Sunday, 2 August 2015

Dublin, Our Playground // Dalkey Island

My husband's birthday took place on the 1st of August. Wanting to mark his 35th birthday with something special, but not too expensive as we have an upcoming trip to the States, I planned a family day out to explore Dalkey Island. 

Dalkey Island, view from Coliemore Road
A lighthouse in the distance

The origins of Dalkey Island go back over 6,500 years, including evidence that it was once used as a Viking base. It's main features are the ruins of St Begnet's Church, erected in the 7th century, as well as two buildings from the 19th century, a Gun Battery and a Martello Tower, one of 8 that line the Dun Laoghaire coastline as a first line of defense against invasion during the Napoleanic Wars.

After living in Dublin for 21 months, we've always seen Dalkey Island from a distance. When we visit Killiney Beach or White Rock Beach we can see the island. A hike up Killiney Hill offers stunning views of Dalkey Island too. It was time to finally check it out! 

In preparation, I packed a picnic lunch that consisted of:
-Chicken salad, cranberries & sunflower seeds on ciabatta or multiseed bread
-Tricolored, bow tie pasta salad with red onion, celery, cheddar and a light vinaigrette dressing 
-Peanut butter & jam sandwiches
-Pretzels, popcorn and grape snacks 
-Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting & chocolate shavings

To make the occasion feel a bit more festive than our typical weekend picnics, I brought along some helium filled balloons in various colors. 

We arrived at Coliemore Harbour at 1130am to a small queue of seven other island-hopping enthusiasts. While we waited for Ken the Ferryman to make two quick trips before ours, we witnessed a battle between one of the pier's fishermen and a determined fish. In the end, we were delighted to watch the fisherman land two small dogfish sharks. 

When it was our turn to take the boat over, Ken the Ferryman guided us into his 5-passenger boat where we all donned life jackets. He even had them for the small children. The boat ride to the island is quick, taking less than 5 minutes, which was just enough time to get a chat in with the friendliest ferryman in the harbour! Once on the island, you're welcome to explore for as long as you'd like. When I asked Ken how would he know when to come back for us, he simply grinned and said "Just wave at me". Oh how I love those cheeky Irishmen. 

From a distance, the island always appeared small to me. I imagined that if a few people were all on it together at once, it'd feel confined. Once we were actually on the land, the island felt much more vast than I'd expected, yet also incredibly intimate.  It felt like we were VIPs to a special venue, even with the other 20 odd visitors roaming around the island too. Sitting on 22 acres, there are plenty of places to drop a blanket for a picnic, loads of paths to follow for a little exploration, and stunning views from every direction. 

My two little nature lovers were thrilled with their new surroundings, especially when we saw several rabbits on the loose. But to be completely honest, with the amount of rabbit holes and rabbit poop covering the island, I thought we'd see more than what we did! We also witnessed a few seals swimming just off the island. They'd poke their heads up and ride the waves, every so often disappearing under the blue waters, only to be spotted in a different location when they broke through the surface again. But the wild goats, the rumoured herd of 6 goats that I thought surely on a small island, how could we miss them? Well, they remained elusive, for this particular visit anyways. Apparently they like to hang out on the edges of the cliffs, away from the likes of us weekend adventurers. 

There are no facilities on the island so pack your lunch and find a restroom before you board the boat over. When we were ready to head back to the mainland, a mere 300 metres away, there was a family waiting as Ken pulled into the inlet with another couple of visitors. We happily took in the final moments of the gorgeous sunshine and our beautiful surroundings.  

My husband grew up in Dublin, spending his first 21 years of life here, and had never been on Dalkey Island. His parents, who have been in Dublin for most or all of their lives had never been either. Most Dubliners that I've spoken with about the island had never been nor realized you could visit the uninhabited place.  So this trip was the perfect way to celebrate my husband's 35th birthday, in a special, family-friendly way, while allowing us the opportunity to sight see, learn some history, and most importantly, share some memories on an experience that will never be forgotten!

For more information on Dalkey village and Dalkey Island, check out the link here. Let me know what you think if you ever do go. I know I'll certainly be back again- I still have to catch a peek at the wild goats, after all!

Oh and a very happy 35th birthday to my loving husband, Alan! Emme, Harry & I couldn't be luckier to have the most adoring Father, Husband & Best Friend in our lives. And an extra special thanks for letting me use your birthday as the perfect excuse for exploring ;) We love you so much xoxo


  1. What a great get away to explore and enjoy imagination.

    1. It did feel like we were miles away! But we were only 10 minutes from home. It was a real treat! Thanks for reading!

  2. Love! Still a goal of ours to get there.

    1. Thanks for reading along, Mel! And trust me, it's much prettier in person- you'll have to come see for yourselves!

  3. Amazing day indeed! This little island sounds just perfect for a relaxed celebration.

    1. I'd describe it as a perfect day :) Thanks for reading the post, Gayle!

  4. What a great find this little island! The pictures are amazing. Happy birthday Alan!

    1. I wonder if the boat rides continue through December???! :) If so, we will be going then!


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