Have you always wanted to visit Dublin? Well we had and although it was sadly time for our Southern Ireland Road Trip to come to an end we had a few days in Irelands capital city to really finish the adventure in style.
After our ‘posh’ night at the Ashdown Park Hotel in Gorey we just needed to head North through County Wicklow into the fair city of Dublin. We couldn’t just go straight there could we so we diverted first to the picturesque little seaside resort of Courtown for an early morning walk on the beach and some serious stone-skimming.
Glendalough Monastic City
Our beach diversion was followed by another little trip further into County Wicklow to Glendalough. This is the site of a 6th century monastic settlement founded by St Kevin. Two points to mention here. Sixth century! That’s 1500 years ago. Secondly, St Kevin? He really was a real saint and not a Harry Enfield character as he sounds. Anyhow, this is one of the most unique sites in the whole of Ireland and the towers, churches, houses and other remains are absolutely fascinating. A long walk around the lower lake and the Glendalough Monastic City for some medieval exploring ended with a well deserved ice cream before continuing onto Dublin.
Irelands Fair City or Baile Atha Cliath
Everywhere you go in County Dublin you see the phrase ‘Baile Atha Cliath‘. On car number-plates and signposts, it took us ages to realise that it’s the Gaelic name for Dublin. Doh. So obvious really. Everyone knows all about Dublin don’t they? Lively, friendly, great nightlife, good for stag and hen do’s and a Guinness on every corner. Surely there’s more to it than that though? Well there is also a staggering amount of history with the city being officially established in 988AD, that’s over 1000 years old. Most of the architecture comes from the 18th century however when Dublin was the second biggest city in the British Empire and the fifth largest in Europe. Today it’s a city of over half a million people.
First things first as we found our new home for the next few days, a smart self-contained top floor flat in the Rathmines area booked as usual through Airbnb. Gerry was our host and popped in to say hi the first evening and give us a few pointers as to where to go and where not to go, always useful to get that crucial local knowledge.
Day One in Dublin
Getting the hire car back to the Budget Rental Office in the north of the city in Drumcondra was the first task of the day before a long walk back into the centre. Past the imposing Croke Park, down O’Connell Street to the River Liffey and over Ha’penny bridge. Now I know it’s a famous bridge and everyone loves it but we were distinctly underwhelmed as it was covered in advertising and very dirty. Shame.
One of the best ways to see any city is to get on one of those Hop-On Hop-Off tour buses. They are usually a great way of seeing all the sights and in Dublin they obviously have several of these but we noticed one that was a bit different. The famous, or infamous, Viking Splash Tours make the trip a touch more exciting. The tour guides all dress as vikings, they make all the passengers wear viking headgear, and they end up splashing into the River Liffey to complete the tour. Supposed to be great fun although most of the tourists on this trip didn’t appear to be up for much fun.
Who is Chester Beatty? Let me explain.
An American mining businessman and philanthropist of the last century, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty was a collector of books, manuscripts, fine art and prints was all over the world. He became a British citizen in 1933 and established one of the most incredible collections in the world travelling all over the globe collecting rare books and scripts. It might sound a bit dull but there are so many priceless 2000 year old and more books that it’s actually fascinating.
We could have stayed for the whole day but ventured across to St Stephens Green for a picnic lunch. Shame the heavens opened just as we sat down wasn’t it? Got wet and ate good so no problem. A long leisurely walk through the Victorian park and Dublins fair streets took us back to our apartment to plan for the next day.
Day Two in Dublin
Our second day in Dublin was definitely planned to be Free Museum Day. We like a museum and we really like a free museum and there are so many that we just filled our boots and visited as many as we could fit in before being museumed-out.
First up was the Natural History Museum on Merrion Street. Now this museum has been going for over 160 years and is referred to as ‘The Dead Zoo‘ by the locals. Affectionately I hope but it is a little creepy to walk through the galleries of stuffed animals that have stood there for that long. Interesting but sad and we didn’t spend a huge amount of time before moving down to the National Gallery of Ireland. We quite like an art gallery too but are not experts, in fact we both know next to nothing about paintings so just wander around seeing what we see.
From there it was across to Merrion Square and a look at the famous statue of one of Dublins most famous sons, Oscar Wilde. A really different kind of statue to the normal ones which seemed to suit Mr Wilde but what made us laugh was the crowds of French and Asian tourists barging around trying to get selfies and group photos in front of it. We may have been wrong but none of them appeared to have a clue who Oscar Wilde was!
Trinity College was our next destination and the crowds really thickened as we entered the campus. Tour buses lined up outside and loads of groups being shepherded around by umbrella-wielding guides shouting in a variety of languages. Not sure I’d like to be a student here if that’s what it is always like. Plus massive queues at every entrance especially for the Book of Kells (a 1000 year old illuminated latin gospel) . We didn’t stay for long and just wandered through the throng checking out the beautiful buildings but desperate to escape the crowds.
Brief visits to the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Archaeology and it was time for a late lunch or early dinner. We’d checked out a nice looking bar the previous day and headed down Lower Camden Street to Devitts Bar. Typically Irish and full of locals enjoying their afternoon Guinness, it was a real find. Great food and great beer.
To entertain us further though there were a group of guys watching the horse racing and checking the odds in their Racing Posts. Suddenly one of them virtually threw his pint down and ran for the door. We watched out the window as he tore across the busy street, completely ignoring the traffic and somehow avoiding serious injury, and dived full speed through the door of the Betting Shop opposite. Must have been desperate! Then he appeared at the door and leisurely strolled back over again ignoring any traffic issues. Back to the bar with his friends not batting an eyelid. Then two minutes later another guy went! Same thing. Over the next hour or so they just kept running over and back even when it started to pour down. Very entertaining to watch, just hope it was worth it.
Our Long Weekend in Dublin
There’s so much to see in Dublin that it would need at least a week to really get around everywhere. A lot of you may be shocked that we didn’t visit the world famous Guinness Storehouse but we were just put off by the huge crowds and the overly-touristic nature of the place. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit but weren’t captivated by Dublin in the same way that other small cities such as Lisbon and Wellington did. It felt unbelievably busy everywhere and a little grubby and frayed around the edges. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world though.
Housesitting in the North
So on to Banbridge in Northern Ireland and our housesitting stay. It’s been a while since we last housesat, that was Beatrice in Meopham in early August, but we were looking forward to it as we picked up the X1 bus from Dublin city centre. Apart from the young fellas trying to smuggle bottles of beer onboard it was a relaxing quick trip and before we knew it we were in another coffee shop (the lovely Blend and Batch) in Banbridge waiting to meet our new hosts. More about Buff the Cocker Spaniel, Barbara and Oliver next time.
Our Irish Road Trip
You have obviously all read about our road trip around Southern Ireland now haven’t you? Haven’t you? If you haven’t then get busy and go and read the whole story starting on the Wild Atlantic Way in Galway 12 days ago. We have loved every minute of it and got to see so much of Ireland which was exactly what we had hoped when we first planned it all those months ago. We’ve been lucky enough to get to County Mayo, County Galway, County Clare, County Limerick, County Kerry, County Cork, County Waterford, County Tipperary, County Kilkenny, County Wexford, County Wicklow, and finally County Dublin. Not all 26 in the Republic but not bad. It’s been amazing.
14/09 – 16/09/2017