With the government’s encouragements and a growing itch to travel post-lockdown, summer 2020 has been deemed to be the summer of enjoying all that Ireland has to offer; its long-winded walking trails, rugged coastlines and pristine beaches as well as the artistic, cobbled streets of our country towns.
With a greater increase than ever in young people travelling during their summer holidays from college, the coronavirus pandemic hit hard to the continuation of this trend. A large number of students have mourned over one of their last, precious summers before the ending of their college degree having been spent in lockdown, which of course was essential to the health and safety of the country.
Many students have been left without refunds from cancelled J1s, their interrailing tickets wasted to spend the summer at home rather than different European cities and a severe lack of jobs. These are only some of the plans cancelled in the lives of students currently.
The Irish government has thus been promoting and romanticising the idea of holidaying in our own country, with Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, posting pictures online of his staycation in the west of Ireland. “Support your own economy”, politicians say. But staycations are not easily accessible for all.
Those with the time and passion to travel, young people, lack the financial means to enjoy their own country. The UCD students who spoke to The College Tribune noted that not only are the prices of accommodation in areas around Ireland at an all-time high, these places aren’t even accessible to them if they do not drive and own cars. There is the problem of functioning, timely and accessible public transport. One student commented that “high-speed rail and increased rail and coach connections to the west of Ireland at affordable rates for students would revolutionise the Irish tourism industry.”
There are different ways for students to enjoy the beauty that Ireland offers. Some of these ways are getting to know our local spots better than we’ve ever known them.
Here’s a Dubliner’s guide to the best day trips to do in Dublin that are easily accessible by train or dart services.
Hikes and Walks
Hikes and walks are a great way to explore Dublin outside the busy city-centre streets. You’ll find that Dublin is well-connected to green areas of beauty.
Howth Cliff Walk
Howth is a fishing village located in the north-east of Dublin and hosts beautiful coastal views. The cliff walk is approximately 7 kilometres and takes about 2 hours at a leisurely pace. The walk is surrounded by colourful wildflowers and stunning views of Lambay Island, Dublin Bay and Ireland’s Eye. If you begin your walk from the village, you’ll ascend towards the car-park from where you can loop around back to the village – some prefer beginning the walk from the car park at the summit to descend to the village!
The village is home to some great bars and restaurants you can enjoy whilst admiring views of the harbour. This is one of the best feel-good day trips you can take during this Covid-19 era.
Ticknock Fairy Castle Loop
This trail is one that is easily missed by tourists and Dubliners themselves. However, it offers a great opportunity to explore the Dublin Mountains and admire views of Dublin from a height of 1,740 feet. The start of the hike is approximately 15 km south of Dublin City Centre and it takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete. It takes you from Ticknock forest right up to the top of Three Rock Mountain towards Two Rock Mountain.
The trail is also fantastic for mountain bikes with a tarmac road. This trail is also probably the best signed in the mountains with beautiful views of all of Dublin as well as the Wicklow Mountains.
Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk
This is a short, relaxed, 4 km walk to Poolbeg Lighthouse taking you out into the middle of Dublin Bay along the Great South Wall. The fact that the walk stretches so far out in Dublin Bay means that it is a windy walk that will require you to layer up. This is a great walk for small groups of people, particularly couples.
You’ll find many small-owned cafés that brew fantastic quality coffee to enjoy on your walk at the car park of the walk. It’s recommended you get a hot drink to walk the trail that takes you right out on Dublin Bay where you can enjoy views of nearby Howth Head and Dun Laoghaire harbour.
Swimming and Beach Days
After experiencing an almost four-month lockdown, swimming has been an excellent way for many people to realign their mind with their body.
Ireland is known for its beautiful, rugged coastlines but also for the fact that not even cold weather stops Irish people from jumping full force into the sea. The summer days are the ideal opportunity to take a dip in Dublin’s blue-flag waters.
This is a particularly popular destination for swimming in Dublin because of its accessibility by public transport as well as by bike. Members of UCD Coldvember are known to swim here every day during November to raise donations for mental health and various other causes.
Checking the tide is important before coming here for a dip as if it is out, you may have to walk 100 metres to submerge yourself in the blue waves. Times when the tide is in, however, it’s great to jump in or slowly wade in through the beach. Blackrock town is a short walk away if you want to reheat with a hot chocolate or get a bite to eat afterwards.
Skerries makes for the perfect day out on the coast of north Dublin. It’s approximately a forty-five-minute train ride from Connolly, Tara Street or Pearse train stations. The small town has one of the cleanest beaches in all of Dublin and has excellent quality, blue-flag waters. It also has options for both experienced swimmers who can jump off the Springers or those who just enjoy being in the water but aren’t necessarily the strongest of swimmers via the sandy beach.
The town is well-known for its fisherman’s hut-turned-ice cream shop on the harbour where you can get warm crepes or ice cream desserts to enjoy post-swim as well as an array of colourful restaurants along the harbour.
Museums and City Activities
Dublin city is saturated with artistic and historical culture. If you’re missing the museums of European cities and the experience of just walking around and exploring, why not take in some authentic, Dublin culture from some of the suggestions below?
Phoenix Park and Cycling
Phoenix Park is the largest green area in any capital city in Europe and is home to many Dublinese landmarks such as Arás an Uachtarán (the President’s home). It also has a diverse range of flora and fauna as well as different herds of wild deer. You can rent bicycles at the main gate of the park and they are the easiest way to explore the beauty of the park. There are also two cafés and coffee pitstops located around the park, meaning you can stop for a bite during your exploring one of Dublin’s most-loved green space.
The park is about a ten minute Luas ride away from the city-centre which makes it highly accessible and perfect for a sunny day out.
Little Museum of Dublin
This museum is located near Stephen’s Green, in the heart of Dublin city whilst telling the story of the Irish capital. The museum holds more than 5,000 artefacts in a Georgian townhouse. You don’t only get to see the artefacts and read about them, but the captions are known to capture Dublin’s witty humour and romantic history.
Standard admission starts at €8 and there are many different tours available that you can pick and choose from. However, it may be best to just roam around yourself before visiting one of the nearby cafés and restaurants. You can even end the day relaxing in Stephen’s Green park!
National Gallery of Ireland
This beloved art gallery is an emblem of Dublin’s appreciation for art. It has free admission and has various rooms of different types of art pieces from a range of different historical periods. It’s location on Merrion Square West, making it central to Dublin’s Grafton Street where you can roam around and take in the busking culture.
The art gallery itself is impressive always hosts a variety of exhibitions. The gallery has adopted well to Covid-19 restrictions offering a virtual tour of the gallery. You can enjoy this from the comfort of your own home if you’re not feeling up to travelling to Dublin!
James Joyce (after whom UCD’s main library is named) once said, “When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart”.
Dublin has everything you need for a holiday. It is a gorgeous, bustling city full of art and history. And when you want to escape for a while, the mountains and sea are just a stone’s throw away.
Mahnoor Choudhry – Assistant News Editor