11 Best Day Trips from Dublin to Discover More of Ireland

So, you’re off to Ireland and staying in Dublin, but are you wondering how you can see more of Ireland while keeping Dublin as your base? Maybe you’ve chosen Dublin so you don’t need to hire a car but are still eager to see more of the Emerald Isle. Maybe you’ve decided a one-week bus tour isn’t up your street. Then my list of the best day trips from Dublin will help you explore more of this beautiful little island while remaining in the capital city.

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Whether you are interested in Belfast day trips from Dublin, a day trip from Dublin to explore some castles or even one of the half-day tours from Dublin to see monastic sites or ancient Neolithic tombs, you are sure to find a day trip or two on the list that will help you explore more of Ireland from your base in the capital. You will find 11 top day trips from Dublin as well as 6 shorter trips to take from Dublin to help you see more of the beautiful Emerald Isle.

Best day trips from Dublin, Ireland under 2.5 hours

In this section, you will find trips and one day tours from Dublin to a variety of places across the Emerald Isle. These are under two and a half hours from Dublin so easily manageable in one day including Galway day trips from Dublin and day trips from Dublin to Belfast.

These trips are located within 2.5 hours from the capital and can be visited using car hire, a tour group, or by public transport in some cases. Some of the suggested destinations are best explored yourself by car, while some are best done using a tour group. Whichever way you choose to make your day trip is a personal choice.

Galway

A day trip from Dublin to Galway is a popular one for visitors to the capital as it helps them combine two of Ireland’s best cities to visit in one trip.

Galway is located approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes from Dublin by car and a similar time via train should you wish to visit by public transport. The train departs from Heuston Station in Dublin and arrives at Galway Station located right off Eyre Square in the heart of the city. Departing at 7.30 am, you could be in Galway for brunch.

A picture of the Spanish Arch in Galway
Picture Source: David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the ‘capital’ of the West of Ireland, there are a host of things to do in Galway City including visiting the Spanish Arch, wandering Eyre Square, taking a stroll along the River Corrib or bagging yourself a souvenir of a Claddagh Ring in the area after which it was named. Galway is one of my personal favourite cities in Ireland and is a must for anyone visiting the Emerald Isle.

If you don’t fancy getting the train yourself or driving, one of the most popular day tours from Dublin to Galway is this tour which covers Galway, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.

Glendalough

A great day tour from Dublin is one to visit the beautiful monastic site of Glendalough in County Wicklow. This is one of the best places to visit in Ireland and is just over an hour’s drive from Dublin City Centre. It is reachable via public transport and will take around one and a half hours.

A picture of the round tower and graveyard at the monastic site of Glendalough in County Wicklow, Ireland

Glendalough is one of Ireland’s best monastic sites and was established by St Kevin in the 6th century. The site has many monuments and buildings, a Visitor’s Centre and an impressive Round Tower. The monastery ruins are located near the two lakes of Glendalough and many visitors take time to hike around the lakes and take in the views from elevated points over the lakes.

Glendalough is also located on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, an area of outstanding beauty which helps give it the nickname the “Garden of Ireland”. If you are looking for a day trip from Dublin that isn’t too far, then Glendalough is the perfect place to visit.

This tour from Dublin to Glendalough visits the monastic site and other parts of the Wicklow Mountains National Park and is a small tour which is perfect if you don’t like larger coach tours.

Belfast

If you want to combine the Republic of Ireland with a trip to Northern Ireland, then consider joining a day trip from Dublin to Belfast. Belfast is just less than two hours’ drive from Dublin and can also be reached via public transport in just over two hours, making it a great city to visit from the Irish capital.

A picture of the exterior of the Titanic Belfast building

As the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is a great city to visit on the Emerald Isle. Belfast is the birthplace of Titanic, so visiting the docklands area is a must where you can learn more about the fateful liner and her construction. You can visit both the Titanic Trail and the Titanic Experience in this area.

You can also learn about the “Troubles” a turbulent time in Irish history while in the city. There is a great black cab tour which will take you on a historical tour of the city and show you some of the many murals painted in honour of the Troubles. There is plenty of things to do in Belfast that will easily fill a day.

Book your Black Cab Mural tour of Belfast today.

Book your one day tour to Belfast from Dublin HERE!

Kilkenny

A great one day trip from Dublin to take is to visit the historical town of Kilkenny. Located one and a half hours’ drive by car from the Irish capital (or approximately 1hr 45mins by public transport), Kilkenny is a great place to visit while staying in Dublin if you are looking to explore more of Ireland.

