From the Granite to the Pebbles | Arran’s best 3- harbour walk.

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The last post was an epic, annotated list on the best sights & visits in Dublin.  At the end is appended a few of my favorite coastal walks outside the city.  Today, just a bit more detail on my favorite South side walk, from Dun Laoghaire to the end of Killiney beach, specifically the best route, via Sandycove, the 40 Foot, Bullock Harbour, Dalkey’s Collimore Road and Sorrento Terrace, and ending down on the sand and pebbles of Killiney Beach.

Route:  start at Dun Laoghaire, turn left as you leave the Dart station, and walk down the East Pier.  There are lots of lovely details to enjoy, such as an old weather station, and a old wrought-iron Victorian bandstand, and the many boats bobbing up and down in the harbour, from sleek yachts to tiny dinghys.  The pier is mostly built and faced in wonderful granite, which glows a beautiful warm gold in direct sun.Image

at the end of the pier is a delightful little cluster of buildings: a high protective wall, the lighthouse, old maintenance buildings from the Admiralty or Irish lights commission, and the squat little lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

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I can not tell you how much pleasure i get from this whole… ensemble.  The high granite wall makes it look a bit like a castle on the sea, or a crusader fort or something.  I grew up in Dun Laoghaire, and always wanted to live here.

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Next we return back along the pier, obviously.  (Not much choice really, unless one is an exceptionally strong swimmer)  and then turn left for Sandycove.   Stick to the walking path that runs directly over the sea.

As you walk, you can already see the Martello tower at Sandycove, built during the Napoleonic Wars, but made immortal by James Joyce through his famous opening lines of  Ulysses. –   

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” 

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In this picture above you can see another delightful cluster of buildings, this time at Sandycove.   First the Martello Tower already mentioned, the setting for the quotation from Ulysses above.   The protagonist character in these early sections, is the young Stephen Daedulus,  who was in turn the fictional alter ego of the, real-life young James Joyce.   When a young man, Joyce briefly shared this unusual home with his friend, the poet and surgeon Oliver StJohn Gogarty.  (The tower was no longer in cative use & Gogarty had,I believe, arranged to rent it from the admiralty)   Then just after the tower,  you see a  lovely traditional-style, white house in the middle.   After that comes another white house, this time far more modren, that looks a bit like a white tower or the prow of ship.  This is a small masterpiece called “Geragh”  It was designed by the Irish modernist architect Michael Scott, whose home it also was.

Just beyond all this, the path rises, and beyond that,  (just out of sight in this picture)  this path leads to the famous 40-Foot Bathing place.   Even in my lifetime, it used to be reserved (unofficially, but alas very effectively)  for the exclusive use of men.   But thanks to some brave women who took the plunge (including some in the nip!)  the 40 Foot is now open to everyone.

The curious name by the way does not mean the swimming place is “40 Foot deep”.    It comes instead from a regiment or military company previously based here:  “the 40th regiment of Foot”    -(Foot of course meaning Infantry).    In the summer  i try to come and swim here at least a few times a month,  often with friends,often with my mum or sister, (in a insane family ritual).  More rarely I’ll swim in winter.  There is a strong local tradition of doing so on Christmas day!  Look again the picture above, with the blue sky but also lots of snow and ice.  This was Christmas time2-3 years back, & my sister & I swam this same day, .    I can not even begin to describe how cold it was.  The air temperature and the sea were bad enough, but what really stays is the feeling, then the numbness of icy concrete under our bare feet.  There was a record breaking cold snap at the time, for weeks at that stage, so the ground temperature was down in deep, deep, minus-figures.  We were lucky not to loose some toes.

After the 40 Foot,  do not double-back, just keep walking along the sea, it’s easy and baring total disorientation, youreally can not  get lost.   Just remember that allowing for local variations we are walking in a general south or south east direction the whole time and so we always want the sea on our left, whether you can see it or not!   From the 40 foot just keep along the sea, and you’ll find that you have to turn right, then left again out onto the “main road”.  (with cars)      Then walk for about 1/2 a mile, nearly 1 Kilometre, but it’s all very nice.  You’lll pass lots of stucco terraces on your left and more tall, handsome, this time redbrick houses on your ight.  Most of both were built in19th century but  in the fine “Georgian” style.

