Located just north of Dublin on the Irish Sea coast, the small town of Skerries welcomes you with its windmills and watermill. Explore the city’s ancient churches or enjoy a beautiful seaside promenade where you can spot three islands and the purported first place St. Patrick set foot on the island.
Living in Ireland, I love everything Skerries has to offer for adventure seekers, history buffs and water sports enthusiasts. Here are my favorite activities.
1. Skerries Mills
Skerries Mills, a living museum located in Skerries, County Dublin, just 30 minutes by train from Dublin city centre, is the only property in Ireland with three national monuments. The four- and five-sailed windmills hold this distinction, as does the watermill. Too bad the bakery can’t also qualify for this award because, in my humble opinion, it also deserves national treasure status under the watchful eye of Chef Ivo, housing both sweets and flavors for all appetites.
The tour has been run by the same two resident tour guides, Gavin and Paddy, for over 20 years, both descendants of the early workers.
You will visit the mill building and witness the sieving, grinding, sifting and packing process that occurs at each of the three mills.
“Since the 12th century, flour has been ground in this unique place. The fully restored complex brings to life the authentic workings of a five-sail windmill, a four-sail windmill, a watermill and a bakery from the 1800s. This provides the visitor with examples how wind and water power were harnessed by our ancestors,” Skerries Mill explained.
The Four Sail Windmill, or Small Windmill, circa 1460, the oldest in Ireland with a thatched roof, requires canvas sails to be dropped at the end of each section. He has a stone.
The five-sail windmill, or large windmill, circa 1780, with a copper roof, has wooden shutter sails that can be opened and closed from below. It has two sets of stones and can have double the yield of the four-sail mill.
The water mill
There is no river nearby, so these industrious souls created the mill pond and their river to flow towards the building, with the wheel always in view of the miller from his office. On the tour, they recreated the miller’s office, a town centre. The waterwheel powers the sieves, shakers and millstones of the building.
The gift shop
Award-winning handicrafts, high-quality made-in-Irish giftware and products, including a delicious Irish vanilla fudge, make great souvenirs and gifts for those back home. You simply can’t go wrong with the quantity and quality of choices.
A cozy and warm space, flavors like Cajun Chicken Salad would make a New Orleanian feel right at home. Their scones, with an unsweetened cream on request, have just the right lightness to make your taste buds dance. The ability to have both sweet and savory at such a level of execution makes this the best place to stop for your midday meal.
As well as the mills, fields planted with grain, an associated mill pond (with mallard and swan), mill runs and a wetland area make this an ideal property for a good walk.
2. Skerries Coastal Walk
From the mills, walk past the Church of Ireland and Holmpatrick Cemetery, then down to the water’s edge on the south bank esplanade with plenty of benches along the way to sit and take in the sea views from Ireland.
Once you reach the Red Island Martello Tower, built to oppose a possible Napoleonic invasion, head to North Strand Bay Beach and climb the steps to Barnageeragh Bay. Pay attention to the water flag warnings. One of the widows of the Easter Rising of 1916, Muriel MacDonagh, died by drowning in Skerries in 1917, which was a double devastation for the family.
3. The beach
From the beach, three islands are visible: Shenick’s, St. Patrick’s and Colt. You can only reach the latter two by boat, but Shenick’s, where the Martello Tower is located, can be reached on foot via the sandbars at low tide. Pay attention to the tides so you don’t get trapped.
If you reach the northern end of the beach, around the horn and down a slippery path, you will find the footprint of St. Patrick, where he is said to have first set foot on the island nation of Ireland. Kidnapped and enslaved twice, British subject Patrick eventually returned to Ireland a third time to convert to Christianity and became the country’s patron saint.
I found my kayaking group through a MeetUp (social network) that kayaks in the area. Joining a gentleman of Latvian descent who emigrated to Ireland and helps people find adventure safely along the coast was the perfect place for a story function to meet. He outfitted us with a wetsuit, walking shoes, a paddle and a kayaking partner before our final safety briefing.
