The 10 Best Things to Do Near Dublin Airport

Layovers can often feel like a drag, a seemingly endless stretch of time spent in an anonymous airport with little to do but wait. But what if you could turn that idle time into an adventure, or at the very least, a memorable experience?

If you find yourself with a layover in Dublin, you're in luck! Ireland's capital is not just a city steeped in history and culture; it's also a gateway to stunning natural landscapes and charming towns.

In this article, we've rounded up 10 of the best things to do near Dublin Airport, specially curated for travellers like you who are on a layover or stopover.

From serene beaches and historic castles to vibrant gardens and shopping centres, there's something to suit every interest and time constraint. So why settle for airport lounges and duty-free shops when you can explore so much more?

Read on to discover how you can make the most of your layover and experience a taste of what Dublin and its surroundings have to offer.

Things to do Near Dublin Airport At a Glance

Explore this article using the links below to skip to a particular section.

  1. Malahide Castle and Gardens: Historic castle with lush gardens; ideal for history and nature lovers.
  2. Howth: Quaint fishing village with seafood, cliffs, and hiking; pure escapism.
  3. Swords Castle: Medieval gem close to the airport; perfect for a history fix.
  4. Newbridge House and Farm: Historic mansion and farm; educational and fun for families.
  5. Coastal Town of Skerries: Scenic harbor, windmills, and cafes; perfect for relaxation and photos.
  6. Shopping at the Pavilions: Spacious mall with top brands; great for retail therapy and food.
  7. Portmarnock Beach: Golden sands and watersports; your quick beach getaway.
  8. National Botanic Gardens of Ireland: Lush gardens, rare plants; a tranquil nature escape.
  9. Bull Island and Dollymount Strand: UNESCO reserve and beach; perfect for nature lovers and thrill-seekers.
  10. Santry Demesne: A green oasis ideal for jogging, relaxing, and family fun.

Malahide Castle and Gardens

Distance from Airport: 5.1 Miles (14 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Malahide Castle and Gardens offers a rich blend of history and natural beauty, all in one captivating package. It's the perfect escape for layover travellers looking to trade airport monotony for a whirlwind journey through Irish history and a serene stroll through botanical splendour.

If you're stuck in a layover at Dublin Airport and have some time to spare, Malahide Castle and Gardens offers a fantastical escape into a world of mediaeval grandeur and botanical wonder. Built in the 12th century, this castle isn't just another old, stone building; it's a treasure trove of history, art, and fascinating tales that could rival the best storybooks. Seriously, even Game of Thrones enthusiasts would be jealous of its rich history, complete with family dramas, political intrigues, and even its very own resident ghost!

While the castle itself will transport you to a time of knights and royalty, the adjacent Talbot Botanic Gardens will catapult you into a different realm altogether. With over 260 acres of lush gardens, featuring everything from walled flower gardens to tranquil woodland walks, you'll feel like you've stepped into an impressionist painting. Dotted with sculptures and meticulously maintained greenery, the gardens are a paradise for photography buffs and nature lovers alike.

Tours are available to help you delve deep into the castle's history, learning about the Talbot family who resided there for nearly 800 years. Or if you'd prefer to wander at your own pace, you can opt for a self-guided tour. And hey, if history starts to weigh you down, there's a delightful café on-site where you can recharge with a sumptuous slice of cake and some good old Irish tea.


Distance from Airport: 10.9 Miles (30 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Howth perfectly blends the allure of the sea with Irish village charm, offering everything from breathtaking cliff walks to some of the freshest seafood you'll ever taste. It's the ultimate quick getaway for travellers wanting to swap airport drudgery for a taste of authentic Ireland.

If you've got a layover in Dublin and yearn for a quick adventure that blends the salty sea breeze with rustic Irish charm, then Howth is your ideal pit stop. Just a 30-minute drive from Dublin Airport, Howth is the kind of place that feels like a well-kept secret—a quaint fishing village that offers far more than what meets the eye.

