For most visitors a flight to Dublin means a city break – maybe a long weekend sightseeing and jostling with the crowds in Temple Bar to find the city's best pint of Guinness. But just eight miles from the urban heart of Dublin there's a natural space that characterises why Ireland is nicknamed the Emerald Isle. The Dublin Mountains are a haven of fresh air and stunning natural beauty only a short trip from the city centre on public transport, so you can easily explore them as part of a short trip to Dublin or on a longer stay in Ireland. Find out how you can combine wilderness, natural beauty and the opportunity for some outdoor adventure on a trip to the Fair City.
The Dublin mountains lie just a short distance to the south of the city. Strictly speaking, the area is part of the Wicklow Mountains range, but the Dublin Mountains are within County Dublin and all reachable from the capital. They’re worth exploring in depth if you're in Ireland for a while or if you're staying out of town, but the mountains also make a perfect day trip even if you're just looking at a long weekend in Dublin. If you're still planning your trip then you can book a hotel and flight from London together, whether you're looking for a hotel in the city or a B&B out of town.
There are plenty of attractions in Dublin proper for all kinds of traveller, whether you're on a romantic weekend away or have time to kill on a business trip. But the mountains offer something genuinely unique – a huge natural space just a stone's throw from the heart of Dublin, they're a million miles from city parks and give a taste of rural Ireland without having to embark on a lengthy road trip. And if you want to stay active – not always easy on a city break – then a hike or run in the mountains is the perfect way to get some exercise while staying firmly in holiday mode. All you have to do is pack your boots or trainers.
The Dublin Mountains Way (DMW) begins at Shankill in the east and stretches about 26 miles (42km) to Tallaght in the west. Shankill is less than a 40-minute trip by public transport from central Dublin – take the DART from Connolly station and you can travel direct (check out our guide to getting around Dublin for more information on transport in and around the city).
This waymarked trail opened in October 2010 thanks to the efforts of local authorities, groups and volunteers, and passes over granite mountains, through dense green forests and past traditional village pubs. The aim of the path is to open up outdoor recreation in the Dublin area, and along the route you can enjoy walks, bike trails, a chance to spot wildlife from birds to deer and some spectacular views from up high.
The area is well set up whether you want a gentle family ramble or you're a serious mountain biker. Nature enthusiasts get a rare chance to see genuine biodiversity so close to a city, with wild animals and huge expanses of pine, fir and larch trees. And, this being Ireland, the area is steeped in myth and legend, with plenty of history from the Neolithic dolmens to the ruins of the Hell Fire Club – an 18th-century hunting lodge with a dark past.
If you're on a short trip then you won't have time to walk the entire marathon length of the DMW, so here are a few of the highlights that you can visit to enjoy Dublin's wilderness on a short foray from the city. you can make any of these trips in a day and combine them with the other sights of Dublin. Whether you want to earn a few pints with a hike before you head out for the night in Temple Bar, or you want to discover the historical sites beyond the city centre.
The DMW officially begins at Brady's pub in the village of Shankill. Enjoy a gentle hike along the trail in the peaceful forests at Rathmichael, Carrickgollan and Barnaslingan Woods before you get to a viewpoint with a stunning view of the Scalp, a valley formed around 12,000 years ago, lined by more untouched forest. If you only have time for a short visit, then come here and see why the DMW has been named one of the world's most scenic walks.
Halfway along the DMW you'll find Two Rock. This is the highest point of the Dublin Mountains at 536m, with its summit known as Fairy Castle. It's a moderately demanding hike to the top, but the view is more than worth it – you get a true panorama with a stunning view stretching from Tallaght at the western end of the mountains all the way to Howth on the other side of Dublin Bay in the east.
The trails in this area around Ticknock Forest are also popular for mountain-biking – they're well maintained and offer pretty much anything you could want, from flat sections to big climbs and fast, technical downhills. If you don't want to take a bike with you on your flight to Dublin you can rent one nearby from Biking.ie.
Montpelier Hill is one of the closest mountains to Dublin city. It's a tougher walk up here but if you fancy a hike it's a fascinating site; at the top of the hill is the Hell Fire Club, supposedly the site of murders and occult meetings.
Whatever you're flying to Dublin for, the Dublin Mountains will give you something unexpected and unforgettable. Book a flight from London to discover this secret city highlight.