Overview : The coastline of Dublin is dotted with numerous settlements that began as ports and fishing villages and have since developed as... more »
The coastline of Dublin is dotted with numerous settlements that began as ports and fishing villages and have since developed as... more » suburbs and dormitory towns for the city of Dublin. Two such places are Portmarnock and Malahide, which lie to the north of Dublin.
This walk follows the coastline from Portmarnock to Malahide. Along the way it takes in one of the best beaches in County Dublin, which is also an important site in the early days of aviation, a number of fortifications built to defend the coastline before finishing at what was one of the longest continuously inhabited castles in Ireland. less «
This trip is best done by public transport, using the DART to get to Portmarnock at the start and Malahide at the end. The 32, 32A and... more » 32B buses also serve Portmarnock (get off at Portmarnock Bridge).
The terrain is generally flat and consists of paths and beach. Comfortable, flat shoes should suffice. Check tide times before setting out as Portmarnock Beach may be covered at high tide. There are plenty of options for refreshments in Malahide. less «
The trail starts at Portmarnock DART station. Although modern in appearance, the station, which lies on the main Dublin-Belfast line, was opened in 1844 as part of the Dublin and Drogheda railway. The full Dublin to Belfast line was completed in 1852.
Portmarnock takes its name from Saint Marnock, a native of the area who founded a church here in... More the 6th century. Marnock later traveled to Scotland as a missionary where he gives his name to a number of places, notably the town of Kilmarnock. He also had a reputation for being an explorer and is said to have discovered an island in the Atlantic Ocean. His exploits are reputed to have influenced Saint Brendan the Navigator to undertake his voyage to Newfoundland in the 6th century.
Exit right from the station and follow Station Road to reach the Coast Road and Portmarnock Bridge.
Turn left at the roundabout where Station Road and the Coast Road meet and cross over Portmarnock Bridge. The bridge crosses the Sluice River, which feeds into the salt marsh and wetlands of the Baldoyle Estuary Nature Reserve. This is an important habitat for many wading birds as well as light-bellied Brent Geese, which spend the autumn and... More winter months in Ireland. These geese have one of the longest migrations of any bird species, travelling from their summer breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic to Ireland via Greenland and Iceland. Almost the entire population of these geese spend the winter in Ireland.Less
Follow the Coast Road into Portmarnock Village and turn right onto Golf Links Road. Climb up to the top of the grass embankment on the right-hand side of the road and walk along the faint track. If visibility is good, you should have a view of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains in the distance to your right. As you walk along the embankment, the... More dunes of the Portmarnock Peninsula begin to appear to your left. These are home to two prestigious golf links courses. The first of these is the Portmarnock Golf Club, which was founded in 1894 by W. C. Packman and George Ross and has hosted the Irish Open, the World Cup and the Walker Cup. The clubhouse is just visible ahead of you at the end of the peninsula. The second is the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, which opened in 1995 and was designed by Bernhard Langer.Less
Emerging from the sand dunes, the broad expanse of Portmarnock Beach comes into view. It is the only beach in Europe with a perfectly flat 5-kilometre (2 miles) long stretch of hard-packed fine sand. The name, The Velvet Strand, originates from the fineness and smoothness of the sand to be found here. The sand dunes are an important natural... More feature and habitat.Less
Visible from the beach are the islands of Ireland's Eye and Lambay.
Ireland's Eye was originally known as Inis Erean, meaning Eria's Island. Eria is woman's name sometimes confused with Erin, which means Ireland. When the Vikings arrived they replaced Inis in the name with Ey, which is the Norse word for Island. Thus, over the centuries the name... More became corrupted from Inis Erean to Erin's Ey to Ireland's Eye. There is a ruined monastic church dating to the 7th century on the island and a Martello Tower, constructed during the Napoleonic Wars. Ireland's Eye is a protected nature reserve and an important habitat for many species of seabirds, including guillemot, kittiwake, gannet, cormorant, puffin and razorbill.
Lambay takes its name from the Norse Lamb-Ey, meaning Lamb Island. The island was the site of a monastery, founded by Saint Colmcille and was later occupied by the Vikings. Over the years the island has been used variously for farming and mining and also as an internment camp during the Williamite Wars. The island was purchased by the Baring family of bankers in 1904 and remains in their ownership to the present day.Less
This sculpture, "Eccentric Orbit", designed by Remcow De Fouw and erected in 2002, commemorates Sir Charles Kingsfort-Smith's successful circumnavigation of the globe in the "Southern Cross", a Fokker FV IIb aircraft, in 1930. The bronze needle at the top of the sphere points to the North Star. The final leg of the trip, which incorporated the... More first successful east-west transatlantic flight, took off from Portmarnock Beach on 23 June 1930, landing in Newfoundland some 31.5 hours later.
This was not the Velvet Strand's only contribution to aviation history: Jim Mollison, husband of Amy Johnson, left from Portmarnock on the first successful solo east-west transatlantic flight on 18 August 1932 in the De Havilland Puss Moth aircraft, "Heart's Content".