But soon you’ll get to an unusual large white house on your left,  on a cornersite and some of the windows hang out in bay.   The road to the left here slopes steeply twisting down to the sea.  Take this turn, (leave the main road) and follow this road down back to the sea.  Almost straight away as the road turns you’ll see Bullock Harbour right in front of you, with its small piers, fishing cottages, wooden row boats (you can rent these in summer, for mackerel fishing in season)   You may also see the occasional visitor, a fat contented seal, looking out for scraps of thrown-away fish.

Keep following our road, it goes uphill again. past modern appartments and past one or two nice houses, on the left especially.  Walk until you get to a junction and there,  keep straight until you walk into Dalkey Village.

Well done, you’ve made it this far. You may want to stop for a coffee or snack. You could try”Select Stores”   I am not a shareholder,  (promise!)  in fact I don’t even know the owners, I just always enjoy the food.  The humous & falafel wraps with fresh salad are delicious.   The coffees and juices too.

Next, after refreshments,  find the start of Collimore Road, it’s very near, (ask a local)  and walk along it, once again with the sea on your left.  Lots more fantastic houses here, right on the sea, and nice views over to Dalkey Island.   You’ll also find our third harbour here, Collimore harbour, which is my favourite in a way.  (i used to snorkel and even kayak around here a bit)

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lovely picture, by photographer Ian Gremmel, of Coliemore Harbour, (all rights reserved.)  Via de Vere’s art auctioneers site. I am attempting to contact artist for permission. 

Nearby, on the sort of platform or terrace that overlooks the harbour, (the terace is above the harbour, so top left of this picture) you’ll find a pair of heavy duty high-power telescopic binoculars fixed to a steel base.  Most of these devices you have to pay for, by dropping in a coin. But this one is free.  Because, my sister told me recently, it’s a memorial to a man who lived near here.  It was bought and installed here by his friends as a tribute to his memory.  It is a wonderful, generous gesture, a gift to us all.  Low-key, thoughtful, and endlessly useful.  “The gift that keeps on giving” as a friend of mine likes to say.    Very classy of the man’s friends, and far more imaginative than a statue or a plaque.

Anyway, that ‘s enough digression, (or pontificating).   Just keep walking to the very end of Collimore Road, and you find yourself facing an even more lovely set of of houses.  This is a wonderful place called Sorrento Terrace.  They possibly have the best physical setting of any houses in Dublin.  To see what I mean just turn right and walk a further up the road, now called the Vico Road, with the sea on your left agin far below you now,  then after 5 minutes look back.  (see the picture below)  look back toward Sorrento Terrace.   There. Look at them.   Wouldn’t that be a nice place to live?

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above, Sorrento Terrace, seen from above the Vico Road and/or Killiney beach.  Beyond Sorrento Terrace you can see two island, the larger is dalkey Island, with its ruins and an (another) old Martello Tower.   The identity of the man paragliding is unknown to me, alas.   (Image from Wikipedia.)   

The Vico is the long uphill road  (up-hill in this direction at least)  that runs along the coast here,  above the long sweep of Killiney beach. (below you and to your left)   The road is studded with nice houses.  A favourite passtime of mine when young was debating with friends which we would buy.   On the other side, the wooded slopes of KIlliney Hill rise above you to the right.

So, in other words, from the Vico road you have three or four alternatives.   If you are serious, reasonably fit walker you may now even wish to open up Google maps to consider your options.   First,  you can walk up the whole way to tiny Killiney “village”  (more of a hamlet really, just as shop and a pub) to enter Killiney Hill/Victoria Hill park there, and walk up to the obelisk.   Or you can go straight up the side of the same hill to the obelisk directly from here on the Vico road,  using one of the tiny right-of -way paths or tracks.  (Just look out for the tiny gates, almost hidden in the old green railings. )

Or you can go the other way, down,  downwards to the sand and shingle of Killiney beach.  (In fact you can walk the whole way to Shankill along the beach)

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above,  down on Killiney beach, below the Vico Road, (Sorrento Terrace in the far distance). 

