For my last day in Ireland, I wanted to get out of the city and experience a bit of the stunning coastline. I chose to go to Howth, a bustling village located on the Howth Head peninsula just 15 km. from Dublin. There, I hiked 12 km. in beautiful surroundings, with fresh air in my lungs, birds flying high above me and the sun shining down on me.
It was more like an early Autumn day than a Winter day, which it should’ve been, given it was in the beginning of January. It was the perfect day for a hike along the coastline; not too cold and not too warm. I was excited to see some of the “real” Ireland outside of the capital and experience the beautiful nature that Ireland is so famous for.
The hike that I chose to go on is a marked trail called the Bog of Frogs Loop. The trail is 12 km. long with an ascent of just 240 metres and is estimated to take around 3 hours. The hike is the longest of the four marked trails in Howth and is graded as ‘hard’ with varying terrain.
The hike started at the DART Station in the center of Howth, which was where my train came in from Dublin. I followed the purple arrow of the trail, which took me along the harbour that was bathing in morning light from the sun that was hiding behind dark clouds. It looked like it was going to rain at any minute, but the sun won through and stayed for the entire day.
A few moments later, I was walking up steep roads leading out of the village, around the Nose of Howth and onto the clifftops; standing above the village, taking in the breathtaking views of Lambay Island and Ireland’s Eye, a small uninhabited island that is home to hundreds of birds such as guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, gulls and gannets.
After a few kilometres on the well-trodden cliff path, I walked up a small hill and found the perfect spot for a scenic morning picnic. I wanted to get the most out of the few hours of sunlight that the Northern Hemisphere gets during winter, so I had left Dublin early without eating breakfast. I sat there for a while, enjoying the fresh air on my face and watching as people hiked on past me.
I continued the hike after I was done eating and soaking up the sun, but I soon came to a spot, where I almost gave up. In order to get through, I had to walk across the muddiest path I’d ever seen – and there was no way around. I even tried climbing up the cliffs instead, but when that didn’t work, I figured I would just get on with it. My shoes didn’t thank me afterwards, but I made it through!
Later on, I met a local Irish man and his dog, who were out for a walk as well and he promised to show me his secret spot, when we would meet later on. I thought he was joking, as the trail is a loop, so we couldn’t possibly meet, but he must’ve found a shortcut somewhere.
Before meeting them again, I passed the Baily Lighthouse, a lighthouse built in 1814 set in beautiful surroundings on a cliff a few hundred metres from the trail. I decided to walk to the lighthouse, but unfortunately, the gates were closed with the words “private property” written on them. Oh well, I still got to see the beautiful cliffs from another angle!
Shortly after leaving the lighthouse behind, the terrain started to change. Beside me were large red rocks, the trail was getting steeper, the cliffs more dramatic and underneath me the path just kept getting more and more muddy. But I didn’t mind. There I was, with nature all around me. Getting dirty on the outside, but feeling clean and fresh on the inside. I loved every minute of it. And I would give anything to be back there now. During those times, when I’m with nature, I’m the happiest version of myself; I feel free, I am free and the whole world is in my hands – and under my shoes.
I came to a small stony beach and just as I was about to walk past it, I met the man and the dog again. He told me that this was his secret spot and I followed him down to a part of the beach, where the cliffs were just spectacular. I ended up spending quite a while there and met a few other tourists, who had also discovered this little, hidden gem. The man, dog and I then said goodbye, as they went home and I continued onwards. I was very happy that I encountered them, as otherwise, I would’ve walked straight past this beauty of a place.
The coastal trail soon came to an end and I followed the purple arrow uphill onto a grassy trail. From here, there was a beautiful view of Howth and Dublin Bay. I then crossed the busy Carrickbrack Road, walked alongside Sheilmartin Hill and entered a golf course, which was scary! I really didn’t feel like getting hit by a golf ball, but thankfully, it didn’t happen. I half-ran and got out safely and entered the Bog of the Frogs area, a forest park that has given its name to the loop.
From then on the trail got really muddy, much more than it was before, and I even saw one poor girl slip and fall in it. I wished that I had my hiking boots at that point, but I managed with my once-white sneakers, treading carefully through the forest and hills before finally reaching the village of Howth again.
After the hike, I decided to explore Howth a bit and went down to the lively harbour and walked along the water. And I saw a seal!! He was right up close and not one bit bothered about the many people flashing their cameras at him. That was a great way to end a great day.
The Bog of Frogs Loop was an enjoyable hike that I would recommend and even do again myself sometime. I didn’t find it very hard, but it is a long hike and it requires good physique and good shoes! The paths are well-trodden, making it almost impossible to get lost, but at the same time, making it a muddy experience not suitable for nice shoes. My once-white shoes had a bit of a makeover during the hike, but it was worth it, it really was. Despite having said goodbye to Bethann, I really enjoyed my last day in Ireland.