As you arrive, you'll notice the harbour filled with colourful boats bobbing gently in the water, each one with its own story to tell. Fishing is the lifeblood of this village, and you'll feel it as you pass by the local fish markets and seafood restaurants serving up the freshest catches. Speaking of food, you must try the local fish and chips; they're so good, they could probably bring world peace—or at least make you forget you're on a layover.

If you're someone who loves the great outdoors, Howth offers a perfect backdrop for a nature hike. The cliff walks here are legendary, providing panoramic views of the Irish Sea that can only be described as soul-stirring. You might even spot seals, dolphins, and a variety of seabirds. If you're lucky, you'll catch sight of the Baily Lighthouse standing sentinel at the edge of the cliffs, a picture-perfect spot for your Instagram feed.

In case you're not into hiking, Howth still has plenty to offer. Check out the local crafts shops, wander around Howth Castle, or just grab an Irish coffee at one of the local pubs and soak in the atmosphere. Trust us, by the time you head back to the airport, you'll be seriously considering how to extend your layover into a full-fledged Irish holiday.

Swords Castle

Distance from Airport: 3.3 Miles (12 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Swords Castle is like a compact history lesson enveloped in enchanting gardens—a perfect oasis for those looking to swap the mundanity of airport life for a spellbinding leap back in time.

Just a 10-minute drive from Dublin Airport, Swords Castle is your portal to the past, a place where history comes alive, and you don't need a time machine to get there.

Picture this: stone walls that have stood the test of time, surrounding a castle built in the early 13th century. No, it's not a setting for the next Hollywood period drama; it's a real place that beckons history buffs and casual visitors alike. Originally built as the residence for the Archbishop of Dublin, this castle lets you walk through mediaeval halls that have witnessed centuries of Irish history. These walls, if they could talk, would speak volumes about feudal lords, political machinations, and perhaps the odd secret romance.

But wait, there's more! The castle is enveloped by a well-kept garden that transports you to a pastoral dream, where you can almost imagine jesters entertaining nobility, or knights practising their swordsmanship. It's a garden straight out of a fairy tale—without the need for rose-coloured glasses.

If guided tours are your thing, they're available to deepen your understanding of the castle's history. But if you'd rather let your imagination run wild, feel free to explore at your leisure. Either way, don't forget to snap some photos; the castle offers some fabulous angles for would-be photographers, perfect for impressing your social media followers or simply capturing a memorable layover.

Newbridge House and Farm

Distance from Airport: 7 Miles (17 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Newbridge House and Farm offers the best of both worlds—a luxurious trip back in time within the mansion and a rustic, down-to-earth experience at the farm. It's an ideal layover destination for history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and families looking for a memorable escape from airport blues.

If you're stuck at Dublin Airport with time ticking away, why settle for stale airport coffee and cramped seating areas when you can experience a slice of Irish countryside history at Newbridge House and Farm? Just a hop, skip, and a 17-minute drive away, this 18th-century Georgian mansion is your passport to Ireland's opulent past and pastoral present, all rolled into one.

Imagine stepping into a grand mansion, where time has seemingly stood still. Newbridge House is filled with period furniture, intricate tapestries, and captivating artwork that transport you back to the days of powdered wigs and horse-drawn carriages. Each room whispers tales of the Cobbe family, who have called this place home since the 18th century. It's like taking a stroll through a living museum, where even the walls seem to hold their breath, revering the generations that have walked before you.

Just when you think you've soaked in enough history, step outside to discover an entirely different world—a traditional working farm teeming with life! Whether you're a grown-up looking to unwind or a kid at heart, Newbridge Farm is an animal lover's paradise. From the clucking of chickens to the bleating of goats, the farm is a cacophony of sounds that celebrate rural life. Children will especially love getting up close and personal with the farm animals. It's like a petting zoo but with an old-world charm!

