Howth (pronounced to rhyme with both; Irish: Binn Éadair in Irish) is a town in the Fingal County Council administrative area of County Dublin, Ireland. Originally just a small fishing village and surrounding rural district, Howth is now a busy suburb of Dublin, with a mix of dense residential development and wild hillside. The only neighbouring district on land is Sutton.
Howth Head is one of the dominant features of Dublin Bay, with a number of peaks. In one area near Shielmartin, there is a small peat bog, the Bog of the Frogs. The wilder parts of Howth can be access by a network of paths (many are rights of way) and much of the centre and east is protected as part of a Special Area of Conservation of 2.3 km² (570 acres).
The island of Ireland's Eye, part of the Howth Estate, and of the Special Area of Conservation, lies about a kilometre north of Howth harbour, with Lambay Island some 5 km further to the north. A Martello tower exists on each of these islands with another tower overlooking Howth harbour (opened as a visitor centre and Ye Olde Hurdy-Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio on June 8th 2001) and another tower at Red Rock, Sutton. These are part of a series of towers built around the coast of Ireland during the 19th century.
At the south-east corner of Howth Head, in the area known as Bailey (historically, the Green Bayley) is the automated Baily Lighthouse, successor to previous safety mechanisms, at least as far back as the late 1600s.
In Howth you can find St. Mary’s Church and Graveyard, a church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The earliest church was built by Sitric, King of Dublin, in 1042. It was replaced around 1235 by a parish church, and then, in the second, half of the 14th century, the present church was built. The building was modified in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the gables were raised, a bell-cote was built and a new porch and south door were added. The St. Lawrences of nearby Howth Castle also modified the east end to act as a private chapel; inside is the tomb of Christopher St. Lawrence, 13th Baron of Howth, who died in 1462, and his wife, Anna Plunkett of Ratoath.
Howth is a popular area for birdwatching and sailing, and is also popular with anglers. Anything from cod to ray can be caught from Howth's rocky shore marks, and sea mammals, such as seals, are common sights in and near the harbour.
The name Howth is thought to be of Norse origin, perhaps being derived from the word Hoved ("head" in english). The Norwegians colonised the eastern shores of Ireland and built the city of Dublin as strategic base between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. The Norse first invaded Howth in 819 and the surnames of some of the oldest families on the peninsula, such as Hartford, Thunder, Rickard and Waldron, are decedents of these early invaders.
After King Brian Boru's defeat of the Norse in 1014, many Norse fled to Howth to regroup and remain a force until their final defeat in Fingal in the middle of the 11th century. Howth still remained under the control of Irish and localized Norsemen until the invasion of Ireland by the Anglo-Normans in 1169.
Without the support of either the Irish or Scandinavians, Howth was isolated and fell to the Normans in 1177 and one of the winning Normans, Armoricus Tristam, was granted much of the land between the village and Sutton. Tristam took on the name of the saint on whose feast day the battle was won, and built his first castle near the harbour — and the St. Lawrence link remains even today, see Earl of Howth.
Howth was a trading port from at least the 14th century, with both health and duty collection officials supervising from Dublin, although the harbour was not built until the early 1800s.
A popular tale concerns the pirate Grace O'Malley, who was rebuffed in 1576 while attempting a courtesy visit to Howth Castle, home of the Earl of Howth. In retaliation, she abducted the Earl's grandson and heir, and as ransom she exacted a promise that unanticipated guests would never be turned away again. She also made the Earl promise that the gates of Deer Park (the Earl's demesne) would never be closed to the public again, and the gates are still open to this day, and a place set at table for unexpected guests.
In the early 18th century, Howth was chosen as the location for the harbour for the mail packet (postal service ship). One of the arguments used against Howth by the advocates of Dún Laoghaire was that coaches might be raided in the badlands of Sutton! (at the time Sutton was open countryside.) However, due to silting, the harbour needed to be frequently dredged to accommodate the packet and eventually the service was relocated to Dún Laoghaire. George IV visited the harbour in 1821.
In 1914, thousands of rifles were landed at Howth by Robert Erskine Childers for the Irish Volunteers. Many were used against the British in the Easter Rising and the subsequent Anglo-Irish War.
Among Howth's better known residents are legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne, Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville, U2 drummer Larry Mullen, Senator and retail pioneer Fergal Quinn and musicians Barney McKenna and John Sheahan of The Dubliners and Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries. Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy lived in Howth for a time. Actor Stuart Townsend was born in Howth. Author and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson resided there for six years in 1980s. Multiple Eurovision Song Contest winner Johnny Logan and his famous tenor father Patrick O'Hagan lived for many years in Howth, and Lynn Redgrave and husband John Clark raised their family there in the early 1970s. Composer Brian Boydell was born in Howth and returned as an adult to live there with his family. Producer and Director team Moya Doherty and John McColgan of Riverdance live with their family near Howth Summit.