Dublin’s Fair City

Posted by admin | August 6, 2007 0

Halpenny Bridge

DC’s Hibernian Adventure!

Cead mile failte go dti Bhaile Atha Cliath, priomh cathairach na hEireann.

Welcome to Dublin, the capital of Ireland, and the hometown of many famous writers and others! A special place, the Augustan capital of a Gaelic Ireland or a ravenous sow which devours its young depending on the literary source you use!

What is undoubted is it is a place apart. In Gaelic it is known as Baile Atha Cliath, the town of the hurdle ford after the wattle ford (near the Four Courts) which connected the two banks of the Liffey or in English as Dublin from Dubh Linn, the black pool on the river where the river Poodle joined the Liffey, on the site of the present Dublin Castle Gardens and Coach House, where the Vikings moored their longships.

River Liffey & Halfpenny Bridge

An older Viking city than Oslo it was founded in the late 700’s (although Ptomely referred to a town called Eblana in C4.) and the Viking Kings of Dublin & Dalkey ruled the Isle of Man and controlled trading in the Irish Sea. The Vikings were supplanted by the Normans in the late 1000’s who exiled the native Irish and Norse outside the walls of their new city (to Irishtown & Oxmantown respectively) and built a cathedral on the hill of their town which is known as Christchurch today. The tomb of the first Norman ruler, Richard of Pembroke, known as Strongbow, is still in the crypt of the cathedral. His daughter Isolde eloped with the warrior Tristam giving us one of the early great romantic stories, which will no doubt inspire you on Valentine’s or any other romantic weekend!

Christchurch Cathedral

After the Normans the English came in the 1400’s but until the Tudor Plantations (today called ethnic cleansing) they did not hold sway beyond the fortified ring around Dublin known as the Pale, giving us the English expression “beyond the Pale”. The high point for Dublin was in the 18th Century when there was a separate Irish Parliament and the Georgian city was laid out and Dublin acquired many of its public buildings, the parliament building on College Green (Now The Bank of Ireland), the Royal Exchange, now the City Hall on Dame Street and the three great buildings of the architect James Gandon, The Custom House, The Four Courts and The Kings Inns.

Dublin Castle

Trinity College

Trinity College Chapel

The Georgian streetscape was laid out then with the distinctive red brick being brought over from Bristol as ship’s ballast. The finest streets then were on the Northside of the river and the simple facades often hide sumptuous interiors but all this came to an end with the Act of Union in 1800.

Bank of Ireland – originally the Irish Parliament

House of Lords


After the Union the city lost its economic momentum and unemployment, poverty and population increased significantly. Dublin went into a decline with many of the Georgian buildings deteriorating to tenements and the larger homes of the aristocracy being used for other purposes. Leinster House is now the Dail, the Irish Parliament (and the model for the White House, Washington which was designed by James Hoban a pupil of its architect, Richard Cassels) and Powerscourt House is now a shopping centre but was a post office.

Fitzwilliam Square

In the last century Irish Nationalism and the Gaelic revival were both led from Dublin. The former led to the 1916 rising whose headquarters were in the GPO in O’Connell Street. This was not generally supported but the brutality of the execution of the leaders afterwards and the intensity of the repression changed public opinion and led to the War of Independence leading to Ireland being temporarily partitioned into occupied Ireland (a failed statelet in the north east of the country) and Free Ireland which is Europe’s fastest growing and most dynamic country with a per capita GDP greater than the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Occupied Ireland.

Dublin Street Scene

Joking apart (?) Dublin today is a young (60% of the population are under 25) and cosmopolitan place with its economy driven by computing industries, financial services, media and music. It is suffering from the strains of expansion on the infrastructure, which is running somewhat behind events but nonetheless has a charm and atmosphere, which I hope you’ll discover and enjoy!

Custom House

Morning – Day 1

Fly on Ryanair


an airline run by an Irish accountant who with less than one tenth of the staff of BA carries more passengers and has 3 times the market capitalisation. If you pay more than £30 return including taxes you have gone wrong!

Two choices when you arrive. Either Take a taxi direct, but check the fare with the warden and ensure the meter is on and that’s what your pay (c. 30 euros to city centre). Otherwise laugh in the face of the taxi drivers and take the No. 41 bus or the Airport Shuttle into town. Disembark (either in Gardiner St or Busaras, the central bus station) and take a walk down Abbey St past the Abbey Theatre to O’Connell St and admire the “Spike”! The main shopping street of Henry St is just off this. Just south of it across O’Connell Bridge is Westmoreland Street, continue onto the top of Grafton Street, go to the Tourist Office at St Andrew’s Church Suffolk St and get INFO.


Then stroll into Bewleys Café on Grafton a Dublin institution, and go into the back room at the left to enjoy the atmosphere of real fires, velvet banquettes and stained glass windows.

