Dún Laoghaire is primarily a sailing town with several yacht clubs dotted along the stretch of the harbor. With this long history of maritime activity, you’ll find a lot of the main attractions in Dún Laoghaire pertain to the sea and Ireland’s relationship with it.
Shackleton's Endurance Exhibition in Dun Laoghaire — Photo courtesy of Shackleton Exhibition
The ferry terminal in Dún Laoghaire currently plays host to a new exhibition on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of Ernest Shackleton, who hailed from nearby County Kildare and took a team of British and Irish explorers on several trips to the Antarctic during the early 1900s.
The Shackleton Endurance Exhibition includes many incredible photographs taken during the expedition, which ran into serious difficulties when the ship became trapped and crushed in packed ice. The heroic exploits of the crew and Shackleton meant that everyone escaped unharmed. The exhibition itself is well priced at €5 for adults and €3 for children, including a replica of Shackleton’s lifeboat. It’s a great story with wondrous insight into the expedition itself. Well worth a look.
The other main museum in Dún Laoghaire is the National Maritime Museum of Ireland, located in the same building as the Old Mariner’s Church - one of the only places in the world dedicated to the worship of seafarers. It includes exhibitions of Irish wildlife around the coast and artifacts of maritime heritage.
There is also a very impressive optic from Baily Lighthouse in Howth, one of the most prominent lighthouses on the Dublin coastline, dating back to 1902. The museum is located mere minutes away from the Ferry Terminal, meaning that you can walk easily between the two exhibitions and catch them both in a day. The National Maritime Museum is priced the same as the Shackleton Endurance Exhibition.
Dun Laoghaire's East Pier — Photo courtesy of William Murphy
Once you’ve taken in all these marine exhibits, why not walk the East Pier of Dún Laoghaire harbor and have a look at a lighthouse up close for yourself? The East Pier is located just beside the National Maritime Museum and is a common walking spot for the locals. You’ll often see buskers and banjo players serenading the walkers on the promenade, and there are beautiful views of Dublin Bay and the surrounding environs.
Dún Laoghaire is perhaps best regarded for its beautiful panoramic views, seafaring history and local seafood restaurants. Tapping into this by examining the area's maritime heritage is a great way to get a feel for the local history and lifeblood of this lovely seaside town.