Howth’s name (which rhymes with ‘both’) has Viking origins and comes from the Danish word hoved (head). Howth Harbour was built from 1807 and was at that time the main Dublin harbour for the packet boats from England. Howth Rd was built to ensure rapid transfer of incoming mail and dispatches from the harbour to the city. The replacement of sailing packets with steam packets in 1818 reduced the transit time from Holyhead to seven hours, but Howth’s period of importance was short – by 1813 the harbour was already showing signs of silting up, and it was superseded by Dun Laoghaire in 1833. The most famous arrival to Howth was King George IV, who visited Ireland in 1821 and is chiefly remembered because he staggered off the boat in a highly inebriated state. He did manage to leave his footprint at the point where he stepped ashore on the West Pier.
In 1914 Robert Erskine Childers’ yacht, Asgard, brought a cargo of 900 rifles into the port to arm the nationalists. During the Civil War, Childers was court-martialled by his former comrades and executed by firing squad for illegal possession of a revolver. The Asgard is now on display at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin.