If you haven’t had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Dublin, the mistress of the Emerald Isle, you’re making a big mistake. There is a lot more to Ireland than just Dublin, but you’d be remiss in thinking it was worth skipping.
Easily one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever experienced, Dublin is relatively flat, with the best point of navigation being the River Liffey running through the middle. You’re either north or south of the Liffey, so it’s technically impossible to get lost. Unless you’re me and you end up miles away from where you’re supposed to be, simply because you were enjoying a good chat with an old friend and missed the part where you should have turned right.
Now I had longer than 48hrs to explore this dynamic city, but I spent one of those days wandering about looking for 1916 uprising sites, and street art with my friend, and local photographer, Darren McLoughlin.
My top sites in Dublin:
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL: By now you all know, as much as I dislike organized religion, I’m a fan of a pretty church. And St Patrick’s has pretty in spades. Think what you will of the Catholics, they definitely know how to build a church. High, vaulted ceilings, stained glass, slate flooring, a first class echo, wooden pews, shrines, and my favourite – what could be Hagrid’s keys 🙂 It’s not cheap mind, but get tickets in advance, and you’ll save a bit of money. There’s also a free audio guide you can download on your iPod or iPhone, or other mP3 player.
ANY DUBLIN PUB: Seriously. In any of the more than 1000 pubs in the city you’ll find decent beer and even better conversation. Find yourself a local and have a chat (what you get out of this chat will depend on your understanding of the Irish accent).
ST STEPHEN’S GREEN: Fabulous for a stroll, this is the Irish version of Central Park. All major cities should have a park in the city centre. St Stephen’s Green is huge, has a lake complete with bird life, and vast areas of green, green grass to enjoy a picnic on. Since it was the beginning of Spring, I also got to witness the flowering of the cherry trees, which is always so pretty. Get yourself a small lunch and bring your sarong so you can have a proper picnic, just keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine!
TRINITY COLLEGE & BOOK OF KELLS: The Book of Kells is a story as old as time. It is in actual fact, the four gospels of the New Testament, and is believed to have been created in 800AD. Trinity College itself is free to visit, you can wander the grounds and soak up some learning, but the Long Room, and the Book of Kells exhibit will cost. Be early, the long will be long, but there is a great deal to see here that goes beyond just an old book. There are original posters proclaiming the call to rebellion from 1916, signed by Pearse and Connolly, there are busts of the old scholars who walked the corridors of Trinity, the likes of Isaac Newton, Shakespeare and Yeats. If you’re a giant nerd, like me, you’ll love it.
THE SHRINE OF ST VALENTINE: Tucked away in a small chapel inside a church easily overlooked, in a side street in the middle of Dublin lies the Shrine of St Valentine. I was directed here during my wanderings with Darren, and not only did the dim light give me a much-needed break from the sunshine, but when he pointed out the Shrine, my heart thumped. Yes, even little cynical me. Now the legend of St Valentine has come a long way, thanks to American bastardisation and Hallmark, but he was actually a real saint, and as such, is recognised by most Christian churches in the world. You can find the Shrine tucked inside the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church.
HOWTH: I took a day out of the city, to the seaside village of Howth. Howth is a fishing village, and easily accessible by DART train from the centre of Dublin. There is a small cemetery, complete with ruins of the chapel, as well as a very long jetty and port area, with seafood restaurants and cafes dotted all the way along. If you can, get over to the small islet off the coast, Ireland’s Eye, which is home to a small monestry ruin and plenty of Celtic ruins as well.