Ardgillan Castle & Demesne
Ardgillan Castle and Demesne - between the seaside towns of Skerries and Balbriggan in North County Dublin - is hands down our favourite place in County Dublin.
Taken in isolation there is nothing that special about the grey house with the castellated features that is Ardigillan 'Castle' but as a feature point in one of the most beautiful views in County Dublin it plays it's part magnificently. From the elevated top car park, green lawns - bookended by thick forests - stretch down towards the sea below with the castle as a picturesque break in the middle. Beyond in the distance the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland add another layer of beauty. The definition of picture perfect.
Entry to the demesnse is completely free with not even a parking charge. Eclectic features including expansive forest trails, ever-changing meadows, a rose garden, tea rooms, lots of green for a good old picnic and a fairy trail for the kids give plenty of reasons to make your way in to this awkwardly positioned gem, The only thing you could pay for is a tour of the castle but this is definitely not an essential part of a visit. Previously a family home for the Taylors, the castle lay dormant for decades and after being bought by the council was renovated back to somewhere near its former glory with random pieces of furniture. The highlight is the impressive library complete with secret passage ways but the rest is mostly just 'stuff' and better stately home tours can easily be found.
A fantastic side trip to Ardgillan is Barnageara Beach. This tidal beach is located at the bottom of the demesne across the Ladies Steps rail bridge. Awaiting you down an unassuming little track is one of County Dublin's most secluded spots. For some reason that we have not yet gathered, you will very rarely share this sheltered spot with more than a handful of people (and a gaggle of dead jellyfish in the summer).
The sole downside to this otherwise fantastic attraction is the location. The only easy way to get here is by car and it is a good 40 minute slog from Dublin. There is the 33 bus from central Dublin which takes a ridiculously long time or alternatively take the 40 minute train from Dublin Connolly to Skerries train station and then take a taxi for around €8-10.