If you’re planning to visit Dublin but not sure you’ll have the time to get a glimpse of the tourist attractions outside of Ireland’s capital city, here are 9 attractions to see within an hour or less from the city center.
This post and page contain affiliate links and I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.
Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Co. Meath
The most significant battle in Irish history was fought near the River Boyne at Oldbridge in County Meath on July 1st in 1690.
Indeed, its outcome would change Irish history forever.
At the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, you’ll discover how King William of Orange and his army of 36,000 men beat King James II, the deposed Catholic king of England and Ireland (also known as James VII, King of Scotland), who was leading 25,000 followers.
William’s army consisted of English, Scottish, Dutch, and Dane fighters, as well as the French Protestants known as Huguenots.
James’s men included mostly Irish Catholics, with some help from France.
Approximately 1,500 men were killed.
At the center, you’ll find original weapons from the battle, the largest to take place on Irish soil, as well as a laser model of the battlefield.
A canon used in the battle is on display in the yard of the 18th-century house-turned-tourist-attraction known as Oldbridge House.
Be sure to wait around for the musket-firing display and don’t forget to take a walk around the walled garden.
Admission for adults is €5; groups/seniors €4; children and students €3, and €13 for a family ticket. There is free admission to the grounds, including the walled garden and battle site walkways.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre at this link.
Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath
While Newgrange is considered the most popular of the attractions at the Brú na Bóinne complex in Co. Meath, there is more to see at this fascinating place, one of the 9 attractions to see near Dublin.
Located about 34 miles (55 km) from Dublin, there are actually 90 other archaeological sites in the area, including Knowth and Dowth.
Experts believe that Newgrange, a Late Stone Age passage tomb, was constructed about 5,000 years ago, predating the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.
The inner chamber, where human bones and objects of religious significance were found, is a small room with a vaulted ceiling. It has remained intact since its completion in 3,200 B.C.
Irish mythology tells us that the Tuatha Dé Danann, a supernatural race, built Newgrange and used it as a burial site for their chief, Dagda Mór, and his three sons.
Even before you enter the chamber, you’ll be fascinated by the 4-foot-high curbstones positioned outside the entrance. They are covered with beautiful spiral designs called triskeles, which were also common in Greek culture.
Researchers believe the stones used to build this magnificent monument came from as far away as the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and from Wicklow to the south of Newgrange.
The mound at Newgrange is surrounded by a huge circle of 12 standing stones, one of the biggest in Ireland. Archaeologists believe that up to 36 stones may have existed on the site at one time.
Excavations at the site determined that the stones, some as tall as 2.5 meters (8 feet) and weighing several tons, were placed there several hundred years after Newgrange was first constructed.
An immersive visitor center tells the story of Newgrange and other ancient monuments. Tickets for the Brú na Bóinne site must be booked in advance.
To access the Brú na Bóinne Plus Newgrange Chamber Tour (visitor center included), expect to pay €18 for adults, €16 for seniors (60+), €12 for children (12-17) or €48 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 5 children). You can find additional ticket information options here.
You can visit Brú na Bóinne independently or do it as a part of a tour from Dublin.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to the Brú na Bóinne site at this link.
Glendalough Monastic City, Co. Wicklow
The Glendalough Monastic Site is about 30 miles (48 km) from Dublin and is within an hour’s drive from the city.
The early monastic settlement, otherwise known as Monastic City, was founded in the sixth century by St. Kevin.
Glendalough is a deeply spiritual and tranquil place, surrounded by two lakes and located in a glacial valley that is surrounded by a forest.
By the 9th century, it equaled Clonmacnoise in County Offaly in its importance as a chief monastic site. Thousands of students came to Glendalough to study and to pray during its heyday.
Despite attacks from the Vikings, Glendalough survived to become a site of great learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214.
Today, you can take a walking tour of the site. Some of the things you’ll see include a near-perfect round tower, St. Kevin’s Kitchen (actually a church), St. Kevin’s Cell (a beehive hut where Kevin lived), St. Kevin’s Cross, and more.
