Beautiful Dalkey (the name means ‘thorn’) is known as the Amalfi coast of Ireland. It’s a gorgeous seaside area with a rich history, so it’s easy to see why, for many travellers, a day trip from Dublin to Dalkey is a must.
The location of Dalkey, a town that began life as a medieval port, is just a stone’s throw south of Dublin’s city centre, and it is where some of the most affluent members of Irish society have homes.
There are lots of fab things to do in Dalkey, from kayak adventures on the sea to eating delicious seafood. So, if you decide to make it your base for a few tranquil days away from the city, you won’t be disappointed.
Brief history of Dalkey
In the fifth and sixth centuries, the most northern point of Dalkey Island was the home of a strategic fort. In the ruins, bronze pins, glassware, and wine containers with origins from all over the world have been found, suggesting that Dalkey was also a busy trading port.
Dalkey’s prominence in the world markets continued throughout the centuries thanks to boats struggling to anchor in the shallow waters of the River Liffey in Dublin. However, Dalkey Island also has a dark history as the holding place for Viking slaves and prisoners.
The Christian church has always had a strong influence in this area of Ireland. However, it was also subject to attack from the riotous O’Byrne and O’Toole clans, so Dalkey has seven defensive castles.
Eventually, Dalkey acquired the dubious renown of being a hub for smuggling. It became such a problem that a specialist officer was employed to tackle it.
During the war with Napoleon, the 26 Martello Towers were constructed as a form of communication between the army and home; one of them was on Dalkey Hill. During that same war, two troop ships were wrecked on the Dalkey coast in a storm, and over 400 lives were lost.
In more recent years, the coming of the railway and a successful quarry meant good fortune for the people of Dalkey. Now, it’s an affluent and luxurious suburb of Dublin, where many of the rich and famous of Ireland live.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. It comes at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.
Taking a day trip from Dublin to Dalkey
Is Dalkey worth visiting?
Absolutely! If you love castles and history, the bracing sea air and boat trips, or you simply can’t resist having a nosey at the fabulous homes of the people who can afford to live in this pretty but exclusive town.
Dalkey is also very close to Dublin, so if you’re in the area, you can easily pop over for a delicious lunch overlooking the sea.
However, there’s much more to Dalkey than being a really rather lovely suburb of Dublin. The castles are fascinating, the coastline is stunning, and you can take a boat to visit the remains of an ancient fort and the goat population on Dalkey Island.
How to reach Dalkey from Dublin
Getting to Dalkey is super easy whether you decide to take public transport, drive or go on a tour.
- DART trains from Dublin to Dalkey run every 30 minutes, costing approx 5 Euros. Check the train timetable for the latest information.
- Book a group day trip to Dalkey if you want to see the highlights on a luxury coach.
- Hire your own wheels with Discover Cars. Driving to Dalkey will take 30 minutes along the R118 along the coast.
Best Things To Do in Dalkey on a Day Trip
You can quite easily fill a day in Dalkey and more if you like to explore with a touch of adventure. I left Dublin early enough to pack in the activities and make the most of Dalkey. Here’s what I managed to do in Dalkey in one day;
Take a tour of Dalkey Castle
Dalkey Castle is one of the two castles left in Dalkey from the original seven. It’s a spectacular structure that looks just like it used to be the home of brave Knights. It was built to defend this part of the coast and securely store the masses of traded goods, such as tobacco and wine.
The tours of the castle are excellent. They are vibrant and energetic, with actors who bring the fascinating history to life; you’ll meet coin minters, cooks and archers and hear their six-hundred-year-old stories.
Enjoy a coastal walk at Dalkey and Killiney Hill
The coast around Dalkey is rugged, windswept, and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Spending a morning or afternoon hiking from the town to Killiney Hill is a beautiful way to blow away the cobwebs, soak up the stunning views, and breathe in the sea air.
The best viewpoints of Dalkey Island, the home of a ruined fort, a herd of goats, and the Martello Tower, are along this coastal route.
Dillon’s Park is an oasis of green on the edge of the vast, roaring scene. There are plenty of benches where you can sit and soak up the view. It is also the location of an ancient holy well that was once the focus of early Celtic Christian rituals.
Sorrento Park is slightly higher than Dillion Park, so despite its diminutive size, the lawns and benches offer 360-degree views. This is the perfect place to eat a picnic or sip hot coffee before cracking on with your hike.
Killiney Hill is the high point of this short but sweet walk, and the panorama at the top is worth the uphill pull. If you’re feeling adventurous (and have a suitable kit!) Killiney Beach and Vico Baths are wonderful places to dip in the super-cold waves.
Take a peek at the pricey pads in Dalkey
Dalkey is an affluent town that has been (or still is) home to many famous residents, from U2’s Bono and writer Maeve Binchy to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and old-school crooner Van Morrison.
Dalkey is an outlying part of Dublin notorious for its sky-high house prices. The fact that so few of us could afford to buy here makes it bizarrely enthralling. The architecture in the area is breathtaking, and it’s fun to work out who lives where. Keep your eyes peeled as you wander down Coliemore Road as it was hailed as Ireland’s most expensive street in 2019.
