Heading southwards from the city centre – after taking in the views of the iconic Poolbeg Generating Station across the bay – make your first stop at Blackrock station. This seaside suburb has a pretty park overlooking the sea, and is the perfect place for a good brunch before setting out on a day’s sightseeing. If it’s a weekend, don’t miss the Blackrock Market – one of the city’s oldest and best. Then make a beeline for The Wooden Spoon café and order a ‘full spoon’ breakfast – you won’t be disappointed. Afterwards, grab a beverage for your journey at Bear Market Coffee.
The port town at Dún Laoghaire dates back to the 1820s, and forms the central hub of several areas along the south coast of Dublin. Dún Laoghaire itself has plenty of things to see and do, from maritime museums to boat trips to shopping – see this post for more detail – but from here you can also make your way to Sandycove, where you will find the James Joyce Museum inside a retired Martello Tower. Popular swimming spot The 40 Foot is nearby too.
Make sure and have your camera phone ready as the train approaches Killiney station from the north. Here, commuters are treated to some of the most stunning views along the entire DART journey, overlooking the pristine sands of Killiney beach, with Bray Head in the distance. This area is often compared to Italy’s Bay of Naples for its beauty, and the hill in the park affords panoramic views of Wicklow to the south – with the Great and Little Sugarloaf hills – and across Dublin Bay as far north as the Howth Peninsula.
Heading further south towards Greystones, the next stop is Bray – a photogenic town straddling the Dublin-Wicklow border. The walk up Bray Head and along the cliffs here offer views that are slightly more rugged but no less beautiful than those at Killiney. If you aren’t fortunate with the Irish weather, Bray’s Sea Life Aquarium will be a big hit with little ones, while Kilruddery House and Gardens are a short taxi journey away. Home to the Brabazon Family – Earls of Meath – since 1618, this ‘Big House’ has a lovely tearoom.
The DART’s southern-most point, Greystones in County Wicklow, is a popular coastal resort town surrounded by spectacular scenery – not only is it perched on the edge of the Irish sea, it is also buffeted by the Wicklow Mountains. After walking the beach and visiting the local shops, make sure to seek out The Happy Pear café for lunch – the pair of vegan twin brothers behind this cheerful spot are part of Jamie Oliver’s Foodtube network, and their food has been an integral part of the healthy-eating takeover in Dublin.
Jumping back on the DART, select a train that terminates in Malahide and ride it the whole way back to the city centre (an hour journey approximately), staying on as it heads north. If you’re a Bram Stoker fan, Clontarf is worth a stop, offering the chance to visit the writer’s former home at Marino Cresent. Otherwise, get off at Portmarnock and head for the gorgeous Velvet Strand Blue Flag beach, before following the path beside the beach all the way to Malahide. Walk around the town and marina, or see the 12th-century Malahide Castle and Gardens, before getting back on the DART towards the city.
At the Howth Junction-Donaghmede stop, change trains to a northbound train for Howth. Here, walk around the working harbour, taking in the old lighthouse at the end of the East Pier. Depending on your energy levels, either walk up the hill behind the pier to the Cliff Path Loop walk – the shorter 3-kilometre version will take you past the Bailey Lighthouse to Howth Summit, with stunning views back towards Dún Laoghaire and the Dublin Mountains – or select one of the many award-winning seafood restaurants in Howth and enjoy a well-deserved dinner.