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Howth, County Dublin, Ireland

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The town of Howth, County Dublin, Ireland, is a smallish fishing community located at the northern extreme of the Dublin Area Rapid Transport (DART) rail line. It is on a tombolo peninsula1, which keeps the worst excesses of the Irish Sea from Dublin - and keeps the Irish Sea from the worst excesses of Dubliners.

The principal places of interest in Howth are the harbour and marina, the Martello tower, the cliffside walk and the boat trips to the island of Ireland's Eye. There are also some fine restaurants, fish and chip shops, high quality fishmongers and a beach - although in fairness the beaches at Malahide and Bray are better on account of the sea being deep enough to swim in without having to wade out for hundreds of yards.

The Harbour

The harbour is about a half a mile down a shallow slope from the DART station, and is home to a working fishing fleet as well as countless yachts that are evidence of Ireland's 'tiger economy'. On the shorter inner harbour wall is where the best fishmongers can be found, and there is also sea fishing off its extreme end2. The outer sea-facing harbour wall is much longer and is quite a walk, especially if there's a stiff breeze coming off the Irish Sea. At the end is an automatic lighthouse, which also affords a good view of the island of Ireland's Eye and its seabird colony. It is also one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the grey seals which thrive around this fishing area.

The Martello tower

The Martello tower was built to guard against the possibility of French invasion in the time of Napoleon, and sits atop a steep and seemingly inaccessible hill. The way to get to it is to walk up the road that goes around the cliffside and turn off to the right where it first bears left. It is a short, stiff climb but is totally worth it for the view.

The Cliffside Walk

The cliffside walk is a circuit at the end of the peninsula. It is about 7km long and quite steep in parts, but it is on a good path so you won't need to have your walking boots on to do it. The walk starts by the landward end of the long harbour wall and heads straight up hill to a height of about 100m before continuing the rest of the way at about this height at the cliff's edge. It then plunges back down into the town just as precipitously. The first kilometre or so is behind the walls of people's gardens but after this you get fairly uninterrupted vistas.

History and Legend

The name 'Howth' is believed to derive from the Norse word hoved which means 'headland'. It was an early Viking settlement at the same time as the Vikings were building the greater settlement at Dublin around the turn of the 1st millennium AD.

The first building you might notice as you leave the train station is a pub called The Bloody Stream. This is not a reflection on the beer taps but rather a reference to the story of Brian Boru whose death was foretold by a woman who was washing his clothes in a stream and the stream ran thick with blood.

Another legend is that of Granuaile who held the son and heir to Howth Castle to ransom because she was refused a meal at the house - a story which is actually fit for children.

1Formed when a pre-existing island is joined to the mainland by a sandbar.2A word of caution, the local casting can be wildly inacurate so beware of the hooks.

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