A picture of Kilkenny Castle with lush green grass in front and a grey, stormy sky behind it

Kilkenny is a medieval town and a great one to visit in Ireland. As well as being a lively town full of crafts shops, cosy restaurants and pubs where you might stumble upon a ‘trad’ session, the town’s centrepiece is the beautiful medieval castle.

Located on the banks of the River Nore, Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland’s most visited castles and has a history dating back to the 12th century. Winter visits are by guided tours only but during summer you can take leisurely self-guided tours of the castle. It is a large site so allow plenty of time to wander and explore.

If you are looking for a day tour that visits Kilkenny, then book this Kilkenny, Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains one day tour from Dublin.

Boyne Valley Monuments

Another popular day tour from Dublin is one to see the ancient monument and tombs at Brú na Bóinne. The Boyne Valley Monuments include Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. These are located less than an hours’ drive North West of Dublin City Centre. However, you cannot visit the site via public transport. The nearest you can go is to Drogheda and then take a taxi to the site, a journey of under 15 minutes.

An aerial view of the Newgrange tomb passage mound in the Boyne Valley, or Bru na Boiine in County Meath, Ireland

The monuments at Brú na Bóinne are older than Stonehenge and is a complex site with burial tombs, chambers and standing stones. There is a Visitor Centre from where you leave to visit Newgrange and Knowth (separate buses). You cannot wander between the sites and must check-in at the Visitor’s Centre as numbers are strictly controlled.

The Brú na Bóinne site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland and pre-booking is advised. If you are looking to visit Ireland on a budget, getting a Heritage Card ahead of your trip can help you to save money.

A visit to the Boyne Valley is a popular way to get out of the city and there are daily tours from Dublin.

Book this tour to visit the Brú na Bóinne Valley, the Hill of Tara and Trim Castle. Note it does not include your entry fees to the Brú na Bóinne site.

Rock of Cashel

If there is a one day tour from Dublin you should try and do, it is one in which you visit one of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks, the Rock of Cashel. Cashel is located just 2 hours from Dublin and can be reached by public transport by train in under 2.5 hours.

The Rock of Cashel historic site in Ireland

The Rock of Cashel is an impressive landmark that makes a dramatic appearance as you approach Cashel town from the motorway. Although many of the buildings and structures date from the 12th or 13th century, it is located on what was originally the seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

The roofless abbey is the main attraction and although the roof is gone, the supporting arches are still in place, giving you an idea of how it may have looked. There is a small round tower, church and many gravestones. It is an iconic site to visit and a must if you can make it. 

Visit the Rock of Cashel on a day trip from Dublin which also visits Cork City and Cahir Castle. Click here for more information and book it now!

Hook Peninsula

A great part of Ireland to visit on a day trip from Dublin is the Hook Peninsula and its spectacular lighthouse. The Hook Peninsula is located two and a half hours south of Dublin City Centre and just makes it into this section. It is not possible to reach the Hook Peninsula by public transport.

A picture of the lighthouse at Hook Head, Wexford with blue skies above

This beautiful corner of the South East of Ireland is home to one of Ireland’s best lighthouses, the Hook Head Lighthouse. This is one of the world’s oldest lighthouses still in operation today and is the perfect backdrop for some pictures in Ireland.

The Hook Peninsula is also home to castles, famine ships, gardens, an arboretum and more. This is the ideal location for a trip out of Dublin for a day if you have your own transport.

Book your skip-the-line entry tickets for the Hook Lighthouse HERE!

Waterford

A great 1 day trip from Dublin is to visit the oldest city in Ireland, Waterford. Waterford is just over 2 hours’ drive from Dublin and can be reached by public transport in less than three hours. It was founded more than 70 years before Dublin by the Vikings.

A picture of Reginald's Tower in Waterford City

Waterford still holds remnants of its Viking history throughout the city and the best place to discover this is in the Viking Triangle, home to the museums and Reginald’s Tower. Discover the Waterford Treasures which include the Medieval Museum, Bishop’s Palace and Reginald’s Tower.

As well as the city’s history, you can also visit the headquarters of one of Ireland’s famous exports, Waterford Crystal. You can take a tour and learn about the glass-blowing and the famous crystal. Waterford Castle is located just outside the city centre and is another great place to visit in Waterford, especially for its stunning location on a private island!

Book your Waterford Crystal tickets HERE!

