Dublin – A fair City
The capital and largest city of Ireland, Dublin’s fair city is located on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey. With a rich history and a modern, trendy city combined, it has everything to suit all tastes.
If you’d like to wander through these cobble streets like Molly Malone, your eyes will feast on what she saw. You will discover Dublin’s musical and literary past, lurking on every corner.
Getting to Dublin
We generally travel there from Belfast by car. It’s as simple as taking the M1 / A1 in the North to Newry. From here, the road continues to become the M1 again once the invisible border is crossed. Follow this all the way to Dublin. This road has tolls. The journey is 100 miles and takes about an hour and half.
Often we use Hertz as we are members of their loyalty program. They also don’t charge any extra for crossing the border between the north and south. We have also used Avis / Budget at times and Enterprise.
Other modes of transport
There are also good rail and bus links between the two cities – Translink, Bus Eireann, and others, such as Aircoach, will give you a choice of options. Being Ireland’s capital, and largest, city there are good links to the West and South also.
Over the years we have used several hotels and guest houses for our trips to Dublin. Some are still in business. Here are a few of the places we have stayed.
Clontarf Castle Hotel
This renovated Castle boasts a 4* hotel about 3 miles north of Custom House Quay in Clontarf. Set in beautiful grounds, with a small eerie cemetery behind it, it is a good escape from the hustle and bustle of Dublin centre. An Oasis that still has good links to the city. There is a bus that starts at the Castle, #130, and takes about 10 / 15 mins or so into the centre. The DART station is about 15 min walk away.
Hilton, Charlemont Place
Situated on the banks of the Grand Canal, this Hilton hotel has a lovely setting and is about 500 metres south of St Stephen’s Green. It was reasonably priced and clean. There is free self parking for guests.
Ibis Red Cow Roundabout
It isn’t always easy to get a hotel in Dublin, especially at the right price, We stayed at the Ibis Red Cow when down for a gig. It is in the suburbs but is close to a LUAS station. The room was clean, fairly economical, and there was free parking.
Getting around Dublin
In the centre, it is reasonably easy to walk most places. You can use taxis but they’ll often cost an arm and a leg. Other ways to travel across the city are with buses or the Luas (Gaelic for ‘speed’) tram system. The Luas will also intersect with the DART (commuter train) and other rail services at various points. These options are relatively cost effective and pretty regular.
Dublin – a city of meaning
Being a city of close to 2 million (Greater Dublin), for the locals it is the daily grind with a bit of fun thrown in. For tourists it is a place of fun and shenanigans where the expected craic is 90! It is a cultural icon as well as a party place for the many that come to visit. What is more, the deep history of fighting off foriegn invaders, mainly the English, feeds into the classic underdog story.
Meaning to us
For me (Miko), while we have enjoyed the craic in Dublin, the city means more as my mum spent 6/7 years here in a children’s home just after WWII. It was a tough existence that could have broken her spirit, However, she battled through with a strong spirit while remaining a fabulous, strong and beautiful lady.
Discovering the home
It was fascinating to feel closer to my mum by delving deeper into her life history. I investigated the background of the home. Firstly, by getting my mum’s file from the Smyly homes, which are still in existence today. It was also amazing to find in the files, handwritten letters my mum, then a teenager had wrote. We then researched across the net and through libraries until we discovered some of the home’s buildings. Finally, we managed to find the home my mum lived in was still standing, but being used as a site office for a building site. As a result, we were able to contact the contractors and set up a visit.
Emotional visit to Dublin
Knox and I drove the 100 miles south on a wet autumn day. We were both very excited but also with butterflies in our stomachs. It had been a long journey to get to this point. The Georgian houses were listed buildings so had survived the rejuvenation being done in the area.
Cold exterior but a warm welcome
The cold dampness of the day gave the exterior of the building a bleak feeling. I can only imagine how my 11 year old mum must have felt when she arrived with her younger sister. They must have been terrified. Nonetheless, we got a warm welcome by the site manager when he opened the door.
It felt that he appreciated the circumstances of our visit, as well as the small gift of a few beers. It was basically an access all areas tour.
