As a Blackrock native, I have always appreciated our proximity to the sea. We are lucky to be surrounded by expanses of water for lots of reasons: the incredible views, walks on the pier and days out at the beach. We are especially spoiled along the Dublin coast with some beautiful seaside villages where we can indulge in some of these pastimes and sample some of the great seafood coming out of the bay.
When the sun starts to shine, you can’t beat a day out by the sea with friends and family so we have joined forces with Visit Dublin to bring you the best of South Dublin‘s coastal spots. Part of the charm of South County Dublin is the amount of villages that sit next to each other. From Sandymount to Shankill, the South side of the DART line can boast of nearly 15 individual hubs along the route. Their proximity means you can hop from one to the next, exploring the villages and discovering new cafés, restaurants, bars and venues.
The village of Monkstown may appear to be a stepping stone between the larger areas of Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire but its cultural significance makes it a worthwhile stop on any tour of South County Dublin. Anyone who grew up in the area will have fond memories of shows in the Lambert Puppet Theatre, where Ireland’s oldest puppet company still put on bespoke productions on weekends and during holidays.
Another great venue to visit is An Chultúrlann, the local outpost of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the organisation dedicated to promoting Irish music, literature and the Irish language. Renowned for their céilís and trad sessions, visitors are always welcome to come and join the craic.
For a relatively small area, Monkstown is teeming with restaurants and bars for you to enjoy. A most popular spot in the village is the Avoca branch situated on the Crescent. The signature Avoca Food Market is always busy and the specialist cheese and charcuterie room draws food lovers in for miles. This branch also contains the Salt Café, a bright and airy eatery serving Avoca classics from breakfast through to dinner. Favourites include the Duck Liver Parfait and their take on a Caesar salad which is served with half a Free-range rotisserie chicken.
Another gem on the Crescent is 8A Brasserie. Serving a wide range of classic brasserie dishes and great value brunch and lunch menus, this restaurant was made for a leisurely meal outside in the sunshine, a real treat in the busy village. With a real focus on fresh local ingredients, the menu at 8A Brasserie offers some nice surprises where those elements are presented in unexpected and refreshing ways. Try the Prawn Taco with its unusual soy, chili and ginger kick and the Crab Cakes which come with a moreish Chorizo Aioli.
In comparison to the huddled nature of the village, Cinnamon is practically a destination restaurant for Monkstown, perched on the end of the village. A trip there is well worth it at any time of day as this café and restaurant caters to breakfasters, lunch and dinner guests. Their brunch offering has quite a reputation, the French Toast is particularly good, but Cinnamon truly comes alive in the evening when the rustic lighting sets a warm and relaxed atmosphere. With an eclectic menu of world cuisine, Cinnamon has something for everyone.
The historic port formerly known as Kingstown has a colourful history. Once a major port for British access, the Victorian town really came into its own in the early 1800s with the advent of Ireland’s first railway line from Kingstown into Dublin. The subsequent establishment of Dún Laoghaire as a commuter town laid the foundation for the town we know today.
The iconic harbour features in lots of popular culture and the piers are, to this day, the focal point of the area and popular spots for strolling at any time of year. Dotted around the coastline are Dún Laoghaire’s yacht clubs, an important part of local culture. Sailing is a very popular pastime here and the town comes alive with regattas and boat races. You can embrace the water too with a ferry crossing across the bay to Howth from the East Pier.
The town pays homage to its cultural icons with several events taking place throughout the year including Bloomsday, the Mountains to Sea Book Festival and ongoing music and theatre performances in the Pavilion Theatre.
With a recent resurgence of investment from local authorities, Dún Laoghaire is once again drawing eager visitors in from all over the county and further afield. The refurbishment of the People’s Park has led to the growth of the weekly farmer’s market, which is now one of the largest in Dublin, and the arrival of a new establishment where the old tea rooms were located.
