Beaches -- Plenty of fine beaches are accessible by city bus or DART, which follows the coast from Howth, north of the city, to Bray, south of the city in County Wicklow. Some popular beaches include Dollymount, 5km (3 miles) away; Sutton, 11km (6 3/4 miles) away; Howth, 15km (9 1/3 miles) away; and Portmarnock and Malahide, each 11km (6 3/4 miles) away. The southern commuter town of Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Lear-y), 11km (6 3/4 miles) away, makes a particularly good day trip. Not only does it offer a beach (at Sandycove) and water sports, it has a long bayfront promenade, plenty of interesting shops, and a bucolic park to wander around in. For more details, inquire at the Dublin Tourism office.
Bird-Watching -- The many estuaries, salt marshes, sand flats, and islands near Dublin Bay provide a varied habitat for a number of species. Rockabill Island, off the coast at Skerries, is home to an important colony of roseate terns; there is no public access to the island, but the birds can be seen from the shore. Rogerstown and Malahide estuaries, on the Northside of Dublin, are wintering grounds for large numbers of brent geese, ducks, and waders. Sandymount Strand, on Dublin’s south side, has a vast intertidal zone; around dusk in July and August, you can often see large numbers of terns, including visiting roseate terns from Rockabill Island. Your all-around best bet, however, lies just north of Dublin city harbor, in the suburb of Clontarf: a bird sanctuary called Bull Island, also known as the North Bull.
Bull Island isn’t an island at all, but a 3km (2-mile) spit of marshland connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was inadvertently created early in the 19th century by Captain William Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. As head of the Port and Docks Board, Bligh ordered the construction of a harbor wall at the mouth of the River Liffey, in an effort to stop the bay from silting up. In fairly short order the shifting sands created this small landmass, a unique beachscape of dunes, salt marsh, and extensive intertidal flats that attracts thousands of seabirds.
Hundreds of species have been recorded here, and some 40,000 birds regularly shelter and nest here. In winter, they are joined by tens of thousands of migrants from the Arctic Circle, along with North American spoonbills, little egrets, and sandpipers. Together, they all make a deafening racket. A visitor center is open daily 10am to 4:30pm; admission is free.
Fishing -- Local rivers, reservoirs, and fisheries offer plenty of opportunities for freshwater angling. A day’s catch might include perch, rudd, pike, salmon, sea trout, brown trout, or freshwater eel. Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), a governmental agency, runs a great website dedicated to fishing in Ireland—the prosaically-named Fishing in Ireland (www.fishinginireland.info). In addition to handy run-downs of rules, regulations, and license details for pike, salmon, trout and other forms of fishing, they also have a contact list for local angling clubs. The Dublin regional office is IFI Dublin at 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin 24 ([tel] 1/2787022; email email@example.com.)
Golf -- Dublin is one of the world’s great golfing capitals, with a quarter of Ireland’s courses—including 5 of the top 10—within an hour’s drive of the city. Visitors are welcome, but phone ahead and make a reservation. The following four courses—two parkland and two links—are among the best 18-hole courses in the Dublin area.
Elm Park Golf & Sports Club ★, Nutley Lane, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 (www.elmparkgolfclub.ie; [tel] 01/269-2650), is a beautifully manicured par-69 course in the residential, privileged south side of Dublin, only 6km (3 3/4 miles) from the city center. Greens fees are €50 Monday to Thursday, €60 Friday, €45 Saturday and Sunday (or €35 before 10am). Nonmembers are not allowed after midday on weekends.
The respected links course at Portmarnock Golf Club ★, in Portmarnock (www.portmarnockgolfclub.ie; [tel] 01/846-2968), lies about 16km (10 miles) from the city center on Dublin’s Northside, on a spit of land between the Irish Sea and a tidal inlet. Opened in 1894, this par-72 championship course has over the years hosted many leading tournaments, including the Dunlop Masters (1959, 1965), Canada Cup (1960), Alcan (1970), St. Andrews Trophy (1968), and many an Irish Open. You won’t be surprised, then, to find out that fees are a bit pricey. Greens fees are around €190 weekdays (€125 Nov–Mar), €200 weekends. The price includes lunch.
