available too.
Tickets include admission to the famous Talbot Botanic Walled Garden, where you can learn about Lord Milo Talbot’s passion for gardening and travel (he was responsible for bringing new and exciting species of plants from the southern hemisphere). Afterwards, reward yourself with an indulgence at the Avoca Store and Cafe.
Did you know: Puck, the ghost, was once the castle jester.
DART Station: Malahide
Details: malahidecastleandgardens.ie; €12.50/6.50.
5. Wakeboarding, Grand Canal Dock
Grand Canal Dock Station shoulders Google's burgeoning empire in Dublin, but there's a lot more to this part of the city than IT hubs and glass towers.
The Grand Canal Dock basin dates from 1791, Boland's Mills played a role in the 1916 Rising, and U2 have recorded several albums at The Factory studios.
There are plenty of activities to take part in, too. With over 20 years experience, the qualified instructors at Wakeboard offer specialist tuition in exciting activities including windsurfing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, dinghy sailing and cable wakeboarding. For the more experienced, you can rent all you need to go for a kayak, a paddle or a windsurf here too.
Did you know: There's a giant diving bell on Sir John Rogerson's Quay. The huge, orange device was once used to dredge the floor of the River Liffey.
DART Station: Grand Canal Dock
Details: surfdock.ie, wakedock.ie
6. The Famine Memorial
The city centre is your oyster once you alight at Pearse, Tara or Connolly stations. But the Docklands are also worth a walk, thanks to their combination of industrial heritage and developing attractions - including the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship.
The Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay, the work of Dublin sculptor, Rowan Gillespie, commemorates the Great Famine of the mid 19th century. It's a startling, and stark, evocation of the emigrants who would have passed this way to board ships sailing from the quays in the late 1840s.
Did you know: When the IRA attacked the Custom House in 1921, it burned for five days, leaving only its shell.
DART Station: Tara Street or Connolly
7. Blackrock Market
Blackrock Market is a maze of stalls in which you can “buy just about anything worth having” according to the organisers. It's mostly indoor (not a bad insurance policy in these climes), and has a variety of independent merchants selling everything from bric-a-brac to crafts and fashion accessories to flowers. If you’re peckish, take a look at the hand-written menus at Market Canteen... mmm.
The market is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11am-5.30pm. It now has a tiny Michelin Star restaurant in Heron & Grey, too.
Did you know? The Blackrock Road was once a hotspot for highway robberies. In 1787, a local group resolved to give a reward of £20 "to any person who will apprehend and prosecute to conviction any person guilty of a robbery" on the road.
DART Station: Blackrock
8. Dracula's Clontarf
Did you know that Abraham (Bram) Stoker - the author of Dracula - was born in Clontarf? Not far from the local DART station you can see 15 Marino Crescent, the house in which he was born in 1847. Afterwards, pop into the Bram Stoker Hotel's Vikings' Steakhouse for a bloody good steak (or stake?).
Finally, there is Castle Dracula (€25/€20) - an evening visitor experience that combines a tour and theatre as characters from the book come alive to tell you their stories. A series of spooky rooms and tunnels leads visitors to Ireland’s (and possibly the world’s) only ‘Graveyard Theatre’. Be warned, however - Castle Dracula is not suitable for anyone under 14 or with certain medical conditions.
Did you know: The promenade in Clontarf has a replica statue of the Easter Island heads, a diplomatic gift from the Chilean Ambassador to Ireland.
DART Station: Clontarf
Details: castledracula.ie; thebramstokerhotel.com
9. Dun Laoghaire Pier
Did you know that Dublin Bay is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?
The title was granted a couple of years back in recognition of the 300km2 area’s unique ecological habitat and biological diversity.
You can view the Bay all along the DART, but the best vantage points are at Killiney Bay and, of course, Dun Laoghaire pier.
Dun Laoghaire's harbour began life in 1817, and its granite piers, Victorian bandstand (not to mention the holy hatch at Teddy's ice-cream shop) have been seaside bliss for generations of Dubliners ever since.
Did you know: In October 1918, a German submarine torpedoed the Royal Mail Steamer Leinster off Dún Laoghaire, killing 500 people.
Details: dublinbaybiosphere.ie; dlrtourism.ie
10. Velvet Strand, Portmarnock
Boasting dual Blue Flag and Green Coast status, Portmarnock's velvety sands are popular with windsurfers, bathers and walkers. The path running alongside the beach leads to Malahide, and it's regularly crammed with locals soaking up views of the Dublin Mountains and Howth Harbour. In 1930, the aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith commenced the first east-west transatlantic flight from here.
Did you know: Portmarnock Golf Club has hosted the Irish Open 19 times.
DART Station: Portmarnock
Dublin off the Dart was produced as part of the Best of Ireland series by Munster-based Southern Marketing Design Media, with distribution assistance from Fáilte Ireland. You can pick up a copy at official Visit Dublin information offices, tourist attractions and hotels in the city, or online on Issuu here.
More on the Best of Ireland series at bestofirelandseries.wordpress.com.
More on the Dart times and prices at irishrail.ie.
More on Dublin at visitdublin.com.
NB: This article has been updated to reflect changing prices.