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Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk – One of the hidden gems of Dublin

by Roberto
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Ask Dubliners what walk defines what it is to live in Dublin city, and many will mention the Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk. Known by some as the Great South Wall Walk it’s great by name and by nature. It’s close to the city centre, yet takes you past beaches, a nature park, one of Dublin’s most iconic sights, and out into the sea on one of the longest sea walls going anywhere. What’s not to love in this hidden gem? If you haven’t yet done the walk, then now is the time as the colours of late spring and summer appear. Let me guide you step by step on the Poolbeg Lighthouse walk so you can enjoy the experience to its fullest.

The walk from Sandymount out into Dublin Bay, treats the walker to superb views, first of the city, then south along the coast to Dún laoghaire. As we reach the wall, the views turn north, and towards the Howth Peninsula. It’s a great place to watch ships and ferries passing on their way into Dublin city, and there’s nowhere better when a huge cruise ship pulls into town. Finally, with its easterly pointing direction, the south wall, has one of Dublin’s best sunrises. Do you need any more reasons to visit?

Helpful information for the Great South Wall and Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk

  • The Poolbeg Lighthouse walk is 11km in length from Sandymount.
  • A shorter 2 km route is possible from Pigeon House Road.
  • The Poolbeg Lighthouse was built in 1768 along with the Great South Wall
  • When the Great South Wall was built, it was the longest in the world. It is still one of the longest in Europe.
  • The wall was built as there was a severe problem with silting in Dublin Bay.
  • The full route is 11 km, although the shorter route is only 2 km long.
  • It’s flat ground all the way, so not particularly strenuous and you should complete the out-and-back walk in 2 1/2 hours.
  • There are public toilets at the second car park along Sandymount Strand, near the martello tower.
  • Traffic on Sandymount Strand is limited to Southbound traffic only from March to October.
  • Hiking boots are not needed. but waterproof trainers can be handy especially in winter or after heavy rainfall.
  • Bring water, snacks, a waterproof jacket (it is Ireland), a hat and sunscreen. The wind can be much stronger on the South Wall so bring a pullover even on a warm day.
  • The best months to take the walk are May through November, but it is a year round route. Avoid the area during heavy winds and storms though, as the sea can get quite rough.
  • The Poolbeg Lighthouse walk is available on alltrails.com.
  • Remember to leave no trace.

A word of warning about the Great South Wall Walk

It’s often noted by people that some of the buildings here are an eyesore, and that there can be a less than pleasant smell. A lot of the eye sore comments relate to the Pigeon House towers, part of a power station. They don’t take history into account as these towers are widely regarded as a symbol of Dublin. They can be seen from practically anywhere in the city. The smell may relate to the Covanta Waste to Energy plant, which despite the odour is doing good for Dublin and the environment. Though there has been a problem of late at the Shelley Banks beach, with rotting seaweed building up here. It is one of those things worth noting before you head out on your walk.

Getting to Sandymount and the Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk

There are car parks all along Sandymount sea front provide plenty of parking for the walk. All are priced at €0.60 cents an hour and can be paid by cash or cards using the machines, or by text via Parking Tag. Just input you car reg, time and search for the colour code of the zone you are in on the parking meter and away you go. Very helpful if you forget to pay for parking and are already a few miles away from the car. This may have happened to someone on their last visit there. There is further parking around at the Shelley Banks, and just shy of the Great South Wall, for those looking to do a much shortened version of the walk.

It is easily to travel to by bus too. Bus Number 1 (an easy one to remember) can be boarded at from O’Connell Street Lower at the corner of Abbey Street, from Parnell Square or Pearse Street. The third last stop id Gilford Road, that leads right to the beach and the first car park on Sandymount Strand, the start of our walk. Charges are €3 for a single journey at the moment. A bus used to run all the way to the Great South Wall, but has been discontinued by Dublin Bus.

Step by Step on the Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk

Sandymount Beach

Sandymount beach is one of those rare phenomenons in that when the tide is out, you have to squint just to see the sea, but when in you wonder what happened to the beach. When out the beach is excellent for a stroll, but it’s advised to stay within 100 metres of the paths if you aren’t sure of the tides. We will only use the beach for a shortcut to get off the road and onto the path at Sean Moore park.

Sandymount Beach plays a prominent part in Ulysses, including that scandalous scene featuring Leopold Bloom that led to the book being banned in the US. At the start of our walk is sculpture called Awaiting the Mariner by Vicente Fox, a symbol of the friendship between the people of Ireland and Mexico. You may notice walls on the beach and around the walk, they are the remains of public baths from the 1880’s.