Best one day trips from Dublin over 2.5 hours

If you don’t mind a bit more travelling time, then the trips outlined in this section are additional ideas for day trips and tours from Dublin. These trips have a travel time of over two and a half hours each way which you need to factor in but are still worth considering.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is another place in Ireland that many visitors would like to add to their itinerary. But if you are staying only in Dublin, you can still visit this famous castle. Blarney Castle is located approximately 3 hours’ drive south of Dublin. However, although it can be reached by public transport, you are looking at 5 hours just to get there, so public transport might not be the ideal mode of transport for a day trip.

A picture of the circular tower and tower house of Blarney Castle, one of the best castles to visit in Ireland

Blarney Castle is a 16th-century tower house set in stunning grounds approximately 20-minutes from Cork City. The main reason people flock to this part of the Emerald Isle is to kiss the Blarney Stone. This stone, located at the top of the castle, is said to bestow the person who kisses it with the gift of the gab (never to be stuck for words).

As well as the stone and castle, Blarney Castle is set on amazing grounds that have gardens, an arboretum, playgrounds, waterfalls and more. My advice is to arrive as early as possible, climb the 99 steps to kiss the stone first, and then take a leisurely walk around the grounds.

There are some Cork day trips from Dublin available if you don’t want to drive yourself. One tour visits both Blarney Castle and the Rock of Cashel on the return to Dublin.

Find more information and book this tour here.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher day trips from Dublin are among the most popular. The Cliffs are another of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions and are located 3 hours and 15 minutes drive west of Dublin. The Cliffs cannot be reached by public transport, so if you don’t want to drive, then joining a tour is your best option.

A picture of the sun setting in the distance, lighting up the Cliffs of Moher along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

Rising to a height of 214m above the Atlantic Ocean, the Cliffs of Moher are dramatic sea cliffs that make many people’s Ireland bucket list. With crashing waves below and seabirds, the Cliffs provide an amazing backdrop for pictures. There is a Visitor’s Centre where you can watch interactive exhibitions on the Cliffs of Moher and the flora and fauna found in them.

As well as the Visitor’s Centre, you can enjoy walks along the cliffs from O’Brien’s Tower to Hag’s Head.

Book your Cliffs of Moher tour from Dublin here and visit Galway City as well!

Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Another tour you can take from Dublin is one in which you visit the stunning Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The Giant’s Causeway is located three hours from Dublin by car and is not possible to visit in one day by public transport, so joining a tour is necessary if you won’t have a car.

A sunset picture of the Giant's Causeway columns at the water's edge in Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the best things to visit in Antrim, Northern Ireland, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The unusual rock formations are what brings tourists from across the globe to this part of the Emerald Isle.

Formed over 60 million years ago from molten basaltic rock, there is a legend that says a giant named Finn McCool built a bridge to Scotland to fight a giant there, and the Causeway was created when the Scottish giant fled home, ripping up the bridge in his retreat. There is a Visitor’s Centre at the Giant’s Causeway where you can learn more about these unusual rocks, as well as enjoying time to explore them.

A short drive from the Giant’s Causeway is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, another popular place to visit in Northern Ireland. Hanging 30m above the water, it was strung to connect the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede to the mainland and is a popular tourist spot in Antrim. Will you be brave enough to cross it?

Book your Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge tour HERE!

Best Day Trips in Ireland from Dublin under 1 hour

If you don’t fancy spending time travelling to other areas of Ireland, these additional day trips from Dublin have a travel time under 1 hour and many can be reached by public transport. Not all are available through a guided tour, so be aware of this. However, if you are looking for some short trips to take from Dublin, these might fit the bill.

Howth

Howth is one of the prettiest coastal towns in Ireland and is a suburb of Dublin. This small fishing village lies at the base of Howth Head and is a short 35-minute drive or less than thirty minutes from Dublin City Centre by DART (train).

A picture of fishing boats in the harbour at Howth, County Dublin

Howth Head enjoys beautiful views across Dublin Bay and you can also visit Howth Castle and its grounds, which are free to visit. There is a vintage radio museum, the National Transport Museum and a beach. If you want to escape the city, head to Howth and enjoy walks around the headland before stopping somewhere for a seafood lunch.

Book your Howth tour here which includes a visit to Malahide Castle (see below).

Malahide Castle

Located less than 30 minutes from the city centre by car, and reachable by public transport in an hour, Malahide Castle, which lies in the north Dublin suburb of the same name, is an impressive castle to visit, some of which dates to the 12th century. It was home to the Talbot family for nearly 800 years until 1976 when it was sold to the Irish State.

