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An Irish idyll just around the corner from Dublin

After a hard week's work of looting, fighting and devastation, an exhausted Viking settled on a hilltop high above the Irish Sea for a long nap.

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An Irish idyll just around the corner from Dublin

After a hard week's work of looting, fighting and devastation, an exhausted Viking settled on a hilltop high above the Irish Sea for a long nap. He let out a monosyllabic grunt, pleased with his comfortably soft bed of moss and heather.

This is how the peninsula at the tip of Dublin Bay got its name: Howth. Well, almost. Although some locals give the onomatopoeic rendition of the Scandinavian sigh with great credibility, the historical fact remains that the Norse simply called the place Hoved, meaning "headland". You can still test whether the hills there are suitable for a break.

Howth is just a puddle jump, as the Irish say, from Dublin. The light rail takes you to the peninsula in just under 30 minutes, and the welcoming committee is already waiting in the harbor: curious seals.

Until a few years ago Howth fishermen sold their by-catch to tourists as seal feed. This has now been banned, but the animals apparently remember it well and pose with pleading looks for the photographers in anticipation of a small snack.

More seals, and if you're lucky, dolphins and porpoises, can be seen on a walk along Howth's coast. The Cliff Walk starts at the east end of the harbor and follows well-marked routes along the cliffs around the peninsula.

Those wishing to hike further inland up the heather purple hills start towards Howth Castle. The castle was owned by the Gaisford-St. Lawrence, who achieved inglorious notoriety. Ironically, in 1576 she refused entry to the Irish pirate queen Grace O'Malley, who had come with peaceful intentions, because she didn't want to be disturbed by her at dinner.

In revenge, Grace kidnapped the youngest family member. She only let the boy go on the condition that from now on there would always be a seat at the table for an unexpected guest. A centuries-old tradition developed from this.

Will there still be an extra cover for every meal in the luxury hotel that is to be built there after the sale of the property to an investment group? But the golf course will definitely be preserved. A path along it takes hikers through a thicket of rhododendrons up Muck Rock.

When you get to the top, you don't even know where to look first. Down to Howth Harbour, or to Portmarnock's endless golden sands, or to the ink-blue Morne Mountains that greet you from Northern Ireland? A 180 degree turn is enough and the natural cinema presents Dublin Bay in all shades of blue, the Wicklow Mountains and the Bray coast.

Bull Island can also be seen from up here. Ireland's youngest island was only created by the construction of two sea walls. Because they protect Dublin Harbor from silting up and ensure free passage for ships, sand and sediment are deposited further north.

Since the end of the 1820s, the ever-expanding sandbank has been forming off the coast of the Dublin suburb of Clontarf. Bull Island is now five kilometers long and around one kilometer wide. Nothing on it but an endless dune beach, rippling waves and seals bathing in the sun with their young at low tide on the northern tip.

Birds, however, which find ideal habitats in salt marshes, swamps, dunes and mud flats, are more common in front of the binoculars. Oystercatchers stick their coral-red beaks in the sand, as do curlews and plovers in search of food, while elegant little egrets often keep terns and shearwaters company.

But the ornithologists' happiness is only perfect on Ireland's Eye. The small island teems with puffins and guillemots.

To see if the island beach lives up to its reputation as one of the best picnic spots in the county, you'll need to stock up before you sail, and on a weekend, head to Howth's Harbor Market. With Asian egg noodles, Spanish churros and South African biltong, you can easily embark on a culinary world tour while walking through the market, which does not end with Irish soda bread and goat cheese, but only at the cupcake stand of Paula and Gerard Coyne.

Anyone who nibbles the refined calorie bombs of the Coynes on a bench on the harbor promenade will probably overlook the two inconspicuous hollows on the quay, which were left there in 1821 by an extremely conspicuous person.

They are the very delicate and pointed footprints of the British King George IV. Hard to believe that they are the marks of a man who was so cruel, lazy, dissolute and severely overweight. But they were actually cast by a stonemason in the concrete on the west pier shortly after the monarch is said to have stumbled off the ship while drunk.

Whether the British Prince William and his wife Kate let the 200-year-old traces be shown to them when they were on a state visit to Ireland in March 2020 has not been proven. Countless photos show the couple walking the Howth Cliff Walk. According to their Irish hosts, the two royals had been adamant about taking a trip to Dublin's coast. If that's not a top-class recommendation.

How to get there: Take Aer Lingus or Lufthansa to Dublin, from there take the light rail (irishrail.ie)

Accommodation: In the historic harbor master's house "King Sitric", double room with breakfast from 160 euros (kingsitric.ie). bed

For more info: visithowth.ie; visitdublin.com

This article was first published in October 2021.

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