Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, and home to the country’s busiest airport, is an obvious place to begin or end your Ireland vacation. While many tourists choose to rent a car to explore Ireland, it is entirely possible to base yourself here and enjoy day trips from Dublin- no car required!
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Best Day Trips from Dublin
We recommend setting aside enough time to have at least two days in Dublin, (be sure to pick up an Ireland Family Vacations deal to make your Euro go farther!) but then head out to explore with these terrific Ireland day trips.
Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains
Located in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin, the hermit monk St. Kevin founded a monastic settlement that became one of the country’s great ecclesiastical schools of learning.
Glendalough, (Irish for ‘Glen of the Two Lakes’) is nestled in the Wicklow mountains. It offers stunning mountain hikes as well as easier walks in the valley. Most surviving buildings, including the stunning round tower, date from the 10th-12th centuries.
To get there: use the Glendalough Bus which runs daily from St. Stephen’s Green to Glendalough Visitor Centre or consider booking a private tour.
The Village of Malahide
Just north of Dublin, the charming seaside village of Malahide is an easy half-day getaway from the bustle of Dublin. Start your explorations at the wonderful Malahide Castle and Gardens.
Owned by the same family for over 800 years, the history of the castle is well-recorded and eloquently shared during guided tours. The castle is also known to be haunted by at least two ghosts.
Enjoy lunch at Avoca in the visitor’s center before exploring the beautiful gardens. The extensive property has both ticketed entry and public spots, the latter has a terrific playground. Beyond the castle, Malahide has a lovely beach, wonderful boutique shops, and delicious restaurants.
To get there: Train service from Dublin city center takes only 30 minutes, or use Dublin Bus route 32 or 42.
The Medieval City of Kilkenny
History abounds here. Kilkenny is a wonderfully walkable city. Start at Kilkenny Castle, the royal palace of your imagination. Next, head to the interactive Medieval Mile Museum which brings the city’s history to life.
Kilkenny is also home to one of the two ancient round towers in Ireland that can be climbed- so don’t skip St. Canice’s Cathedral! There are truly so many fun things to do in Kilkenny.
If you’re sports-minded be sure to reserve your spots at The Kilkenny Way, a two-hour experience that takes you into the 3000-year-old sport of Hurling.
If you plan to arrive early and leave late purchase a Medieval Mile Pass which includes the castle, museums, the round tower, tours, and discounts. Walking, cycling and road train tours are fun ways to explore the city.
To get there: Train service takes approximately 90 minutes and runs multiple times daily from Dublin city centre. Direct bus routes are available from Dublin Coach and JJ Kavanagh & Sons.
Galway City – the Heart of the Wild Atlantic Way
The bustling city of Galway began as a small seaside village called ‘The Claddagh’. It is the home of the famed Claddagh ring, and today is a busy seaport and thriving city. Known for its lively pubs and bohemian vibe, Galway will enchant you.
Begin your day visiting historic Galway. The Galway Museum, Spanish Arch, medieval Kerwin’s Lane, and The Claddagh will open the city’s history wide for you. In The Latin Quarter enjoy the artisan shops and charming cafes during the day. Return in the evening for traditional music in one of the many pubs.
Galway city is a terrific spot to stay for a few days. It is an easy home base for day trips to the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, and the Aran Islands. Check out these Cliffs of Moher tours.
To get there: The train from Dublin city center takes just 2.5 hours. Citylink Express bus service take just slightly longer.
Belfast – the Capital of Northern Ireland
Head out early to make the most of a day trip from Dublin to Belfast, but make sure to stock up on British Pounds. As a member of the UK, Northern Ireland uses the British Pound, not the Euro, as currency.
Belfast Titanic lands at the top of most ‘must do’ lists, but if you don’t wish to take the 2.5-hour tour, do at least wander the shipyard and take a tour of the SS Nomadic, the last surviving White State Line ship.
Book a Black Cab Tour to help you understand the turbulent times of The Troubles and add your own signature to the Peace Walls that continue to divide the city.
If visiting on a Saturday don’t miss St. George’s Market. Filled with artisan crafters, loads of delicious foods, and live entertainment, you won’t leave empty-handed!
If you still have time work in visits to the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, and CS Lewis Square.
To get there: Belfast is just over 2.5 hours from Dublin city centre by train.
Keeping your base in the city and venturing out for short day trips from Dublin is a great way to explore Ireland without feeling like you are constantly on the go!
About the author: Jody Halsted has been traveling across Ireland for over a decade with her own family, discovering the most family friendly sites and activities on the tourist trail and off. Dedicated to Ireland family travel, her website Ireland Family Vacations, provides exceptional advice for a magical Ireland vacation.
Jody offers Ireland vacation coaching, working with your family to help you choose the perfect lodging, destinations, and activities to fit your budget, interests, and expectations.