Travel: Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey – Ireland’s Little Italy by the Sea

Port of Dun Laoghaire.

IN THE 15th century, the resident of Dalkey Castle greeted visitors by pouring boiling urine on them from the ramparts.

These days, luckily, nearby Fitzpatrick Castle welcomes you with a cocktail.

Well refreshed, I went to a potter’s around Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey, and what a lovely place it is, like a little Italy by the sea with its winding streets and cafes and restaurants.

Locals think so too, with roads called Sorrento and Vico lined with gracious Georgian houses.

Just the place to come here, buy one for a few million pounds, write the great Irish-Italian novel during the day, then go out for some chic al fresco food in the evening to watch the world go by. Gods, if you walk into Finnegan’s pub, you might even see Bono, a local resident, drinking there.

Unfortunately, not having several million pounds on me for some reason, I continued to walk or cycle among locals and tourists who had arrived on cruise ships or taken the train from Dublin and struggled to get predictive text on their phone to deal with Dún Laoghaire spelling in their social media posts.

Yet at least they hadn’t arrived by train in the 19th century, when third-class passengers had to get out and push it uphill.

Braver souls swam at Forty Foot, where men dived naked for 250 years until they were horrified when women joined them in the 1970s, with naked women hitherto unknown in Ireland. However, most swimmers these days wear suits.

Colliemore Harbour, with the Martello Tower on Dalkey Island in the distance.

The new cultural center is a beautiful hymn to the Scandinavian style, with its airy spaces and wooden floors, and from the top floor you can see the Martello Tower where James Joyce lived for a time, and being kind of cantankerous, annoyed locals by flying the flag of Munster.

Just to annoy him in return, the locals make him steal again.

Next door, the Old Sailors’ Church is, fittingly, the Maritime Museum, containing an astonishing rotating lighthouse mirror and fascinating exhibits on subjects such as the sinking by German submarine of the RMS Leinster in October 1918 , killing 529 people on board, and Robert Halpin, the chief officer of the 4,000-passenger Great Eastern, the largest ship in the world when launched in 1858. After sailing all over the world, he retired , bought Tinakilly House in Wicklow and died of gangrene after cutting himself. his fingernails.

An old diving suit at the Maritime Museum.

As my nails were fine, thanks for asking, I thought it was safe to take to the high seas myself, with an invigorating speedboat ride along the coast with the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School.

And so to Dalkey Castle, carrying an umbrella just in case a shower of boiling urine.

“You can take pictures, but no accordion,” Grace told reception.

Eh ? It turned out that she had been talking about recordings. Maybe it’s my ears that need checking rather than my fingernails.

Inside, costumed actors – Magnus the barber surgeon, Rupert the archer and Saidbh the cook – brilliantly and hilariously brought the castle’s history to life, including the visit of George IV in 1821, when he was so drunk he couldn’t remember the visit.

Archers at Dalkey Castle, although these days they don’t shoot at you…

In the 1830s, stone from here was used to make Dún Laoghaire, and stonemasons first lived in tents, then built cottages that are now worth 2 million apiece, gulp.

Next stop was the Airfield Estate, owned by Dublin lawyer Trevor Overend, who on his death in 1927 left the elegant home, farm and fortune to his daughters Letitia and Naomi.

Naturally, the first thing Letitia did was drive to London, buy a new Rolls-Royce for £1,642 and 10 shillings, and have it fitted with a tow bar to transport the cows from the farm.

For the rest of Letitia and Naomi’s long life until their deaths in 1977 and 1993 respectively, they devoted themselves to good works, traveling the world, skiing in Kitzbühel each winter and, when at home, driving the Rolls-Royce to Dundrum for shopping.

The costumed actors at Dalkey Castle are brilliantly funny. Photo by Conor McCabe Photography.

It’s still in the estate’s garage, with Naomi’s Austin Tickford and their mother Lily’s little Peugeot Quadrilette, nicknamed The Flea.

Today the estate is a charitable trust and you can tour the house and gardens and then eat what is produced there in the excellent restaurant.

Then you can work after lunch climbing the Zipit treetop obstacle course and zipline adventure park in the mountains above, or at the Gap Mountain Bike Center, where for some unknown reason , a nice girl called Sinead persuaded me to take a van up the mountain then bike down it.

“Don’t worry, we’ll just do a nice easy intermediate trail,” she said vivaciously as we passed a large sign that read: WARNING – Anyone attempting intermediate trails should have previous experience of Mountain bike.”

Soon after, I found myself hurtling down the mountain after her at incredible speeds. Incredibly slow, which is to say, to the point that when we got to the bottom her colleague Lisa had thrown away the stopwatch she was using to time me and used a calendar instead.

Geoff is gearing up to set a new downhill mountain bike record. Slowest ever, that is…

Well, there was nothing else to do but go for a pint of Guinness and some grub at Johnnie Fox’s, established in 1798 and the third highest pub in Ireland behind Top of Coom in the Kerry and the Ponderosa on the Glenshane Pass between Dungiven and Maghera.

Naturally, being on top of a mountain, the house specialty is seafood, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise. No, it was wandering around a large room in which hundreds of tourists who had come by bus from Dublin for the evening were watching some sort of mini-river dance.

It was so surreal that I had to go back to the hotel immediately and have another cocktail. Followed by several others, just to be sure, then I went to bed and dreamed, not for the first time, that I was about to do my baccalaureate and had forgotten to do a revision.

However, it could have been worse: I could have arrived at Dalkey Castle without an umbrella.

An invigorating speedboat ride around the bay blows away the cobwebs.


Getting There

You can drive or take the Enterprise from Belfast to Connolly station in Dublin and then the DART to Dún Laoghaire.

For more information on the companies, visit

Where to stay

Built in 1740, Killiney Castle lay abandoned when hotelier Paddy Fitzpatrick visited it on a cold December day in 1970 with his wife Eithne.

“I’m going to buy this,” he said.

“If you do, I’m divorcing,” she said.

He did, she didn’t, and today, as Fitzpatrick Castle, it’s a charming, traditional hotel run by their daughter Eithne and her family. See

A real mountain biker shows Geoff how it should be done at the Gap mountain bike center.


Dalkey Castle is at The aerodrome area is at The Gap mountain bike center is at The Zipit treetop and zipline adventure park is The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School is at A 2-5-3 hour speedboat ride, including raincoats and life jacket, costs €400 for up to five passengers, €700 for 6-12.

Eat outside

Casper and Giumbini’s is a bustling, bustling beachfront bistro with great food and wine:

Johnnie Fox’s has great pub grub and The Hooley Show, €60 for a 4-course meal and show. Book at

For information

You can find out more about stays and activities to do in the Dún Laoghaire area on the DLR Tourism website,

Zipit Forest Adventures in Tibradden Wood.

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