I really enjoyed Dublin, honest. The city needs to get it together when it comes to street signs though. First, we learned the signs were made of some type of paper composite, and a heavy rain did away with most of the lettering a long time ago. People have written over the letters with markers, bless their hearts, but it is a lost cause.
Second, they are at best mounted somewhere on the side of whatever building is closest to the corner, and often so high up you could not read them if they still had writing. Third, streets often change names for a block or two then resume the former.
Lastly, no one knows where anything is except the old people. Younger people in the cafes and stores never knew exactly which street they were on. Nobody at the park knew where the main entrance was. No one knew which way the bus would run. Bother they could not remember if there is a train or trolley nearby.
Thank goodness for the old people, which were hard to come by in a city where more than 50% of the population is under 25 years old.
We arrived in Dublin shortly after Devil’s Hour and decided to creep around the Clontarf Castle and cemetery until we could check into our room. Staying in a castle was one of the most anticipated aspects of this trip and we were not let down.
In the early 1000s the Battle of Clontarf took place on these grounds, and the original castle was built on this property in the 1100s that was manned by the Knights Templar. The Clontarf castle as we know it was constructed in the early 1800s, and it is said that composer George Frideric Handel was a frequent guest.
From the 1970s through the ’90s, the interior chamber was used as a cabaret and comedy club, and then in 1997 it was remodeled into a hotel.
Once the sun came up, we had breakfast at the adjacent Fahrenheit restaurant. Freshly smoked spicy lox over soda bread, Wicklow ham, grilled vegetables, Dubliner sausages, black and white pudding, poached eggs, smoked cheese, crisp potatoes, fresh squeezed juices and diced fruits and fruit salads, pastries, smoothies, tea, and coffee were just part of what they offered on the breakfast bar.
My favourite item was a large box full of honey comb that you could swirl up with a giant dipper and drizzle over your plate.
We met an American couple in the lobby and struck up an acquaintanceship that led to shared cab rides and late night drinks at the Knights Bar. Clontarf plays classical renditions of many gothic favourites from Edward Scissorhands, Dracula, Nightmare Before Christmas, and other spooky films over the sound system. Delighted!
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
The largest and tallest church of Ireland is also its most visited tourist spot, and it was on the top of our list.
Despite being the most iconic and largest church in Dublin, this cathedral does not serve as the seat of the Archbishop. Saint Patrick’s was built in the late 1100s and it is here that he is thought to have baptised all of his converts.
Jonathan Swift was once Dean of the cathedral in the 1700s for some time and is buried near one entrance. It is said that Oliver Cromwell set out to assault the dignity of worshippers by using the church as a stable for his animals when he visited.
Saint Stephen’s Green
In Dublin’s Garden Square district, Saint Stephen’s Green is a gorgeous public park that stretches over 20 acres. This park has waterfowl and bird ponds, a large rocky plaza for climbing and picnics, floral arrangement beds, sports fields, and so much more.
I feel a little guilty but I may love this park as much as Wicker Park in Chicago.
This Youtube video (not mine) has a really great birds-eye view:
Stephen’s Green, as it is more commonly referred to, also has scores of monuments, statues, and an abstract ode to William Butler Yeats. Here you can also find the Potato Famine Memorial.
In the mid 1800s there was a devastating period of death, starvation, and loss in Ireland that most certainly could have been prevented.
You can learn more about this period here:
Dublin has an impressive repertoire of writers, poets, artists, and scholars. Visitors always flock to Trinity College to visit the Book of Kells and the Long Room library, the cherry on top of a find-your-own-way literary tour. We were not allowed to have phones or cameras in the Book of Kells room, but it was fascinating.
I particularly liked the Book of Kells display cases that showed the creative methods used to acquire different pigments for colouring the pages and new writing/drawing styles that were developed. It was very obvious how rightfully proud they were.
While it may be difficult to navigate Dublin when searching for something specific, it requires no effort at all to find incredible places. Dublin also has a really cool initiative going on right now called Love the Lanes. I learned a bit about this on foot, as there are some interactive signs and podiums that show you what the area used to look like and will look like in the future.
The Spire of Dublin, known locally as “the “Stiffy by the Liffey”
Dublin Castle was a fort long before it served as a residence to royalty. It held courts of law, military bases, secret service quarters, and was the seat of British parliament until the early 1920s.
Dublin City Hall
Christ Church Cathedral
This Viking Church was first made of wood in the year 1030 before King Strongbow, who is buried within its walls, and his men rebuild it out of stone.
We heard a wild story that the heart of Archbishop Laurence O’Toole was kept here for over 830 years after his death, until 2012 when a thief somehow swiped it from an enclosed case behind iron bars, baffling authorities.
The cathedral contains the largest crypt in the United Kingdom and holds some rather odd effigies, brutal artifacts, and mummified remains.
Leinster House, seat of Irish Parliament. It is surprisingly close to busy intersections and traffic.
Bloom, a James Joyce themed hotel we passed
Molly Malone Statue at St. Andrews
“To See Her Was To Love Her” was said of the most beautiful girl in Dublin. Sadly she died of fever in her teens and her heartbroken admirer wrote the “Ballad of Molly Malone” in her honour.
Queen of Tarts
This legendary bakery has been around since 1998 and has two locations. We purchased a variety of treats, including a lemon meringue tart and a chocolate pear tart that we had a bit of a sticky party with later that night. Just check out their gallery!
So, there is this Temple Bar bar that everyone wants to take their photo in front of, and there is the Temple Bar district that hosts miles of pubs, venues, stores, restaurants, offices, and other businesses. I snapped a photo as I walked by, but went into another less crowded pub instead.
The Quays Bar has Guinness stew that will make you want to cry tears of joy. and for the record, they pronounce quays as “keys.”
We sat upstairs near the window and drank our first pints of the trip with fresh soda bread and Kerrygold butter. I ordered the Guinness stew with mash instead of chips, and my friend ordered the Coddler’s bowl- pork bangers and Irish lamb stew over mash. We spent the next half an hour sighing, moaning, and giving each other OMG looks.
On many occasions, I had heard that O’Reiley’s bar was the place to go after dark. To find it is another story. From the Tara Station, look around until you see a dark portal to enter. Walk through an alley into what looks like a medieval torture chamber and muscle the door open. Just the kind of place we were looking for.
Our bartender G* kept us laughing while we tried some of the local Cute Hoors beers. On Saturdays the downstairs Club Hell opens for a goth/rock/industrial dance night but the crowd upstairs is generally and diversely tame.
The Ha’ Penny Bridge is the most notorious bridge crossing the Liffey.
Dublin is lit up like a dark rainbow prism at night. The name Dubh Linn, meaning the Black Pool, is an eerily accurate description of the Liffey River swirling around in the dark. I could have spent hours walking along the banks on the way back to the castle.
By day two we found the city significantly more navigable and it got better from then on. Between a half-working GPS, a little common sense, and several old ladies, it seemed the roads rose up to meet us after all.
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