Okay, so you're staying in Dublin and you're beginning to feel like you've bled every beer tap dry. Maybe try to pace yourself, junior. Or get out of town. Here are a few day and weekend trips that will take you off the brewery circuit and beyond the city limits.
Dublin Day Trips
Garden Gazing in Enniskerry
Enniskerry will charm you on three fronts: It's a picture-perfect country village, a historical estate and a natural wonder.
The village center, which is little more than a cul-de-sac, centers around a stone clock tower and flower gardens. Shops and restaurants ring the periphery. Arrive during lunch to try the hearty fare at Poppies Country Cooking.
Between the village center and Powerscourt Estate, you'll pass country houses and tiny St. Patrick's Church. The walkway passes through the entrance to the grounds, and yields a splendid panoramic view of the Great Sugarloaf Mountain and its verdant valley.
At Powerscourt, the 18th-century Palladian mansion seems like an accessory to the Italian gardens, which are expansive enough for hours of strolling. The promenade beyond the manor descends along a velvet-soft terraced lawn and culminates at a pond ornamented with a replica of Bernini's Triton statue. Beyond, there's a brook running through a Japanese garden and a pet cemetery with some impressive inhabitants.
Further afield, Ireland's highest waterfall, Powerscourt Falls, descends over mossy stones into the River Dargle. (Be careful while boulder-hopping around the pool, as the moss is slippery.) This is the perfect place for a mid-afternoon picnic.
Whereas the walk to Powerscourt Estate is manageable, it's a heady 7 km hike to Powerscourt Falls. If you're adventurous, hitchhiking is both safe and legal in the area, and friendly locals are accustomed to giving tourists a lift. If hitchhiking makes you nervous, consider taking a tour leaving from Dublin, or book a car rental.
Check out this helpful overview of Enniskerry.
Exploring Ancient Ireland in Newgrange
You don't have to travel to Egypt for a glimpse of the ancient world. The burial mounds that dot the Brúna Bóinne valley predate the pyramids by several centuries.
The most accessible mound in the area is Newgrange, a partially reconstructed megalith that's also a World Heritage Site. A white quartz façade wraps around the massive man-made hill. In the rear, strange spiral scrawlings are carved into the stonework, and huge curbstones circumscribe the mound. There's an eerie silence that pervades the area.
Claustrophobics beware! You have to duck and weave your way through a narrow passageway until you reach the central chamber. Inside the tumulus, the huge stone slabs above are fitted together like jigsaw pieces. Things get creepy when the lights go out, but an instant later, a shaft of light penetrates the passage and illuminates the chamber. It's a re-creation of the phenomenon that occurs naturally during the winter solstice, when sunlight comes through a small roofbox above the entrance.
You can reach Newgrange by taking the train to Drogheda and then catching a bus to the Newgrange visitor center. Another option is to take the Newgrange shuttle bus, which picks up outside the Dublin Tourist Information Office on Suffolk Street or outside the Royal Dublin Hotel on O'Connell Street. The journey takes about 45 minutes and costs €17 round-trip. For more information visit the Newgrange shuttle site.
Find out more information at this nifty Newgrange site.
Chasing Yeats Across Sligo
Sligo, the land that inspired W.B. Yeats, shows off the Irish countryside like few other corners of Ireland.
Whether or not you're a literary buff, a driving tour of Yeats Country is a treat. Head to Dooney Rock and scale the stairs for a survey of the land. The flat summits of Benbulben and Knocknarea rise above the waters of Lough Gill. Once you've gotten an eyeful, drive a little farther, and step onto the shore of Lough Gill to glimpse the isle of Innisfree. During the tourist season, you can rent rowboats at Doorly Park and traipse around tiny Innisfree.
Just down the road you'll come across Glencar. If any place in Ireland will make your heart pump green, it's this one. The peaks of the glacial valley are reflected in Glencar Lake, and there are two stunning waterfalls here as well. One is tucked into a craggy corner and empties into a picturesque pool. The other, visible from the road, flows over a towering precipice and is blown back upwards by strong westerly winds!
Tucked off a dirt road on the way back to town is the neoclassical Lissadell House, which is open during the summer. And just before reentering the city proper, Drumcliffe is an excellent example of an austere Irish church, as well as the final resting place of Yeats.
We suggest spending the night and exploring Sligo town the following day. It emanates an Old World charm, especially at night beneath the streetlights along the Garavogue River.
We love this unofficial guide to Sligo.
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