Fallon & Byrne, the city centre food hall, deli, restaurant and wine bar, branched out into the suburbs with this light and airy restaurant. Keeping in feeling with the old tea-house-in-the-park style, the Victorian pavilion building is thoroughly modern inside with floor to ceiling glass windows at the rear and a little coffee and take away counter at the end of the room. The coup de gras for Fallon & Byrne though is the wildly popular al fresco dining area. When the sun is shining in Dún Laoghaire, there is nothing better than enjoying a delicious sharing platter with some great wine and watching people amble round the beautiful park.
An original resident of Dún Laoghaire, Gourmet Food Parlour started life as a small café on the Monkstown road. Now with several branches across Dublin, the Dún Laoghaire branch resides in a new, larger premises looking out over the harbour. The focus is still on great artisanal dishes but the offering is significantly larger. The place to go for brunch (to-die-for Huevos Rancheros) also happens to serve set lunch menus on special occasions and a great selection of tapas in the evenings. It is a great spot for relaxing after a trip down the pier.
What is better than enjoying excellent seafood beside the sea? Nothing. Caviston’s in Glasthule are the experts in the subject having over 50 years in the business behind them. When they finally decided to branch out of the food emporium and open their seafood restaurant, locals rejoiced in their top quality produce and the excellent cooking. Chef Noel Cusack brings out the best in the seafood and treats it simply, with respect. Daily specials are always changing, depending on the day’s catch but constant favourites are Ted Browne’s Dingle Bay Crab Claws and big juicy Dublin Bay Prawns. Manager Tom ensures you are looked after like a regular local and that your experience is unforgettable.
No trip to Dún Laoghaire is complete without a Teddy’s Ice Cream and you know the summer is finally here when you find yourself queuing up impatiently at the little windows. Whether you take sauce or sprinkles, a 99 from Teddy’s is the only thing that you have to do in Dún Laoghaire. So good they now supply other shops and cafés, the secret recipe for Teddy’s Ice Cream is a closely guarded secret that I would pay any amount of money to get my hands on.
Dalkey might be home to the rich and famous but its charm lies in its heritage. Sure, the Obamas had a pint with Bono in Finnegan’s but what really draws people to the village is its history and cultural significance. Many of Ireland’s most renowned writers have worked and lived in Dalkey, inspiring the annual Book Festival which takes place in June and has been described by Salman Rushdie as ‘the best little festival in the world’.
Dalkey Castle is the hub of the historical activity and throughout the year they host plays, readings and events to bring Dalkey’s past to life. Historical actors will guide you round the 15th century castle and unveil what life was like in the village hundreds of years ago.
Local guides can be found around the village in more modern clothing. Pop into the Corner Note Café for a chat with Mary Caviston, she will give you the inside track on how to live like a local while serving up the best breakfast around. Her aptly named café is a welcoming and relaxing spot with books and board games for you to use and a quaint guest book for you to sign on the way out. Classic Irish fare served with a smile, the Corner Note Café is somewhere you will want to return.
Its proximity to the sea makes Dalkey the ideal spot for some seafood and you can’t go wrong with a visit to Ouzo’s. With two restaurants now and a Fish Shack in Dun Laoghaire, the Dalkey branch remains the original and they have the freshest catch in town with the seafood coming straight off their own boat. With lobster, crab and shrimp from the Dublin coastline direct to your plate, Ouzo’s is a real taste of South Dublin.
Besides the local stalwarts there are lots of new and exciting developments happening in Dalkey right now. From the creators of Mak @ D6 comes Wanderlust, a stylish eatery that brings world cuisine together in a collection that seems too varied to work but revels in its choices. Already a hit with locals and critics, Dubliners are flocking to try the variety of dishes on offer from tacos to Asian noodle dishes and everything in between. Serving Dalkey’s only bespoke cocktail menu doesn’t hurt either.
For more information about events, activities and places to go in South Dublin go to visitdublin.com and join the conversation at #LoveDublin
Alison has been writing since she could hold a pen, which came in handy for her degree in English, Media and Cultural Studies. She has been working in media since graduating and is the latest features writer for TheTaste.
Writing for TheTaste allows her to combine her passion for the written word with her love of food and drink. Find her on Twitter @AliDalyo