During a visit to Dublin in July 2021, I took a day trip to the charming seaside village of Howth. While I was there, I decided to stretch my legs and take a stroll along the renowned Howth Cliff Walk.
As the name suggests, the path hugs the cliffs near Howth and yields some really spectacular views, including a lovely vista of the Baily Lighthouse.
And the best part – the trail is only 40 minutes away from Dublin by train! So it’s easy to visit on a day trip even if you don’t have a car.
Actually, there are several hiking trails that are all generally referred to as the “Howth Cliff Walk” so it’s easy to get them confused. For my hike, I decided to check out the Cliff Path Loop – a 6 km (3.7 mile) trail that is also known as the “Green Route”.
Since rain was in the forecast for the afternoon, I took the train from Dublin to Howth first thing in the morning. That way, I was able to hike before the weather turned.
Howth Cliff Walk – Which Route Should I Choose?
There are four well-marked walking routes encircling the village of Howth.
They all start and end at the DART station and follow an identical path along the harbor and the Howth Cliffs. Where they differ is in the return route back to town.
The Cliff Path Loop (Lúb Chosán na hAille) is the most popular of these official routes, as well as the shortest. The trail follows the green markers and gains 130 meters (426 feet) in elevation. It features the most views of the cliffs because it returns to the village via the Upper Cliff Path.
While the trail is listed at 6km (3.7 miles) in length, I found it to be closer to 8 km (5 miles) when I hiked it.
The Tramline Loop (Lúb Thrambhealaigh) follows the blue markers and gains 130 meters (426 feet) of elevation. This 7 km (4.3 miles) trail follows the historical route of the old tramline back to the village and features views of Ireland’s Eye and the harbor.
The Black Linn Loop (Lúb Linn Dub) follows the red markers and gains 160 meters (524 feet) of elevation. This 8 km (5 miles) trail travels inland over Howth Head and features views of the Dublin coastline as well as heather-covered hills.
The Bog of the Frogs Loop (Lúb Phortach na bhFroganna) follows the purple markers and gains 240 meters (787 feet) of elevation. At 12 km (7.5 miles), it is the longest route and provides views of Dublin City as well as the Wicklow Mountains.
If you’re looking for a shorter hike and own a car, there is a car park at the northeastern corner of the peninsula right at the beginning of the Cliff Walk. Another car park is available at the Cliff Walk’s summit as well.
Howth Cliff Walk Map & Navigation
Even though all of the Howth Cilff Walk routes are fairly straightforward and well-signed, you should always bring a map when walking in remote areas.
I recommend downloading the free Discover Howth App which has all of the four of the hiking routes included in it. Each map also points out places of interest and historical spots along the route.
I actually didn’t know about this app until after I finished my hike and I wished I did! It’s really slick.
On my Howth Cliff Walk, I used the following AllTrails map to navigate which worked fine. It’s great for navigation (but doesn’t have all the local points of interest included).
While cell reception is pretty reliable through most of the Howth Peninsula, I did encounter a few spots on the Howth Cliff Walk where I had no connectivity. Be sure to download maps to your phone in advance.
If you are using a phone for navigation, bring a portable battery such as the Anker portable battery charger and protect it from the rain and elements.
Preparing to Hike the Howth Cliff Walk
Before embarking on this or any hike, remember that you are entering a rugged outdoors environment and prepare accordingly.
You’re going to be doing lots of walking so be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes. Check the weather forecast and make sure you’re prepared for the weather conditions with plenty of layers and/or sun protection as appropriate.
Bring plenty of water and snacks. If you choose a longer hike, consider packing a lunch.
There are several bathrooms along the trail, such as along the harbor and at the car parks. But just in case nature calls while you are away from developed areas, familiarize yourself with proper hiking bathroom etiquette.
Be sure to leave no trace of your visit behind.
Recommended Hiking Gear for the Howth Cliff Walk
Not sure what to bring or wear on your hike? This list includes some of my favorite day hiking gear.
- Hiking Shoes – Sturdy hiking shoes are important. I’m a big fan of Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes and pair them with Dirty Girl Gaiters to keep rocks from getting into my shoes.
- Socks – Good thick socks are key. I usually wear a pair of double-walled Wrightsock Coomesh II socks with my Altras. For longer hikes, I switch to Injinji Midweight socks to prevent toe blisters.
- Backpack – I love Osprey backpacks and use the Osprey Manta pack which is technically a men’s pack (because I have a longer torso than most women). The women’s equivalent is the Osprey Mira pack.
