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Dalkey Castle and Village- A worthy day trip from Dublin

by Roberto
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Of all the castles within Dublin and Ireland, there is but one that stands out as the most entertaining. That accolade goes to Goat Castle, more commonly known as Dalkey Castle. So what separates this simple town house from the behemoths that Ireland possesses? Its genius lies in its tours, which are not conducted by the usual knowledgeable tour guides. Here the living history tours are offered by actors, are quite interactive, and are played for laughs.

But it’s not the castle alone that you should visit Dalkey for. This village is also among the most traditional and exclusive in Dublin, and it’s sea views, likened to the Bay of Naples, are without contrast in the whole of the city. A day trip to Dalkey Castle and village is highly recommendable if spending time in Dublin.

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Dalkey Castle and Village History

The history of Dalkey Castle and the village of Dalkey go hand in hand. Dalkey only came to prominence after some disasters at sea with the silting up of Dublin Bay in the 13th century. As Dublin was under the control of the British empire at the time, a significant amount of trade took place via the Irish Sea. Dublin bay was deemed dangerous and this prompted the look for a deeper harbour. Building Dalkey harbour was the answer.

With the increase in goods been taken in over the countryside which at that time was between here and Dublin, the need for better defences led to the walled town of Dalkey being born. Within a total of 7 tower houses was built, of which you can still see 2 today. The largest of these was Goat Castle. The castles were constantly under threat from the Irish clans and this led to life within being ever challenging. With time though, the trade route and castles grew obsolete and the village fell into ruin.

In Victorian times, with the extension of the train service to Dalkey, Dalkey became popular again. The village grew, and wealthy citizens of the city built stunning mansions overlooking the sea. This trend has continued to the present day and now Dalkey ranks as one of Dublin’s most affluent neighbourhoods. And yet it retains its charm, the local population have resisted the influx of supermarket and restaurant chains, and small businesses still line the streets. It remains one of the best places to appreciate historical Dublin at its best.

How to get to Dalkey Village

Dalkey is located some 18 km outside of Dublin. The town is easiest reached by Dublin’s Dart rail service, and takes circa 30 minutes from the city centre stations of Connolly, Tara or Pearse. It’s a relaxing ride by the Irish coast with views that will make you feel alive. Alight at Dalkey station, and it’s a short walk into the centre.

It’s about a 45 minute drive from the city centre to Dalkey, but unless you are a local follow the advice from my driving in Ireland post, and don’t drive in Dublin.

Dalkey Castle

The present day Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre stands on Dalkey Main Street, with a flag of 3 goats flying from a mast atop its battlements. The flag represents the Cheevers family (French for goat) who occupied the castle in the 16th Century. It’s attractive but not particularly exciting from the outside, being a mere town house. The castle has served as the town hall of Dalkey for some time.

Admission costs are €8.50 for an adult and family discounts are available. The visitor centre closes on Tuesdays and the official website is a very useful resource about Dalkey Castle and Dalkey events. You may also book group tours and school tours, and you must book tickets online for these.

Dalkey Castle

The very knowledgeable tour guide (yes I know I said there wasn’t one) takes you through to a multimedia room where a video recounts much of the Dalkey castle history I just introduced you to. But with more diagrams. From there we enter the church and graveyard. The graveyard contains over 2000 burials in a very small space and this has resulted in the ground level rising significantly. Rising from the dead if you will. Take time to study the grave stones, some have some really interesting symbols on them.

St Begnet’s Church Dalkey

The ground means that the church is significantly lower than when it was first built. Would certainly give you the impression that the townsfolk were much smaller back then. Apparently not so. The church was built in the 10th century, and is more or less in ruins now. Yet you can still see the interesting belfry, which was unique in that the bells had to be rang by climbing on the roof of the church.

Of particular interest is the Yew Tree which has survived many centuries, it is a common plant in graveyards, as its berries are poisonous and acts as a deterrent to farmers who may think to graze their animals there.

