Just half an hour’s bus ride from central Dublin, the Dublin Mountains are a top spot for Dubliners to spend their weekends – but there’s no reason why backpackers can’t also combine a stop at one of the many hotels in Dublin with day trips out into the mountains. Enjoy the best of both worlds: city sightseeing and Dublin’s buzzing night life, coupled with some fresh air, outdoor challenges and cosy country pubs.
If you’re backpacking, you probably won’t have your own transport – but thanks to regular bus services from central Dublin you can still easily reach the heart of the mountains, including spots like Glencullen and Tibradden.
Located at the northern end of the Wicklow mountain range, the Dublin Mountains offer a whole host of outdoor pursuits ranging from fishing and rafting to hiking and horse riding, although walking and orienteering are amongst the most popular and accessible things to do there.
The Irish Orienteering Association holds regular events in the Dublin mountains, but armed with your own map you can have a go at orienteering independently at one of the permanent orienteering courses set up at recreation sites in the mountains: one is at Hell Fire Club, an area named after the historic hunting lodge of the same name that still stands there, and another is at Massy’s Estate, which includes the remains of Lord Massy’s Killakee Estate.
For some of the best views of Dublin city, choose a clear day and climb to the highest point of Cruagh Mountain, 522m above sea level – then take a stroll through Cruagh Wood, where the Sli na Slainte forest road offers some outstanding views.
For serious walkers, there’s a way-marked long distance trail called the Dublin Mountains Way – or DMW, for short. This weaves its way across the mountains from Shankill in the east to Tallaght in the west, offering some 43 kilometres of trails. Some of the route coincides with part of the famous Wicklow Way long distance path, and it’s all well marked with signs featuring the standard yellow ‘walking man’ symbol. You can even download maps of different sections of the trail from the official Dublin Mountains Way website before you leave.
Wildlife and prehistoric monuments
The pine forest at Tibradden Wood is a popular spot for birdwatching and is also home to an ancient cairn and kist burial site on the south side of the rocks. Registered as a National Monument, a burial urn taken from this site is now housed in the National Museum in Dublin. For history buffs, there’s another site of interest at the Kilmashogue recreation area, too: a bronze age megalithic tomb close to the car park. Beyond this point there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, with creatures such as Sika deer, hares, rabbits and foxes all roaming the area.
Track down one of the many great country pubs to be found in the Dublin Mountains, like the famous Johnnie Fox’s pub in Glencullen, which has the title of ‘highest pub in the country’ – and the Blue Light Pub in Barnaculla, where you get a great view of Dublin city. Soak up some Irish craic country-style, listening to live music and kicking back with a slow pint of Guinness by an open fire.