A grand walk on Howth Head

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I’m back in Ireland this week – working not on holiday, but I caught an early ferry over on Sunday morning, arriving in Dublin just after midday as I often do so that I can spend a little time exploring what has become my “second home”! The weather was looking reasonably promising so I’d decided to get out for a walk. I’d thought about driving into the Wicklow mountains but on second thoughts felt it would be nice to have a walk along the sea shore so decided to go for a walk on Howth Head, the headland to the north of the city centre that my ferry passes sailing into Dublin Port. It’s only a few miles from the port and it took me about half an hour to drive over there.

I’d done my research beforehand and knew that there were a number of way marked routes I could follow. I’d decided on the longer “Bog of Frogs” route, about 12 km long, that starts at the Howth DART station near the harbour and follows the coast round before cutting across country back to the start.

I’d planned to park up near the harbour as I knew there were plenty of car parks, but when I arrived they were jam full and it was clearly going to be a struggle to find a space. So I drove out of the town centre up inland and managed to find a spot on the Summit car park on top of the cliffs near the Baily lighthouse, part way round the route. There was no reason why I couldn’t start here as the route would bring me back, so that’s what I did.

I followed the path down the hill and after a short distance was on the route. All the routes are waymarked with different coloured arrows. I was following the purple route with a few minor diversions.

Straight away I was greeted with a view over the Baily lighthouse that stands at the end of a peninsula on the south side of the headland. I see it every time I sail into Dublin. It’s still a working lighthouse so it isn’t possible to walk right up to it.

The skies were dark and cloudy over Dublin to the west and as the lighthouse was in that direction it didn’t make for a good photo. But it was clear and bright over to the east, so this photo was taken after I’d walked along the path past the peninsula

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Carrying on the narrow path was high up on the cliffs and there were good views down to the sea. It could be hairy on a windy day.

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Looking over to Poolbeg and the south wall with the olfd power station chimneys dominating the view

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There’s some nice houses up on the top of the cliffs looking over the sea

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Turning a corner I could see a Martello Tower along the coast.

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The marked route turned inland before the tower but I wanted a closer look so carried on along the coastal path for a while.

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It’s been converted into a luxury holiday home.

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I carried on the coastal path a little further before turning inland and, passing lots of expensive houses, looped back along the road to rejoin the purple route which now cut inland heading towards the north side of the headland.

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The path crossed the golf course (watch out for golf balls!!) and as I climbed I could see the sea on to the north with views across as far as the Mountains of Mourne over the border in Northern Ireland.

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At the other side of the golf curse I entered the wooded area known as the “Bog of Frogs”

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Fortunately after a dry summer it wasn’t so boggy (although there were boardwalks to keep walkers’ feet dry) and I didn’t see any frogs!

The route now climbed up into heathland before descending down into Howth

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but I took a slight diversion climbing a hill to take in the views over the sea and the harbour and toward the small island known as “Ireland’s Eye”

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The route continued down the hill, across some fields and passing another golf course and a Gaelic sports field, through a housing estate and then down a path arriving at Howth DART station, the “official” start of the walk.

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However, I’d started part way round and so had only completed about two thirds of the route so I had a few more miles to go back to my car. Howth is quite an attractive town and harbour. I’d visited it some years ago during the winter when it was cold and quiet, but this day was quite different – sunny and warm and heaving with people walking around and enjoying a pint and sea food in the many bars and cafes that line the harbour.

I decided to take a break from the walk and explore the harbour. There’s actually two – one a fishing harbour where, being a Sunday, there were plenty of boats moored along the quays

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then there’s the “pleasure boat” harbour. Didn’t look like there were many people out sailing!

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I walked out on the harbour wall to get a better look at Ireland’s Eye

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heading back

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The beach to the east of the harbour wall

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I spent about an hour looking round the harbour before resuming my walk along the purple route. It took me up past another Martello tower which overlooks the harbour and which today houses a radio communication museum.

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The route now followed the narrow road on the side of the cliff as far as the Kilrock carpark and then back on to the cliff top footpath.

Looking back to Howth

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and along the cliff path

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After almost an hour after setting out from Howth harbour, the Baily lighthouse came into view – and there was the Irish Ferries boat Ulysees sailing past towards Dublin Port.

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I’d also seen the Stena Line’s Adventurer sailing past in the distance about half an hour before.

It didn’t take long now to climb back up to the top of the cliff and the Summit car park.

This had been a grand walk. It had been busy in Howth and also along the cliff from the Harbour to the lighthouse – there were several large groups of young tourists who slowed me down a little as it was difficult to pass on the narrow path. But it was good to see them enjoying their walk too.

Back at the car I changed out of my boots and set off driving back through Dublin and on to Naas where I’m staying and working this week.

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A cold day in Howth

Over the past 7 or 8 years I’ve been over to Dublin several times on business. Whenever I travel for work I usually try to add a day or two on to the trip so that I can take a look around, so I’ve got to know Dublin fairly well. During a recent visit I decided to explore a little further afield so got the DART train from Connolly Station out to Howth (pronounced so that it rhymes with “both”), a small town on the coast about 9 miles north east of the city centre overlooking Dublin Bay.

The town nestles below Howth head, a large land mass dominating the north side of the bay – you can see it from the ferry sailing in from England – which is connected to the rest of Dublin via a narrow strip of land.

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Its a pleasant little town with good sea views and a harbour full of yachts. I’m told that there are good views to be had from Howth head, but, although it’s only a few miles walk around the headland, it was a cold day when there was a freezing wind blowing in from the Irish Sea, so I restricted my visit to having a walk around the harbour.

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There’s a large rocky island just off shore known as “Ireland’s Eye”.  From the beach I could see a Martello tower and another building – probably a church. There are boat trips out to the island during the summer, but not on a cold winter’s day.

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Martello towers are small defensive forts that were built around the coast of Britain and Ireland from the Napoleonic Wars onwards. Their design was  inspired by a round fortress, at Mortella (Myrtle) Point in Corsica. There are several around Dublin Bay including one at Sandcove, in the northern suburbs of Dublin, which featured in the opening chapter of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and which today is a museum dedicated to the writer.

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It’s still a working port, and standing on the harbour wall I watched a small fishing boat heading out into the bay, past Ireland’s Eye.

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There are a number of seafood restaurants lining one side of the harbour. It was too late for lunch and too early for an evening meal but I popped into one where I bought some native oysters – the first I’ve eaten. A little pricey, but worth it.