Guided tours of the castle are available and visitors can view some of the most impressive rooms in the castle including the Oak Room and the Great Hall. There are extensive grounds in which you will find a botanic garden with walled gardens, lawns and seven glasshouses in which tropical plants from the Southern Hemisphere can be seen.

There are playgrounds, a model railway and a fairy trail, making it the ideal place to visit if you are in Dublin with kids and looking to escape the city centre.

Book your visit to Malahide Castle here if you are looking for a guided tour which includes a visit to Howth.

Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens

One of my favourite places to visit outside of Dublin is the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. Located an hours’ drive from Dublin City Centre, you can visit using public transport but it will take you at least two and a half hours to reach.

A picture of a Japanese teahouse in the Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud, Kildare

As the name suggests, this is the Irish National Stud Farm and has been breeding world-class racehorses for over 100 years. Visitors to the National Stud can take guided tours around the farm and discover what makes an amazing racehorse.

You can see living legends in the form of retired racehorses who have collectively won millions of euros in prize money throughout their careers and who now live a life of leisure. You can see the studs in residence and also some of their offspring if you time it right. The tour is fascinating and you might even bump into one of the horses being moved from stable to paddock.

Beside the National Stud are the Japanese Gardens, a must-visit if you come to this part of County Kildare. They are a tranquil haven away from the city with Japanese tea houses, bridges, water features and ornamental plants to view.

There are no organised tours to this attraction as it is relatively easy to visit yourself. Book your tickets here ahead of your visit.

Powerscourt Estate and Waterfall

One of the best half-day trips from Dublin to do is a visit to the Powerscourt Estate and Waterfall. Located 45 minutes drive south of Dublin City Centre, the nearest public transport links is Bray, where you would then need to take a 20-minute taxi ride.

A picture of the water falling down the rockface of Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland's tallest and one of the best waterfalls in Ireland

Occupying 64 square kilometres, the Powerscourt Estate is one of Wicklow’s most visited places. The estate has existed since the early 14th century and is home to a Palladian Mansion, sprawling grounds, landscaped gardens, a luxury hotel, no less than two golf courses and a 121-metre high waterfall (located in a separate part of the estate, 6km from the main house). It is not recommended to walk from the house to the waterfall as the roads are narrow, so if you want to visit both, you will need a car.

Book this tour if you’d like to combine a trip to the Powerscourt Waterfall with a visit to Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Parl.

Bray Head

A day trip from Dublin that does not need to involve a car or tour group is a visit to Bray. Located less than 50 minutes south of Dublin City Centre, Bray can be visited by public transport using the DART system which will take approximately 50 minutes and the route follows the coastline, giving you lovely views across Dublin Bay as you travel south.

Bray Head is a 241m hill that lies between Bray and Greystones in County Wicklow. If you want the best view towards Dublin from Bray, then climbing Bray Head is a must. I did it once as a teenager and it was worth the hike. From the summit, where there is a cross, you can also get incredible views across to the Sugar Loaf Mountain, an iconic landmark in Wicklow.

The trail is accessible from Bray promenade and once you descend, reward yourself with some fish and chips as you watch the waves crash on the beach at the seafront.

Monasterboice

Located less than an hour north of Dublin City Centre is Monasterboice, an intriguing monastic site. There are no public transport links from Dublin, although you could get a train to Drogheda (approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes) and then get a taxi for the 10-minute journey to the site.

A picture of the Muiredach's Cross at the monastic site of Monasterboice, County Louth

The original monastic settlement at Monasterboice is believed to date back to the 5th or 6th century and was founded by St Buithe who was a follower of St Patrick. Some of the best Celtic symbols in existence today in Ireland are the High Crosses of Monasterboice.

As well as high crosses, you can also view a round tower (minus the cap), two ancient church ruins and a cemetery. To avoid crowds arrive early in the day or later in the afternoon.

There is a full-day tour from Dublin which visits Monasterboice as well as Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Find more information and book this tour here.

Whether you decide to take a full one day trip from Dublin or combine your visit to the Irish capital with one of the shorter trips, you will be able to see more of Ireland than just the big city with any of the suggested destinations on this list.

A picture of Glendalough with text overlay reading 11 Best Day Trips from Dublin

Cath is an Irish expat now living in Portugal. She regularly returns to Ireland to explore more of the wonderful island with her family.

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