Dublin County is divided into the three administrative “sub-counties” of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown to the southeast, South Dublin to the southwest, and the large territory of Fingal to the north. However, although these regions are among the most populous and economically active in all Ireland, the notion of Greater Dublin being in four administrative parts is only slowly taking root - for instance, all postal addresses still either have a Dublin city numbered code, or else they’re simply County Dublin.
Inevitably, it is in the countryside and towns in the Greater Dublin Region that some of the pressures of the success of the Irish economy are most evident. But although Dubliners of town and county alike will happily accept that they're part of a thrusting modern city, equally they'll cheerfully adhere to the old Irish saying that when God made time, He made a lot of it. Those with long family associations with the county certainly have this approach. But as the region has also experienced the greatest population changes in recent years, it has its own multinational dynamism.
The traditionally relaxed approach is good news for the visitor, for it means that if you feel that the frenetic pace of Dublin city is just a mite overpowering, you will very quickly find that nearby, in what used to be - and for many folk still is - County Dublin, there continue to be oases of a much more easy-going way of life waiting to be discovered.
Admittedly, the fact that the handsome Dublin Mountains overlook the city in spectacular style means that, even up in the nearby hills, you can be well aware of the city's buzz. But if you want to find a vigorous contrast between modern style and classical elegance, you can find it in an unusual form at Dun Laoghaire's remarkable harbour, where one of the world's most modern ferryports is in interesting synergy with one of the world's largest Victorian artificial harbours.
A showcase marina within the haven, expensively built so that its style matches the harbour's classic elegance, has steadily developed, while the harbour area of Dun Laoghaire town beside it continues to be improve in quality and vitality.
Northward beyond the city into Fingal, despite the proximity of the airport you'll quickly discover an away from-it-all sort of place of estuary towns, extensive farming, pleasant parkland, fishing and sailing ports, and offshore islands alive with seabirds. The large island of Lambay – a nature reserve – has Ireland and the world’s newest gannetry, an offshoot of the previous global front-runner, the gannetry on the stack rock at Ireland’s Eye eight kilometres to the south. This was established (almost within city limits, another world first) back in 1989, and served as a reminder that the gannet is not a seagull – it’s a pelican.
Fingal is an easygoing environment of leisurely pace in which it's thought very bad form to hasten over meals in restaurants where portion control is either unknown, or merely in its infancy. It’s interesting to note that connoisseurs of this intriguing region reckon that one of its long established features, the Dublin-Belfast mainline railway first used in 1838, effectively creates a “land island” on the Donabate-Portrane peninsula, as there are only two road crossings into this sandy territory with its four golf courses. Add in the legendary Portmarnock links just across the estuary, and this is golfing heaven.
Local Attractions and Information
Balbriggan/Skerries Ardgillan Castle
+353 (0)1 849 2212
Blackrock Deepwell House & Gardens +353 (0)1 288 7407
Donabate Newbridge House
, Park & Traditional Farm +353 (0)1 843 6534
Dun Laoghaire Farm Market
(Harbour Plaza, Thurs 10.30am-4pm) +353 (0)87 611 5016
Dun Laoghaire Harbour Office (24 hours) +353 (0)1 280 1130
Dun Laoghaire National Maritime Museum
, Haigh Terrace +353 (0)1 280 0969
Dun Laoghaire Tourist Information+353 (0)1 280 6984 /5 /6
Howth National Transport Museum
, Howth Castle +353 (0)1 832 0427
+353 (0)1 289 3607
Leopardstown Farm Market
Fri 11am-7pm +353 (0)87 611 5016
Lucan Primrose Hill Garden
(house attrib. James Gandon) +353 (0)1 628 0373
Malahide Malahide Castle & Demesne
+353 (0)1 846 2184
Malahide Fry Model Railway
(Malahide Castle) +353 (0)1 846 3779
Malahide Talbot Botanic Gardens
(Malahide Castle) +353 (0)1 872 7530
Naul (Fingal) Seamus Ennis Centre
(Traditional Music) +353 (0)1 802 0898
Rathfarnham Marlay Demesne
gardens +353 (0)1 493 7372
Sandycove James Joyce Museum
(Martello Tower) +353 (0)1 280 9265
Sandyford Fernhill Gardens
(Himalayan species) +353 (0)1 295 6000
- Working Windmills, Craft and Visitor Centre +353 (0)1 849 5208
Tallaght Community Arts Centre
, Old Blessington Rd +353 (0)1 462 1501