‘Acting the tourist’: 5 lesser-known, fun day trips from Dublin

Go exploring this summer and visit one of these lesser known sites, just a short drive from Dublin 

As international travel restrictions remain in place, this summer is the perfect time to explore the country. 

A quick search for domestic destinations will bring up the usual tourist hotspots: Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, Blarney Castle, etc.

But there are so many more gorgeous places to see and some are just a short drive from Dublin.


Here are five fun day trips you can take this summer.

Tollymore Forest Park, Co Down

On a stroll through the 630-hectare Tollymore Forest Park, you’ll see all kinds of fascinating tree life like monkey puzzles, eucalyptus, giant redwoods and ancient spruces. The Shimna river, marked by stoney bridges, grottos and caves, runs through the park and the nearby Mourne Mountains. 

Spend the day sightseeing on walking trails or visit the nearby seaside city of Newcastle, where you can shop, refuel or soak up some sun at the beach. Newcastle harbour is a great place to spot colonies of seals and migrating seabirds too. 

Bluebell Wood, Co Roscommon


Surprisingly, Roscommon has quite a few hidden gems to see. Bluebell Wood in Lough Key Forest is named for its meadow of violet-hued bluebells that fittingly mark the way to the nearby Fairy Bridge. 

Lough Key Forest Park has plenty of outdoor activities available like woodland safaris, boat tours and orienteering (which is available to wheelchair users as well). If you have the time, kids will love a detour south to Glendeer Pet Farm in Athlone as well.

Trim Castle, Co Meath

Northwest of Dublin is the historical town of Trim, where well preserved ruins of castles, churches and abbeys make for fascinating tours. Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland and dates back to 1176 AD. You can book guided tours during opening hours from 10am to 5pm .

Also nearby is St Patrick’s Cathedral (home to one of the three famous “Binns” organs), ruins of St Mary’s Abbey (est. in 1368 AD by the Augustinian order), Ireland’s oldest bridge and the Meath Heritage Centre, where you can search your genealogy and purchase local crafts.


Donadea Forest, Co Kildare

The highlight of Donadea Forest is national heritage site Donadea Castle and Estate. The gorgeous grounds were home to the Aylmer family until their last member died in 1935. Now, visitors can see the stunning castle’s remains, including walled gardens, an ice house, a boat house, a nearby church and a grand, Lime Tree lined entrance. 

The forest is also home to a 9/11 memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. On one of the looped walking trails, you can see a beautiful display of water lilies and a nearby lake with friendly ducks and waterhens. Be sure to stop by the cafe, located in a glass panelled barn. 

Dalkey Island, Co Dublin

Usually overshadowed by its western neighbour, Killiney Hill Park, Dalkey Island is a 22-acre uninhabited wildlife sanctuary, making it an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts and twitchers. The Cormorant, Collared Dove, Shelduck and more beautiful bird species can be seen here as well as migratory birds during the summer season.

Ancient churches and the well-known Martello Tower are also on the island, which are frequently visited by local rabbits and goats. To get there, you can grab the dart from Connolly Station to Dalkey, then hop on the five-minute ferry to the island.



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