If you don't know where to go on a sunny day in Dublin, Howth Rhododendron Gardens can be a great alternative to the crowded city parks. In contrast to the very popular center of Howth village, which when the weather is good, attracts many people looking for an escape from the busy capital, Rhododendron Gardens are relatively a little known, peaceful and relaxing place, ideal for hiking, picnics, enjoying the beauty of nature as well as admiring spectacular views of the peninsula, and you can be sure you won't meet crowds of people there, even during the long summer days.
It's very easy to get there, you can take the bus number 31 or Dart - city train from Connolly Station to get to Howth (which will cost around 5 EUR or 6.60 USD - round trip). From Howth you have to head towards the 14th century Howth Castle which is a beautiful construction. When you go past the castle, follow up the path which will lead you to the Dear Park Hotel and golf courses. Along the way, in the summer, you will notice wonderful carpets of wild garlic flowers in wooded areas. The gardens are located just behind the Deer Park Hotel and the whole walk from Howth should not take more than 20 minutes.
The gardens were founded in the nineteenth century. The rich, turf soil was brought up to the cliffs and thrown into the gaps between rocks. Around two thousand plant species were planted on the site, including quite exotic specimens like palm trees and tree ferns. What is really nice about this park is that it's not like any other gardens where all the shrubs are trimmed and looked after very carefully. Here, all the plants seem to grow wild beside a cliff wall. It gives this place a sort of an exotic touch. Rhododendron trees blossom in May and June and this is the best time to see the gardens. You can admire all the colors, varieties and shapes of flowers while strolling along the narrow paths between the trees, and you won't believe you're actually in Ireland.
Following the tracks, you can go around or very easily climb up to the top of the cliff. From there, you can enjoy the amazing view of Howth, the Ireland's Eye Island and Dublin city. Now you can continue the hike further towards the cliffs of the Howth Head Peninsula or go back and visit the National Transport Museum, situated just beside the Howth Castle. The museum has a large collection of means of transport of all sorts used in Ireland since the eighteenth century and it's really worth visiting.
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