Ireland’s Eye is the perfect spot when you feel like a break from Dublin’s overcrowded green spaces on a sunny day. It’s only a few minutes by ferry from Howth Pier, but it feels like a remote island. Since it’s uninhabited you will only be meet a variety of birds and some other visitors on the 22ha of land. Take walks up to the summit and enjoy gorgeous views of the island and Dublin Bay or relax on the sandy beach. It may even be warm enough to dip your feet into the water.
Let’s go on an adventure
What makes it a bit more of an adventurous trip is the journey itself. For us, that already started with the buses. Unfortunately, we decided to visit Ireland’s Eye on a bank holiday weekend when the DART trains weren’t running. The bus ride was rather packed and we spend quite a bit of time stuck in traffic. Therefore, we’d recommend taking the DART to Howth instead.
But the real adventure comes in when you get to the pier. The private ferries, which run every day, reminded my untrained eye more of a motored rowing boat. However, while we were bounced around a little by the waves, we didn’t feel unsafe at any point. When there were taller waves, which sprayed water at our sides as the boat hit them, almost everyone broke out in childish giggles. What may be the actually a bit more adventurous part to some is that to disembark you need to climb on the edge of the boat and step directly onto the rock formations at the side of the island.
Exploring the island
Small as the island may be, there’s much to explore. While there aren’t much marked paths, you can follow the little paths created by people walking before you. These will guide you to several interesting spots. Just watch out for the thistles growing alongside the paths.
Our first stop was the church ruins. While not much of the church remains, it adds to the untouched atmosphere of the island. Afterwards we climbed to the summit. Going up, the views were already amazing but nothing compared the gorgeous panorama that greeted us at the top. Make sure you hold on to your things as you step up those last rocks though as it can get very windy. Once you’re up there, spin around. You’ll be able to see the entire island, as well as across Dublin Bay. You can make out Howth and further in the distance, often covered by a small cloud of mist, the high pillars of Dublin Port by East Wall.
Climb a Tower
Another popular spot on the island can be found right by where the boat drops you off. Easy to spot, as the only still fully standing building on the island, is the Martello Tower. These monumental towers were built around Ireland and England for military purposes in the early 1800s out of fear of Napoleon invading. The entrance was built several meters up on the tower, so the ladder could be pulled up, preventing anyone else from accessing the tower. Nowadays, there is no ladder but a rope hanging from the entrance. So, if you’re looking for an arm workout, along with your adventure, this is the place to explore.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s sup-…a seagull
The island is also popular with birdwatchers. Being uninhabited, the landscape ranging from cliffs to the meadows at the foot of the mountain offers nesting grounds for a variety of birds. Most commonly, as usual in Dublin, you’ll see seagulls. But you also have the chance to spot guillemots, razorbills and fulmars, as well as gannets and cormorants. Occasionally, you may even spot a puffin.
If you are more enthusiastic about technology than fauna, you can also spot planes. Due to the proximity to Dublin airport, they fly relatively low over the island as they depart from Dublin. You can spot some Ryanairs and Aer Lingus’, plus any other airline’s logos you can remember as you see them soar above you.
An Adventure for the Chill
Since there are no strict schedules for the ferries, you are forced to remember why the island became popular originally. People loved and still do love to go there to relax, away from the city, and chill by the beach. Don’t get frustrated if you have to wait a while for the next boat or – if it’s a busy day like when we went and there’s more people wanting to go back later in the evening – the next several boats. Take the time to sit by the beach, chill and enjoy being away from the bustle of the city. If you’re still looking for adventure, you can even dip your feet into the chilly water.
How to get there: Take the DART train to Howth or a bus, such as the 31 towards Howth Summit from the City Centre and get off at the bus stop Howth Dart Station. Then walk to the West pier. The ferry leaves from opposite the Aqua restaurant. Keep in mind that the last ferry back to the mainland often is at 5pm and that the ferries only operate when the weather conditions are good. If in doubt, double check their Facebook page.
Why go: to feel far away from the city, gorgeous views and an easy climb to the summit
Bring: long trousers to protect your legs from thistles, good shoes and sun screen
Best time to visit: When there’s no rain and ideally sunny skies so your views won’t be obscured. If the weather isn’t that amazing, double check if the ferry is operating that day.
Price: The ferry to land on the island is 15€. There’s no entry fee for visiting the island itself.
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