Take A Walk: The South Bull Wall, Dublin

The South Bull Wall is a hidden treasure in Dublin – an extraordinary engineering feat out into Dublin Bay, built two hundred years ago.

Walk the South Bull Wall for an extraordinary view of Dublin

There is a walk in Dublin city that is an extraordinary feat of engineering, it is the South Bull Wall. This massive boulder wall is 2.9km long and was built over four years from 1819 to 1824. Granite was quarried in Dalkey and then floated in place on barges. Hundreds of men toiled 60 hours a week and slept on site in a repurposed ship to get the job done quickly. The building of the wall was to prevent sand silting up Dublin Port.  

In those days the city of Dublin was a vital port in the British Empire and it was not unusual to see more than 100 ships moored along the city quays daily. Almost 200 years later this wall is an amenity for the city that is worth discovering. 

It is a 20 minute drive from the city centre, at the roundabout for the Eastlink bridge take the road to the east, you will see lots of shipping containers. If feeling energetic, it is a lovely cycle along the coast road. You can rent bicycles easily in Dublin with Bleeper Bikes and Moby Bikes, both use apps for renting. The road will take you past Covanta, Dublin’s shiny new incinerator.  

This Poolbeg area is also the location of the striking red and white Poolbeg chimney towers, reminders that this was where electricity was generated for the city for many years from the early 20th century.

The Poolbeg Chimneys with the Covanta Incinerator

The Shelly Banks

There is plenty of parking along this road, and you will see a small beach called the Shelly Banks, where you could go swimming. Across the bay is the coastal suburb of Sandymount. For a longer walk you could begin from here going around the Irishtown Nature Reserve and the bay. It will take about two and a half hours. 

The South Bull Wall stretches out into Dublin Bay, and is about four metres wide and almost three kilometres to the lighthouse. It can be windy here as you go further along, so dress for the day and expect the wind.  

There are great views from the wall with the seaside town of Clontarf to the north and the Bull Island, which is a nature reserve. The Head of Howth is in the distance.  

To the south is Sandymount with its long, shallow strand and the towns of Blackrock, Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey. On a clear day the Wicklow Mountains frame the horizon. Looking west you will see the city spread out ahead of you, and the striking skyscrapers of the Docklands. 

The Half Moon Swimming Club

Along the way you will pass the Half Moon Swimming club, it was founded in 1898.  The clubhouse was originally used as a gun battery emplacement to protect the port entrance.   

The final stretch of the walk will bring you to the gaily red-painted Poolbeg Lighthouse. There has been a lighthouse at this location since the mid 1800s, originally it was candlelit. 

Most days there is a van selling coffee, tea and snacks at the start of the Bull Wall. You can also have a dash of something a bit stronger in your coffee; a of Jameson whiskey or Baileys Irish cream. If the van is not there, stop for a snack at Deke’s Café, a former shipping container that recently appeared in the RTÉ series, Kin. It is by the Eastlink Roundabout. Enjoy a different view of Dublin city. 

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