Bewleys Cafe

Buy a Guide Friday Hop on – Hop off bus tour and orientent yourself. There are 5 venues you could Hop off at on the tour – details in pack.

1. Guinness Hop store – Well worth the visit for the history, view and proper Guinness (not served in London!)


2. Old Jameson Distillery – Smithfield. www.irish-whiskey-trail.com Nice venue in its own right but also interesting area with Ceol, the Irish Music Centre, Duck Walk craft gallery (may not be open all year) and a lift up a big chimney to get a view of old Dublin.

Jameson Distillery

3. Number 29 – Lower Fitzwilliam Street. A restored Georgian interior but more interesting is the insight into upstairs / downstairs home life.


4. Dublin Castle – Dame Street. Impressive State Apartments and in the vicinity City Hall, Christchurch Cathedral and beside it the Dublin Viking


exhibition at St Audeons Church, Wood Quay excavations of the Viking town at the Civic Offices and remains of the city walls!


You won’t expect to find one of the greatest collections of Islamic artefacts in Dublin so do visit the remarkable and unique collection of Islamic and Oriental art collected by the late Chester Beatty in an award winning museum, The Chester Beatty Library housed within the castle


which also contains the Silk Road café.

Dublin Castle

5. 15 Usher’s Island – This is here because it is a personal favourite so show respect. This is the building in which James Joyce set the short story, The Dead, from his anthology “Dubliners”. Most of the characters are based on people Joyce would have met there whilst visiting his aunts. It merits a further mention in Ulysses (Circe Chapter). And John Huston topped it all off with his own masterpiece and swansong, his last film “The Dead” starring his own daughter Angelica, who incidentally went to school in Loughrea Co. Galway. Members of the Joyce family, when they were old enough, celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) each year with a dinner at No. 15. Joyce’s father would carve the goose and make festive speeches just as Gabriel does in the story. Joyce had fond memories of these parties. He describes one of the most memorable dinners in fiction along side a beautiful love story. Ernest Hemmingway described The Dead as quite simply the greatest short story every written.

15 Ushers Island “The Dead” House

And why is it a personal favourite? Because the dinner described in The Dead takes place on “Ivy Day” 1904, the 6th October which was the anniversary of the death of the Irish Nationalist, Charles Stuart Parnell and is also somebody else’s birthday! If you want a description of the street where “somebody else” grew up then you can read the first paragraph of another short story in “Dubliners”, Araby.


See also;


Night time
OK, get it out of your system go down to Temple Bar www.temple-bar.ie which is a tourist theme park. Places you should see are The Irish Film Centre in Eustace Street, which is a clever conversion of a Quaker Meeting House and Meeting House Square behind it. In Parliament Street facing City Hall you’ll find Reads Restaurant & Bar, The PorterHouse Bar which has a microbrewery in house and a wonderful selection of beers and the stylish Front Lounge, all worth a visit. A cheapo and fun food option is the Bad Ass Cafe in Crown Alley and a good Trad music venue is upstairs at Oliver St John Gogarty’s in Fleet Street. Bad Bobs does rockabilly and the club owned by U2 is the Garage at the back of their hip Clarence Hotel. The Palace Bar just beside Bewley’s is a traditional Dublin Pub and the Long Hall in South Great Georges Street is worth a visit for atmosphere and traditional interior.

Temple Bar

For more Irish music head down to Stafford’s “Auld Dubliner” in Fleet Street, Temple Bar or even better stroll up Dame Street past Dublin Castle and City Hall to Christchurch Cathedral on High Street, the centre of the Viking town. Continue past St Audeon’s (From St Ouen, the Norman’s patron saint) and the old walls of the city and you will shortly come to Bridge Street, so called because at the bottom was the only “bridge” over the Liffey, the wattle ford which gives Dublin its name in Gaelic. Down this street you will find the “Brazen Head” the oldest licensed premises in the world, mentioned in Leon Uris’s “Trinity” and many other works, stayed in by Winston Churchill and meeting place of the United Irishmen. Anyways these days it is pretty touristy but good for meeting a cross section of world travellers and normally has a number of music sessions going on.

Brazen Head

For a real traditional pub (no music) try the back room in Mulligans in Poolbeg Street (Off Dolier St, just south of O’Connell Bridge, go through the pedestrian alley). Afterwards perhaps a gentle walk along the boardwalk along the north side of the Liffey.

Day – 2
Head down from O’Connell Bride to Tara St DART station (or a nearer station depending on where you are staying – ask your hosts). Buy a daily rover ticket for trains & buses and head north to the northern terminus of Howth, a picturesque fishing village in the city boundaries. Go for a bracing hangover curing walk on the pier and the Abbey Tavern on Abbey St is a good pitstop.

