Visiting Donabate, Ireland

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Recently, I wrote about my experience living in the small town of Donabate, Ireland. On this post I’ll be sharing what you can see and do in Donabate as a visitor. Donabate is a town north of Dublin, and it’s accessible by car or train. It makes a good destination for a half day or full day trip. It’s also only 12 kilometres from the Dublin Airport. If you have a layover and some time (I’d recommend at least 5 hours) then visiting Donabate would be a great way to spend a layover. If you have more time you can use Donabate as a base, and explore other nearby towns like Malahide, Skerries, and Balbriggan. If you are planning a trip to Ireland here are some things to do in Donabate.

Golf

I’m not much for golfing, but if you love to golf there are four golf courses in Donabate that are open to the public. Since weather in Ireland is relatively mild (aside from the rain) the golf courses here are open year round, even in winter. North of the town centre is the Beaverstown Golf Course. East you can find the Donabate Golf Club, Balcarrick Golf Club, and The Island Golf Club. Prices vary depending on the club and time of year you visit. The Island Golf Club for example, is a championship golf course and its green fees range from €80 to €175 per person. The green fees at the other golf courses are a more reasonable €20 to €40 per person (on average). Be sure to contact the golf course in advance to check the days and times that are open to visitors. You can rent golf equipment here at the Dublin Airport.

Donabate Beach

One thing I miss about living in Donabate is being close to the ocean. There are two beaches in the Donabate area. The first is Donabate Beach. It’s accessible by car or walking east along New Road. If you plan to walk there it would take about an hour minutes to get to the beach from the train station. On a clear day at Donabate Beach you’ll be able to see across the strait of water to the town of Malahide.

Donabate Martello Tower in Donabate, Ireland.

The Donabate Tower at Donabate Beach. Martello Towers are short round defense towers found throughout coastal Ireland. When Ireland was still a part of the British Empire these towers were erected to ward off an invasion from Napoleon.

There is a cliff walk from Donabate Beach to Portrane Beach (and vice versa). It’s about an hour walk one-way. The walk is relatively easy, but you’ll want to wear good walking/hiking shoes as the path can get slippery if it has been raining. And this is Ireland so chances are it was raining pretty recently. Be sure to follow the posted signs along the way.

Cliff walk in Donabate, Ireland.

They’re not as tall as the Cliffs of Moher, but it’s still a nice view walking along the seaside cliffs from Donabate Beach to Portrane Beach.

Portrane Beach

Portrane Beach is technically in the neighbouring town of Portrane (pop. 1532). Since Portrane Beach is close to Donabate (and accessible by car or taking Dublin Bus 33B) it’s worth including here. While Donabate Beach has some nice views it’s not the best beach for swimming. If it’s sunny out, you’ll find people enjoying the day at Portrane Beach. I talked to some people in Dublin who say that this is their favourite beach in the area. Be aware that this isn’t some soft, white sand tropical beach. There’s lots of little pebbles and seashells in the sand here, so I’d recommend wearing some flip flops while on the beach.

Portrane Round Tower in Portrane, Ireland.

When driving (or taking the bus) on the R126 toward Portrane Beach you may be able to see the Portrane Round Tower south in the distance. It was built in 1843 by Sophie Evans in memory of her late husband George Evans, who was an MP for Dublin County. The Portrane Round Tower is actually pretty recent for a Round Tower in Ireland. Some (like the Round Tower at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary) date back to the 11th century.

RMS Tayleur Memorial in Portrane, Ireland.

This is a memorial to the RMS Tayleur. She was a Clipper Ship that sank on off the coast of Lambay Island (about 6km away from Portrane Beach) in January of 1854. 360 of 650 people on board perished in the sinking. The RMS Tayleur is often called the Victorian Titanic or the First Titanic because they share several similarities. Both ships were operated by the White Star Line company. Both were the biggest and fastest ships of their time. Finally both ships tragically sank on their maiden voyages.

Sailboats over in Rush.

One day at Portrane Beach I went for a long walk and ended up on the north side of the beach. Across the water here you can see some houses in the town of Rush. There wasn’t a dock for boats on the Portrane Beach side, but I think it would only take about five minutes to get across this little strait of water. I’m not a boat captain though, so don’t take my word on this.

Rogerstown Estuary

Between Donabate and Portrane on the south, and Rush and Lusk on the north is the Rogerstown Estuary. This is a nature preserve home to several species of birds like the Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, and the Black-tailed Godwit (to name a few). Due to all the water and marshy grounds there aren’t any walking trails here, and there isn’t a bridges to walk across the water from one side to the other. If you like bird watching you can get to the start of Rogerstown Estuary walking along Portrane Beach north up to Burrow Road as I did. Or if you have a car you drive on Burrow Road in Portrane until you reach the end of the road. I can’t say I did any bird watching here, but being in this area is very peaceful and pretty.

