Swords is the county town of Fingal—a large suburban area on the east coast known for its castle, proximity to the Airport and it’s title as ‘One of the ‘largest urban areas in Ireland’.
And, although you rarely hear it referred to as such, it’s a great base to explore from, especially if you’re only spending 24 hours in Dublin and you fancy staying close to the airport.
The town is also home to several parks and rivers, a huge shopping centre (the Pavilions) and plenty of great restaurants and pubs.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from the history of the area to the various things to do in Swords (plus where to eat, sleep and drink).
Some quick need-to-knows about Swords
Although a visit to Swords in Dublin is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Swords is about 10 kilometres north of Dublin city centre. There are direct bus services from the city (the best of which is the Swords Express) that run regularly throughout the day and the bus journey takes about twenty minutes.
2. One of the ‘largest urban areas in Ireland’
Swords’ population continues to grow, and it is likely the Metro Link transportation plan and the further development of Dublin Airport will make the area even more attractive to visitors and potential residents.
3. Home to a fine bit of history
Swords has a long and fascinating history. It was founded in the 6th century and the name derives from the Irish Gaelic word, ‘Sord Cholm Cille’ for pure, referring to the holy well of St Columba which is still on site at the consecrated grounds at Wells Road. The medieval town developed the Main Street, and the round tower there is an indicator of the early Christian settlement.
There was a monastic settlement in Swords when the town was founded in the 6th century. All that remains of the ancient St Columba’s Church is the round tower.
The early years
In common with other parts of Ireland, Swords battled Viking invaders many times over the early Middle Ages, and old records show that it was burnt by the Danes in 1012, 1016, 1130, 1138, 1150 and 1166, later being taken and sacked by the King of Meath.
John Comyn became the archbishop for the area in 1181, and he chose Swords as his chief residence—perhaps because the area was a wealthy one.
The arrival of the castle
The building of Swords Castle is thought to have started in 1200, though castle is something of a misnomer as it was more of a manorial residence.
In 1578, Queen Elizabeth 1 issued a Royal mandate for the better establishment of the Corporation of Swords, and for determining the limits of its franchises and liberties. Commissioners fixed the boundaries – two miles on every side of the town.
In 1994, Swords became the county seat of the new county of Fingal after the former County Dublin was abolished as an administrative county.
In 2016, it was confirmed (via Census) that Swords was the fastest growing town in Ireland.
Things to do in Swords (and nearby)
There’s a handful of things to do in Swords. When you’ve ticked them off, you’re a short spin from some of the best places to visit in Dublin.
Below, you’ll find some places to visit in the town along with heaps of things to do a stone’s throw away.
1. Visit Swords Castle
Swords Castle is thought to have come into existence some time in the early 13th century, when it was established as the residents for the Archbishops of Dublin.
It fell into disrepair in the early 14th century, likely because of the damage it sustained during the Bruce campaign in Ireland in 1317, though it is thought constables occupied a part of it during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, and it was used as a rendez-vous for the area’s Irish-Catholic families during the 1641 rebellion.
After its purchase by the council, work has been done to repair and restore the castle and it is well worth a visit if you are in the area. This is one of the most overlooked castles in Dublin.
2. Head for a ramble in Ward River Valley Park
River Valley Park is a lovely, well-maintained green space that provides peace and serenity away from the urban bustle.
You’ll find a playground area, exercise equipment, streams, a river and an off-the-leash dog walking area. The park is huge, and it has plenty of nooks and crannies to discover.
3. Take a spin out to Malahide
4. Or ramble around nearby Newbridge House and Gardens
Newbridge House and Gardens is another fine spot for a ramble. Now, there’s an in-tact Georgian mansion here that you can get a tour of, along with a farm, but you can also go it solo.
The grounds here are beautifully maintained and, thanks to recent developments, there’s an almost endless number of trails to tackle.
There’s also a cafe if you fancy a hot drink and plenty of parking, too. This is one of our favourite parks in Dublin for a reason.
5. Or the often-overlooked Ardgillan Castle
Ardgillan Castle is a large country-styled house with castellated embellishments. The central section was built in 1738, with the west and east wings being added in the late 19th century.
It has been restored and the ground floor rooms and kitchens are open for visitors. Now, you can take a tour of Ardgillan if you like, or you can just ramble around the grounds.
There’s stunning sea views to be had and there are several places to grab a coffee for your stroll. It’s a handy 25-minute drive from Swords, too.
6. Take a day trip into the city where there’s endless attractions
Swords is a handy spin from the city and, with services like the Swords Express and Dublin Bus providing regular bus service, you’re a 30-45 minute ride away, depending on traffic.
When you reach the city, there’s plenty of museums, parks, historical sites, pubs, restaurants and interesting features to immerse yourself in.
Restaurants in Swords
1. Shaker and Vine
This wine bar/restaurant offers dine in and take away, and there are regular wine tastings and cocktail making classes. Steaks, grilled chicken skewers and prawns served in a creamy garlic sauce are among the menu options.
2. Pomodorino Wood-Fired Pizza Pasta
Who doesn’t love a wood-fried pizza? Customers rave about the offerings at Pomodorino. All the bases are made from sourdough and the choices include the Caprino—tomato sauce, mozzarella, goat’s cheese, caramelised onions and spinach.
3. D’Chilli Shaker
Authentic Indian dishes are prepared at D’Chilli Shaker using the freshest produce and the chefs have recommended signature dishes, such as Makhan Chicken, tandoori chicken cooked in a butter sauce with tomatoes, fresh cream and flaked almonds.
Pubs in Swords
There are a fair few pubs in Swords. Unfortunately, our favourite, the Lord Mayors, closed last year. Here are a handful worth nipping into.
1. The Old Schoolhouse
The Old Schoolhouse is a traditional yet modern Irish pub that’s arguably the most popular in Swords. There’s plenty of seating, they do brilliant food and it’s arguably home to one of the best beer gardens in Dublin. There’s also a live music venue next door.
2. The Cock Tavern
Situated on the Main Street, The Cock Tavern has a traditional wood finish bar and a lounge. There’s finger food on offer to help soak up the alcohol and a roof terrace to sit out on sunny days.
3. The Pound
The Pound is right next to the castle and there is Irish music played in the bar at weekends. The downstairs area is a proper locals spot. There’s also an upstairs bar, known as the attic, that has its own WOW Burger.
There are plenty of hotels in Swords, if you fancy spending the night. Many of these are busy throughout the year, as there some of a handful of hotels near Dublin Airport.
Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
1. Forty Four Main Street
Forty Four Main Street has been extensively refurbished and offers luxury accommodation via its 14 rooms. Food is served 9am to 9pm, seven days a week.
2. The Old Borough Hotel
Once a school, the Old Borough Hotel is now a Wetherspoon’s hotel and pub that also features a garden and terrace. The reviews for this place are insanely good on Booking.com.
3. Carnegie Court Hotel
The Carnegie Court Hotel caters for business guests, families and group bookings, and has one of North Dublin’s biggest bars. It’s also known as a great place to watch sports, thanks to the multiple large screens throughout the bar.
FAQs about visiting Swords in Dublin
Since mentioning the town in a guide to Dublin that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Swords in Dublin.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Swords?
If you’re looking for things to do in Swords and nearby, Swords Castle, River Valley Park and then nearby attractions like Malahide, Donabate and Ardgillan Castle.
Is Swords worth visiting?
Swords makes a great base to explore Dublin from. It’s worth visiting Swords to see the castle, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit if I wasn’t staying here.
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.