St Begnet's church
The yew tree with the church behind

Actors Dalkey Castle tour

Finally we are introduced to the actors and the castle jumps from a five to a ten. The actors come from the local Deilg Inis Theatre Company and are charged with bringing the castle to life with stories and experiences. And what a job they do. The first, represents an archer from the 16th century. As well as teaching us how to use a bow and a crossbow, he covered the defensive aspects of the castle. And all the time had us in stitches. To some kids visiting from the US, he asked if they were very tired. After the trip of many months aboard a boat from the New World. The perplexed look on their faces was priceless.

As we continued to the castle he pointed out the machicolation over the door and the murder hole just inside. He recalled how much they laughed as they poured boiling water down on the Irish as they attacked the castle.

Our next actor was the cook. Again there was no shortage of humour as she took us through the life in a kitchen of a castle at the time. The tour cleverly integrated aspects of the castle into the script, as she took us to the castle battlements and the “Warders’ Walk” where guards kept watch for those filthy Irish coming to attack!!

Dalkey Castle
The staple diet of the lord of the castle

Master of the household

The best of the tour was saved till last though. The master of the house here presents the task of a barber surgeon. Presented with a chilling smile he offered services to us all, including two for the price of one on amputations. We also refused the blood letting, leeches, and a shave with the knife he brandished below. He was quite the actor.

Barber surgeon
Anyone for a shave

The living history tour takes roughly around an hour and will guaranteed bring a smile to your face.

Local Attractions in Dalkey town

Don’t just jump back on the dart as soon as leave the castle. Dalkey is a unique village and history lies around each corner. With an interesting selection of shops and cafes it’s perfect to pick up an original gift or enjoy a excellent lunch before the hike into the hills above.

Walking the streets remnants of the old tramline can be found in the tramyard, made all the more visible by the street art on an adjacent wall.

Dalkey village

Or why not delve into the past of some of Ireland’s great writers. James Joyce, Hugh Leonard, Maeve Binchy and GB Shaw, all found inspiration from Dalkey. The castle offers guided literary walks for small groups wishing to learn more about Dalkey.

Archbold’s Castle

Archbold’s Castle is the second of the castles still standing. As it lies mostly in ruin, it can only be admired from outside.

Archbolds Castle

Dalkey Quarry

Back to that hike I mentioned a moment ago. In the 18th century as Dun Laoghaire harbour (one of two significant harbours in Dublin) was being built a huge amount of stone was drawn from the hill near Dalkey. What is left is a wonderful man made facility for hiking, and the best rock climbing in Dublin (if not Ireland) if that’s your jam. Follow Dalkey Avenue which is just after Archbold’s Castle. In just 15 minutes you’ll be atop Dalkey Hill and treated to sweeping views over Dublin. The landmark twin towers of Sandymount, Dun Laoghaire, and Howth in the distance can all be distinguished.

The quarry is home to plenty of local wildlife too, with squirrels, butterflies, and rabbits aplenty, as well as many wildflowers and wild gorse. The endangered Peregrine Falcon has nested in the region in recent years.

Dalkey Quarry
Dublin from above

Atop the quarry, reached by steps, stands an old signal tower, which the British military previously used to communicate to the Martello Towers built along the coast of Dublin and Wicklow. The towers were built in preparation of an attack in the 19th century by Napoleon, which subsequently never happened. I guess he didn’t deem Ireland worthy of his conquest.

From here, passing through the forest in an easterly direction will take you to an outcrop overlooking the sea. The views overlooking Bray Head, the Irish Sea and the conical peaks of the Great and Little Sugar Loaf’s are indeed probably the finest on Ireland’s east coast.

Killiney bay

Killiney Hill

While no longer technically Dalkey it would be remiss of me not to include it. Its essentially part of the same hill, just separated by a hollow and area boundaries on a map. The views of the Irish Sea are ever to your east here but atop the summit of Killiney Hill are the reasons this walk is worthwhile. A trio of monuments sits atop the hill known as the Killiney Obelisk, the pyramid and the witches hat.