Indeed, we got to see upstairs, downstairs, and in the dank basement.
There was no rush and I felt comforted to be able to walk in the footsteps, however harsh they may have been, of my mum. Mum didn’t talk about the days in the home a lot, but I do remember a story of the nuns making her work hard scrubbing the stone stairs. It is a day I will never forget.
While there are many suburb areas with plenty going on, Central Dublin is where it’s mainly happening for the visitor. Beyond that you have walks and gigs in Phoenix Park, Sporting events in Croke park (GAA) and the Aviva Stadium/Lansdowne Rd (Rugby and football), RDS arena, Golf courses, castles and lots more. It all depends on your trip but life often focuses on the centre.
Temple Bar – Dublin party scene
Life in Dublin can be frenetic. None more so than round the tourist hotspot of the Temple Bar area. Here you will find an eclectic mix of hotels, boutique shops, pubs, restaurants, art houses, street performers, and a whole lot of hustle and bustle.
The main nightlife is spread over cobbled pedestrian lanes. Music sings out from every pub, Irish and contemporary. Drink flows and talk of Irish Folklore will lure you into mischief. Expect to get a well filled wallet emptied around here as prices are on the high side. Don’t get too well oiled, though, or you could end up in Kilmainham Gaol.
Across the river and North of Temple bar, there is O’Connell Street with the historically famed General Post Office (GPO), which became the headquarters of the rebellion during the 1916 Easter Rising. Today, it is still a main thoroughfare through the heart of Dublin.
On the same side of the river, and to the east, lies the Custom house, Amiens Street (for Connolly Station), and the Quays that lead to the docks of Dublin Port. With Regeneration, The quays have become a landmark area for the city’s banks and other financial institutions. Along with this, hotels have grown, important artwork has been installed; such as the Famine Memorial, and multi purpose venues have been erected like the convention centre and the popular 3 Arena.
Walk the liffey
Head back towards the centre, one can follow the Liffey for a riverside walk. Back up around Bachelors Quay, one will find plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars. In addition, there is the Jervis Shopping centre just round the corner in the Smithfield area. It has all your usual shops that a city centre offers. Then, to cross the river, there is the famous Ha’penny Bridge. This 200 year old + pedestrian bridge was built to replace the ageing fleet of ferries that brought people across. It got its nickname due to the toll that used to be levied for those that wanted to cross it.
Grafton and George’s street – Shopping in Dublin
Coming back across the river to the Southside, one comes through the Temple Bar area and up onto Dame Street. On the East side of Dame is Dublin’s Famed University, Trinity College. From here, you can join onto Grafton Street and all the evocative notions the bustling name brings forth. It is one of Dublin’s Premier shopping streets but has also been a hotbed for young local talent to play their way up the performance ladder.
At the West side of Dame Street is George’s Street. Plenty Of restaurants vie for competition here. On top of this, the side streets heading west will bring you along a warren of passages that are well endowed with chic shops and little eateries.
St Stephen’s Green
The shopping continues as one approaches St Stephen’s Green from either of the streets mentioned above. You will come across St Stephen’s Green shopping centre, which has a mix of independent shops along with some of the usual high street names.
The park itself
A Dublin city centre park, St Stephen’s Green is a large garden space for locals and tourists to relax in and get away from the stress of work, shopping and touring. A public park, that unpopularly became private, until Sir Arthur Guiness bought it back and made it public again, has been on the go for 4 centuries. It has seen Dublin life in all its guises. Indeed, it even played its part in the Easter Rising. Undoubtedly, well worth a visit for a calm stroll. Of course, this is weather permitting!
Merrion Square – Fashionable Dublin
Another park close by, surrounded by Georgian houses, is the fashionable Merrion Square. It is close to the action but with an upmarket air. It is also home to several state monuments.
Stroll along the winding, tree lined paths and have a chat with the reclining Oscar Wilde. You can almost see a faint grin on his face. In his hayday, Oscar resided at 1 Merrion Square, hence the commemorative statue in the place he would have wandered through on many an occasion. You can imagine this smile as he penned his witty quotes; “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying”.
