Walking Guide to Sutton and Howth

Hi, we were sent this article but don’t know the identity of the author. However, its so well written we are putting it up for the benefit of everyone who enjoys walking in our beautiful area. Marine Hotel.

A Lovely Walk of Sutton & Howth……

This walk incorporates all of the Howth area and is a captivating walk for a leisurely walk. This walk will take two hours and is on all types of surface so dress appropriately.

01 Sutton Cross: This junction is almost in the middle of the causeway that built up a thousand years ago, which transformed Howth from an island into a peninsula. The name ‘Sutton’ is derived from the Gaelic words Suí Fhiontáin or the seat of St Fintan, a saint commemorated locally by a 9th century church which stands about 1½ km to the west of here along the coast road.

02 Sutton Dinghy Club: At Sutton crossroads take Greenfield Road which goes off to the south-east or left-hand side of the Marine Hotel. Your first challenge is Sheilmartin Hill which rises up straight ahead like a mini mountain range. But first, when you reach it, enjoy a pleasant coastal walk along the tidal shore. If the tide is out you can walk on the beach past stranded boats and people digging for fish bait. At the next junction keep to the coast-hugging Strand Road – rejoin the road if you have been on the beach. The road now narrows and the path disappears, but keep close to the wall facing the on-coming traffic. Stop at the Sutton Dinghy Club. Directly across the short expanse of the sea inlet is Bull Island, an island of sand formed less than 200 years ago when the long arm of the North Bull Wall was built to protect Dublin Harbour from sand drifts.

03 Entrance to Public Right of Way: Shortly after passing the Sutton Dinghy Club you will arrive at a group of houses with interesting architectural facades, the very apogee of Victorian coastal design. Just beyond these houses, where the road curves away from the strand and the first house on your right-hand side appears, enter a well-trodden pathway which still skirts the coastline. Before commencing the main part of this walk this is a good opportunity to reflect on Howth Peninsula’s many public paths weaving through the natural terrain which are called public right-of-way paths. What this means is that these trails have for hundreds of years been used by ordinary people to cross over the open land areas even if the land on either side is owned by private individuals.

04 Martello Tower: Commence walking along the path which, for now, moves closer to the cliff edge, so please be careful. There is a complete cliff walk which skirts the whole peninsula until arriving at Howth village but you will only be walking along this first part of it. On another occasion you may like to travel the entire Cliff Walk system as a separate expedition. To the left of the rather flat terrain and in among the trees is the red-brick former manor house known as Sutton Castle. This was built in the 19th century as a home for the Jameson family who were once famous whiskey makers in Dublin. It has now been converted and added to as an apartment complex. Ahead, built on top of the sea rocks, is a round building known as a Martello tower, your next stop.

05 Sheilmartin Hill: Continue walking along what soon becomes narrower and more typical of the cliff walk. From here to the north-east corner of the peninsula, the cliffs and hidden coves provide shelter for an abundance of seabirds including herring gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills, guillemots and the larger cormorants and kestrels. Offshore, two species of seal are fairly widespread, the common and grey seal. A large clump of rock now appears ahead, its colour giving the district its name, Red Rock. Since 1996 this whole area, along with the cliff terrain from here to the Summit, a place you will be visiting later, has been protected from further development by a special government order. Take the left track around the rock formation (at the sign announcing ‘Warning No Through Path’) and head towards the distant houses. At another sign, ‘Warning Dangerous Cliffs’, turn left again which will lead you through the shrubbery and a derelict metal gateway on to Carrickbrack Road. Carefully cross this road and head left until you encounter the unobstructed view of the next hill on your right.

06 Bog of Frogs: Make your way down the path to the left which is marked by a direction sign. This time your walk is through a carpet of heather which from July to September displays a profusion of crimson-purple flowers. The object of the exercise is to get clear of the golf course as quickly as possible to avoid both being hit by stray balls and damaging the course itself. Follow the path beside the cottage, now a storage shed, which is outlined by white stones and keep walking until you reach Muck Rock Hill. Stay close to the northern edge of the Bog of Frogs, a valley peat bog. It is close to a group of four Scots pine trees and is raised slightly above the level of the surrounding ground.