A visitor center complete with interactive displays tells the story of St. Kevin’s journey to Glendalough and how he created this important religious site.
You can wander around the site for free. However, if you want to learn more about the history of the monastic site, you'll need to go to the visitor center, where you will pay the following prices: €5 for adults, €4 for seniors, €3 for children and students, and €13 for families.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to Glendalough Monastic City at this link.
Hill of Tara, Co. Meath
The Hill of Tara is known as the inauguration site of Ireland’s 142 high kings prior to the arrival of Christianity. Like Brú na Bóinne, it is also located in Co. Meath.
One can only imagine the halls and palaces that existed in this important spot. However, remarkable monuments from the Neolithic through Iron Age remain today that tell the story of this fascinating place.
The Ráth na Rí is a large round enclosure on the Hill of Tara site that incorporates some of the site’s most important structures.
They include the “Mound of the Hostages,” a passage tomb that contains similar stone artwork that can be seen in Newgrange.
The Lia Fáil, a mighty coronation stone where the high kings were believed to have been crowned is also in this area. It is also known as the Stone of Destiny.
The site is free to explore. Guided tours are available.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to the Hill of Tara at this link.
Howth Cliff Walk, Co. Dublin
While you can get to this small fishing village outside of Dublin in a mere 30 minutes on the DART train, the real highlight of this diversion from Dublin’s city center attractions is the beautiful and refreshing 2-hour cliff walk.
You’ll be able to see Lambay’s Island, Ireland’s Eye, and the whole Dublin Bay region from there. But perhaps the best part of the walk is the Howth Rhododendron Gardens that you’ll discover along the way.
The 19th-century gardens are located behind what used to be the Deer Park Hotel. Simply follow the signs for the cliff walk that will lead you toward Howth Castle.
The gardens contain about 2,000 plant species, including palm trees and other exotic plant specimens that you would not expect to see in Ireland.
If you’d like to get a sense of Howth’s history, including its importance as a trading port from the 14th century on, take the Howth Peninsula Hiking Tour, a 4-hour trek of the area courtesy of experienced guides from Shane’s Howth Adventures.
The nearby Howth Castle is worth exploring, too. While it isn’t open to the public, the grounds of this 16th-century building are free to explore.
Treat yourself to a nice fish and chips meal afterward in the harbor.
A return ticket will cost you around €6.25. Trains for Howth leave from Connolly Station, Tara Street Station, and Pearse Station.
Irish National Stud & Gardens, Co. Kildare
This thoroughbred horse breeding facility in County Kildare is home to some of the most magnificent horses in the world and you can learn all about it at the stud farm there, famous for producing Minoru, the winner of the Epsom Derby in 1909.
The Tully stud farm was gifted to the British Royal Family in 1915 and became known as The National Stud. The family’s horses, all bred at Tully, won five classic horse races over the years.
In 1946, the Irish government took over the running of the stud farm. And in 2011, Queen Elizabeth II visited the farm during her state visit to Ireland.
The Horse Museum, located on the grounds of the Irish National Stud at Tully, tells the story of the horse in Irish culture and Ireland’s love affair with horse racing through a variety of interactive exhibits.
Its latest attraction is called The Irish Racehorse Experience.
The Japanese Gardens, created between 1906 and 1910, are the finest of their kind in Europe.
They trace the soul of humankind from oblivion to eternity using a variety of rare plants and exotic landscapes that make you feel like you are in Japan, not Kildare.
While truly Eastern in design and creativity, the Japanese Gardens at the National Stud also include a Celtic twist in the form of St. Fiachra’s Garden, which opened in 1999 to celebrate the millennium and to commemorate the patron saint of gardeners, St. Fiachra.
Admission to the Irish National Stud & Gardens is €19 for adults, €11 for children ages 3-16, €14 for seniors and students, and €48 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children between the ages of 3 and 16).
The prices above include a free guided tour.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to the Irish National Stud & Garden at this link.
Newbridge House & Farm, Donabate, Co. Dublin
This 18th-century Georgian mansion can be found a mere 30 minutes from the city center by train.
