This post is part of the “Ireland Special Series” for Skimbaco to celebrate “The Gathering Ireland 2013”. See also the previous posts: Seeing Dublin in a day with a toddler, experiencing Ireland in three very different ways on a week-long vacation, ideas on where to have lunch in Dublin, where to start your shopping experience in Dublin and feeling good in Dublin. Want even more? Check all the Ireland posts in my personal blog To Destination Unknown.
In the past few weeks I’ve been covering Ireland and Dublin quite extensively here in Skimbaco, from where to eat, shop and sleep in Dublin to what to do with a toddler in the city. I have skipped the main sights as these you will find in any given guide or book, but to name a few, it is definitely worth seeing and experiencing the Guinness Store House, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Dublin Castle and Temple Bar at least once. If you are already done with sightseeing, shopping and relaxing and looking for something outdoorsy in or just outside the city, this weeks’ post is for you. Any of these activities can be done in a day, hence they could be perfect addition to a long weekend in the capital.
If you want to stay in the city but get the feel for outdoors, head for one of Dublin’s green city parks. Phoenix Park is the largest one with its 707 hectares (1752 acres), and it is actually one of the largest designed landscapes in any European city. In the park you can rent a bike and get the pulse up by exploring the 14 kilometer network of cycle lanes. With kids, the park’s two playgrounds and Dublin zoo are usually great success, or you can just stroll around the park and visit the sights such as the Wellington Testimonial, the tallest obelisk in Europe with its 62 meters height, the Papal Cross or the Phoenix Monument. Áras an Uachtaráin (‘The President’s House’), the Victorian People’s Flower Gardens and the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden are also located in the park.
Opening Hours: The main gates: 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, all year round. The side gates to the Park are open from 7am until 11pm. The attractions have varied opening hours, see the park’s website.
How to get there: The park is easily accessible by bus, train and Luas. Several buses stop by the park’s gates, and by train and Dublin’s light rail system Luas (red line) the closest stop is Heuston station. With Luas, you can also get off at the Museum stop. See the park’s website for more information on buses and also on car parks.
More information: www.phoenixpark.ie
Right in the heart of the city you can also step into the Stephen’s Green, probably Dublin’s most well-known and easily accessible park. Located right in the heart of the city at the top of the busy pedestrian Grafton Street, it is the perfect the stop for picnic lunches or playground fun with the kids. Before the park gets busy with with tourists and locals alike, it is also a beautiful spot for quick morning runs with 3,5 kilometres of pathways criss-crossing the park’s Victorian layout.
Opening Hours: The park opens from Monday to Saturday at 07.30 and on Sundays and Holidays at 09.30. Closing times vary according to the daylight hours.
How to get there: By bus with all the city centre bus routes or with the green line on Luas (terminal stop).
More information: www.heritageireland.ie
Wicklow Mountains National Park
This is not quite in the city itself but so easy to access from Dublin that I highly recommend a trip down south to the national park. The mountains are most easily accessible with a rental car, but it is also possible to reach the park with public transport.
The most well-known spot for visitors is Glendalough, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. The Glendalough Valley has several attractions for visitors from the Monastic Site with Round Tower to scenic walks along the trails around its valleys and two lakes.
Besides stopping by Glendalough, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, climbing, kayaking and fishing in the park. With public transport the access to all corners of the National Park is limited though.
I used to kayak on the Liffey, the river that flows from the mountains and through the city centre before disappearing into the sea. If you are not a kayaker, however, you can still experience the river first hand by hopping on a raft and leaving the busy city behind. The rafting trips start from Leixlip and finish at Palmerstown just inside the western city borders, and in between it is an exciting mix of navigating through manmade weirs and some natural white water rapids. This is the only rafting opportunity in Ireland, hence truly unique experience in the country and not to be missed! The rafting trips are suitable for almost all ages and abilities. Regarding children, the general guideline is that once the kids are big enough to be an active part of the raft crew, they are ready for the rafting trip.
Rates: €249 Monday to Friday and €279 per boat (4-8 persons) at weekends. All the technical equipment including paddles, helmets, lifejackets & drytops are provided. Footwear and wetsuits can be rented on site if required for €2 & €5 respectively.
More information: www.rafting.ie
Beaches, water sports and swimming
Dublin has several sandy beaches easily accessible by its suburban railway network DART, and there is something for everyone from those wanting a seaside walk to those looking to master their kite surfing skills. Also sailing, sea kayaking and powerboating are possible, check the Visit Dublin Watersports page for more information.
If you want something little extra special, you can also take a dip in the Irish Sea at the Forty Foot like Dubliners have done for 250 or so years. What used to be gentlemen’s only swimming spot and a popular among nudists, is now open to women and children as well, all year around. The spot is especially busy on Christmas Day when the locals go for the annual plunge! Forty Foot is situated south of Dun Laoghaire, between the Sandycove and Bullock harbours.
More information: www.visitdublin.com
Ireland Special for Skimbaco
I landed in Ireland for the first time in 1998, fresh from school and ready for my university studies in Dublin. As I sat in the taxi from the airport to my hostel, I did not understand a word the taxi driver said with his thick northern Dublin accent. All I could think was “what have I done! I don’t even understand the language here…”. I quickly fell in love with the people, country and the “craic”, and after almost five years of living in Dublin, I still return to my old home at least once a year. This Ireland series for Skimbaco, which will run over the next few weeks every Tuesday, is here to celebrate “The Gathering Ireland 2013”, as throughout this year, Ireland is opening its arms to hundreds of thousands of friends and family from all over the world, calling them home to gatherings in villages, towns and cities.
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