Trail: Tramline Loop Walk, Howth, Dublin
Terrain: Tracks, paths, grassy terrain
Duration: 2 hours
Trailhead: Howth DART Station, Howth Road, where there is free parking.
Recommended Gear: Hiking boots, rain jacket, water, snacks
When you think of Dublin, you probably think of a bustling urban centre that never sleeps. Well, Dublin also has some pretty fantastic nature trails just a stones throw from the city centre that make you feel like you are a thousand miles away from all the madness of modern life.
One of those spots is the overwhelmingly beautiful Howth area, just north of Dublin City. With the stunning Tramline Loop Walk and loads more amazing things to do and see in the area, it’s well worth heading to Howth as a base for a Dublin break.
With some of the most dramatic coastal views in Ireland, the Tramline Loop Walk conveniently starts off at Howth DART station.
Because it’s situated in Dublin, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of historical monuments and buildings on the walk and in the surrounding area, giving you a glimpse into the Ireland of the past.
This walk will most definitely be the highlight of your short break in the area, and when you get to the summit and experience the 360-degree panoramic views, you’ll understand why.
Although the peace and tranquillity of Howth is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the country’s capital, it is actually just a stone’s throw away from Dublin City. It takes just 30-35 minutes to get to Howth from the city centre on the DART line. It’s the last stop on the DART line after the northbound DART line splits into two routes (Howth and Malahide) at Howth Junction/Donaghmede.
If you’re driving straight to Howth from outside of Dublin, exit the end of the M50 northbound and drive up the N32 towards Baldoyle. From there, drive along the Howth Road through Sutton until you reach Howth DART Station, where you can park the car and start the trail.
The trail itself
Starting at Howth DART Station, follow the blue arrow onto the promenade along the harbour and walk through the picturesque coastal town of Howth, taking in what the village has to offer (including some of the best fish and chips in the country!). Now is a great time to earmark a restaurant that you can return to when you’ve worked up an appetite on your walk.
Once you reach the end of the promenade, turn right onto Balscadden Road and there’s a short uphill stretch to reach Kilrock car park where the cliff walk begins in earnest. Along this part of the walk, you’ll pass Balscadden Beach, a little gem hidden away between the cliffs of Howth Head.
After passing through the carpark, you’ll reach a rocky cliff path and just minutes later on your left, you’ll enjoy your first glimpse of the outstanding views - a preview of what’s to come on this trail! Looking out to your left you will see both Ireland’s Eye and Lambay Island along with a view back towards Howth Harbour. If you’re exploring this cliff walk on a sunny day as we were, you’ll spot swimmers down below as well as locals enjoying the coastal setting.
Continue on this path until you come to the first clear opening, which is the ideal place to really take in the views on this trail. This is the perfect place to stop, sit and gaze out over the incredible views, and you’ll likely meet other walkers stopping here with a flask of tea to take in the scene before continuing
From here, the path gets a little stony, and is single track in some parts meaning you may have to stop to let others walkers past
As you continue along passing steep cliffs, make sure to stop and look down below to see the seagulls soaring above the crashing waves. After about 1.5km you will get your first look at the iconic Bailey Lighthouse, while you’ll also have views of the vibrant blue sea on your left.
As you keep the lighthouse in sight, you follow the path for approximately another 1.5km before turning right, leaving the longer purple loop and ascending to reach The Summit car park. Here, the terrain becomes grassier and a lot more spacious as you walk the final stretch to the views that you’ve been waiting for.
This is the pinnacle of your walk and it’s where you will get the best view of Bailey Lighthouse in the foreground, with beautiful panoramas of South County Dublin and the iconic Poolbeg Towers beyond it - not to mention the Wicklow and Dublin mountains. This really is one of the best views in Ireland, so breathe it in!
From here, the walk turns right as you exit the car park through the barrier and join the sandy pathway on Bailey Green Road. Follow this road downhill to reach a junction at The Summit Stores and pub. At this point, you’ll turn left, and then right almost immediately. The entrance to the old tramline is marked by stone bollards.
As you descend along a grassier path, you’ll spot Slieve Gullion and the Mournes up ahead on a clear day. On either side of the tramline path either side you’ll see a rich variety of wildlife in contrast to the sandier path on the ascent.