For those keen on botany or simply looking to escape into nature, the estate is surrounded by idyllic gardens and woodland walks. The ambiance is so serene, you'll momentarily forget you're on a layover and not a countryside holiday.

Coastal Town of Skerries

Distance from Airport: 14.6 Miles (30 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Skerries is a vibrant blend of maritime charm, historic landmarks, and culinary delights. It's the perfect destination for travellers wanting to exchange airport chaos for a taste of coastal serenity and cultural richness.

Just a 30-minute drive from Dublin Airport, this coastal town is where the air smells of salt and freedom, and the pace of life slows down enough for you to catch your breath.

As you arrive in Skerries, you'll be instantly captivated by its postcard-perfect harbour, brimming with boats that look like they've sailed straight out of a maritime novel. The town itself is an eclectic blend of quaint shops, cosy cafes, and historic windmills, which have stood sentinel over the town for centuries. Oh yes, the windmills! You can visit these charming structures and even take a guided tour to learn about their history and functionality. They're not just beautiful; they're a living testament to Skerries' storied past.

Let's talk about beaches, shall we? Skerries offers pristine stretches of sand where you can walk, relax, or even take a quick dip if you dare to brave the brisk Irish waters. If you're more of a spectator, the beaches are a great place to enjoy a beautiful sunset or watch enthusiastic surfers take on the waves.

And then there's the seafood—oh, the seafood! If you're a fan of things that swim, you're in for a treat. From mussels to fish and chips, Skerries offers some of the freshest, most succulent seafood dishes you'll ever encounter. It's the kind of food that, once tasted, leaves you wondering how you ever settled for airport cuisine.

Before you know it, your brief sojourn will be over, but the memories of Skerries will stay with you. Whether it's the wind in your hair, the sand between your toes, or the taste of freshly caught fish, Skerries offers a respite that will make your layover feel like a mini-vacation.

Shopping at the Pavilions

Distance from Airport: 3.2 Miles (10 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: The Pavilions Shopping Centre is a layover lifesaver, offering a versatile range of shopping and dining options that turn your wait time into an enjoyable escapade. It's not just a shopping centre; it's your layover sanctuary.

Stuck in a layover and tired of endlessly scrolling through your phone while wedged between strangers at the airport? Have no fear, the Pavilions Shopping Centre is here to rescue you from your layover limbo. Just a quick 10-minute drive from Dublin Airport, this shopping oasis is the perfect remedy for any layover-induced malaise.

Step through the doors, and you're welcomed into a shopper's paradise—over 90 stores catering to every desire and budget, from high-end fashion boutiques to practical everyday brands. Feel like treating yourself? How about a snazzy new outfit, or perhaps a cutting-edge gadget from one of the tech stores? With a diverse range of retail options, the Pavilions offers something for everyone, making it an ideal spot for some retail therapy or last-minute souvenir shopping.

If you're a foodie, or even if you're just airport-hungry (it's a real condition, we swear), the dining options won't disappoint. You'll find a smorgasbord of culinary choices, from fast food to fine dining, and even trendy coffee shops for that much-needed caffeine fix. Imagine biting into a juicy burger or sipping on a luxurious latte while contemplating your shopping conquests. Sounds better than airport food, doesn't it?

But wait, there's more! The Pavilions also hosts a cinema. If you have a particularly long layover, why not catch a movie? With comfortable seating and top-notch audio-visual quality, it's a great way to escape reality for a couple of hours before you jet off to your next destination.

As your layover comes to an end and you make your way back to the airport, you'll realise that the Pavilions Shopping Centre has transformed your layover from a boring wait into an exciting adventure. Who knew layovers could be this fun?

Portmarnock Beach

Distance from Airport: 6.7 Miles (20 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Portmarnock Beach is more than just a stretch of sand; it's a sanctuary where you can escape the chaos of travel and reconnect with nature. It offers a blissful respite that makes layovers feel like mini-vacations. Whether you're there for the activities, the vistas, or just the sheer tranquillity, this beach turns layovers into cherished experiences.