Other aviation pioneers were not so successful: a further attempt at an east-west transatlantic crossing from Portmarnock, by Charles Ulm on 7 July 1933, came unstuck when his aircraft, "Faith in Australia", sank in the sands. He was unable to free the plane before the tide came in and swamped the aircraft.Less
Overlooking the strand is a Martello Tower. A chain of these towers was constructed in Ireland, England and the Channel Islands between 1804 and 1812 to defend the coastline against attack from the sea by the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte, with some 74 towers built in Ireland, mainly along the east and south coasts. Each tower was built to a... More standard design comprising three floors: the first floor dedicated to storage of ammunition and provisions, the second floor as living quarters and a gun platform on the roof. The walls of each tower were built 8 feet (2.5 metres) thick to protect against cannon fire. After the Napoleonic Wars ended, many of the towers were converted into residences, as is the case in this instance.
This Martello Tower was built to defend Portmarnock Beach and remained in service until 1874. It was bought in 1928 by Cyril Wilan, who converted it into a residence with additional rooms on the ground floor built onto the side. A castellated roof was added to the gun platform and windows were cut into the side to let more light in.Less
Overlooking the entrance to Malahide Estuary is this square tower, known as Robswall Castle, with a Victorian slate-roofed house built up against it. It is of a similar design to Bullock Castle in Dalkey, which dates from 1346 and, like Bullock Castle, was occupied, until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, by the Cistercian order of... More monks, who extracted a toll of the best fish from any fishing vessels landing their catch in Malahide. The interior consists of three stories as well as battlements. Nearby is a mound that, according to local tradition, is the grave of the Queen of Leinster and her men, drowned after being shipwrecked on approach to Malahide.Less
This Martello Tower, built in 1805, was bought and converted into an Arts and Crafts-style residence by the architect Frederick George "F.G." Hicks in 1910, who added the conical roof and cut windows into the walls. The living room is in the original vaulted space in the tower and the bedroom in the conical roof built over the gun platform. The... More work was much lauded in architectural journals at the time and remains one of the best conversions of a Martello Tower in Dublin.Less
A few minutes walking after Hick's Tower, turn right and follow a wide grassy track overlooking Malahide Beach. The peninsula, visible on the other side of the entrance to the estuary, is home to the Island Golf Club, founded in 1887. Up until 1973, when a new road was built, the only way to get to the golf course was by a ferry from Malahide. The... More village of Malahide and its marina will come into view ahead of you.Less
As you enter the village of Malahide, to your left you will see the Grand Hotel, which opened in 1835. It quickly became a popular destination for Victorian sightseers traveling to Malahide by train; the Great Northern Railway offered combination rail and hotel tickets for tourists. The hotel was reconstructed in 1955 and a conference centre added... More in 1984.Less
Malahide, or Mullach Íde, means Sandhills of the Hydes. The Hydes were a Norman family from nearby Donabate. The area has been settled since prehistoric times, with fishing the main activity, and from the 12th century it grew to support the castle. The arrival of the railways in the mid 19th century led to the village developing as a tourist... More resort and residential town for people working in Dublin.Less
Just over the railway bridge is the Malahide Gate entrance to Malahide Castle. The gate lodge was designed by A. Souther Forest in 1886.
Following the Norman invasion of Malahide in 1169, the lands around Malahide were granted to Sir Richard Talbot in 1185. Talbot built a motte and bailey castle at Wheatfields to the southeast of present day... More Malahide. This was followed by a stone castle at the present location around 1250. The castle remained the home of the Talbot family for almost 800 years from 1185 to 1975. Lord Milo Talbot, the last male heir to the family, died in 1973 and when the estate passed to his sister, Rose, she sold the castle and the grounds to Dublin County Council (now Fingal County Council), who developed the demesne as a public park and opened the castle to the public.Less
The castle courtyards have recently been restored and refurbished and now house the Malahide Castle visitor centre where you can buy tickets to visit the castle itself and the gardens. The courtyards also house a branch of Avoca with a shop and cafe.
Between the courtyards and the castle are the ruins of Malahide Abbey. A church was first established here in the 12th century with the arrival of the Talbots but the present ruin, which consists of a chancel and a nave, dates to a much later time, possibly the 16th century. The abbey was the burial place of the Talbot family and includes the tomb... More of Maud Plunkett, who married into the Talbot family in the 16th century. Her story - in which she became "maid wife and widow" in a single day after her first husband, Thomas Hussey, was killed on their wedding day - was immortalised in the ballad, "The Bridal of Malahide".Less
The first castle was built on this site around 1250 but the oldest part of the castle as it stands today is the Barbican, which dates to the 14th century. Other notable rooms include the Oak Room, which dates from the 16th century, and the Drawing Rooms, which were built in 1765 and 1782 following a fire. The tour of the castle takes in the Oak... More Room, the Drawing Rooms and the Great Hall.Less
It is worthwhile taking a stroll around the grounds of the castle demesne before retuning to Malahide and the train home. The demesne has been converted into a public park with walks, playgrounds and sporting facilities, including a 12,000 spectator capacity cricket ground, still under construction, which, when opened, will host international... More cricket matches.Less
The trail ends at Malahide railway station where you can get the DART home. Like Portmarnock, Malahide lies on the Dublin to Belfast line, which was opened in 1844. The station building was built in 1851. It consists of a single-story yellow brick building with a Tudor-style porch at the entrance and a glazed canopy over the platform supported by ... Morecast-iron columns. The supporting brackets are monogrammed with GNR(I), for the Great Northern Railway (Ireland).Less