Visiting the Small Town of Donabate, Ireland
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Recently, I wrote about my experience living in the small town of Donabate, Ireland. In 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, train or bus. It makes a good destination for a half-day or full-day trip. It’s also only 12 kilometres from 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.
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 the 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 they are open to visitors. You can rent golf equipment here at Dublin Airport.
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 to get to the beach from the train station. On a clear day at Donabate Beach you’ll be able to see across the water to the town of Malahide.
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. Since this is Ireland chances are it was raining pretty recently. Be sure to follow the posted signs along the way.
Portrane Beach is technically in the next town of Portrane (population 1532). Since Portrane Beach is close to Donabate it’s worth including, You can get to Portrane Beach by car or by taking the Go Ahead Ireland Bus 33B. 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.
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 can 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.
Aside from going to the beach the Newbridge Estate was 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 Café.
What I love about Newbridge is the estate. There is 400 acres of fields, parks and walking paths here It’s wonderful. 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.
Where to Stay
There really isn’t much for hotels in Donabate. There is the Waterside/Shoreline Hotel, which is a few minutes drive from Donabate’s main center and train station. There isn’t public transit to this hotel so you’ll want a rental car or to get a taxi (see Getting Around Town). If you want to spend a day or two exploring the area you could also consider staying in nearby Malahide, which is on a 4 minute train ride from Donabate (it’s literally the next stop south on the Dublin Commuter line). Of course you can always stay in Dublin or the nearby city of Swords and come up to Donabate on a day trip.
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 25 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 on 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.
If you’re spending several days around Dublin (including in Donabate) and plan to use public transit I recommend getting a Leap Card. A regular leap card is a €5 deposit, which you can get back at the end of your trip). Then you load the card with funds that get deducted when you use local public transit including on Dublin Bus, Go Ahead Ireland Bus, DART (local commuter train), the Luas (tram) and Airlink (offering bus service from Dublin Airport into central Dublin. A regular reloadable Leap Card can also be used in other cities like Waterford, Cork, and Galway (to name a few). Flares are capped to a specific amount and is cheaper and easier than buying individual bus/train/Luas tickets.
If you don’t want to worry about reloading a card you can by a Visitor Leap Card. This lets you use Dublin and area public transit (same as a regular Leap Card above) throughout a certain time period, without needing to reload the card. A 24-hour Visitor Leap Card is €10, a 72-hour one is €19.50, and a 168-hour (7 days) one is €40. You can buy a Visitor Leap Card at the Dublin Airport or you can get a Visitor Leap Card sent to you by post (postal charges may apply, please make sure to do this well in advance of your trip so it will arrive before you leave for Ireland ). The Visitor Leap Card can only be use in the Dublin area (this includes Dublin County and Fingal County where Donabate is). It’s not good in other cities or counties in Ireland.
Getting Around Town
Donabate is a small town, but the attractions I mention are outside the main area of town. You can take Go Ahead Ireland Bus 33B to both Newbridge Estate and to Portrane Beach. To go to Newbridge Estate from Donabate take the bus going toward Swords. To go to Portrane from Donabate (or Newbridge Estate) take the bus going toward Portrane. You can check the bus time/schedule and fares at Go Ahead Ireland Bus.
If you arrive by train it would be best to take a taxi if you are planning to stay at the Shorline/Waterside Hotel and/or visit one of the golf courses. This is because the public transit doesn’t go to these areas. There is a local cab company in Donabate that you can book online.
Living in Donabate I got to explore the town and this area quite well. If I hadn’t lived in Ireland I likely wouldn’t have known the town of Donabate even 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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Things to Know
I lived in Donabate, and visited all these places (except the golf courses). Choosing between the beach and Newbridge Estate was always hard so give yourself time to visit both places. Since there’s only one hotel in Donabate you might also consider staying in Malahide, which is just one train stop south on the Dublin Commuter line. There’s lots to see in Malahide so you might want to do Malahide and Donabate as a two-day trip. If you are looking to stay in Dublin and do Donabate as a day trip you can book your Dublin hotel here. You could also stay in the nearby city of Swords.
Had you heard of Donabate? Would you rather spend a day at the beach or at the Newbridge Estate?