Visit Dalkey Island
Dalkey Island is a much-loved familiar sight for Dubliners. It lies just 400 metres off the coast and is uninhabited by humans, though there is evidence of life being lived there as far back as the Mesothilic era of 8000 BCE – 2700.
Things to see on Dalkey Island
The Martello Tower and Gun Battery were part of an Irish defence and communication system during the Napoleonic Wars. Dalkey Island has been a strategic point of protection since medieval times, but the ruins of the Martello Tower are all that remains of that task.
Visit the ruins of 7th century St. Begnet’s church and Burial Ground, where our ancestors worshipped and took shelter at the edge of the forbidding grey water.
Look towards the far horizon at Muglin’s Lighthouse and appreciate just how dramatic and dangerous the sea can be. This small lighthouse has saved countless seafaring lives. However, the craggy rocks below have a dark past as the place where the bodies of executed pirates were displayed as a warning to others.
Dalkey Island is no longer a permanent home for humans; perhaps because of this, wildlife is abundant. Visit these rugged shores, and you’ll meet barking seals, whirling seabirds, a herd of goats, and a vast number of black rabbits. But watch your step! Don’t be like me and fall into a rabbit warren as you take a photo.
How to reach Dalkey Island
Take a Kayak Tour
This exciting mode of transport is how I made the trip to Dalkey Island. The waves were a little choppy in places, but the journey was exhilarating, and it was fantastic to pass close by the local seals as they chilled out on the rocks. Dublin Bay is a UNESCO Biosphere, an area of importance for the natural world. So as you kayak, there might be dolphins swimming below and rare seabirds flying above. >> Book your seal kayaking tour
Ken the Ferryman
Take a Dalkey Island boat trip with this local legend who leaves regularly from scenic Coliemore Harbour. Hop on his ferry for the short trip, and, if you’re lucky, you get to hear all about this unique part of Ireland from the man who knows it best.
Enjoy the cafes and pubs in Dalkey
There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in Dalkey but there are only so many foodie stops you can fit into a day.
- The Corner Note Cafe masters the art of the all-day breakfast with eggs benedict, and aromatic coffee.
- The Queens Bar, located next to the castle, offers a wonderful menu. The Dublin Bay prawns and a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc were a winning choice.
Staying longer in Dalkey?
Dalkey is a magnificent part of the world, and you’ll likely fall in love with it. If you have a little more time to spend in Dalkey or are planning a return trip, there’s plenty to do.
Take a wild swim
If you’re a wild swimming devotee or simply feel brave. Head to idyllic Coliemore Harbour or Vico Bathing Place, near Killiney Hill and take a plunge into some of the cleanest sea water in Ireland and the UK.
Go rock climbing
Just behind Killiney Hill lies the quarry that helped make Dalkey the affluent area it is today. The rock blasting has now stopped, and the quarry has been transformed into a state-of-the-art rock climbing and abseiling centre. Novices and experienced climbers are all welcome.
Walk to Dun Laoghaire
Walk from Killiney Hill and Sorrento Park with their epic views of Dalkey Island and then through the pretty narrow streets of Dalkey. Next, you’ll stride past Bullock Castle, a Norman edifice guarding a small harbour and Sandy Cove, the location for the beginning of James Joyce’s epic, Ulysses and a popular swimming spot. Your destination, Dun Laoghaire, is an elegant Georgian town with a British feel where you enjoy arguably the best ice cream in Ireland before heading back on the train.
Visit Mornington Gardens
These gardens have been looked after by the family of garden designer and horticulturalist Annmarie Bowring for over 50 years. It’s a glorious space planted in 1935 and feels like the family garden of your dreams. There’s a play area, a potting shed to explore and friendly chickens to meet. An appointment, arranged through email or phone, is necessary.
Useful links for your trip to Dalkey
Ready to get planning your trip to Dalkey? Here are some useful links to get you started with amazing things to do in Dalkey.
Tourist Information for Dalkey
- Book a group day trip to Dalkey
- Hire your own wheels with Discover Cars
- Check the DART train timetable
- Book accommodation with Booking.com
Recommended Insurance for Ireland
Get 5% off your travel insurance with HeyMondo. Benefit from 24-hour medical assistance, 365 days a year with single, multi-trip, and long-stay insurance, cover for Covid-19 and non-refundable expenses. The handy app makes this a simple process! They give a little back too by contributing to ‘Doctors Without Borders’.
SafetyWing for Digital Nomads. Benefit from 24/7 assistance, comprehensive and medical cover including Covid-19. Buy insurance whilst you are travelling, with the option of global health insurance.
Recommended Gear for Ireland
- GET 15% OFF WATER-TO-GO Bottle (Code WM15)
- GET 10% OFF ARTFULLY WILD sustainable clothing (Code: WM10)
- Get your adventure gear from Cotswold Outdoor
- Find your perfect backpack – I only use Osprey backpacks for my travels!
PIN FOR LATER – DAY TRIP TO DALKEY FROM DUBLIN