Oscar now rests in peace quite a distance from Ireland in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, which we were lucky enough to visit a few years after.
Dublin Literature, the arts, gigs, and museums
Us Irish are known for a drop of the good stuff but that’s not all. There is a rich history of literary giants from James Joyce; and his wanderings around Dublin, to Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Yeats, Oscar Wilde. Need I go on? The city just drips with eloquent, and sometimes not so, eulogies, tales, quips, and remarks to keep the ear bent and the mind enthralled. In fact, the written and spoken word plays a massive part in the history of Dublin and the whole Island.
Dublin Writers Museum
Go to the top of O’Connell street and onto Parnell Square. Here, you will find the unassuming Dublin Writers museum. Housed in an old Georgian house, it is a great collection of keepsakes, stories, and artwork to assist the visitor in connecting with the Irish spirit.
James Joyce Centre and James Joyce Tower, outside Dublin
The great mind of James Joyce resides at the centre dedicated to his work on Great Georges Street. Get familiar and refresh memory with his writings; “The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails’ ‘. To further delve into the writers mind, visit the official museum, in Sandycove, South of Dublin.
EPIC – Dublin Quays
There is tragedy in the story of Ireland too. The remembrance of the Famine that led to starvation and mass immigration is high in the thoughts of the locals. Furthermore, the story has been highlighted by the EPIC museum.
This grim and deadly history is captured in a respectful manner while allowing a modern interaction. It is a must see on any visit to Dublin. We also saw the other side of reflection on the famine while in Boston, where focus is on how those that escaped managed to lift themselves up.
Delve Into a bit of Irish Folklore with a visit to the Leprechaun Museum. To tell you the truth, you may find yourself shrink as you encounter the exhibits and tales on offer. Additionally, it’s all a bit of craic and should definitely paint a smile on your face as you find the inner child. Some might find it a crock of gold but you will all be waist high in the gift of gab as you recount the mystical truths to those you meet.
Kilmainham Gaol and the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, West Dublin
Once a lock up for the criminals of Dublin and around, the old Kilmainham Gaol is now a museum. AS well as the general population of the prison, Kilmainham is also renowned for the imprisonment, and execution, of many rebels over the years. Indeed, it is well known for holding members of the 1916 rebellion.
Across the road is the Royal Hospital. It was built in 1680 to look after army pensioners but is now used for events and large scale outdoor gigs. Actually, it was the reason that we made a visit to the area in 2018 to rock on with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for their fantastic outdoor concert. More than 10000 attended the show. Nevertheless, we still managed to get into the pit by the front of the stage! The building also holds the IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) that holds over 3500 artworks from Irish and International artists.
Beth Orton gig and St Stephen’s (Pepper Canister) Church
On a more sedate level, we also attended a Beth Orton gig in this old church. St Stephen’s sits just off the leafy banks of the Grand Canal on Mount Street Crescent. The Domed shaped spire gives the church its local nickname. This was a reserved, acoustic gig that befitted the tranquil setting.
Abbey Theatre, Dublin
On another night we visited the Abbey Theatre. It was opened by WB Yeats in 1904 and has been an inspiration ever since. From traditional plays to more modern adaptations, the theatre thrives on being open to all those from the Island of Ireland. Performances will be in Irish or English, depending on the project on offer. In fact, we went for the intimate ‘Conversations with Nick Cave’ gig. It was a performance of Q&A as well as some wonderful music.
Whelans Pub on Wexford street, Dublin
Carrying on with the live music on offer in Dublin, Whelan’s is a great place to visit for good beer, fine craic, and live performances from established musicians as well as the best of Ireland’s, and international, up and coming artists. It’s well worth checking out the venue to see who is in town for a gig.
Fancy a pint of the black stuff? Well, how about finding out how it’s made and more about the master brewer, Arthur Guinness, that brought the famous stout into existance. They are open at the moment but regretfully are following the governments discriminatory mandates about vaccine passports! Poor show.
If you enjoyed this review of Dublin, check out some of our other Irish sights such as Belfast or Dingle.