07 The Summit: Don’t be concerned if you get a little confused about which of the many trodden paths you should now take. Even if you take a wrong path, as long as you head in an easterly direction, you will eventually re-emerge along Windgate Road. To help you find the best route look out for some high pylons and head in their direction. Close to the pylons you will find a path that will take you between the Loughoreen Hills and Black Linn, past a quarry and out on to Windgate Road. First turn right, then left, into Windgate Rise, near the end of which is an exit covered by three bollards which will lead into Thormanby Road. Next, continue up Bailey Green Road to the viewing area and the Bailey Lighthouse.

08 St Mary’s Abbey: Just below the bungalow, you can take the upper cliff walk, which is a relatively wide and safe pathway, which swings around East Mountain and leads eventually onto Upper Cliff Road. You can, of course, walk all the way down to the Baily Lighthouse and back again, if you wish. From Upper Cliff Road, move downhill along Thormanby Road into the fishing village of Howth, a place which, until recently, modern progress had ignored. Keep heading downhill, until, having passed the Baily Court Hotel, you take the left-hand uphill road at the next junction. Straight ahead, at the next bend, is one of the most important buildings in Howth, St Mary’s Abbey with its graveyard and collegiate building.

09 Start of the East Pier: Return back down Abbey Street via the steep stone steps to your right. The steps will lead you out beside the Abbey Tavern, one of the best-known entertainment pubs in Dublin, where Irish songs, ballads and other traditional entertainments may be enjoyed. Now continue downhill. The castellated boundary walls of the former Howth Abbey merge into apartment and retail complexes. At the end of the road cross over and pause for a while at the entrance to the long pier straight ahead, which is known as the East Pier.

10 To the end of the East Pier: You will now commence to walk down the pier itself which has been a favourite promenade of Dubliners since Victorian days. I would recommend that you walk down on the upper parapet level and return by way of the lower level. Be very careful walking along the lower pier where working trawlers or other boats may be tied up. Netting, cables and other pieces of equipment may lie across the path and trip the unwary. Here and there, the surface of the East Pier can be a bit uneven and there can be gaps between the granite slabs, so mind where you place your feet. Avoid the East Pier in stormy weather or when a strong east wind is blowing, particularly on the upper level, as it can be washed with great spumes of water. Climb up the few steps onto the higher level and before commencing, take in the seaward view to your right towards the cove of Balscadden Bay, which is overlooked by a scattering of houses clinging to the side of the hill. Then start the walk to the end of the pier which is about 750m long. Stop at the lighthouse.

11 Beside the Howth Yacht Club: Now take the steps down to the lower level to return back to the village. Turn right along the harbour wall and continue until you pass the Howth Yacht Club and walk across to the water-side again before stopping to have a look at all the parked yachts. Straight ahead, beside the parked yachts, the Howth lifeboat usually rides at anchor beside the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s small but attractively designed station. The first lifeboat was stationed here in 1816 by the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin, and the RNLI took over in 1862.

12 Howth Castle: Return up the pier on the left-hand side, taking care not to trip over ropes, hawser lines, nets, fish boxes and all the trappings of a busy fishing port. There are about 40 vessels of all shapes and sizes in the Howth fishing fleet, although the once traditional small wooden trawler is now almost a thing of the past, and the gargantuan ocean-going trawlers-cum-processing-factories are mainly concentrated in Ireland’s south and northwest ports. A short walk out of the village by way of the DART Station will bring you to the entrance of the National Transport Museum and Howth Castle. A sign on the left-hand side of the road indicates where you should turn left and enter through a gateway. You may congratulate yourself on finishing this long walk. If you feel like that last twenty minute walk, continue with the entrance of the Castle to your left and continue back to the Marine Hotel for a well deserved drink!

Enjoy and be safe!