Finally, if you’re feeling tired by now, you have another, last choice.  You can about face,  and simply walk back to Dalkey, turning left at Sorrento Road.  (not via Sorrento Terrace and Colliemore Road, now very much the long way)   Have a pint in one of the nice pubs back in Dalkey.  Finnegan’s pub, on the corner where Sorrento Road meets Dalkey Village, is my own, traditional favourite.  (although the under-35s may prefer the Club or Queens.)    Then later have a bag of chips, from Borza’s fish & chip shop,   (which i always mistakenly call Borgia’s !)   Later you can walk to Dalkey train station and get the last Dart home.    (Just don’t miss the last train, a taxi back to the city will cost you a fortune.)                                       There you go-  a perfect, perfect day out.

That’s it for today.

If you’re ever looking for a coast walk on the other side of the city,  my Northside favourite,  the Howth peninsula, and the best route round it, is covered in a previous post: From Sea to Shining Sea.  You’ll find it by that title in the archives.

14 thoughts on “From the Granite to the Pebbles | Arran’s best 3- harbour walk.

  1. The Tower at Sandycove was closed for the year (in September) the day I visited 🙂 Indeed the coastline all the way from Killiney up to Sandymount is full of interest.

    1. Hi Roy, thanks for visit and kind comments. Yes, I agree with you totally, the whole walk is studded with interesting bits and pieces, and not a little history too, I had to leave lots out. – The history of the pier, Dalkey town and its 4 castles, and its museum, the old former atmospheric railway, built to transport the stone from Dalkey quarry to/for Dun Laoghaire’s 2 huge piers, the tracks between the two, now gone as you know but but of course the line of the route survives: now a walking path, called “the Metals” and lots more I would have loved to write about. Oh well, other days, other posts. That’s a little frustrating that the Joyce museum in Sandycove was closed when you visited, but I’d warmly recommend it next time you’re back in the area. It’s a small, modest little display but interesting nonetheless, plus of course it’s a rare opportunity simply to get inside a Martello tower. Many thanks for visits. Always great to get your perceptive comments. and one can sense your affection for the places here too. Much appreciated. -Arran.

  2. Nice Arran. As a pedant I think you might want to change the name of the chipper in Dalkey from Borgia to Borza, though calling it Borgia does hint at your level of deep learning.

    1. ah, ha, you have left me with a dilemma now: Should I aim for dull but worthy factual accuracy, or shall I instead hint at a level of deep erudition I barely possess? Tough one… No, of course i shall change it! Thank you Tig. And welcome back. Nice to see you here. Please come again. I need all the fact checkers and proof-reading I can get. 🙂

  3. Hi Arran, I think you mean the East Pier, not the West Pier. The West is the one that starts near Salthill DART station, and is beloved of dog walkers. The East is the one with the bandstand and the banjo player. Mark

  4. Looking forward to trying this one with the two dogs! I would also recommend walking the Dodder from Firhouse to Grand Canal Dock. It’s about 15k and can be done at a leisurely pace in about 3 -4 hours (with judicious pub stops along the way!)

    1. hey, thanks, that is a great tip about the Firhouse to Grand Canal Dock walk. Looking forward to trying that out sometime soon. Can you walk all the route along the river? and not go on the public (traffic) road at all?

  5. Sorrento Terrace looks gorgeous. I can only imagine how fantastic it would be to live there. I would enjoy having a swim at the 40 Foot as well, I wish we had places like that here but alas, the water would probably be unpleasant.

    1. Hi Md Weebles, very nice to hear from you. Yes, Sorrento Terrace is amazing. Out of my reach alas, unless you are a Hollywood director, business tycoon or FI driver very difficult to buy there. But I love swimming off the rocks at the 40 foot, or at the Vico bathing place, under the cliffs near Sorrento Terrace, (down some very steep steps) To be honest, the water is usually very cold, a very Brrrr.. experience. One of those things thing you enjoy more afterwards than during, if you know what i mean. Getting in is an icy form of hell, but you always feel fantastic after. Are you in NYC? Where’s the nearest place to swim safe and clean in the sea?

      1. We have several proper beaches in NYC, believe it or not, right on the Atlantic. I go there during the summer but it’s a trek. But no swimming places carved out on the rivers, even though they’re much more conveniently located. There were, at one time, before the water quality became unsafe.

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