Irishtown Nature Reserve

We join the path that runs east between Sandymount Strand and Sean Moore Park. In late spring and summer this area is awash with wild flowers, in particular the natural herb Valerian. It flowers pink and it’s root is said to be good for relaxation. I can vouch for its flowers too, as the walk here is exactly that. As the path follows its course, we are treated to those views south, along the coast of Dublin. It’s particularly beautiful of a summer’s day, shimmering and hazy.

There is an option to leave the path and follow one of those that traces a route through the Irishtown nature reserve. This was once a rubbish dump for Dublin city, which thankfully was repurposed to its more appealing present state. Birdwatching is excellent here, with a huge flock of Brent geese nesting here along with skylarks, dunnocks, and stonechats. The shallow sea waters here have herons, ruddy turnstones, and common redshanks too. Whatever trail you take whether over the rough nature reserve, or on the main path, they will all meet overlooking Poolbeg Beach. Note that the reserve can be quite wet and muddy in winter.

Poolbeg beach is a naturally sheltered beach and one of the finest in the city in your authors opinion. With the iconic towers, some palm trees and golden sand its attracts surprisingly few visitors on its own merits. The grassy embankment above is the perfect place to chill and take in an elevated view of it too.

Irishtown Nature Reserve

Poolbeg stacks

The Poolbeg stacks in Ringsend as they are commonly known are a pair of red and white chimneys that once formed part of the Poolbeg power generating station. They were built in the 1970’s and usage of the finally stopped in 2010. The Poolbeg Chimneys are very much a part of Dublin, and are one of the symbols of the city. At 207 metres high, they are some of the tallest structures in all of Ireland. Our walk passes by them now and meets the road to the Great South Wall. The wall extended inward beyond this point at one time, but as Dublin Port was developed, grew around it. At one point there was a hotel, a fort, and two incarnations of power stations in this area.

As we round the corner and pass the Shelley Banks, the full view of the South Wall comes into view. It’s advisable to give the Poolbeg beach here a miss, due to that aforementioned seaweed issue. But the South Wall beckons in front and the final one kilometre walk out to the lighthouse.

Poolbeg Beach

The Great South Wall and Poolbeg Lighthouse

With the goal finally in sight, all that’s left is the Great South Wall walk. Sometimes the wall is known as the South Bull Wall, it’s much longer than it looks, and walking on those cobblestones can be hard on the feet. Though it’s great out there; the sea air is so refreshing and the views of the Howth peninsula in County Dublin are perfect. You might be lucky to catch a ship passing into Dublin port too. The wall is one of the best places to catch a sunrise out to see in Dublin, and the sunsets back to Dublin aren’t bad either.

The wall was built in 1768 to prevent the silting up of Dublin Bay, and the earlier lighthouse at its end was a candle lighthouse in its first incarnation. It moved to oil in 1786, a wise choice I think. In 1820, the current ravishing red lighthouse was constructed. The wall by the lighthouse is often a canvas for street artists. As you reach the end, it’s a nice spot to reflect on your walk and look out to sea. Some find it an ideal place for fishing. I’m sure you’ll certainly find peace there.

Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk

The Way Back and the Perfect End

The route back to Sandymount is exactly as the route there, so no guidance is necessary. You may want to continue on to the second car park on Sandymount Strand, where there are facilities. More importantly there’s a service station across the road, and a Scoop ice cream stand. Treat yourself, you’ve just walked 11 kilometres. Sandymount village has a number of lunch options too in Brownes, Dunne & Cresenzi and Bujo Burgers.

If you need some guidance on the walk, I’ve attached the route I took in the Alltrails map below, with full directions on the walk to Poolbeg Lighthouse.

Other Great Walks on Ireland’s East Coast

Dublin has no shortage of excellent walks, from the coastal options to those found within its mountains to the south. If you are looking for inspiration look no further than my 35 Best Walks and Hikes in Dublin. For more of the same, the Bray to Greystones cliff walk, and the Howth cliff walk, have some of the best scenery on the east coast.

Dublin also offers excellent guided walking tours, including the immensely funny singing walking tour. You can book these at my affiliate booking partner, Get Your Guide.

Disclosure; This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your support.

What’s your favourite Dublin walk? Tell me in the comments below. Please share to your socials if you enjoyed this article.

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