The Spike O’Connell Street

Head south on the Dart to Dalkey towards the other end of the line taking in the fine vistas of Dublin Bay from the train and disembark at Dalkey. Walk past “Atmospheric Avenue” (find out yourself where the name comes from) and go into the village which is charming and head to the heritage centre


to absorb the local history of what was originally a Viking settlement. Walk down by one of the two little harbours (Coiliemore and Bulloch Harbour) and take in the views of the bay and mountains. There are some nice restaurants and pubs, including the Queens, cafes, bookshops etc;

Dalkey Village

Other possibilities on the DART


include the ferry port of Dun Laoghaire or Killiney where there is a nice stroll to the top of Killiney Hill and an excellent vista of the bay and mountains. At Sandycove (1 stop after Dun Laoghaire) there is the James Joyce Tower and Museum and the 40 foot bathing area.


Head back into the centre and get off at Westland Row, turn left out of the station and stroll up to Merrion Square. The National Gallery on the right is a lovely enclave and has a really good and reasonable cafe.


Do visit! Afterwards head up Nassau St (look into the Kilkenny Design Shop


if you want genuine Irish stuff) at the side of Trinity College www.tcd.ie/Visitors

Trinity College

A good diversion here is the library which contains the Book of Kells) or the National Museum


on Kildare Street which has the impressive Treasury of Celtic artefacts. Or do these another day!

Book of Kells

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

Or try Dublin’s new state of the art Tramway system called LUAS


The Green Line goes from Dublin’s fashionable Stephen’s Green along the old Harcourt Street railway line through leafy southern suburbs, the Red Line goes thru’ Smithfield (Jameson Distillery etc) past the interesting annexe to the National Museum housed in the former historic Royal Barracks and past the Museum of Modern Art housed in the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham


which predates the similar institution in Chelsea London and is built on a similar grand scale. Opposite is Kilmainham jail where the 1916 leaders were executed and is now an interesting museum and the best preserved example of a victorian prison. Film aficianados will recognise it from the original “Italian Job” and many other movies.


Kilmainham Gaol

Plenty of eating options around Grafton Street which is the pedestrianised shopping area and walk back home down St Stephens Green and Baggot St stooping off at Foleys for late night music or Doheny & Nesbitts and Toners for two real pubs. Upper Baggot St also has some nice pubs and cafes. At the top of Baggot St. “FXBs” in Lower Pembroke Street is highly recommended.


In Grafton Street “Captain America’s Cookhouse” is an old favourite where Chris De Burgh started off playing the guitar to entertain the diners.

City Hall

Day 3 – Last Day! Boo – Hoo!!
Go into Grafton Street; check out the shops and the Stephens Green Centre. Go down the pedestrian alley at the side of Bewleys Cafe and continue across to the Powerscourt Centre


go through this to the Hallway by the front steps, admire the plasterwork! Go down the steps to George’s St Market, which is full of nice stalls & shops and bric, a brac. At the far side is George’s St and Yamamori noodles is a good place for a nosh. If you turn left and go up 200 m you will come to the Carmelite church, Whitefriar Street and the bones of St Valentine are under the high altar!

South City Markets

Grafton Street

Other venues are to go to the top of O’Connell St (admiring the Spike!) and visit the Irish Writers Museum


to get some idea of Dublin’s literary heritage.

Howth Harbour

Next door is the Hugh Lane Gallery at Parnell Square North, Dublin 1 which is housed in Charlemont House, an impressive Georgian townhouse with an important collection of modern and contemporary art as well as a reconstruction of Francis Bacon’s studio at Reece Mews, London.


It contains Hugh Lane’s original art collection which he built up as a successful art dealer in London. A nephew of Lady Gregory of Coole Park, Galway, he died tragically in 1915 on board the Lusitania, off the west coast of Cork, the county of his birth.

Last day, so sad. Going to comeback for longer next time!

Shopping is good at the airport www.dublin-airport.com but allow more time for the traffic out of town, go back in the fast bus from Busaras, the central bus station.

Get info on what is happening from the listing mag “In Dublin” or advice from the hotel and you can get plenty of info on other things to do in the tourist office. Dublin is no worse than other places on crime but you will always get opportunist thieves around tourists so don’t use strappy handbags and be careful in crowded venues.

If you want to do other searches use Google’s Irish site: www.google.ie

The Dublin Tourism website is:


There is a good accommodation booking facility as well as lots of other info on the website. Guest Houses (B & Bs) are good value and the two hotels I’d recommend are:

Mespil Hotel – in a nice area overlooking a leafy stretch of the Grand Canal within walking distance of the City Centre. A refurbished office block with good sized well-fitted rooms.


Buswells – A lovely hotel with lots of atmosphere directly across from the Irish Parliament and within 5 minutes of fashionable Grafton street shopping area. Not cheap but worth it. However you will generally get a better price by phoning and asking what offers they have on than you will get on the internet.


Deals & packages can also be found on:


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