Explore the Howth Cliff Walk on a Day Trip from Dublin

solo cliff walk in Howth, Ireland

A short, and very simple, DART ride north of Dublin, Ireland you’ll find Howth, a small fishing village famed for its fresh seafood and beautiful views. On all of my trips to Ireland, locals and tourists alike would recommend I check out the Howth cliff walk. Instead of heading their advice, I traveled south of Dublin for the Brey to Greystones cliff walk which is also a very beautiful day trip from Dublin. I’ve also had trips to Ireland where I skipped Dublin all together and instead head straight from the airport to Killarney or Galway. But, on a recent trip, I had few spare days in Dublin, so I decided to sharpie the Howth cliff walk into my itinerary.

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From Dublin to Howth

Before we get into the jaw-dropping views of the Howth Cliff Walk, let’s talk logistics.

If you’ve rented a car, you can easily drive to Howth. If you’re like me and still too scared to drive on the opposite side of the car and road, then DART is the best way to get to Howth from Dublin. DART is Dublin’s rapid railway system. It runs from Dublin to Howth (or Malahide) in the north and to Greystones in the south with many stations throughout the city of Dublin. Depending on your location in Dublin, you could get on at various stops including Tara Street, Dublin Heuston, Dublin Pearse, Dublin Connolly, and Docklands.

I was close to Tara St. station, so I took it from there. There are machines that allow you to purchase a return ticket for approximately €6. Then just wait for the next train as they run every 10 minutes. Howth is the final stop on the train, so there’s very little chance of missing your stop. But do ensure that you board the right train, as there is another final stop in the north called Malahide, which has a stunning castle by the way. The ride is smooth and takes about 30 minutes from Tara Street!

From Howth to Dublin

To return back to Dublin to refreshed and ready to explore more of the city, you’ll simply go back to the Howth train station and board the next train south and get off at the same station where you started. The last train departs Howth for Dublin at 6:00 pm.

For more information about DART timetables and stations, check out the Irish Rail website.

Howth train station
isn’t this the cutest train station

The Weather in Howth

The day I traveled to Howth I woke up to a rainy and cold January day in Dublin. I debated not going for fear that the rain would stick around all day, making for a fairly miserable, and potentially dangerous, walk. After waiting out the rain for a few hours in Dublin I realized I had to get out of the bustle of the city so I layered on my clothes and hopped on the next DART to Howth. I figured if the rain continued once I arrived in Howth, I could always just cozy up in a pub with a view of the sea for a few hours. 

Thankfully, I didn’t have the opportunity to check out any of the pubs in Howth as by the time I arrived the rain had disappeared! However, it was pretty evident that it had rained in the morning as the path was freshly muddy, but the sun stayed out for the majority of the day!

It was, however, very windy. So be prepared for that!

Generally, in Ireland, one should expect rain and be delighted on a sunny day. I managed to explore Howth’s walking trails in the winter so I imagine if you’re visiting Ireland in the summer or spring, you’ll at least get warmer weather!

a day trip to howth from dublin
A bit cloudy, but a lovely day in Howth

What to Wear for the Howth Cliff Walk

Packing for any season in Ireland presents a challenge because the Irish weather can change quickly, so I always recommend layers. Seeing as I did this walk in January, I wore considerably more clothing than you might in the summertime.

For instance, I did the Cliffs of Moher walk from Doolin in October and only needed a light coat as it was a sunny day with no rain!

In the winter, a hat to cover your ears and gloves to keep your hands toasty are great items to pack, just in case.

Must-haves for this walk are a sturdy pair of walking shoes, waterproof preferably. I wore mid-weight thermals from REI, pants from Athleta, Sorel booties, two long sleeve tops, my rain coat, a hat, scarf and gloves. Oh and my knee-length down North Face that I unzipped when I got hot, but never totally took off.

The Howth Head Walk

Everything I read online about the Howth cliff walk mentioned that it starts at the Howth train station. While, technically, that is true, I expected to get off of the train and be at the cliff. But you have to walk through the village first, which exudes as much charm as you’d expect from an Irish fishing village!

Side note: Howth cliff walk is a walk that takes place on Howth head, you can use the terms interchangeably. I was confused by that for longer than I’d care to admit.

