Howth in

Show Map

Howth (; — called in ) is an area in Fingal County near Dublin city in Ireland. Originally just a small fishing village, Howth with its surrounding rural district is now a busy suburb of Dublin, with a mix of dense residential development and wild hillside, all on the peninsula of Howth Head. The only neighbouring district on land is Sutton, primarily on same peninsula. Howth is also home to one of the oldest occupied buildings in Ireland, Howth Castle. Through the years, Howth has been used for movies such as The Last of the High Kings and Boy Eats Girl.

Location and access

Howth is located on the peninsula of Howth Head, which begins around 13 km east-north-east of Dublin, on the north side of Dublin Bay. The village itself is located 15 km from Dublin city centre (the ninth of a series of eighteenth century milestones from the Dublin General Post Office (GPO) is in the village itself), and spans most of the northern part of Howth Head, which is connected to the rest of Dublin via a narrow strip of land (or tombolo) at Sutton Cross.

Howth is at the end of a regional road from Dublin and is one of the northern termini of the DART suburban rail system. It is served by Dublin Bus.


Howth Head is one of the dominant features of Dublin Bay, with a number of peaks, the highest of which is Black Linn. In one area, near Shielmartin, there is a small peat bog, the Bog of the Frogs. The wilder parts of Howth can be accessed by a network of paths (many are rights of way) and much of the centre and east is protected as part of a Special Area of Conservation of 2.3 km2.

The island of Ireland's Eye, part of the Special Area of Conservation, lies about a kilometre north of Howth harbour, with Lambay Island some 5 km further to the north. A Martello tower exists on each of these islands with another tower overlooking Howth harbour (opened as a visitor centre and Ye Olde Hurdy-Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio on June 8, 2001) and another tower at Red Rock, Sutton. These are part of a series of towers built around the coast of Ireland during the 19th century.

Built heritage

Howth Castle, and its estate, Deer Park, are key features of the area.

On the grounds of Howth Castle lies a collapsed Dolmen known locally as Aideen's Grave.

At the south-east corner of Howth Head, in the area known as Bail(e)y (historically, the Green Bayley) is the automated Baily Lighthouse, successor to previous safety mechanisms, at least as far back as the late 17th century.

In Howth village is St. Mary’s Church and graveyard. The earliest church was built by Sitric, King of Dublin, in 1042. It was replaced around 1235 by a parish church, and then, in the second, half of the 14th century, the present church was built. The building was modified in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the gables were raised, a bell-cote was built and a new porch and south door were added. The St. Lawrences of nearby Howth Castle also modified the east end to act as a private chapel; inside is the tomb of Christopher St. Lawrence, 13th Lord Howth, who died in 1462, and his wife, Anna Plunkett of Ratoath.

Also of historic interest is The College, on Howth's Main Street.

Amenities and businesses

Howth has one hotel, the Deer Park Hotel in Howth Demesne, which has a spa, and access to four golf courses. Another hotel, on Main Street, closed in 2009, but the area also has multiple bed-and-breakfast establishments.

The area is active commercially, and forms part of the area of a local Chamber of Commerce. The village is also home to the Olympic Council of Ireland.


Howth is a popular area for birdwatching and sailing, and is also popular with anglers. Anything from cod to ray can be caught from Howth's rocky shore marks, and sea mammals, such as seals, are common sights in and near the harbour. Howth is also a popular destination for cyclists and hillwalkers, particularly on weekends. Birds seen regularly include razorbill, guillemot, fulmar, kittiwake, stonechat, linnet, whitethroat, yellowhammer, skylark, wheatear, peregrine, buzzard and kestrel.


The name Howth is thought to be of Norse origin, perhaps being derived from the Danish word Hoved ("head" in English). Norse vikings colonised the eastern shores of Ireland and built the settlement of Dublin as a strategic base between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. Skuldelev 2, a tenth-century ship in the Viking museum at Roskilde, is made from Irish timber. Norse vikings first invaded Howth in 819 and the surnames of some of the oldest families on the peninsula, such as Harford, Thunder, Rickard and Waldron, are descendants of these early invaders.

