Great, actually. If I said it once, I said it a million times – Howth is our favourite place to go near Dublin. Every time a friend asks me what is there to see in Dublin, I always mention Howth, because you’ll get to witness a breathtaking view, you’ll taste heavenly seafood and you’ll have a great time walking around this beautiful fishing village.
Howth is one of Dublin’s coastal neighbours, together with other nice and small towns like Portmarnock, Blackrock, Monkstown or Dun Laoghaire. They are all connected by the train line called DART, which takes you from Dublin city centre (Connolly Station or Tara Street) to any of them in no-time. Howth was once inhabited by norse vikings, who invaded the land in 819, to build the settlement of Dublin as a strategic base between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. They were defeated by the Irish by the middle of the 11th century.
The minute you step off the train start walking towards the harbour. You’ll see a few restaurants (yum!) and fishmongers on the left side, but you’ll want to be aiming straight in front of you.
- The East Pier & Howth Lighthouse – after a five-minute walk from the train station, you will reach the east pier. Strolling along its whole length will give you a nice view of the harbour and the Irish Sea. On top of the pier you will see the Howth Lighthouse where lovers stop to kiss, while the others take pictures of the surroundings.
- Ireland’s Eye – walking up and down the pier will have you wondering about a small island not that far away from the shore. It’s called Ireland’s Eye and it’s an uninhabited island that can be easily reached by tourist boats. The ride lasts for about 15 minutes and along the way you will have the chance to see a few seals that hang around the harbour all day, sticking their heads out of the water. On the island you will see the ruins of a Martello Tower, built in 1803 on the instructions of the Duke of York to repel a possible invasion by Napoleon. Also, the ruins of an 8th century church can be found there.
- Howth Market – located near the train station, this place is filled with local stuff. And when I say stuff, I mean Irish crafts, delicate handmade jewellery, antiques and all sorts of organic and artisan foods.
- Howth Head – the pièce de résistance of your trip to Howth is walking up on the peninsula that will give you a breathtaking view of the surroundings. From the pier, you will only have to walk for about 10-15 minutes in order to get there. Along the way you will see a few beautiful houses that spread across the rocky shore. I can’t really describe the feeling you’ll have after reaching the top, so it’s pointless to think of capturing that on camera. Also, if you’re in a strollin’ mood, you can walk along for about an hour and reach the other side of the peninsula or you can also take a bus, but for that you’ll have to go back to the village.
Places to eat
Howth is a little slice of heaven for foodies, especially for seafood lovers. This small village is not only enchantingly beautiful, but the waters that wash its shores give some of the best quality fish, oysters, mussels and prawns. Speaking of which, if you’re around in March, head there for the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival. You’ll find tens of stands with varied seafood dishes and prawns cooked more ways than you’ve ever thought possible.
One of my favourite things to have in Howth are the oysters! You can go and have some in one of the many gorgeous restaurants that line the pier, but if you want to add “shucking oysters” to your skill set, I recommend popping into one of the many shops and buying a dozen or so oysters, getting a lemon and some Tabasco sauce, and make sure you have a sturdy knife to shuck the oysters with. Come equipped with a picnic blanket and a bottle of bubbly, then walk up about halfway to the Head and you’ll find a place that’ll take a bit of a balancing act to get down to, but once you’re there, I guarantee you’ll love it! This is how we spent one of our favourite days last year, on a clear and warm May day.
If you prefer getting your food delivered to your table, instead of “earning” it, Howth is a restaurant-goer’s dream come true!
The place we’ve been to more time than we can count is King Sitric, located right at the beginning of West Pier. They have beautiful dishes here and I promise that one day we’ll go there prepared to review it. We’ll come back with photos, too!
This time we decided to try a new place and we settled on “The Brass Monkey“.
- Decor: The more seafood restaurants I go to, I cant’t help but notice that there’s something about the colour red, that they love to use generously on the walls, the bar and the furniture. This place was no different.
- Drinks: I like pairing a crisp, cool white wine with the seafood dishes, but this time I was very much in the mood for a pint of good ol’ Guinness! Cool tip: beers and stouts pair much better with food than wine does. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe 2015’s Sommelier of the Year! Unfortunately, The Brass Monkey does not have beer on tap (which is a lot more fresh and tasty than bottled ones). At any rate, we both decided to go for pints of Guinness. It wasn’t bad, but not even close to tap one.
- Food: The food was exquisite! We ordered some oysters for our entree and then got the hot seafood platter for two. The oysters were fresh and very tasty, very much to our pleasing. The main course was plentiful and beautifully plated. I loved the fried calamari and the chilli prawns were nicely cooked in the shell. The salmon was tender and buttery, and cooked just the way I enjoy it. Ionuţ prefers smoked salmon, so I was happy to finish it all by myself! 😀 On the other hand, he really liked the cod, but I found it a bit dry for my taste. I have to mention the French fries, which were sooo good! Neither of us are fans of the chips that are usually served in Irish restaurants.
We didn’t get any desserts, because we were very full by the end of the meal, but Ionuţ did order an espresso which was… very bad.
All in all, it was an okay experience, but we probably won’t be going back, since there are still so many other places that we haven’t been to.