Our trip to Dublin was very last minute and quite unplanned. Phil had to spend a week in the Dublin office so I jumped at the opportunity to join him for a weekend. I am very privileged to hold an Irish passport – not only does this mean that I can travel more freely in the EU but it means that Ireland is a part of my history.
My great grandparents from my dad’s side, came out from Ireland in 1906. My great grandfather was from Enniscorthy in Wexford county and my great grandmother was from Arklow in County Wicklow. He was working for a British company called Kynoch, in Arklow, a factory making explosives and chemicals. They literally moved the whole factory to Umbogintwini, now effectively a suburb of Durban but back then it was tropical bush. There were a 100 or so Irish who accepted the offer to relocate to Africa where the mining industry was growing (thanks Dad for the info).
I would love to go back to Ireland one day and see more of this beautiful place, but for now I am glad to have got a taste of this country full of wonderful, warm people, delicious food and rich history which is also a little part of me.
I flew with Aer Lingus on Friday afternoon and arrived in the new Terminal 2 that evening. There is a very convenient air coach that drops you off at most hotels with prices starting from €6.00 for a single ticket – it is best to check with your hotel which route you should take for example route 700 takes you from Dublin airport to Dublin city centre. Because it was rather late I jumped into a taxi which cost around €20.00 . Hotels are rather expensive compared with other cities we’ve travelled to. There are less expensive options and lots of B&B’s but with little time, we chose something a bit more standard
We went for the Doubletree Hilton and I am so glad we did. I was advised by colleagues to stay on the south side of the river – I think it is much of a muchness but the south side is generally a bit more scenic and quieter. Our hotel was a 15 minute walk into the centre of town and we were graced with good weather so it was lovely to wander into town on Saturday morning. See my review for the Doubletree Hilton here which I would highly recommend as a Dublin base. A broken shower and getting stuck in the elevator were remedied by a room upgrade, complimentary breakfast (delicious and generous), warm cookies on arrival and generally impeccable service.
We started at St Stephens Green, which is a little oasis in the centre of Dublin and Ireland’s best known Victorian public park. A number of sculptures are dotted around the park surrounded by charming lakes and pretty bridges – I can imagine that in summer is a lovely place to find a patch of grass and relax. From the north corner of St Stephens Green, the famous Grafton street starts. Grafton street is the shopping street of Dublin and visiting so close to Christmas the street was full of lights and festive cheer. At the end of Grafton street you come out at Trinity College – the prestigious and historic college, if we had had more time, this is something I would have liked to see more of. You can opt for tours here and visit the beautiful and iconic ‘Room of Bells’.
From here we headed towards Liffey river and crossed O’Connell bridge onto O’Connell street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. This is another great shopping street and home to the historic post office building – significant not just for it’s place in Irish history but for its stately architecture and that it continues to act as headquarters of the Irish Post Office. The Spire of Dublin lies opposite, marking the very centre of Dublin and stands as the world’s tallest sculpture.
We then walked along the River Liffey bank to Ha’ Penny bridge. This was the first pedestrian bridge to cross the Liffey and in order to cross, you had to pay a ha’penny. This takes you across to the Temple Bar area. Temple Bar is a charming neighbourhood with cobblestone streets, bars, café’s and art galleries. The Temple bar market serves fresh breads, oysters, burgers and delicacies so keep this in mind for a lunch stop. Temple Bar is known as Dublin’s cultural area and has a lively nightlife that starts around 9pm that can be quite touristy. By day, this is a great place for discovering souvenirs and trinkets that are a bit more quirky and unique. You’ll find a variety of restaurants for lunch or dinner and a number of bars to visit after hours.
We decided to visit of the Guinness storehouse, which retains the (top) spot as Ireland’s top visitor’s attraction. Located in the heart of the St James’s Gate Brewery and a massive seven-story building, this is a former Guinness fermentation plant. Entrance is €20.00 or €18.00 if you buy online. Here you can discover the history behind this world famous beer, master a Guinness pouring and toast ‘Sláinte’ at the Sky bar with 360 views over Dublin. It was great to sit back, put our feet up and sip on the good stuff.
After a few hours of walking and sipping on Guinness, we were rather hungry and on the way had passed Brazen Head. The Brazen Head is officially Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198. One of my favourite meals growing up was my mom’s Irish stew – a recipe adapted from my Dad’s mother, Granny Hazel Roche. The Brazen Head seemed like the perfect place to sample this dish while Phil opted for the Guinness stew.
As the rain arrived, we made one more stop at the National Gallery. Admission is free to the gallery and it is small enough to wander around getting a taste of this national collection of Europe and Irish fine art. The gift shop houses some lovely keepsakes from Oscar Wilde and Yeats to James Joyce pieces.
After a quick trip back to the hotel, we decided on dinner at The Little Kitchen. We had read reviews about this venue online but unfortunately they were full. Luckily, it was just around the corner from our hotel, so earlier that day we popped in to see if they had space. They called us back a few hours later with a table. With generous portions, delicious flavours, wonderful ambience and impeccable service – it is easy to see why this restaurant rates so highly. I would definitely recommend this Dublin gem and you can read my review on TripAdvisor here.
Phil had managed to meet a few friends out on the town for some drinks on Friday night, so although I didn’t get to experience the bar scene or nightlife, they were at Jam which is on Camden street – a vibey and trendy street. For more recommendations, click here.
There is so much to do in Dublin and my mom who visited earlier this year helped us with a few ideas beforehand.
- Visit former prison Kilmainham Gaol to soak up a bit of history
- Take a tour of Trinity College, Ireland’s most famous college. You can also see the Book of Kells.
- Take a walk along the promenade or explore the picturesque harbour with lots of seafood restaurants on offer
- Explore Dublin castle
- Visit St Patrick’s Cathedral which is apparently rather impressive and named after the patron saint of Ireland
- Start or finish your day at the National History museum learning about Ireland’s history from the Vikings, to English rule, to Michael Collins, the IRA and independence. It’s comprehensive and free.
- Discover the Temple bar nightlife and listen to some traditional Irish music
- Sip on some Jameson whisky at the old Jameson Distillery
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“There are no strangers here, only friends that have not yet met.”
William Butler Yeats