Dublin / Hikes & Walks / Leinster

A Wander Along Dublin’s Great South Wall

Rainbow over Poolbeg Lighthouse

Since I moved back to Ireland it’s like I have this uncontrollable urge to make up for lost time. I just need to see and do everything! Easy, right. Well, some things are definitely less challenging than others and this week I headed out to do a couple of easy walks that have been on my to-do list for a while. One of those was the walk along the Great South Wall out to Poolbeg Lighthouse. Given the fact that I’m Dublin born and bred, it’s a little embarrassing to admit that it was my first time doing this walk but hey, I’ve done it now!

I met José when he finished work and we drove out past the famous Poolbeg Chimneys to a carpark at the end of Pigeon House Road. It’s not far from there to the start of the wall but if you really want to walk as little as possible there is also some parking along the wall itself. Being an industrial area you won’t be passing the most picturesque part of the city to get there and you may be in for some pretty foul smells on the way too, thanks to the nearby waste treatment centre. But now that your prepared it won’t be so bad. Though even inside the car it almost made me gag, just saying! Coupled with some pretty grim weather, we started out a little less than enthused and couldn’t help but wonder why so many people seem to really rate this walk.

Dark clouds over the famous Poolbeg Chimneys at the start of the walk

Dark clouds covering the Poolbeg Chimneys as we started out.

Looking back at the Poolbeg Chimneys

Then, a few minutes later we got a bit of a drenching from a rain shower but surprisingly this is where it all turned round for the better. At the same time, the sun broke through the clouds and a beautiful double rainbow appeared, arching perfectly over the walkway ahead of us. The surrounding landscapes, which up until then had been pretty drab, were now dappled with light and we looked from left to right picking out landmarks we recognised. To our left, the hills of Sutton and Howth and the Baily Lighthouse, if your eyesight is good enough to spot it! To the right, Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey and Killiney Hill, with the Sugar Loaf mountains peaking in the distance.

Double rainbow arching over the wall

As you continue further, the little speck of red in the distance continues to grown until you reach the end of the walkway and the famous landmark that is the Poolbeg Lighthouse towers impressively above you. You’re now as far out into Dublin Bay as you can be, by foot anyway! It’s kind of soothing to watch the ferries and cargo ships slowly passing in and out of the bay and looking back towards the city you get a pretty unique view of Dublin too.

The uneven pave stones caused by years of damage from the sea

Late Late Toy Show Mural on the wall by the lighthouse

The bright red lighthouse stands out against a blue sky

I love the bright red against the blue sky.

Cargo ship passing the lighthouse

Keep your eye out for wildlife too, including porpoises, seals and lots of seabirds. You’ll also have to keep an eye on your footing. Although this is an easy walk, the wall is over 200 years old and the paving is very uneven and broken up in parts from the beating it takes from the sea. The walk back was also a little more challenging thanks to some very strong winds and I imagine that’s often the case. So do make sure you’re well wrapped up.

Two ducks enjoying a walk along the wall

Another couple out enjoying a stroll along the wall!

Sun shining through old crane near the lighthouse

A couple walk back towards the city as rays of light break through the clouds over the Poolbeg Chimneys

All in all, despite the bumpy start and we really did enjoy our walk along the Great Wall of Dublin! And it seems that my Mam has never walked it yet either, so I expect we’ll be treading the stones of the Great South Wall again in the not too distant future. 

Some Great South Wall Trivia

  • The wall is also know as the South Bull Wall.
  • Construction started in 1716 when the first oak piles were driven into Dublin Bay. The wall was then know as The Piles and was completed around 1730. The wall later needed further strengthening and massive granite blocks were transported across the bay from the quarries in Dalkey. The work was completed by 1795.
  • The wall was a major feat of engineering at the time it was built. It was originally three miles long and the world’s longest sea wall. Now that much of the land around the ports has been reclaimed, the wall is a mile long and still one of the longest in Europe. Expect the return walk to take about 40 minutes.
  • Poolbeg Lighthouse was completed in 1768 and is said to have been the first lighthouse in the world to operate on candlepower. It then changed to oil in 1786. The lighthouse was redesigned and rebuilt in 1820 and is now fully automated.
  • The Great South Wall faces the North Bull Wall, which was completed in 1825. While Poolbeg Lighthouse is painted red to indicate ‘port side’ for ships entering Dublin Bay, the lighthouse at the end of the North Bull Wall is painted green to indicate it is ‘starboard’.

Looking back to the lighthouse on the way to the carpark

A lovely sunset as we ended the walk

A lovely sunset as we ended the walk

Sunset from Shelly Banks Beach

Walking back to the carpark

Walking back to the carpark after our walk


Other Short Walks in Dublin

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