Tuesday 30 May 2017

Dublin Howth Cliff Trail Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.6 km (4.7 miles), terrain: some rocks, rise 128 meters

Dublin Running Routes:
Georgian Heritage  
River Liffey 

Phoenix Park
Dun Laoghaire coastal run 
City Centre loop   

Howth Cliff Walk trail
See the other running routes here!

If you're in Dublin and you want to discover an authentic corner of wild Ireland, just hop on the DART train north to Howth and run/hike this amazing cliff trail.
The cliff trail with a bit of rainbow under that cloud
The trail winds along impressive, wind-swept cliff-faces full of nesting seabirds, with expansive views to islands and mountains off to the northern horizon. It's definitely a side of Dublin that you shouldn't miss.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time!
To get there, just take the green DART line, the Dublin commuter train line, with stops in the town center like Pearce-, Tara-, and Connolly stations. Howth is at the northern terminus of the green line, on a round peninsula which is barely connected to the mainland.

So, if you are ready for one memorable trail run, take the DART to Howth Station, then get out and turn left to start the run at the big harbor right next door. There is a promenade in a strip of park along the harbor.
The fishing boats
First, comes a line of seafood restaurants, then the fishing harbor, with its scenic collection of boats bobbing at the quays. Off in the distance, to the north, you can see Ireland's Eye island, with huge, slender rocks balancing just off its shore.
Howth marina and lighthouse in the evening
Keep running eastwards along the quays, and you'll pass the yacht marina and the Howth Lighthouse. When you reach the eastern pier the land ends, so turn right to start heading up Balscadden Road, with the water to your left side.
Balscadden Bay, as seen from the road
You'll soon pass Martello Tower, an old British-built defensive fort on your right, at the 1-kilometer mark. Continue uphill as the road continues eastwards, above the cliff-faces along Balscadden Bay.
View north towards Ireland's Eye
This whole way is paved until you reach the Kilrock Car Park, where the real Cliff Walk trail begins. There are several variations of the Cliff Walk: they all begin here, at the 2-kilometer mark of our run, but they vary on how they get back to the train station. We are following a modified version of the green trail, marked by green arrows.
Gorse and rocks at the Nose of Heath
Now you'll now head uphill, needing to climb a few rocks. The hill is covered with heather and gorse, a thorny bush that has wonderful golden flowers in the springtime that smell like coconut-butter.

You can see your first cliffs below you, with sea-birds nesting in the niches. To the right is a small peak, Kilrock, with great views of the sunsets.
Hikers on Kilrock viewing the sunset
Sometimes seals are sighted down below the cliffs. This section of cliffs forms the Nose of Howth, and from here, the trail turns south.

After the rocky start, most of the trail is more runable: a narrow gravel path next to the cliffs. The path is not well-marked, but it doesn't matter: just stay along the water and you'll be fine.
Trail/stream leading through the gorse
A couple of times you'll pass through stone gates. If the weather is fairly normal, you'll probably be hit by a shower or two during the run. That can even turn the trail into a running stream! But you'll be rewarded by a rainbow or two, so no problem.

The white spots on the cliff are nesting seabirds
After about 3.5 kilometers, you'll see the Baily Lighthouse on a promontory far in the distance to the south. It marks the northern approach to Dublin Bay, and you can normally see a few ships and ferries gliding by.
Baily Lighthouse on the promontory
At 4 kilometers, you'll pass a yellow warning sign, then a post pointing uphill to the Summit. Follow the steep steps to the top, and you'll see a jeep track turning off to the right, Upper Cliff Road, just before the car park. This is our way back.
Steps to the Summit
This gravel road heads back north, going by a few scattered farms along the hilltop. Meadows and gorse scrubland curve downwards towards the cliffs below.
Upper Cliff Road
The road will curve towards the left. At a gravel crossroads, after about the 5-kilometer mark, keep going straight, following the green arrow. From now on, it's all downhill.

Upper Cliff Road leads you back into town by entering a neighborhood. It ends at Thormanby Road, the main road through town.
Along Thormanby Road
Turn right and head downhill along Thormanby Road. This isn't very busy, so it's not as bad as it sounds. You're right in the center of town when you get to the church and the few little shops and pubs.

Keep running downhill, passing the Abbey Tavern on the left, a comfortable old pub with great salmon chowder and good Irish beer.
In the Abbey Tavern: I heartily recommend it!
Right after the tavern, you'll pass the ruins of the 800-year-old St. Mary's abbey church. It was built by Sitric, the Viking King of Dublin.
The abbey ruins in twilight
Right after the abbey, you'll find yourself back at the harbor. Cross Harbour Road and turn left to return to the train station in just a few hundred meters.

And aren't you glad you discovered this amazing corner of Dublin!

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