So, you've arrived in Dublin but don't want to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city? Don't worry – if you rent a car at Dublin airport, you’re a short drive from many of Ireland's fine beauty spots and rich heritage sites, each of which are accessible directly from the airport (i.e. without going through the city centre). Here are a few of our favourite suggestions for places to visit within a drive from Dublin airport:
Newgrange, in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, is Ireland's best-known prehistoric monument. Built around 3200 BCE, this megalithic passage grave is older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Built atop a mound, the stone that marks the entrance to the passage bears intriguing spiral carvings.
The grave is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber during the winter solstice, when the entrance passage captures precisely the rays of the rising sun. Beams of sunlight touch the ground at the centre of the tomb for twenty minutes, their mystical magic lighting the decorated upright stones along the walls. Historians believe that Newgrange is the burial place of the prehistoric kings of Tara.
Near Newgrange are the related historical mounds of Knowth and Dowth. All of these sites are in an area known as the Boyne Valley, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to visit the impressive Boyne Valley to learn more about this relic of the ancient world.
Newgrange and the Boyne Valley is about 50 minutes’ drive from Dublin Airport.
Set on 250 acres of parkland in the picturesque seaside town of Malahide, the castle that bears the same name has served as both a fortress and a private home for nearly 800 years. It is said to be the oldest Irish castle continuously inhabited by the same family – the Talbots – who lived here from 1185 right up until the last Talbot died in 1973. Legend has it that 14 Talbot cousins breakfasted at the castle one fateful morning in 1690 before riding out to the Battle of the Boyne, never to return.
The house is beautifully furnished with period furniture and boasts an extensive collection of Irish portrait paintings, mainly from the National Gallery. The grounds are also open to the public and appeal to visitors of all ages. A major feature of Malahide Castle Demesne is the beautiful Talbot Botanic Gardens. Tours are available in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish and Japanese.
Free car parking is available. Malahide Castle is about a 15-minute drive from Dublin airport.
Situated north of the capital city, between Dublin and Belfast, is the picturesque medieval town of Carlingford in County Louth. Carlingford has often been described as the "Kinsale of the north". It is surrounded by Slieve Foy, Carlingford Lough and the Mourne mountains, giving it spectacular views. This small town itself boasts an array of restaurants, traditional pubs, marina, craft shops, a heritage centre and many sightseeing attractions, all of which make it a popular visitor destination. The most impressive aspect of Carlingford is its well-preserved medieval character, with structures such as the town's defence walls (dismantled in most other Irish towns) still standing.
By hire car, Carlingford is about 1 hour, 15 minutes from Dublin Airport.
There are many beautiful locations to visit in County Wicklow, the "Garden of Ireland". These include the sandy beaches of Brittas Bay, Greystones and Clogga. Other scenic locations include the mystical Vale of Avoca, the Wicklow Mountains and the Sally Gap. There are many beautiful public gardens too, the best known of which – Powerscourt Estate – boasts the highest waterfall in Ireland. It is also a popular picnic area. The county's most famous attraction is Glendalough, a 6th-century Monastic Settlement, built by St. Kevin in the Wicklow Mountains in the valley of the two lakes. Glendalough's famous round tower still looms near the lower lake, among ancient gravestones. Attractions in County Wicklow are between one and two hours’ drive from Dublin airport.