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The town is situated some 12 kilometres south of Dublin city centre, and is a major port of entry from Britain.
The harbour, one of the largest in the country, and base for a major car ferry route to the United Kingdom, is notable for its two granite piers. The East Pier is particularly popular with walkers, and was featured in the 1996 movie Michael Collins, where Liam Neeson (as Collins) and two of his co-stars are seen walking along a seaside promenade, which is actually the Dún Laoghaire East Pier. A band is seen playing on a bandstand in this movie scene, and this is the actual bandstand on the East Pier. In July 2007, the bandstand, which stood for decades, was removed, and a restoration project was begun by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company in order to return it to its original condition.
It took 42 years to construct the harbour, from 1817 to 1859. The obelisk near the old ferryport terminal at the harbour commemorates the construction of this harbour.
A lighthouse is located at the end of the East Pier, while the new headquarters of the Commissioners of Irish Lights (the General Lighthouse Authority for Ireland) is located on Harbour Road.
Much of the town's early growth came from visitors from Dublin, and today there is one large hotel, heavily refurbished in 2007, the Royal Marine, along with several small hotels, and a number of bed-and-breakfasts.
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