Seafood, seals and scenery in Howth

Three weeks ago we celebrated our first wedding anniversary (how fast did that go?) with a short trip to Dublin. The flights were dirt cheap – the city was not. Nonetheless, we enjoyed numerous extortionate pints of cider and, being history nerds, visiting Kilmainham Gaol and the Book of Kells exhibition at Trinity College. My favourite part of the holiday, however, was a day trip to Howth, a port village just 25 minutes outside of the city by train.

Getting to Howth is extremely easy. We took the DART from Connolly Station in central Dublin (trains are pretty regular) and less than half an hour later reached the end of the line. Greeted by the cries of seagulls and a light breeze from the harbour, we quickly got our bearings and had a gentle meander up the hill before returning to the West Pier for lunch.

sealOctopussy’s Seafood Tapas is one of several restaurants where you can sample freshly caught fruits de mer in Howth. We enjoyed a selection of mussels, crab claws, chowder, prawns and scallops as the sun broke through the clouds, all of which were extremely tasty. Seafood isn’t something we tend to find much in Birmingham (I can’t imagine why) so it was pleasant to eat something different, and I liked Octopussy’s policy of shared tables, which served as a reminder that unplanned conversations with strangers are one of the joys of travel.

Being by the seaside and not entirely full, it seemed an ice cream was also in order. As we walked back along the harbour to a gelato shop, we spotted three seals arching in and out of the water alongside the fishing boats, sleek and playful. It’s rather lovely seeing animals in the wild and of course I was determined to capture them on camera – results were mixed, but if you can’t get snap happy on holiday, when can you?

Although we considered an afternoon boat trip to Ireland’s Eye, the small island just off the coast of Howth, we ultimately chose to embark on one of the cliff paths walks around the peninsula. Fuelled by malteser flavoured gelato (thoroughly recommended) we set off up the hill, walking for about 15 minutes until the road ended. There were several international school groups with the same agenda, but even under the summer sun the paths soon became quiet.

The sky was clear and the sea sparkled as far as the horizon. While Birmingham always feels like quite an open and green city, it’s refreshing to be in the countryside and we ambled along gently, pausing frequently to admire the view over the Irish Sea. There are various routes you can take but we went almost as far as the lighthouse, then turned off to take the tram path back towards Howth harbour. A pub, The Summit Inn, beckoned to us and we broke up the last part of the walk with a welcome pint of Orchard Thieves cider.

Spoiled as we were with the weather, I’m confident we’d have loved our day in Howth even if it had been grey and windy. Good food, gorgeous scenery and the added bonus of the seals made this coastal visit, ironically, the most memorable day of our city break. Definitely a lesson, for future travels, to venture further from urban pavements.

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