A travel blog of Ireland and Europe

Howth Summit Walk

A summer morning in Howth near Dublin

At the north end of Dublin Bay is a small peninsula on which sits the pretty fishing village of Howth, about which we have blogged before. What we haven’t yet done is walked from the summit back to the village so I took the opportunity to do that last Thursday morning while the sun was still shining. We are getting towards the end of summer, a summer which I doubt will make it into Dublin’s top 10 because of the large number of cloudy and rainy days. Our first summer here was quite a bit better.

Luckily, the number 31 Dublin Bus stops at the Howth Summit so it is only a matter of walking a couple of hundred yards uphill past the Summit Inn (yes, there really is a pub everywhere in Dublin) to the true summit and then the rest of the walk back to the village is all downhill. Very civilised.

The walk skirts the edge of high cliffs and the first thing one comes across is a pole with a number of information/prohibition-type warnings. First, no horse riding or bike riding. Then a more sombre and low key notice containing the 24/7 phone number of the Samaritans, offering the opportunity for any troubled souls to talk things over if they feel they would like to. The final notice drops all such laissez-faire pretence and barks “Bin the poo” with a curt warning that contact with “dog dirt” can cause blindness in children (thereby causing them to fall off the cliff, perhaps? The mental image of groups of little faeces-smeared, lemming-like children rushing sightless to their doom is hard to get rid of, once it has infected your neural pathways so I guess the notice has achieved its aims).

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Most of the walk around the peninsula is not particularly photogenic alhough pretty quickly you do come across the Baily Lighthouse, the last one in Ireland to require a resident lighthouse keeper, who was there until it changed to an automatic light in 1996. Then, as you round the last corner coming into the village, you do get a good view of Ireland’s Eye, a bird colony just off the coast which is home to gannets, cormorants, guillemots, razorbills and gulls. The houses build up gradually and there are some very nice cottages amongst them.

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I was intrigued enough to take a diversion down Cowbooter Lane which began as a typical narrow Irish rural one-car-width road then became just half that width for the last 200 metres at the bottom of the hill. A plaque on the fence revealed some interesting information – this was an ancient road from Howth harbour to the Royal Fort of King Criomhthann at the summit possibly as early as the first century AD. Cowbooter Lane was also the scene for the first short story ever published by W B Yeats, who lived in Howth in the early 1880’s. History is everywhere in Ireland. (It is unlikely that any cows were booted in the making of this lane – it is more than likely a corruption of “bothar”, the Irish Gaelic word for road.)

At the bottom of the lane you can see back around to the East and I saw a couple of grey seals swimming around below me, always managing to dive as I reached for my camera. Then immediately to the west is the start of Howth harbour.

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By now you are at sea level again and it had been a hot dusty walk so I sped up a little, past the marina and then past the fishing harbour in anticipation of half a dozen rock oysters and a pint of Guinness at Beschoff’s on the Howth West Quay. But I got there at 11:30am only to find out that the bar didn’t open until 12:30pm so had to make do with coffee and a sandwich. Next time I’m doing this trip in the afternoon! But I finally caught a photo of a seal in the harbour.

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I hope you enjoy the photos. I am testing out a new camera which gives me a number of options that my old one didn’t have and so far, although it is a steep learning curve, I am very satisfied with the improved quality. High resolution copies can be seen at https://www.flickr.com/photos/pipandbruce/albums/72157656147362944. For the record, it’s a Sony RX10 Mk I with a built in 24-200mm Zeiss lens. Things like this are expensive in Ireland but I was able to take advantage of much cheaper UK prices, taking the train to Belfast in Northern Ireland and buying it there. Two hours on the train each way, no border formalities and, because of my Senior Citizen status, the train was free! Trounces the Gold Card with its free trips to Waiheke…

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