Newbridge

Aside from going to the beach the Newbridge Estate is my favourite place in Donabate. This was closer to where I lived so I visited here quite often Newbridge House is an 18th Century Georgian estate and mansion in Donabate. There is also a working farm run like it would have been back in the 18th century. While I didn’t visit the farm it’s a popular attraction with families and kids. Admission to the Newbridge House and Farm is €10 and includes entry to the farm as well. Admission to the farm only is €5.50. Beside the Newbridge House is the old coach house, which has been converted into the Coach House Cafe.

Outside the Newbridge House in Donabate, Ireland.

Outside the Newbridge House in Donabate, Ireland.

Inside the Newbridge House in Donabate, Ireland.

There are daily tours of the Newbridge House every hour between 10am and 3pm. On the tour you get to go inside the House and learn about the Cobbe family who built the house in 1736. Their descendants lived there until 1985. This is one of the drawing rooms.

What I love about the Newbridge is the estate. There is 400 acres of fields and parks and walking paths here and it’s amazing. I loved going for a walk on the paths here. If you are travelling with a dog you can bring your dog (on leash) to the estate.. For families there is a playground on the estate. There’s even a small castle (Lanestown Castle)on site. It’s a really small castle (really just a little tower). To be fair there are also like a thousand castles in Ireland so it’s pretty easy to find a castle in this country.

Walking trails at the Newbridge Estate in Donabate, Ireland.

Now that I’m back home in Canada people ask me what I miss the most about Ireland. This. I miss living so close to a place as beautiful and green as the walking trails at the Newbridge Estate in Donabate. This was once 15 minutes from my house.

Newbridge Estate in Donabate, Ireland.

Newbridge Estate still pretty on a cool, misty, autumn day.

Irish Red Deer in Donabate, Ireland.

One of the side entrances for the Newbridge Estate was about a 10 minute walk from my apartment. When I came in I always walked by the pen that had Irish Red Deer. You can see there is one buck and several does. Sometimes they were further back, but every now and then they’d come up close to the fence. As well behind Newbridge House you may be able to see some of the farm animals like cows and goats.

Where to Stay

If you want to spend a couple of days in the area, or use Donabate as a base for exploring other nearby towns (like Malahide or Skerries) you can stay at the Waterside House Hotel. It’s the only hotel in Donabate, although it’s not right in town, but down at Donabate Beach. It’s actually at the water (hence the name) so you’ll be able to explore the beach and have nice views of Malahide, Lambay Island, and the Irish Sea. As well you can do the cliff walk from Donabate Beach to Portrane Beach, which will take about 45 minutes.

Book Your Stay at the Waterside House Hotel in Donabate, Ireland

Getting There

Donabate has a small train station and is on the Dublin commuter line. It goes south to Dublin ending at Pearse Station and north up to Dundalk or Drogheda. A one-way trip from one of the city centre stations in Dublin (Pearse, Tara, or Connolly) to Donabate will take about 30 to 35 minutes. A roundtrip ticket will cost about €6.95, which makes Donabate an affordable day trip. Visit Irish Rail for schedule and fare information.

If you want to drive you’ll need to get out the M1 heading north and exit off on the R126. There is free parking at the Newbridge Estate for free and there is parking at Portrane and Donabate Beach. Parking in town can be hard to find, but there is paid parking at the train station.

Getting Around Town

Donabate is a small town, but the attractions I mention are outside the main area of town. You can take Dublin Bus 33B to both Newbridge Estate and to Portrane Beach. To go to Newbridge Estate from Donabate take the bus going to Swords. To go to Portrane from Donabate (or Newbridge Estate) take the bus going to Portrane. You can check the bus time/schedule and fares on Dublin Bus.

If you arrive by train it would be best to take a Taxi if you are planning to stay at the Waterside Hotel and/or visit one of the golf courses. There is a local cab company in Donabate that you can book online.

Final Thoughts

Living in Donabate I got to explore the town and this area quite well. If I wasn’t living in Ireland, and just coming as a visitor I probably would have never explored this area because I likely wouldn’t have known it existed, and that makes me sad. Donabate is a really nice town to live in, but it’s also a nice place to visit. If you’re spending some time in Dublin consider taking a trip out to Donabate.

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Have you ever heard of Donabate? Would you rather spend a day at the beach or at the Newbridge Estate?  Let me know in the comments below.

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