Ireland, Brú na Bóinne and 3 must-see places near Dublin

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Ireland, Brú na Bóinne and 3 must-see places near Dublin

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Our on-the-road trip to the emerald island continues from the surroundings of Dublin-the capital of the Republic of Ireland-where we picked up a rental car that, in the coming days, allowed us to explore the southern half of the island far and wide as far as Connemara, then to cut the island in half and return to Dublin. We spent only one day in the city, but we didn’t miss the chance to explore its surroundings and the many attractions that are worth a visit and are only a few kilometers from the city. Among them, first on the list is certainly the prehistoric necropolis of Brú na Bóinne. So here is all the information about this truly amazing place and 3 other must-see attractions just a few kilometers from the city!

Dublin

Brú na Bóinne

Old Mellifont Abbey

Howth

Monasterboice

We love... Ireland!

Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland, is a vibrant and friendly city. And it was from Dublin that our on-the-road trip of Ireland started. Here we picked up a rental car that, in the coming days, allowed us to explore the southern half of the island far and wide to Connemara, then to cut the island in half and return to Dublin. We spent only one day in the city, but we didn’t miss the chance to get out of the city center and explore its surroundings, which are rich in points of interest and some really must-see attractions. To visit them all you will need only one day, but our advice is to plan your day by prioritizing Brú na Bóinne, probably the site that will require the most time and planning, since it is accessible only by guided tours booked well in advance. We will tell you about Brú na Bóinne and the 3 other attractions that we think are worth a visit near Dublin in this article!

How to get there

Arriving by airplane

Dublin airport

arriving-plane

Most travelers choose to reach Dublin by plane. Indeed, the city is well connected to Switzerland and the rest of Europe by several flights of the national airline Aer Lingus, Swiss* and, of course, the low-cost airline Ryanair. Dublin Airport is located about 11 km north of the city. Once you arrive, to reach the center you can take a cab or use one of the convenient 24-hour bus services offered by numerous companies. You can find all the information about buses at this link. If, on the other hand, you have rented a car, the counters of the major rental companies are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Arriving by ship

Dun Laoghaire Terminal

Dublin Port Terminal

arriving-ship

Dublin can also be reached by ship, a popular option for those who enjoy on-the-road travel with their own car or caravan. The city has two harbor areas: Dun Laoghaire Terminal, southeast of downtown, and Dublin Port Terminal, northeast. Many companies connect the city with Britain. We suggest Stenaline, Irishferries, P&O Ferries. Alternatively, other companies connect Ireland with France: Irishferries and Brittany Ferries. However, the last one will take you to Cork – in the south of the island – and from there Dublin is about a three-hour drive.

Brú na Bóinne

The prehistoric site of Brú na Bóinne is certainly one of the most interesting on the island and certainly one of the most extraordinary necropolises in Europe. The burial site, built a full thousand years before Stonehenge, is truly a small miracle of engineering considering the time of construction, the materials used, and the tools available at that time. The archaeological area includes a modern Visitor Center and three main historic sites: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. The Visitor Center is the gateway to the archaeological area: guided tours depart from here, it provides tourist information and houses an interactive exhibit, a restaurant, toilets and a small gift store. While the Dowth area is closed to the public for security reasons, Knowth and Newgrange are accessible only through guided tours that must be booked well in advance. Indeed, due to property conservation requirements, the number of visitors allowed daily is strictly limited. Although the site is really interesting in its entirety, the thing that really gave us the greatest emotion was the access to Newgrange, a massive circular mound as much as 80 meters in diameter and 13 meters high. Its corridor tomb is one of the finest of the Stone Age and dates back to 3200 BCE. Walking down the narrow corridor and reaching the burial chamber gave us an indescribable feeling! You can book the guided tour through the OPW’s official website starting 30 days before your chosen date. It is possible to choose between a guided tour to Knowth only (without access to the burial chamber, which is closed for security reasons), one to Newgrange only with access to the corridor tomb, or finally one to both archaeological areas, including access to the Newgrange burial chamber. We chose the last option and are absolutely satisfied with it: the visit is well organized and conducted by friendly and well-prepared guides. We therefore suggest that you do not miss the opportunity to visit this wonderful archaeological site. However, we absolutely don’t recommend going directly to the site without a reservation: during our stay in Ireland, the site sold out every day! To get to Brú na Bóinne from Dublin follow the road R135 and then the road N2.

Howth

The small town of Howth is located just northeast of Dublin and is also easily accessible by public transport. It is a charming fishing village that retains a distinct maritime identity and is well worth a visit for a half-day stroll along the cliffs, followed by a delicious seafood lunch. On a beautiful sunny day, our advice is to walk all or part of the 10 kilometers of trail that runs along the cliffs and reaches “The Summit” – the highest point of the cliffs – and the Head of Howth. From here you will have a wonderful view of the ocean!
To reach Howth from Dublin you can take the H3 bus or the DART, a train-light rail that connects the city to the coast.

Old Mellifont Abbey

This monastic area, located north of Dublin, preserves the vestiges of the most sumptuous Cistercian center in the country. The elegance of the buildings and their magnificence can still be seen today, although very little remains of the old buildings, which over the centuries have been used as quarries for the many other buildings in the area. The most distinctive architectural structure on the site – except for a small decorated chapel – is certainly the 13th-century washhouse, an elegant octagonal room where monks used to wash their hands before eating and which is still partly visible today. To reach it from Dublin, follow the road M1 and-beyond Drogheda-the road R168. This area is normally accessible from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and there is no entrance fee for visiting the ruins alone. Visiting the Visitor Center’s small exhibition or taking part in the guided tours requires a fee of € 5.00 (CHF 4.90) per adult. All information is available here.

Monasterboice

Located in the middle of the country at the end of a narrow tree-lined street, the small monastic area of Monasterboice, founded between the 5th and 6th centuries, includes a cemetery, the ruins of two churches, one of the island’s most beautiful round towers and two Celtic crosses. The site is located north of Dublin, not far from the city of Drogheda. Of particular beauty is the Celtic cross located near the entrance, called Muiredach’s Cross, whose decorations refer mainly to the New Testament and depict some scenes from the life of Jesus. Indeed, do you know that Celtic crosses were not only religious artifacts, but also had an important educational function, as they helped to spread religion even among the less literate population? To get to Monasterboice you will have to follow the road M1 and – past Drogheda – the road R132. This area is normally accessible every day and there is no entrance fee for the visit alone.

Tips

1

If your plan is to make an on-the-road trip throughout the island (except for Northern Ireland), we suggest you to purchase the Heritage Card, a card that allows free access to the many attractions managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) including Dublin Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the prehistoric area of Brú na Bóinne and many others. The card, valid for one year, costs € 40.00 (about CHF 39.00) per person and can be purchased online or at the ticket offices of one of the affiliated attractions. However, remember that the purchase of the card does not exclude the reservation of the visit for those attractions – such as Brú na Bóinne – for which there is such a requirement. All the information here.

2

The parking areas of the major tourist attractions around Dublin are unfortunately visited by thieves and vandals. Some warning signs will remind you of this as soon as you reach your destination. In general, to avoid problems, you only need to avoid leaving bags, suitcases or valuables unattended and clearly visible in your car.

3

Are you planning an on-the-road trip to Ireland? Then read all our articles on the topic and if you have any questions or need additional tips let us know by leaving a comment below. We will get back to you as soon as possible!

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