- Hiking Poles – Hiking poles reduce pressure on your joints and help maintain your balance if you trip. My current favorites are the LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles because they are super lightweight and portable.
- Rain Gear – Raingear is essential when hiking in Ireland. My favorite rain jacket is the Outdoor Research Helium II jacket since it is very lightweight.
- Camera – I love taking photos and always bring a camera along on my hiking trips. I use the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II because it is lightweight yet has many advanced features.
When to Attempt the Howth Cliff Walk
The Howth Cliff Walk is accessible during any time of year. That being said, take care when hiking the trail on rainy or windy days as the path does near the cliff’s edge in a few areas.
Be aware that the trail can get rather crowded on summer weekends. If you’re looking to escape the masses, consider coming at a different time.
What Hiking the Howth Cliff Walk is Really Like
Now that I have gotten all of the essential details out of the way, it’s time to dive into the good stuff. Read on for a detailed account of my experience on the Howth Cliff Path Loop!
Howth Harbor and the Howth Harbor Lighthouse
The Howth Cliff Walk begins at the DART station in Howth. After getting off the train (or bus), head east on the sidewalk along the harbor. Look for the trail markers to find your way – they are fairly visible and easy to see.
The path goes by a children’s play area before eventually passing the pier to Howth Harbor Lighthouse. Consider strolling along the pier if you have the time as it is a lovely walk (but not *technically* part of the Howth Cliff Walk).
There are public restrooms at this intersection as well as a couple of nice restaurants.
After .5 miles, the path leaves the sidewalk and follows Balscadden Road. This is a narrow country road that heads uphill and away from the village towards the Howth Cliffs.
The highlight of this section of the route is Balscadden Bay Beach – a hidden little cove that is also a popular local swimming spot.
I saw several people swimming at the beach during my visit, even though it was rather cold (in my opinion anyways. And I’m no stranger to cool weather as I’m from Seattle.)
After passing the beach, the path continues to follow along the road until reaching the car park. There are some lovely views of the Ireland’s Eye from this part of the trek.
Note: bathrooms are available at the car park should you need to use them.
Howth Cliff Walk
After passing the car park, the path rounds the northeastern corner of the peninsula and heads south. Now the cliff walk really begins!
For the next 1.3 miles, the trail hugs the edge of the cliff. The path is narrow and flat with heather on one side and the cliff dropoff on the other side.
If you’re lucky, you may catch heather blooming during the summertime.
Needless to say, the views are *spectacular*!
There are a few benches along the trail should you like to take a break and soak up those lovely views.
If you’re looking for a good stopping point, you can’t do better than Louis’ Point. Located at the 3.4 km (2.1 mile) point, the trail passes a ledge with spectacular views of the Baily Lighthouse.
Constructed in 1814, the lighthouse was built (and improved) in reaction to some deadly shipwrecks. It is still in operation to this day.
This is a great spot to stop and have lunch or a snack. There are plenty of places to sit along the rocky promontory and enjoy the views.
The Upper Cliff Path
At the 4 km (2.5 mile) point, the trail reaches a junction. Here, the cliff walk ends and the four hiking paths diverge.
To follow the green route, head up the stairs to the Howth Summit. The trail turns right at the top of the hill and follows the Upper Cliff Path along the top of the head.
Of interest in this section, besides the views, is the enormous EIRE-6 sign.
This is a World War II-era sign that was installed to proclaim Ireland’s neutrality to any passing aircraft. The sign is comprised of rocks and is best viewed from above.
The Return Hike
Eventually, the hiking trail ends and the path rejoins with pavement. From here, the green route winds through various neighborhoods until returning to the DART station.
This section isn’t terribly remarkable, with one notable exception.
There is a lovely vista of the Howth Harbor and Ireland’s Eye from a point along the Tramline trail. Look for a path leading to the right at the 6.4 km (4 mile) point which leads to a bench facing the harbor.
Celebratory Lunch at O’Connells
After finishing the Howth Cliff Walk, I decided to celebrate with a nice lunch.
My husband Daniel didn’t join me on the hike so he met me afterwards at O’Connells. A lovely pub facing Howth Harbor, O’Connells is a popular establishment that serves tasty pub food.
I had the beef and Guinness pie which was *to die for*.
It was a really nice reward for finishing the fabulous Hike Cliff Walk!
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Have you hiked in the Howth Cliff Walk? If so I’d love to hear from you! Leave your comment below.
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