After Brian Ború, the High King of Ireland defeated the Norse in 1014, many Norse fled to Howth to regroup and remain a force until their final defeat in Fingal in the middle of the 11th century. Howth still remained under the control of Irish and localized Norsemen until the invasion of Ireland by the Anglo-Normans in 1169.

Without the support of either the Irish or Scandinavians, Howth was isolated and fell to the Normans in 1177. One of the winning Normans, Armoricus (or Almeric) Tristam, was granted much of the land between the village and Sutton. Tristam took on the name of the saint on whose feast day the battle was won - St Lawrence. He built his first castle near the harbour and the St. Lawrence link remains even today, see Earl of Howth. The original title of Baron of Howth was granted to Almeric St. Lawrence by Henry II of England in 1181, for one knight's fee.

Howth was a trading port from at least the 14th century, with both health and duty collection officials supervising from Dublin, although the harbour was not built until the early 19th century.

A popular tale concerns the pirate Gráinne O'Malley, who was rebuffed in 1576 while attempting a courtesy visit to Howth Castle, home of the Earl of Howth. In retaliation, she abducted the Earl's grandson and heir, and as ransom she exacted a promise that unanticipated guests would never be turned away again. She also made the Earl promise that the gates of Deer Park (the Earl's demesne) would never be closed to the public again, and the gates are still open to this day, and a place set at table for unexpected guests.

In the early 18th century, Howth was chosen as the location for the harbour for the mail packet (postal service ship). One of the arguments used against Howth by the advocates of Dún Laoghaire was that coaches might be raided in the badlands of Sutton! (at the time Sutton was open countryside.) However, due to silting, the harbour needed to be frequently dredged to accommodate the packet and eventually the service was relocated to Dún Laoghaire. George IV visited the harbour in 1821.

In June 1914, 900 rifles were landed at Howth by Robert Erskine Childers for the Irish Volunteers. Many were used against the British in the Easter Rising and in the subsequent Anglo-Irish War.

Notable residents

Among Howth's better known residents are Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville, U2 drummer Larry Mullen, Senator and retail pioneer Feargal Quinn and musicians Barney McKenna and John Sheahan of The Dubliners and Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries. Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy lived in Howth for a time. The late politician and writer Conor Cruise O'Brien and his wife, the Irish poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi lived here for many years. Composer Ciaran Farrell presently lives in Howth village. Multiple Eurovision Song Contest winner Johnny Logan and his father, tenor Patrick O'Hagan lived for many years in Howth, and Lynn Redgrave and husband John Clark raised their family there in the early 1970s. William Butler Yeats spent some of his childhood in a small house above the cliffs on Balscadden Road in Howth. Broadcaster Seán Moncrieff lives in Howth with his family.


  • Howth railway station opened on 30 May 1847, is a two-platform terminal station served by the Dublin Area Rapid Transit.
  • The Hill of Howth Tramway ran between the station and Sutton railway station until 1959.
  • Small boats run to Ireland's Eye in the summer months.
  • Dublin Bus runs the 31 service to Howth Summit via Howth village and the 31B services the more remote side of the peninsula. The 31B also terminates in Howth Summit, however it does not pass Howth Village. The 31B offers spectacular views particularly on the upper floor.
  • Howth is also home to the National Transport Museum of Ireland which houses many public service and road transport vehicles from the years past.

See also

  • List of abbeys and priories in Ireland (County Dublin)
  • List of towns and villages in Ireland
  • List of RNLI stations
  • Howth Head
  • Ben of Howth
  • Hill of Howth Tramway

References and sources

  • Dublin, 1920: Joyce, Weston St. The Neighbourhood of Dublin
  • Dublin: Howth, a Guide and Map; Dublin County Council, nd (1980's?)
  • By Swerve of Shore, Michael Fewer, (2002), , an account of the author's walk along the coast of County Dublin

External links