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Exploring Dun Laoghaire

After our sail up from Arklow we checked into Dun Laoghaire Marina and set about exploring this part of Ireland.

Dun Laoghaire is a coastal suburb of Dublin, about 8 miles from the Irish capital. It has a somewhat cosmopolitan and Mediterranean feel, in fact it really reminded us of Barcelona in some aspects!

Dun Laoghaire was established in 1816 and was originally known as Dunleary. To commemorate a visit from King George IV in 1820, Dunleary was renamed to Kingstown. In 1920 it was renamed ‘Dun Laoghaire’, the Irish form of ‘Dunleary’ which means “Fort of Laoghaire”.

The town has quite a maritime history. After numerous shipwrecks off the coast in the early 1800’s construction started on the harbour as a safe refuge for ships in rough weather. Construction of the East Pier began in 1817 and construction of the West Pier starting in 1820. In 1826 the harbour started operating the mail packet service and a little later a railway station was opened at West Pier. By 1842 Kingstown Harbour, as it was then known, was the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe with thousands of visiting ships every year.

West Pier
Dún Laoghaire Harbour
East Pier

Stena Line operated a Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire passenger ferry service up until 2014, when it then transferred services to Dublin. Nowadays the harbour is more associated with leisure users. There are a number of local clubs offering sailing, rowing and canoeing, and of course Dun Laoghaire Marina, the largest marina in Ireland, which is home to 820 berths. Cruise ships often visit, anchoring out in the bay, and visitors come ashore at the old ferry port. The harbour is also home to the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the body that serves as the general lighthouse authority for Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Live on the Harbour is a popular music festival that takes place right next door to the marina. We timed our stay perfectly, getting to enjoy the sounds of the Ibiza Orchestra, Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah from the deck of our yacht!

The town has some really beautiful and interesting buildings including the DLR LexIcon (central building), the Royal Marine Hotel which dates back to 1863, the National Maritime Museum of Ireland which is housed in the 180 year old Mariner’s Church and the County Hall dating back to 1879.

Royal Marine Hotel
National Maritime Museum
County Hall

People’s Park is a popular park just along the promenade. Dating back to 1890 it features a bandstand, playground, and cafe. We visited on a Sunday and there was a market taking place with a whole host of stalls to browse!

Dún Laoghaire Seafront

Dún Laoghaire Baths, which were originally built in 1843, closed in 1997 and fell into disrepair. They eventually re-opened in 2022 with a new 35m jetty and refurbishment of the baths pavilion, however no swimming pool, much to the disappointment of residents. However the new jetty is proving popular with sea swimmers and kayakers who use it as a jump off/landing point. Discussions continue as to whether or not a pool will return but only time will tell.

Further along the promenade is Sandycove which features a lovely small sand beach and is home to the Martello Tower. The Irish novelist, James Joyce, stayed here as a young man and the opening scene of his novel Ulysses is set here. Nowadays the tower is home to a small Joycean museum.

Close by is the Forty Foot, which was originally a male only bathing place, and is a popular attraction for both tourists and locals. Nowadays it is enjoyed by all and is a popular sea swimming spot, regardless of the weather!

Dún Laoghaire Baths
Gentlemen only!
Sandycove

Back in town the local Wetherspoon pub is named after this popular bathing spot. The Forty Foot is one of the nicest Wetherspoon pubs we’ve visited with a huge outdoor area. Interestingly the pub plays bird noises on the upper terrace every now and then, not sure why but it’s quite nice, reminds us of The Rainforest Cafe!

Up in the town you will find a number of shops including Dunnes Stores and Penney’s (Primark). McDonalds, Burger King and Nando’s can all be found here along with local restaurants.There are two shopping centres; Bloomfields and Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre. Bloomfields has a large Tesco’s, Boots and Dealz (Poundland), along with a number of independent stores. Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre features a SuperValu supermarket and a selection of other small shops.

Heading out for a night on the town you will find a number of pubs up in the Main Street including Buck Mulligans, which had some great live music during our stay, and The Lighthouse , which runs a very popular quiz and bingo night. Though be warned, drinks here in Ireland may be a little more expensive than what you’re used to! A vodka and coke was 8.30€ and a pint was 7€ – though, like the UK, Wetherspoons still offered slightly cheaper drinks 👍

Coastal Views
Dalkey
Dalkey Castle

Heading along the coast slightly is Dalkey, one of Dublin’s wealthiest districts, and home to a number of writers, artists, and celebrities. This delightfully quaint village is definitely worth a visit! There are some beautiful eateries, shops and pubs to enjoy and Dalkey Castle, which dates back to the 14th century, is now home to a Heritage Centre.

Off the coast is Dalkey Island, an important resting point for migratory birds, and home to a variety of wildlife. It is possible to get over to the island with ‘Ken The Ferryman‘ or there are a number of boat trips which visit the island as part of their schedules. Head up to Sorrento Park for some lovely views over to the island or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous head to the top of nearby Killiney Hill where you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the surrounding areas including down to the Wicklow Mountains in the south.

Dalkey Island

But one of our main reasons for coming into Dún Laoghaire was to visit the Irish capital of Dublin so it was time to hit the big city!…

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