Ireland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think “Riviera;” however, Dún Laoghaire is waiting to change your perspective. It lines the pristine waters of Dublin Bay, just a short journey from the main city and County Wicklow. Easy to reach by bus or car, the Riviera is the ideal destination for a day trip. Filled with colorful markets and historical sites, the charming towns of Dún Laoghaire provide many things to see and do.
A leisurely drive will take you through bright-green countryside, bordered by a broad expanse of sparkling blue. The landscape is dotted with old villas and gardens, while the placid waters are flecked with the white sails of boats. See the best view of Dublin Bay from Dalkey, or venture to one of the region’s most famous cultural sites. The number of golf courses here is quite impressive, and the area is also known for its busy open-air markets. Water sports, including scuba diving, fishing and sailing, are quite popular—and then, there are these fascinating historical sites:
Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre
The aforementioned town of Dalkey is brimming with Tudor-style charm and lore. Its focal point is, however, undoubtedly Dalkey Castle. The fortified townhouse-turned-castle from the 15th century is open to the public, and it remains one of the most popular landmarks on the Riviera. Climb the battlements to enjoy spectacular views of the sea and mountains, and do not miss the chance to tour the 10th-century graveyard and church of St. Begnet’s. There are also guided walks and “Living History” reenactments, interesting models of Dalkey Quarry and the railways, and a gift shop on the premises.
James Joyce Tower & Museum
One of a series of old Martello towers originally built to withstand an invasion by Napoleon, the James Joyce Tower serves another purpose today: It houses a museum devoted to the life and works of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, James Joyce. While the location may at first seem strange, it is actually quite appropriate—the tower is the setting for the first chapter of Joyce’s legendary masterpiece, Ulysses. Admire the panoramic view from the gun platform, and examine the impressive collection of letters, photographs, first and rare book editions, and even personal possessions.
The National Maritime Museum
Built in 1837, the historic Mariners’ Church has been re-purposed as the National Maritime Museum. Its beautiful stained glass windows now filter light onto popular exhibits, rather than church pews. Among the most interesting are the museum’s 38-metre-long officers’ barge, captured during the failed French invasion of 1796; the Baily Optic, a working light from a lighthouse in Howth; the Great Eastern, which was the largest ship in the world when it was built in 1857; the Naval Display; and the Kerlogue, an Irish merchant vessel from World War II.
Although it is currently closed for renovations, the National Maritime Museum will soon be re-opened.