If you lived in Dublin for a certain period of time, chances are that the landmark you associate the most with the city is the Poolbeg Chimneys. Not Temple Bar or the Ha’penny Bridge or even Trinity College, no, those candy-striped chimneys are our version of an Eiffel Tower. Pretty much from anywhere in the Dublin Bay, you can see their familiar silhouette sticking out on the horizon.
And if like me, you travel by boat, they are more than a landmark. They mean you made it home as they welcome you when you enter Dublin Port. For that reason, I was quite excited to do the Poolbeg Peninsula Walk as it meant I got to finally see these two ladies from up close!
There are several starting points to the Poolbeg Peninsula but the most scenic trail begins at the Irishtown entrance. As you follow the peninsula outline, the Dublin shore on your right extends from Sandymount Strand, with its front of colourful houses, to the recognisable port of Dún Laoghaire.
Looking out from the shore, you’d be forgiven to think the peninsula is an absolute wasteland, especially with the waste management facility looming over it. But don’t be too quick to judge as once you enter it, a treasure of fauna and flora opens to you. To be honest, it’s almost easy to forget that the city’s waste is being burnt a few steps away from you.
I was actually surprised to discover that the peninsula is home to a nature reserve, the Irishtown Nature Park. The reserve was born from an idea that seemed completely mad in the 1970s: turn a dump full of waste and rubble into a nature spot. Volunteers gathered forces to make it into the space it is today, a home to many birds, insects and plant species. Quite an inspiring story that gives me a bit of hope for the future!
As you are getting deeper into the trail, the iconic Poolbeg Chimneys are getting closer. They are part of what used to be a power station but they have been disused since the early 2000s.
Did you know that one was taller than the other? Only 40 centimetres mind you! They are one of the tallest structures in Ireland, at a little more than 200m. They gained international fame when they featured in U2‘s music video for Pride (In The Name of Love). In 2014, they became protected to everyone’s relief as they had been previously threatened with demolition.
At the end of the Peninsula trail, there are a couple of beaches which would have looked idyllic if not for the giant eye-sore of the waste management facility behind it.
Tip: If you’re into photography or are looking for a nice insta backdrop, this is a great spot for a little Summer shoot what with the beach grass and the Poolbeg chimneys in the background.
It takes about 2km to get to the beginning of the Great South Wall from the Irishtown’s trail entrance. If you’re short of time, you can skip the trail and come by car (or taxi). There’s a handy parking space at the bottom of the Great South Wall..
The Great South Wall is one of the longest sea walls in Europe. You’ll have to walk nearly 2km to get to the Poolbeg Lighthouse. Half way through is the Half Moon Swimming and Water Polo Club. The old-fashioned blue and white cabins sure look charming on the pier but why would anyone want to swim at this exact spot is beyond me! It is the Dublin Port’s entrance after all, which comes with its heavy traffic of ferries and boats.
Quick advice, do mind your step as the granite path is uneven and only come here on a good weather day, you don’t want to be swiped by an angry wave!
There has been a lighthouse at the end of the sea wall since it was built in the late 18th century. It was first powered by candle-light (the first of its genre, it is said) but the podgy red tower you see today was built in 1820.
Do you know why the Poolbeg Lighthouse is red? In maritime convention, red means port, which is the left side of a boat. And if you look towards Howth, you’ll spot North Bull Lighthouse which is green. And green is for starboard (right side). Now you know!
Fun fact: Poolbeg Lighthouse is nearly equidistant of the Dublin shore, Dún Laoghaire and Howth. That makes it a great spot to admire the Dublin bay!
If you’re looking to escape the city but you’re short on time, it is the walk for you. Once you step in the peninsula, it’s hard to believe you are still in Dublin. The sound of the swishing beach grass and the sea air would cure any city fatigue.
A side note, there’s a talk of a plan to redevelop the area into a residential quarter with high-rise apartment blocks. While Dublin desperately needs new accommodation to alleviate the housing crisis, I can’t help but worry about what it means for the peninsula and its nature reserve. If you haven’t been yet, I’d say hurry and go explore Poolbeg before it changes forever.
The Poolbeg trail is easy to tackle, it is mostly flat (just be careful on the sea wall as the ground is uneven and sometimes wet)
From the shoreline to the Poolbeg Lighthouse, it is about 4 km. Count about 2 hours to go to the lighthouse and back to the shoreline.
18 (Dromard Terrace, the last stop in Sandymount)