Spoilers: I actually didn’t visit these two places on the same day. Both Howth and Kilkenny were quick day trips that I made from Dublin with friends, and both provided great opportunities to see slightly different facets of the Irish landscape.
(Also, let’s face it: I only have class two days a week. If I didn’t take day trips, I would lie in bed reading Joyce all day. I would then go insane… so it’s best for everyone if I take day trips.)
Howth is a small fishing town that’s a 20-minute train ride outside Dublin. You can tell it’s a fishing town because there are a lot of boats and even more seafood restaurants.
It’s a cute little town, and makes a great spot to visit if you’re staying in Dublin for a while and want to check out the Irish seaside and do a bit of hiking.
My friend and I walked up this cliff (small mountain?), which gave us an amazing view of the town and surrounding countryside as well as of the coast. The path is narrow and rocky, so make sure you wear good shoes!
Kilkenny is a 90-minute bus ride from Dublin. It has a castle and a brewery. Need I say more?
Quick digression: if you’re as excited about castles as I am, you should check out “Secrets of Great British Castles”. It’s on Netflix. Need I say more?
To give you a little more context, it’s a series of one-hour segments that give a tour of (what else?) a Great British Castle and tell the history of said castle from its construction to modern times. This tour is conducted by a Great British Cutie, otherwise known as my future husband, historian Dan Jones. (If you’re not convinced yet, I don’t know what more to say.)
My favourite part in this particular castle (since there were no Great British Cuties around) was the Picture Gallery. As someone who reads a lot of Regency and historical novels (unsurprisingly, right?) it was interesting to see how the rooms so frequently described within them would have looked in real life. I don’t have to imagine the ghosts of the castle; I can see them on the walls.
If you’re not interested in castles (heathen!), you could skip the castle and pass to the Smithwick’s Brewery tour. I was particularly entertained because it was narrated by projections of monks who looked like characters from Assassins’ Creed.
I like Smithwick’s because it tastes like root beer. (Craft beer aficionados, don’t stone me.) We also tried Smithwick’s Blonde, which was lighter and stronger, and the Smithwick’s Pale Ale, which is hoppier and isn’t yet available in North America.
To wake ourselves up after drinking all this beer, we climbed up the narrowest, most terrifying structure I’ve ever seen: the Round Tower at St. Canice’s Cathedral.
If there’s one thing Ireland has in abundance, it’s old churches. (From the top of this tower, I counted at least three, and Kilkenny is not a big town.) However, if there’s one thing it doesn’t, it’s sunshine.
I’ve been amazingly lucky so far since every day I’ve done a day trip it’s been sunny (or at least not raining) and I’ve been able to see as much as possible of every location. These two trips were no exception and, knock on wood, my luck will hold.
Since I visited two different locations for this post, I won’t be providing a Travel Tips section. I will say this, though: wherever you travel, keep an eye out for the opportunity to see smaller towns in the area. You never know what kind of gems you might discover.
Next stop: Cliffs of Moher!