We’re quite lucky in Europe. So many places are right on our doorstep. Despite this luxury, I still get over to Thailand and New Zealand more often than I head to Wales or Ireland. This New Year, we decided to see the Emerald Isle for ourselves. There is certainly something enchanting about Ireland and there is a tendency to romanticise the Irish what with their penchant for green and their folklore that incorporates the banshee and the leprechaun.
Then there’s the Irish sense of fun, the notorious ‘craic’, the Guinness and the humour immortalised in television shows like Father Ted. If this is what Ireland has exported to the rest of the world, then what has it retained for itself?
Flying with Aer Lingus, our flight was a turbulent one-hour jaunt across the water. We took a taxi to our Airbnb in Smithfield, the former market area which has since been gentrified when one of our party remarked, ‘top of the morning to ya.’ No, the Irish don’t say that. Nor do they say, ‘to be sure, to be sure.’ Nor do they all dress in green. As our taxi driver Declan explained, Dublin is a real city and the Irish are real people and with that comes crime, gangs and poverty. We were warned against the local pub, The Cobblestone, which looked rather jaunty in green. This was somewhat superseded by the bars on the window. Apparently, the locals don’t take well to the out-of-towners. Intrigued, we decided The Cobblestone would remain a mysterious entity, always in view when we looked from the window of our cute apartment, almost like it could be a vortex into another dimension.
In our apartment we felt like the cast of Friends. This was my third time staying in an Airbnb and I can’t recommend them enough. Declan recommended that our first stop should be to the oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head and this is a wonderful way to initiate yourself into the city and try your first taste of Guinness, the pint that put Dublin on the map.
We then explored the famous Temple Bar district of Dublin. This is where all of the night life is concentrated. It’s a relatively small area but each bar and pub has its own distinctive character and pretty much all of them play traditional music, or trad, as it is colloquially known. Some of the bars get a bit crowded giving them a claustrophobic feel which some adore, and others dislike but it’s certainly worth experiencing. Cobble stoned and brightly lit, Temple Bar is a quaint but thriving area.
On our second day, we took the Dublin bus tour around the city with Dublin pass, a wonderful way to take in any city when you are short on time. I like such tours as they enable you to get a feel for the different districts upon your arrival before deciding where you wish to base yourself. As an overview of Dublin, this tour of great and you can buy a ticket that covers two days for 20 euro.
Dublin has produced numerous greats including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Colin Farrell and Connor McGreggor and you can find various odes, particularly to the cities literary legends, almost everywhere.
Of course, an absolute must when you are in Dublin and something that absolutely everyone recommends is the Guinness Factory, pioneered by Arthur Guinness. I was never a fan of Guinness, but I enjoyed the drink this time around. The factory itself is a magical romp through the stout making process spanning several floors. You get the option to taste a miniature Guinness whilst learning about the various scents of the ingredients that make Guinness what it is and then you can visit Gravity Bar, with a 360-panoramic view of the city. The gift shop boasts Guinness crisps and chocolate and you can even get your own Guinness glass engraved.
For New Years Eve night, we went to the Arlington Hotel to watch their Celtic Nights show. We were presented with a delicious three course meal which included soup, salmon and a trio of desserts as well as a complimentary glass of prosecco. Our table was positioned far away from the stage, but we still got to watch the Irish dancers and the fiddlers and singers. I had a sober night. Finishing half of my glass of prosecco was enough for me!
For a campy experience, the Leprechaun Museum is wonderful for visitors who enjoy the supernatural side of Irish lore. Irish mythology is rich and tantalizingly morbid, used to explain happenings for which there was no explanation at the time. Perhaps the most famous and enduring of Ireland’s mythological creatures are leprechauns, who initially wore red and not their trademark green. Leprechauns longed for the iron-rich blood of human boys and could be lured into traps boasting shiny treasures. Alongside leprechauns are wailing banshees, evil faeries and changelings who inherit the world when darkness comes. The experience will set you back 16 euro and takes around 45 minutes to complete. Upon leaving, you will be close to the church restaurant and bar where Oscar Wilde was married!
There are a great many things that we did not get to experience but that is always the case. If you are interested, you can also try out the following:
- Kilmainham Gaol – Please purchase tickets to the prison beforehand as this sells out fast!
- Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church – Here you can see an actual piece of St Valentine’s heart. Great fun if you are a morose romantic type.
- Dublin Zoo
- Powerscourt Estate
- Dublin Castle
- Jameson Distillery Bow St.
- National Botanic Gardens
- The Little Museum of Dublin
- Dublin Writers Museum
- St Patrick’s Cathedral
- Book of Kells – Please note that this experience is closed around New Year so if you want to see it, make arrangements to see it on either side of Christmas/New Year celebrations!
All my love