The house and demesne, set in 370 acres of beautiful parkland north of Dublin, is the most complete Anglo-Irish estate in the country.
It includes a working farm, a children’s playground, and a café. And as a bonus, you’ll also discover the ruins of Lanistown Castle on the grounds.
Historians believe that the castle tucked away on the grounds of the estate, was part of a scheme created by King Henry in 1429 that included a £10 payment to landowners who agreed to build a defensive tower on their properties to protect The Pale.
What attracts history buffs is the house itself, designed by the renowned architect of the time, James Gibbs, for the Rev. Charles Cobbe, then archbishop of Dublin.
The Cobbe family remained in the home until 1985 when it was purchased from the former Dublin County Council. It is now managed by the Fingal County Council in association with the family.
The Red Drawing Room is considered one of the finest Georgian rooms in the country, home to the Museum of Curiosities, one of the few family museums to exist in either Ireland or the U.K.
If you have young children, they will love the working farm, home to some unusual animal breeds, including the Gloucester Old Spot, an English breed of pig that has all but disappeared elsewhere.
The house has also been used as a location for films like “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” as well as the Oscar-winning movie, “Barry Lyndon.”
Guided tours are available in English, with audio guides in Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Mandarin.
Admission is €12 for adults and €5 for children, but you can get in for free with the Dublin Pass.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to Newbridge House & Farm at this link.
You can easily get to this attraction by train from either Connolly, Tara Street, or Pearse Street train stations. Be sure to get off at the Donabate stop. The house and farm are about 15 minutes by foot from the station.
Round-trip fares for the 15 to 20-minute journey are only €3.60.
Powerscourt Estate, Co. Wicklow
Voted one of the Top 10 houses and mansions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet, Powerscourt Estate should definitely be on your itinerary if you’re in Dublin for a few days.
Powerscourt Estate is noted for its landscaped gardens.
The house was originally a 13th-century castle but was extensively altered by leading architect Richard Cassels during the period 1731 through 1741.
A fire in 1974 severely damaged the house, which was renovated to its former glory in 1996.
Even so, the house is not quite the same as it was in its heyday. Today, the interior is a popular wedding destination and there are many craft shops and other retailers within the space.
The gardens are what many people come to see.
Their development is thanks to Mervyn Wingfield, the 7th Viscount Powerscourt, who after visiting Versailles, the Schönbrunn Palace near Vienna, and the Schwetzingen Castle in Germany wanted to replicate some of those features in his County Wicklow estate.
Completion of the vast gardens took 150 years to complete.
Beyond the gardens is the Powerscourt Waterfall. While most tourism brochures claim that this is Ireland’s tallest, the Devil’s Chimney in County Sligo holds that honor.
Still, the Powerscourt Waterfall is a feature of the estate not to be missed.
Admission to the estate’s gardens costs €12.50 for adults, €9.50 for seniors, €9 for students with a valid ID, and €5 for children 5-16. Children under 5 are admitted for free. A family ticket for two adults and 3 children is €28.
Information on admission to the waterfall can be found on the website.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to the Powerscourt Estate at this link.
Trim Castle, Co. Meath
Located on the south bank of the River Boyne, the 3-story Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland.
King Henry II granted Norman Hugh de Lacy the land on which to build a castle. As protection against the surrounding Gaelic clans, de Lacy proceeded to construct a huge ringwork castle that was pretty much impenetrable, protected by a ditch, a curtain wall, and a water-filled moat.
During the 15th century, the Irish Parliament met at Trim Castle several times. A mint also operated from there at the time. In 1649, during the Irish Confederate Wars, it was occupied by Oliver Cromwell’s army.
Learn more about this fascinating castle, which was used as a location for the film, “Braveheart,” by taking a guided tour.
Admission to the castle, including the keep, is €5 for adults, €4 for seniors, €3 for students and children, and €13 for a family ticket.
Directions: Find directions from Dublin to Trim Castle at this link.
Are you planning to visit Ireland's capital in the future? Or perhaps you’ve already visited some of the 9 attractions to see near Dublin mentioned above. Let me know in the comments below.