Perched on Skerries Beach below the Red Island Martello Tower, our twenty-two kayaks looked like miniatures facing the Irish Sea. The plan? Paddle to Shenick Island with the Martello Tower, then, tides permitting, to Colt Island, then back via the only west-facing harbor on Ireland’s east coast.
The kiteboarders loved the strong tide we had to contend with as they soared high in the air above the lapping waves. We paddled hard and landed on the small island of Shenick, enjoyed a delicious banana treat and an imported chocolate covered Latvian treat, then climbed through the weeds to the Martello Tower.
The tide was too strong for us to go to a second island. It was quite a workout to paddle for over two hours for a round trip in Skerries Marina. We were ready for a good meal.
Although my favorite place to eat in Skerries remains the Skerries Mills Café, there are many other excellent restaurants in town.
A local favorite thanks to its chicken wings, Blue Bar may have one of the best locations in town. Get there early to nab one of the outdoor tables with the best view of Skerries Harbour. With offerings that span the protein flavor profile, it’s hard to choose between crab salad, lobster, fish pie, duck breast, ribs, burgers, or steak. You’ll just have to come back often until you’ve gone through the menu.
Bow your head
Stoop Your Head, named Leinster’s Best Gastro Pub at the 2018 Best Chef Awards, opens at lunchtime and serves crab claws New Englanders will covet.
For a lively atmosphere, visit 5 Rock. Just along Skerries Harbor where we ended our kayaking trip, their brick walls and wooden bar welcome all (although we ate on the terrace). Grilled pizza, Irish steak with peppercorn sauce and crispy onion rings hit our water warrior party, though it was the honeycomb with the chocolate brownie that we thought was the best. more fanciful. Accompanied by melted marshmallows and ice cream, the “goat in the boat” is a decadent dessert.
Brick House restaurant and tapas bar
If you are more tapas, stop at Brick House restaurant and tapas bar. Their terrace is one of the best places to drink at sunset in Skerries. Good food, great views and good company make for the perfect evening.
Want atmosphere? Check Vegetable garden, housed in a former bank building on Church Street, its Victorian fireplaces serve as the perfect backdrop for two tasting menus. For those with hearty appetites, check out the eight-course vegetarian option with wine pairings. This might just be your perfect dining experience in Skerries.
For Italian, go to Church Street and visit Di Vino. Their Filotea artisan egg pasta is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. From an old recipe, the chef uses it in a variety of dishes.
Our favorite crispy crust pizza comes from Fifty4 Pizzeria where they make their pizza dough fresh daily but then rest it for 48 hours. Their food scene extends to crab claws and antipasti.
If you’re craving some good Irish sandwiches, check out the affordable restaurant Coffee Molly. Their burgers and chicken fillets are also delicious.
The cozy Piccolo Trattoria serves some of the best tortellini we have ever tried. Other customers rave about chef Giorgio Borzacchiello’s award-winning pancakes. It is one of Skerries’ hidden treasures.
6. Drink with the locals
Tourists and locals like to stop at Olive’s Coffee Shop for a warm welcome around watersports while reading a good book, starting their day of sightseeing or starting their journey to Dublin. I love their smoothies.
For adult drinks, you’ll want to visit Joe Mays, now managed by its fourth generation. Opened in 1865, it feels like the fire has always been lit. Another local favorite is The Snug, filled with memorabilia and whose back bar glassware shines like another chandelier. Friends also recommended Nealon’s and The Malting House.
7. Skerries Bookstore
Like most writers, I like to read. I can spend days in libraries or bookstores, especially when they contain the smell and feel of Skerries Bookstore. From the colorful green storefront to the friendly staff, this family-run shop offers books spanning local authors, current fiction, mysteries and non-fiction to school necessities. Paddy will order anything you need that isn’t already on the shelves.
Time at Skerries fills the brain, stomach and restores the spirit. It’s glorious.
For more information on traveling to Ireland, see these articles: