North Bull Island
Ireland Living in Dublin Travel

Hidden Spots in Dublin: A Beach Day on North Bull Island

Many times, we’ve made the mistake of going to Bray for the cliff walk to Greystones on a bank holiday weekend. Half of Dublin had the same idea, leaving the paths quite crowded. This Easter Monday Bank Holiday we decided to go for a bit more hidden spot. While still popular with locals, this mysterious spot is big enough to disperse the crowds. It also offers a nice day out at the beach and stunning views. On top of that, the weather was shockingly sunny at a sizzling 19 °C. What an Easter Miracle.

Getting there the Long Way Around

If you know Dublin, you probably also know that “the Long Way Around” is sometimes actually faster because transport on that route is more reliable. Well, the train we took was 15 minutes late but it still got us there sooner than waiting for the next bus would have on a bank holiday. The upside of taking the train was also that we got to explore Raheny village (village means neighbourhood in Dublin) a bit. Although not too far from the city centre, it’s a surprisingly quiet residential area. It has its fair share of local historic significance, including holy wells and the Guinness family (yes, the ones with the beer). But we’ll leave the details for another time. For now, let’s just say you get to enjoy some lovely architecture with historic significance, before reaching St. Anne’s Park.

 

St Anne’s Park

One of our favourite parts of living in London was the Royal Parks. St Anne’s reminded us of those sprawling parks, where you can find different little landscapes around every corner and feel like an explorer in the wilderness. Only staying along one side of the park, as we walked towards the coast, we already got to see some beautiful spots. First of all, much to the Wine’s excitement, there are squirrels. Secondly, there are ducks, along with a nice little pond and fancy fountain. We didn’t go much deeper but there was a mysterious building hidden in the foliage, which we will come back to explore sometime.

St Anne's Park

Bull Island

Once you exit St Anne’s Park, and cross the street, you’re already at the bridge leading to Bull Island, the star of this trip. Contrary to its name, there are no bulls but there’s still lots to explore. Make sure you bring a snack because you’ll be hiking for a while, along this 5k long and 800m wide island.

The island was actually a happy accident. At the end of the 18th century Dublin Port were trying to divert sand build ups from the harbour. They built a big wall and a few decades later Bull Island along with its sandy Dollymount Beach had started forming and growing. It’s also become such a great habitat for wildlife that it’s been made a bird sanctuary, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a National Nature Reserve and an EU Special Protection and Conservation area.

North Bull Island

Dollymount Beach

From the time the island started forming, it became popular with the locals and we can see why. Walking down the sandy beach, marvelling at the beautiful scenery, you do feel like you’re on a mini holiday away from the city. To the North, you have Howth Head clearly visible on most days and to the South you see the port and South Dublin stretched out behind it.

On the Southern tip of the island, there is a long pier with the gigantic Star of the Sea statue. From there you get lovely views of Dublin Bay: the hills of South Dublin in the distance and the steaming towers of the port in the foreground. As you look back, you can enjoy a view of the beach. We just took in the view for a while and watched kite surfers trying to balance on top of the water. Much to our surprise, considering it was 19°C maximum that day, there were also bathers merrily splashing in the waves. As you walk back towards the mainland, you’ll find the entrances to Ladies’ and Men’s Bathing Shelters. There you’ll spot people sitting on the sunny steps in their bathing suits.

North Bull Island

Back home via Clontarf Promenade

If you still don’t have enough from walking, when you return to the mainland, you can continue your hike on the Clontarf Promenade. The concrete path leads you along the sea to Fairview, where you can stop for a bite before heading home.

 

If you’re looking for more walks in Dublin, try the Portmanock to Malahide Beach Walk and exploring Ireland’s Eye in Howth.

tl;dr

How to get there:

Why go: nice leisurely walk, sandy beach, beautiful views, bathing if you dare

Best time to visit: well this is Ireland so let’s be honest, any time it isn’t to rainy or windy is grand

Price: free

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