The Village of Howth

On your way, you’ll pass by the Howth Market, which was closed during my weekday visit. But on the weekends it’s open from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm. There are stalls that offer fresh local produce, artisanal goods, and gift items. The coffee shop, Bodega, adjacent to the market was open, however, and I suggest stopping in there for a warm drink before embarking on the cliff walk.

Howth harbor

You can also walk down the pier passing seafood restaurant after seafood restaurant. I’m ashamed to admit, that I didn’t eat any seafood while in Howth. So, I don’t have any recommendations, other than to say they all looked delicious and you probably can’t go wrong.

From the edge of the pier, you’ll look out onto Ireland’s Eye, a small island home to a variety of birds and an ancient church. I thought the pier might connect to the other side of the inlet where the boats are floating, I was wrong. So you’ll double back and take a left to walk along the harbor and through the town.

Howth’s Walking Trails

In town, you’ll start to see large signs describing Howth’s walking trails. There are four trails marked green, red, purple, and blue.

  • Green: The Cliff Path Loop: 6kms
  • Blue: Tramline Loop: 7kms
  • Red: Black Linn Loop: 8kms
  • Purple: Bog of Frogs Loop: 12kms

Green is the easiest and shortest option which is the route I followed. What I love the most about Howth’s walking trails is that they are clearly marked the entire time on posts with green, purple, red, and blue arrows guiding you along the correct route. 

At Howth’s promenade, you’ll find a booth with maps and photos of the various loops as well. From the prom, you’ll walk along Balscadden Road through a neighborhood until you come to Kilrock Car Park. If you have a car, you could park it in this lot if there is space. In my opinion, this is when the cliff walk actually starts.

View of Ireland's eye on the Howth cliff walk
View of Ireland’s Eye on the Howth Cliff Walk

The Howth Cliff Walk

The dirt path is clear and very narrow in some parts. Literally, you’ll look down to your left and your foot is a few inches away from a straight drop into the sea. So be careful at these parts, but mostly, just enjoy the sweeping views.

About 3km later, you’ll see the bay of Dublin and Baily lighthouse on a tip of land jutting out into the sea. This effectively ends the green loop. To the right, up the hill is the Summit parking lot. If you were to complete the entire loop, as I did, the rest of it takes you through neighborhoods and streets, without a view.

Once you finish your jaunt through the neighborhood, which also has clearly marked trail signs, the path will deposit you back at the Howth train station.

But I have to tell you to not do what I did on this walk. 

Don’t walk through the neighborhoods. There is really nothing to see here except a ruined abbey.

Instead, double back and enjoy the views on the way back too!

It took me roughly three hours to complete the green loop of the Howth cliff walk including an outrageous amount of stops for photos. 

view of the lighthouse from Howth Head
view of the lighthouse from Howth Head

Just in case you sprain an ankle on the walk… make sure you’re covered!

 

Other Howth Attractions

St. Mary’s Abbey

There are a few other attractions in Howth and as much as I wanted to explore them, my feet just couldn’t be asked to keep walking, especially since I was already at the train station! However, I did catch a glimpse of the Abbey from the road returning to the train station and it is in a beautiful location overlooking Howth and the sea.

Eat Seafood

I would say that 90% of the restaurants in Howth are seafood based. Immediately when you disembark the train there is a seafood restaurant and Irish pub called the Bloody Stream. Also, take a walk down the pier and see what suits your taste buds at Octopussy, Beshoff’s, The Market, or Crabby Jo’s. Again, no personal recommendations here as I didn’t eat there, but you have plenty of options.

Where to Stay in Howth

Options are a bit limited in terms of traditional accommodation in Howth. The King Sitric Hotel has a great location overlooking the sea. There are also a few options on Airbnb. The options are a bit pricey, so if you’re on a budget, find cheaper accommodation in Dublin and just do the day trip!

Dublin is a great city, but there is so much more to Ireland and a day trip to Howth is a glimpse into all that Ireland has to offer. It can easily be seen even when your time in Ireland is limited. But if you do have more time in Ireland, I highly recommend checking out this 7 day itinerary that’ll take you to a few unique locations, all without a car!

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howth cliff walk
day trip to howth from Dublin
Howth cliff walk, Ireland
day trip to Howth Ireland

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