The Killiney Obelisk was a work commissioned in 1742 by the landlord of the area. A famine had devastated the crop for two years in 1740 and 1741 with the loss of over 250,000 lives. Consequently the obelisk was built to give the locals the opportunity to gain some employment and see out those terrible times. It now stands as a monument to those lives lost.

The pyramid and witches hat were added in 1852 by the then owner of the hills Robert Warren. They mainly serve purpose as a folley, though some locals believe you can make wishes as you climb each step of the pyramid. For the record I have yet to win the Euromillions.

Killiney Obelisk
Killiney Hill Pyramid

If you were to continue into Killiney, then a tour of the homes of Ireland’s famous is possible. Bono, Enya, and The Edge all reside here. However ur walk descends eastwards down the hillside to the Vico Road. It’s one of Ireland’s most aesthetic addresses with views like this…

Killiney Bay
Killiney Bay

At the bottom of Vico Hill, the route now turns onto Coliemore Road. On each side stands a park; to the left Sorrento Park, a lush overgrown park and the setting of the Hugh Leonard play “A life”; and also to the right Dillons Park. Dillons Park has magnificent views over to Dalkey Island.

Dalkey Island

Dalkey Island

Not far from the coast lies the island. The ruins you can see are of a a Martello Tower and an earlier St Begnets church from the 7th century. More recently it is also the home of a colony of seals and a herd of feral goats. The largest European colony of Roseate Terns means this is an excellent place for birdwatching too.

Dalkey island can also be visited by boat and this service is provided by an excellently named local company called Ken the Ferryman, who runs tours there for €10 per person via speedboat. This service is provided from…

Coliemore Harbour

This harbour is actually only a matter of minutes from the aforementioned parks. Sweeping views of the sea in order. Bottlenose dolphins are often seen frolicking in the bay also. The harbour has the feel of a small fishing village of a bygone time, and it’s hard to believe that the city is mere minutes away. It’s somewhere to get lost with your thoughts.

Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey
Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey
Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey

Coliemore Road

It’s little wonder that somewhere so idyllic would be sought after. And sought after it certainly is. Coliemore Road indeed ranks as the sixth most exclusive address in Ireland. A quick Google search and the first house that pops up is with an asking price of €5.5 million. Its a little higher than the going rate here, but not a lot higher. Finally our looped walk back to Dalkey takes us past some of those casa grandes. Personally I would actually call them castles. Dalkey Castle has some competition on this road. Who wouldn’t want to call some of these home.

Dalkey castle
Cliff castle Dalkey
Dalkey castle
Dalkey castle

And so back in Dalkey we now arrive. If you haven’t avail of one of the charming cafes such as the Corner Note. Or have a boost from the Select Stores, one of Dublin’s most famed health stores.

Dalkey Village

If the urge to get one more castle in is too strong (as it is usually for me) then Bullock Castle lies 1 km from Dalkey centre. Dated to around 1150 it has recently been restored and is located on the grounds of a nursing home. If you have a car (I know I said don’t) you can even drive through to a car park. How often do you get to drive through a castle? I’m easily pleased I know. The castle can’t be visited internally, but can be walked around, and the nearby fishing village of Bullock is a real pleasure. The Glenageary dart station can take you back to Dublin city centre from here.

Bullock Castle

Conclusion on Dalkey

Having lived in Dublin for two decades now, Dalkey ranks as one of my top places for a day trip. It’s village like atmosphere, good food, and amazing views in particular put it above the rest. Dalkey Castle is hands down the most entertaining castle on the island, and the actors are extremely funny. What a combination! Get on that dart and leave the centre of Dublin behind.

Dublin castle visits are a passion of mine. Why not follow my continued literary exploration of them with Drimnagh Castle.

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Dalkey castle
Dalkey castle

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