Ah, Portmarnock Beach—Dublin's own slice of coastal heaven, and just a 20-minute drive from the airport! If your layover has you craving the unmistakable scent of salty sea air, and your feet are itching to feel the soft embrace of sand, then this is your haven away from airport havoc.

As you arrive, the first thing that will capture your senses is the expansive stretch of golden sand that seems to go on forever, bordered by the rhythmically crashing waves of the Irish Sea. Instantly, the stress of travel melts away, replaced by an irresistible urge to kick off your shoes and let your toes sink into the beach. Whether you're a solo traveller, a couple, or a family, Portmarnock Beach offers enough room for everyone to carve out their own little paradise.

Are you a water enthusiast? Go ahead and dive into the inviting yet bracing waves. It's not the tropics, so you might find the waters a tad chilly, but the invigorating experience will make you forget all about your layover woes. Not a fan of swimming? No problem. The beach is also a popular spot for kite flying, beach volleyball, and even just for catching up on some reading with the soothing sounds of the sea in the background.

And let's not forget the photographic potential! The scenic views of the coastline, especially during sunrise or sunset, are the stuff of Instagram dreams. Capture the perfect shot as the sky turns shades of orange and pink, and make your friends and followers wish they were on a Dublin layover, too!

As you finally pull yourself away from this coastal utopia to head back to the airport, you'll carry the sand, sea, and sky in your heart, revitalised and ready for the next leg of your journey.

National Botanic Gardens of Ireland

Distance from Airport: 5.6 Miles (20 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland offer a tranquil yet stimulating escape from the airport grind. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or someone just looking for a peaceful retreat, this lush sanctuary provides an enriching layover experience that nourishes both the body and the soul.

Why sit in a sterile, crowded airport terminal when you could be breathing in the intoxicating scents of exotic flowers and rare plants? Just about 20 minutes away from Dublin Airport, the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland is your chance to exchange the artificial atmosphere of airport lounges for the oxygen-rich embrace of nature.

As you enter the gardens, you're immediately welcomed by a lush, verdant landscape that spans a whopping 19.5 hectares. Here, nature isn't just observed; it's felt. Each step you take is a step deeper into a living library of flora, including over 17,000 species of plants from around the globe. Your senses will come alive as you stroll through themed gardens, each designed to represent different geographical and climatic zones—from the vibrant Mediterranean collections to the exotic orchid houses.

Interested in history or architecture? Don't miss the stunning glasshouses, which are works of art in themselves. The architectural beauty of the wrought-iron and curved-glass constructions, like the renowned Palm House, stands in perfect harmony with the plants they shelter. It's like stepping into a Victorian-era dream, except this one is filled with tropical palms and rare, blooming orchids.

If you've brought along your family, the Gardens offer an excellent opportunity to introduce kids to the wonders of nature. Various educational programs and interactive exhibits mean that young ones will leave not just entertained, but also a little more enlightened about the world they live in.

And for those who simply wish to unwind, there's nothing like finding a secluded spot amid the kaleidoscopic display of flowers and foliage to meditate or enjoy a peaceful moment. By the time you return to the airport, you'll not only be physically refreshed but also mentally rejuvenated, ready to take on whatever your travels throw your way.

Bull Island and Dollymount Strand

Distance from Airport: 8 Miles (25 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Bull Island and Dollymount Strand offer the perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor activities. It's a sanctuary where you can either ramp up your adrenaline with some watersports or wind down with nature, all while being treated to stunning views that blend urban and natural landscapes. This is the layover spot where you don't just kill time—you make it worthwhile.

Ah, Bull Island and Dollymount Strand—a natural treasure tucked away just a stone's throw from Dublin Airport. If your layover has you feeling like a caged bird yearning to stretch its wings, this little island oasis is your ideal escape. In just about a 25-minute drive, you can trade in the hustle and bustle of airport life for the serene sounds of lapping waves and chirping birds.

