Local Knowledge: North County Dublin


David Bassett is director of Xtreme.ie , which is an adventure park in Balbriggan.

So, tell me why someone should visit north County Dublin?

North County Dublin is an area often overlooked as it has seen rapid residential growth in recent years. People need to look beyond the residential areas and see the wonderful seaside towns, coastlines and areas of national heritage that is north County Dublin. You’d be surprised how often people tell me towns like Rush and Skerries (below) were the destinations for annual family holidays when they were children.

Say I’m visiting with a bunch of kids and it’s lashing rain, what is there to do?

With the growth in population we have seen an increase in the number of family attractions for all weather. For something a bit different, Rush has the Fingal Arts Centre, which is a converted church that now houses a local library and arts centre. The Fingal Food Fair is hosted there on the last Sunday of every month.

Anywhere good locally for a swim that is maybe not on the tourist radar as much?

Loughshinny beach is frequently bypassed. It’s a small village and beach between Rush and Skerries and many people don’t even know it exists. The bay itself provides a lovely sheltered area for swimming. After a swim, visitors can take a stroll up to the Martello Tower and along the coastline over to Rush north beach and finish up in the Harbour Bar for a pint.

What hidden gems should people be aware of?

Some of the hidden gems include Ardgillan Castle and Demesne. Visitors can get a tour of the old castle and finish up with a stroll in the rose gardens and afternoon tea in the tearooms. Again, something off the beaten track is Skerries Mills, where you have two windmills and a watermill.

Tell me about your business and maybe one other activity locally people can do?

We provide tailor-made team-building events in Ireland. Our adventure centre includes a high-ropes course, power-turn buggies, paint ball, archery, giant adrenaline swing and climbing walls. Visitors can also experience clay pigeon shooting at Courtlough shooting grounds. Pricing starts from €25 for an adrenaline-filled afternoon.

I’d also recommend the Dublin Falconry Centre, recently opened in Courtlough, where adults and children get to experience birds of prey close up – admission from €8 per person.

Where is good for food and drink locally?

Blue Bar in Skerries is a great spot to get a pint and also offer a great selection of fresh seafood caught locally from the fishing boats. Sitting on the deck watching the sun setting over Skerries harbour is pure bliss.

Other Recommendations:

John Weldon: South beach in Rush is one of the best kite-surfing areas in Ireland.

@RobMcDonnel1: Newbridge demesne has to be on the list, great for a family visit.

Things to do/see

KEOGH’S ARE a family of potato producers in Oldtown that have been growing potatoes for over 200 years. Their farm is also home to something new: shamrock based food – Keogh’s Shamrock and Sour Cream Crisps. The family grow potatoes on their farm and make a range of crisps and are one of the few producers harvesting their own potatoes for crisps. Visitors can call and buy produce direct from the farm and meet the family. There are no formal tours but generally they are happy to interact with the public.

They also organise National Potato Day 2012, which is on Saturday August 25th. This year they will bring elements of the farm to the north quays of the River Liffey outside CHQ from 10am.

For more see keoghs.ie

Margaret Curley, Donabate

Margaret Curley is an RTÉ radio producer, originally from Galway but living in Donabate for 19 years.

What is there to see and do in Donabate?

There are several significant advantages to Donabate. It has a lovely beach and there’s also another beach at Portrane and both of them are beautiful. Donabate is more sheltered than Portrane but both are very good for walking on. Cars have been removed from the Donabate beach and it has made a huge difference.

Walk down to Donabate beach from the village and instead of turning right onto the beach, turn left and from there you can stroll along what is called the Cliff Walk.The views are beautiful along the way and you eventually come to the Martello tower in Portrane and you can then walk back to Donabate village along the Portrane Road. The cliff walk is quite short but the whole roundtrip would take over an hour and twenty minutes.

It’s a walk I love to do with the dog.

Any other local attractions you think are worth highlighting?

Yes, Newbridge House which also has a working farm alongside it. There is an entry fee for the house but you can also take a stroll around the park and visit the playground for free. It has lovely picnic and barbecue facilities so that in certain areas you can cook food. I walk there most evenings and a lot of weekends and it is always quite busy. Another thing worth doing locally is bird watching. There are fantastic special nature reserves for birds down at Rogerstown Estuary.

Anywhere good to eat in Donabate?

There is a nice cafe for sandwiches and that type of thing called Cate’s cafe in Donabate. There is also a pub, which does nice food called Keelings Pub. It has a good atmosphere and is split into three areas with a small bar, larger bar and then a lounge area. Food and atmosphere there are both good.

Mark doyle, Ireland's Eye Ferries

Mark Doyle runs a new daily boat service to Ireland’s Eye from the pier in Howth. See islandferries.net

Tell me a little about your links with the area? I

’m from Raheny and my father was from Howth and all our family ran boats to the islands. I have taken over the business since my father died in 2002. The boat’s name is The Little Flower. Ireland’s Eye is a bird sanctuary and a great place to be able to get away from the mainland. It has two lovely beaches and a colony of seals, as well as a lot of gannets and puffins. Recently, there have been three peregrine falcons there also.

Is there an aspect of the island or the coast that people are often surprised by when they visit?

They are surprised it is on our doorstep and it is not something everyone is aware of. It has a beautiful sandy beach that is west facing. It is one of the only west-facing beaches along the coast. The water is absolutely spotless and clean and there is no pollution over there at all. It is really natural and very safe for swimming.

Anywhere else worth visiting locally?

The Howth Peninsula has a lovely looped walk. You can walk all over and it starts and ends from the Dart station in Howth and the route is well signposted on the way. You can get a little map in the tourist areas. Recently, Fingal County Council and Howth Pathways did a lot of work promoting the walkways around the area. I like the walk around by the Baily Lighthouse and you end up at the Red Rock. On your way you see Dublin Bay and Dún Laoghaire.

Where might you catch a few fish in the area?

This time of year you’ll catch a lot of mackerel in Balscadden Bay in Howth at the East Pier. You’ll get some pollock there also. On Ireland’s Eye you have a better chance of catching rock bream and some cod

Where would you go for a pint or a bite to eat?

In Howth, a place with nice music and a very traditional bar is the Abbey Tavern. They also have a lovely open fire. I go into the Waterside Bar, which I suppose is the fisherman’s bar. There’s always banter in there with the other fishing and boat people.

Any ideas on what you might do with kids in the area?

There’s a lovely facility on Harbor Road, which is a new playground for the kids. If you bring them down to the pier, they’ll see the lighthouse at the bottom. If it is lashing rain, there is a swimming pool in the Marine Hotel.

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