Often compared to Scotland’s St. Andrews, the century-old Royal Dublin Golf Club ★, Bull Island, Dollymount, Dublin 3 (www.theroyaldublingolfclub.com; [tel] 01/833-6346), is a par-73 championship seaside links on an island in Dublin Bay, 4.8km (3 miles) northeast of the city center. Like Portmarnock, it has been rated among the world’s top courses and has played host to several Irish Opens. The home base of Ireland’s legendary champion Christy O’Connor, Sr., the Royal Dublin is well known for its fine bunkers, close lies, and subtle trappings. Visitors can play on weekdays except Wednesday, and they hold a few slots for guests on Saturday 4am to 5:30pm and Sunday 10am to noon. Greens fees are €150 (€75 November–March); a second round may be played at half price if there’s space available.
St. Margaret’s Golf & Country Club ★ in Skephubble, St. Margaret’s (www.stmargaretsgolf.com; [tel] 01/864-0400), is a stunning, par-72 parkland course 4.8km (3 miles) west of Dublin Airport. Greens fees are around €25 Monday to Friday, €40 Saturday and Sunday, or slightly less in winter.
Horseback Riding -- Plenty of riding stables are within easy reach of central Dublin. In addition to the classic guided trail riding, many of the stables also offer courses in show jumping, dressage, prehunting, eventing, and cross-country riding.
For trail riding through Phoenix Park, Ashtown Riding Stables (www.ashtownstables.com; [tel] 01/838-3807) is ideal. It’s in the village of Ashtown, adjoining the park and only 10 minutes by car or bus (no. 37, 38, 39, 70, or 120) from the city center. You can also get there by train from Dublin Connolly station in less than 15 minutes; Ashtown station is directly opposite the stables.Among the other riding centers within easy reach of downtown Dublin is Carrickmines Equestrian Centre, Glenamuck Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18 (tel. 01/295-5990; www.carrickminesequestrian.ie), and Brennanstown Riding School, Hollybrook, Kilmacanogue, County Dublin (tel. 01/286-3778; www.brennanstownrs.ie).
Walking -- For casual walking, the Royal Canal and Grand Canal, which skirt the north and south city centers, respectively, are ideal for seeing the area. Both are marked trails, so you can’t get lost, and because they stick to the towpaths of the canals, the paths are flat and easy. Both routes pass a range of small towns and villages that can be used as starting or stopping points.
The walk from Bray (the southern terminus of the DART) to Greystones along the rocky promontory of Bray Head is a great excursion, with beautiful views back toward Killiney Bay, Dalkey Island, and Bray. Follow the beachside promenade south through Bray; at the outskirts of town, the promenade turns left and up, beginning the ascent of Bray Head. Shortly after the ascent begins, a trail branches to the left—this is the cliffside walk, which continues another 5km (3 miles) along the coast to Greystones. From the center of Greystones, a train will take you back to Bray. This is an easy walk, about 2 hours each way. Don’t attempt this walk in bad weather or strong winds, as the cliffside path will be quite treacherous.
Dalkey Hill and Killiney Hill drop steeply into the sea and command great views of Killiney Bay, Bray Head, and Sugarloaf Mountain. To get there, leave the Dalkey DART station, head into the center of Dalkey and then south on Dalkey Avenue (at the post office). About 1km ( 1/2 mile) from the post office, you’ll pass a road ascending through fields on your left—this is the entrance to the Dalkey Hill Park. From the parking lot, climb a series of steps to the top of Dalkey Hill; from here you can see the expanse of the bay, the Wicklow Hills in the distance, and the obelisk topping nearby Killiney Hill. If you continue on to the obelisk, there is a trail leading from there down the seaward side to Vico Road, another lovely place for a seaside walk. It’s about 1km ( 1/2 mile) from the parking lot to Killiney Hill.
Watersports -- Certified level 1 and level 2 instruction and equipment rental for three watersports—kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing—are available at the Surfdock Centre, Grand Canal Dock Yard, Ringsend, Dublin 4 (www.surfdock.ie; [tel] 01/668-3945). The center has 17 hectares (42 acres) of enclosed fresh water for its courses.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.