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For a scenic ride to Dalkey, one of 15 designated Heritage Towns of Ireland and one of the capital’s most sought-after suburbs, hop on a southbound Dart train, Dublin’s suburban railway line, at the city’s Pearse, Tara or Connolly Street stations. Its tracks hug the gentle arc of Dublin Bay through several seaside suburbs and provide unspoiled views of the Irish Sea. Alight at Dalkey, where higgledy-piggledy streets lined with small boutiques, cafes and shops climb into the surroundings. On Castle Street, visit the historic 14th-century Dalkey Castle or hang out with the locals at the atmospheric Finnegan’s of Dalkey. Stroll to the tiny harbour that looks out over the unpopulated Dalkey Island, first settled in the Stone Age and now home to a herd of wild goats, a Martello tower built during the Napoleonic Wars and the 7th-century ruins of St Begnet’s Church. From the hills of nearby Killiney Hill Park, soak up the sweeping views of pebbly Killiney Beach, the Irish Sea and the Wicklow Mountains. With grand houses tucked behind sturdy gates and bold-faced residents like Enya and U2 front man Bono, Killiney has a reputation for being Ireland’s Malibu – just with different weather.
Another 27 miles south of Dalkey, deep in a valley of the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough's historic monastic site and magical lakeside setting draws visitors throughout the year. Translating from the Gaelic as “Glen of Two Lakes” and founded by St Kevin in the 6th Century, the remains of the monastery include the church, a graveyard and a beautifully-preserved circular stone tower that can be seen poking up from afar. Then take to the trails that criss-cross the valley floor and surround the Lower and Upper Lakes. The lakes also form part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, a large, rugged area of protected upland wilderness with breathtaking heather-flecked moors that shelters rare flora and fauna like wild orchids and Peregrine falcons.