Dublin Bay is shaped like a big horseshoe and at the north tip, is the peninsula of the Howth. It is home to an ancient fishing village, believed to have been founded by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago.
It is an area enmeshed in history; old streets carve their way up the hill of Howth to the Summit. Tales of Vikings and bloody battles abound. Upon the Hill of Howth, there are spectacular views of Dublin Bay, the towns on the south shore and the misty Wicklow Mountains. It is a great place to begin a walk down the cliff paths.
Look down and you will see one of Ireland’s most well-known lighthouses, the Baily. Perched on the rocks, it was a beacon for shipping for more than 100 years. It is now automated.
Howth Cliff Walks
There are a series of gravelled cliff paths down the summit back into Howth village. It is an easy enough walk downwards with some interesting sites along the way. It could be a bumpy ride for babies in buggies.
Along the way, history is relived at the site of Eire 6 in white stones. During World War II, Ireland was neutral and in order to signal to overflights by foreign air forces, 82 navigational markers were installed around the coast.
The large letters EIRE in white stones, were an indication to airmen that they were over Irish airspace and each number represented a place. The numbers followed the coastline from No. 1, Bellagan Point in Co. Louth, to No. 82, Inishowen in Co. Donegal.
The walk down from the Summit takes about an hour and on the way to the village, take a detour to Balscadden Bay. This is a small stony cove with easy access to the sea and wooden seating for relaxing. It is a popular place for a swim. Be careful of the steps they are quite steep, but it is worth the detour.
Coming back into Howth will bring you on to the East Pier wall, which stretches out to the 18th-century lighthouse, no longer in use. There are great views of Ireland’s Eye, a tiny island and a bird sanctuary. There are boat trips from the harbour regularly to Ireland’s Eye. It takes about 15 minutes to get there.
A fairly recent addition to the harbour was the middle pier which houses Howth Yacht Club, a graceful building in its blue and cream awnings. Boat watchers will love to see what is moored here.
The village of Howth is easily accessible from Dublin and is a popular place to visit. Weekend traffic can be heavy on the one road leading to it. On a recent visit, I felt like I was in the United Nations because of the range of different accents I heard. It is great to know that visitors to Ireland are finding this gem of a place.
Where to Eat
Howth has developed into a culinary hotspot and as a fishing village, fish and chips are on the menus of almost all the restaurants. They range from traditional takeaways to cafes, pub grub to fine dining, food trucks and also, ice cream parlours and vans.
Takeaway Restaurants include Beshoffs, Burdocks, and Crabbey Joe’s. There is a selection of food outlets in the Howth Market at the weekends and bank holidays. There are plenty of outdoor places to sit and eat fish and chips.
Cafes include the Dog House Blues by the Dart Station, Il Panorama and the Country Market which also sells locally produced and quality foods.
Wrights Findlater Restaurant is in a beautifully upgraded Victorian Building. It has a rooftop bar overlooking the harbour. The Abbey Tavern is a cornerstone of Howth’s reputation for hospitality and is a traditional pub and restaurant in a 16th-century stone-built abbey. The Bloodystream Bar under the Dart Station serves food all day and is a lively venue for music.
There are also a number of food trucks including two up at the Summit and more in the village and by the harbour. See link here. Food Truck: Baily Bites at Kish, Howth Pier, Co. Dublin
If you walk along the harbour at the weekends and you will see dozens of fishing boats, getting ready for sea. They all gleam with fresh paint and are well maintained, a credit to their masters.
The one thing people go to Howth for is to buy fish. There are various outlets along the harbour selling fish straight from the fishing boats. The displays are lovely and very tempting. Wrights would be one of the long-established fishmongers.
There are a variety of specialist stalls selling jewellery, arts and crafts, gifts, clothing, antiques in the market. There is a delicatessen and a stall selling freshly baked goods. The Howth Market is open at weekends and on bank holidays.
Just a short walk from the village is the stunning Howth Castle, home of the Lords of Howth for many hundreds of years. The castle has been added to and changed over the years but the first castle is believed to have been built here in the 12th century.
Each Friday and Sunday at 3 pm, guides from Hidden Howth Experiences will lead a guided walk through the Castle Estate. This walk will meander through the woodlands visiting Aideen’s Grave the cromlech or dolmen which dates from between 2500BC and 2000BC, legend has it that it could also be a quoit thrown by Fionn MacCumhaill, an ancient Irish hero.
The Guided Walk will also take visitors up to the top of Muck Rock for the panoramic views of Dublin Bay and islands, before returning to the walled garden and the Food Fare.
Tickets are €15 per person and can be booked here.
Every Friday to Sunday there is a Food Fair in the walled gardens of Howth Castle. There is a selection of gourmet foods to try and nice areas for sitting out.
Getting to Howth
Dart – the rail link circles the coast of Dublin Bay. Services from the city centre operate all day and it takes 30 minutes.
Bus – the H3 from Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1 takes about 35 minutes to Howth village and 40 minutes to the Summit. There are lovely views of the bay from the top of the bus.