wide irish beach

10 Unique Things to Do in Laytown

Laytown, a charming fishing village just north of Dublin and known for its annual horserace on the beach, has dozens of unique things to do. We stayed in Laytown, Ireland, for three weeks, never swam and never saw a horse. But we entertained ourselves with no problem. Laytown is an affordable, friendly alternative to expensive Dublin and certainly a perfect place to launch your Irish adventure holiday vacation.

Enjoy these ten unique things to do in Laytown, Ireland. By the way, we stayed at a charming Airbnb. You’ll find many that run about 50-100 Euro a night between Laytown and Bettystown. While you’re saving money on your accommodation in Laytown, you’ll also find eight free things to do in Laytown from the list below. Laytown is easily accessed off the M1, or via train or bus from Dublin.

Number One: Sonairte in Laytown

Kayak the River Nanny, or enjoy the view from Sonairte.

An organic eco-center filled with outdoor activities, Sonairte is a short walk from Laytown. We visited during Ireland’s National Heritage Week where we got a guided tour through Sonairte’s woods and learned of its 6000 years of history. Climbing back to the Iron Age, Sonairte witnessed the rise of Irish culture, gave accommodation to Cromwell and now harvests organic apples, lettuces and veg. We learned of fairy rings and fairy doors.

You can schedule a tour, walk the woods, volunteer in the gardens, and paint fairy doors. Not only did we enjoy the fabulous tour, but we got sneak peaks of the Bellygarth Castle, which can only be seen from the River Nanny.

Don’t know what to wear on your holiday Number Two: Jump Off a Bridge (or not!) in Laytown

We wouldn’t jump off a bridge, but you can!

Enjoy the rivermouth of the River Nanny and the Irish Sea. At high tide, jump off the pedestrian bridge into the river (we are *not* recommending this!), or just relax on the seashell bank and watch the birds twitter and the kids play in the water.

Load up your music player with Irish music to get you in the mood.

Number Three: Catch the Local Game on the Pitch in Laytown

On the local pitch, you’ll always find something going on. Whether you love GAA football, soccer, hurling or camogie, a game is always festering on the local pitch. Don’t know the rules of the game? Ask a local. We asked the father of one of the 18+ footballers about the game, and we got an entire hour of conversation about it. Nightly around 5 pm, the fields come alive with practices and matches. Some of the teams will even overflow to the beach to practice if the fields are busy, so be sure to walk down to the beach as well. The fierce camogie women were practicing in the sand!

Number Four: Pick Blackberries in Laytown

blackberry patch
How about some blackberry scones?

While watching the pitch or going back and forth to the beach below the pitch, don’t pass up the abundant fields of blackberries. We picked and filled to our bellies’ content in late August, but we’re sure they’d be ripe from mid August to mid September.

Number Five: Find Jellyfish in Laytown

lions mane jellyfish
One of the largest jellyfishes, you can occasionally find the Lions Mane in Laytown.

The Irish Sea always gives up a variety of fun finds. Not only can you beachcomb for hours on the mile-wide beach during low tide, but you can also find other treasures. While white jellyfish commonly float ashore, on one of our days we found the largest of the jellyfish, Lions Mane. Dozens had beached themselves, looking like amber disks of sunshine…or Guinness-soaked jellies.

Number Six: See Evidence of Illicit Smuggling in Laytown

thatched cottage
The Nancy Water Cottage is over 300 years old!

Whether there’s still illicit smuggling in the Irish Sea now or not, we have no idea. But at one time, there was enough that Ireland’s Coast Guard built a thatched hut on the mouth of the Nanny River to block it. That hut, now known as the Nanny Water Cottage, stands on the edge of the sea. You can walk past it, perhaps eye some of its restoration, and imagine being a pirate escaping capture. Currently under restoration, the cottage is over 300 years old.

Number Seven: Collect Sea Glass in Laytown

sea glass
The bluer the glass, the harder the find.

Yes, sea glass is really just broken glassy garbage that’s tumbled in the sea, but people love it. We know folks in Maine who are fanatical about it, even selling it to jewelry makers for big money! Whether or not you want to capitalize on sea glass, you can certainly spend a day walking the beach hunting for it. In our three weeks up and down the beach, the places we found the most were on the north shore of the river mouth in the shell bank. By the way, you can obviously find tons of seashells, too, on Laytown Beach, but it’s the sea glass that is the most elusive.

Number Eight: Enjoy the Beach in Laytown

wide open beach
Laytown’s wide open beach

Laytown’s Beach can be a narrow strip at high tide or almost a mile wide at low tide. Regardless, the weather does not need to be perfect to enjoy it. Whether you’ve got your bikini on or your galoshes and a mac, the beach is perfect for a long walk.

16th century tower
The Maiden Tower is from the 16th century and used for navigation.

You can amble past Laytown’s famous race track, past Bettystown and her three ice cream stores, past the dunes, and end up at the Maiden Tower about 6 km away. Along the way, pick up shells, watch the tankers come into the Boyne channel, and play fetch with any number of dogs running the beach with their owners.

grilled greek sandwich
Halloumi cheese sandwich with sun dried tomatoes and pesto.

We did this walk and got hungry enough to stop at Bistro BT. There, I got introduced to Halloumi Cheese and devoured their Grilled Greek Halloumi Panini.

bagpiper on seashore
Out of no where, a bagpiper appeared.

While we dined on the sand at the Bistro, a local bagpiper came out to entertain us from the seashore.

Number Nine: Embrace the Uniqueness in Laytown

boat filled with flowers
The Tidy Towns folks make sure Laytown stays neat.

All over Laytown, you’ll find evidence of civic pride. The Tidy Towns folks have made sure quaint visuals keep the town inviting, including a darling boat filled with flowers, lovely artwork (The Voyager) along the seashore, and even a suggested walking path for exercise. People are friendly, two pubs serve good Guinness and Bulmers, and the local market (Pat’s) has everything you need. We even found a great exercise class held several times a day in the Parochial Hall run by A & S Fitness. The coaches cheered us on and welcomed us as locals.

Number Ten: Meet Benn, the Dog who Minds the Store in Laytown

Granted, this is technically a suggestion in Julianstown, the next little village over from Laytown, but it’s within 4 km of the beach and worthy of your time. You must meet Benn.

benn the yellow lab
Benn, the yellow lab, minds the store.

Been is the labrador who minds the store. He greets you, takes your money, gets your change, and begs for a pet. Bring only bills, as Benn doesn’t have thumbs so he can’t quite manage coins.

We’re not kidding. Find Benn in the small convenience store directly across from Dave’s Diner in Julianstown. He’s Tiktok and Instagram famous. Be sure to stop in and buy a treat from Benn.

Three Weeks in Laytown

handsome couple in front of thatched hut
We adored Laytown.

When we first booked our time in Laytown, we really wondered what we’d do with all that time in a tiny little village. Not only did we fully embrace the town, but we found it was the perfect jumping off point for trips to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway, county Armagh to do some genealogy, Drogehda, Newgrange, Kells, the Trim Castle, Slane Castle and Distillery, the Boyne Ramparts, and even trips into Dublin via train or bus. What have you enjoyed in Laytown?

~Chris and Steve

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