You’ll soon arrive back at the starting point on the Main Road, in the heart of all the action of Howth once more. At the weekends there is a vibrant market closeby…
Luckily, the town of Howth and surrounding areas have a fair few options for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
The Marine Hotel in Sutton has everything you need for a luxurious and relaxing trip away. You can take a dip in their 12m swimming pool before and after all of your exploring out in Howth. Then you can enjoy some delicious Italian dishes at Cucinos Restaurant.
Another great option for your stay is King Sitric, located in the heart of Howth. Their eight guest bedrooms all face onto Balscadden Bay, are all named after lighthouses around Ireland, and all have an en-suite bathroom.
Howth: Dating back to the 15th Century, Howth was once a small, quiet fishing village, but is now a fantastic town featuring a mix of rich history and tradition as well as modern and chic eateries and cafés. The area has everything from stunning coastal views to fabulous beaches, a pier that makes for a lovely stroll, and plenty of spots to pick up some fish and chips and a 99. Some of the historical monuments dotted around the area include the ancient church ruins on Ireland’s Eye and the 19th-century Martello Tower houses.
Sutton: Similar to Howth, Sutton is a stunning coastal spot on the northside of Dublin. It’s also accessible via DART and Dublin Bus routes like the 31/a and the 102. And like Howth, it has its fair share of cafés, restaurants and bars. The residential area connects the peninsula on which Howth lies to the mainland of Dublin City.
While you’re in Howth, you can actually get a boat ride out to Ireland’s Eye.
The trip only lasts 15 minutes and you can spend as long as you like there. With nobody inhabiting the island, it’s an amazing little escape right on our shores where you can go for a dip, enjoy a picnic and explore the old ruins of Cill Mac Neasáin, which was established by three monks in 700AD.
And while you’re in the area, we highly recommend going on a Safari Walking Tour of Howth. You can follow your expert guide along the coastal paths and woodlands of the Howth Peninsula on this four-hour walking tour.
You’ll explore the coves and caves and observe the beautiful wildlife that calls Howth home, such as dolphins, seals, raptors, heron, cormorant and curlew.
Another great way to see the area is by getting on your bike. But in Howth, you don’t explore on just any old bike. You can actually take a panoramic e-bike tour of the area.
Make your way up, down and around the hills of Howth without too much effort on these handy little vehicles, and see highlights such as Howth Harbour, Howth Castle and Deer Park.
After all of your activities, you’re going to be fairly hungry. And one of the things Howth is known for is its amazing array of restaurants and places to grab a bite.
While you’re there, you should definitely check out the Doghouse. It’s a BYOB restaurant that is also dog-friendly, so you could describe it as a quirky spot. With a kitchen open until 11pm, they are one of the latest-serving restaurants in the area.
The food is nothing short of fantastic and they also have a beautiful outdoor area that is stunning both during the day and after the sun goes down.
There is also the Brass Monkey, which serves up some of the best seafood that Howth has to offer. With main courses like Sligo Bay Oysters, Roaring Water Bay Muscles and their Fresh Salmon Burger, you will be spoiled for choice with great quality, delicious seafood. They also have an extensive tapas menu, an early bird menu and a kids menu.
And for amazing views while you dine, Aqua Restaurant is a great shout. It’s located at the end of the West Pier (the one closest to the DART station) overlooking Ireland’s Eye and Howth Harbour. They serve up gorgeous dishes such as Cold Steamed Half Lobster, Seafood Chowder and Grilled Fillet of Mackerel.
A favourite for locals and tourists alike is the Bloody Stream. And for good reason, too. Located just underneath Howth DART Station, The Bloody Stream serves up a mean pint as well as wholesome traditional Irish food that can be enjoyed inside or in their outdoor beer garden.
With live music on until late, there is loads of craic to be had here.
For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break in Dublin. Before you go, make sure you check out our 10 Genuinely Useful Tips For Going Hiking In Ireland to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable walk.
It’s always important to be respectful of the wildlife and surrounding environment, so make sure to leave the trail as you found it. Visit leavenotraceireland.org for more information.