As you set foot on Bull Island, you'll instantly realise it's not your typical beach destination. This UNESCO biosphere reserve is a sanctuary of biodiversity, teeming with rich plant life and an impressive array of bird species. Grab those binoculars (or wish you had) and try your hand at bird-watching. Whether you're a seasoned ornithologist or a casual enthusiast, the avian ballet on display is captivating.

Then there's Dollymount Strand, the island's five-kilometre-long sandy beach that calls out to every type of beach lover. Are you a thrill-seeker? The steady winds make it a hotspot for kite-surfing. More of a landlubber? Then perhaps a game of beach volleyball or frisbee is more your speed. And if you're someone who simply wants to relax, the soft, sandy shores are perfect for laying down a towel and soaking up the somewhat elusive Irish sun.

Let's not forget the backdrop—the city and bay views from the island provide an excellent contrast to the natural scenery and make for some frame-worthy photos. Imagine having the sea in front of you and the Dublin skyline behind you. It's like having the best of both worlds at your fingertips.

As you head back to catch your connecting flight, you'll find yourself surprisingly refreshed and rejuvenated. Who knew a layover could feel like a brief yet fulfilling holiday?

Santry Demesne

Distance from Airport: 3 Miles (10 minutes by car)
Google Maps: Link 🗺️
What We Love: Santry Demesne is an oasis that offers something for everyone—whether you're looking to burn some calories, relish in nature's beauty, or simply let the kids run wild. It's the ultimate layover hideaway that makes you forget you were ever stuck in an airport to begin with.

Why twiddle your thumbs in an airport when you could be exploring a green oasis like Santry Demesne? Just around a 10-minute drive from Dublin Airport, this gem of a park is your perfect escape from the loudspeaker announcements and bustling crowds.

As you step into Santry Demesne, the green expanse opens up before you like a leafy kingdom waiting to be explored. With over 100 acres, there's room for everyone—be it joggers seeking a scenic route, families on the lookout for a fun day out, or travellers like you looking for a sweet escape during a layover.

Looking for some exercise to shake off that in-flight stiffness? Santry Demesne offers a range of walking and jogging paths that meander through fields and woodlands. The trails are more than just an exercise opportunity; they're a visual treat peppered with native Irish trees and vibrant wildflowers.

But maybe you're not in the mood for exercise. Maybe you'd rather just sit back and unwind. In that case, find a cosy spot by the park's lake—a tranquil body of water that serves as a sanctuary for ducks and other waterfowl. The surrounding benches are an invitation to sit and savour the natural serenity, perhaps with a book in hand or simply your own thoughts for company.

And let's not forget the kids! The park's playground is nothing short of a mini-adventure land, featuring everything from slides and swings to climbing frames. It's the kind of place that makes you wish you were a kid again, just so you'd have an excuse to join in on the fun.

By the time you're ready to head back to the airport, you'll realise that Santry Demesne has offered you a slice of Irish tranquillity, served on a platter of natural beauty and outdoor activities.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, being stuck on a layover in Dublin Airport doesn't have to mean resigning yourself to hours of boredom or aimless wandering through endless airport corridors. From sandy beaches and historic castles to lush gardens and retail therapy, Dublin and its surrounding areas offer a plethora of layover-friendly activities to suit every traveller's whims and fancies.

Whether you're a nature lover craving the great outdoors, a history buff eager to soak in some local culture, or simply someone looking to unwind, the options are not just abundant but also wonderfully diverse.

A layover here isn't a pause in your journey; it's an opportunity to discover a slice of Ireland's vibrant life and natural beauty.

So the next time you find yourself with time to spare at Dublin Airport, don't just wait—explore. Because in Dublin, your layover might just turn out to be one of the best parts of your trip.

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