The Explorer’s Guide to Dublin

The GPO on O’Connells St.

The Capital of the Republic of Ireland draws Travelers from all around the world. It is the economic hub of the Celtic Tiger and a city with a rich history and culture that few others can rival. With a population of about one and a half million, it has much to offer for the cultural, historic and even the outdoorsy type of traveler.

Upon hopping off the bus or car from the airport, and stepping onto Inns Quay running parallel to the River Liffey, one cannot help but be charged with a certain amount of excitement and intrigue that goes along with being in the Capital city of the Irish people.

Background/History

With a population of about 1.3 million people, about one fourth of the island’s total population live in Dublin.

Dublin gets its name from a small monastic settlement that was seated on a small tributary a few miles inward from the mouth of The Liffey. The monks called this lake, ‘Dubh-linn’ which means dark pool.

In 837 Ad, Some 60 Viking longboats entered Dublin bay and thus after settling, the Norse began developing Dublin into the central city in Ireland for commerce and culture. Its true that Dublin was largely built by Scandinavians and as the centuries past, the distinction between Gall (foreigner) and Gael (native Irish) become less and less distinct until a Hiberno-Norse culture was founded. Though the most heavily Norse influenced area of Dublin is probably in the seaside town of Howth. Standing on the coast of this town with heavy north Atlantic vibes, one can easily be taken back in time to when Longboats were descending the shores and installing fear into locals hearts. 

When the Anglo Normans arrived in the thirteenth century, Dublin would still remain the central administrative city on the island and in 1202, they built a castle on a former Norse settlement and this would come to symbolize British rule in Ireland until the twentieth century.

How to explore

The best way to commence one’s adventures in Dublin might be to take a morning stroll or preferably a run (if you are physically fit to do so of course) down the walkways running alongside the river Liffey. This way, you will get to pass by many of the most popular attractions and neighborhoods in the city. Keep your eyes up and your ears open, while you take in the sights and sounds of a bustling city that is not only beaming with culture but is also an economic hub. Dublin has been attracting the investment of many foreign Tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft due to the low corporate tax rates that are as much as 50% lower than other countries in Europe. 

Running or strolling down the Liffey, you will see a diversity in faces, in accents and in language, and you will get a good look at the alluring pubs and cafes that you may want to check out during your stay. During this relatively aimless morning adventure, there is little doubt that you will eventually come upon the area that is said to be the central core of Dublin; O’Connell Street.

Walking down O’Connell Street may seem like you are walking down the beating heart of the country itself. It is on this street where critical events in Irish history have taken place. Here, you will find the Spire of Dublin standing 150 meters into the sky and monuments to the men who helped give birth to the modern Republic of Ireland. These nationalists and revolutionaries include William Smith O’Brien, Sir John Grey, Father Theobald Matthew, Jim larkin, and Charles Parnell. Fittingly, the Daniel O’Connell statue still has bullet holes in it from the 1916 Easter Rising insurrection.

Guinness Storehouse

Visiting the Guinness storehouse at St James Gates in Dublin 8, is probably not the most adventurous use of one’s time, but that does not mean it is not worth visiting to learn the history of the beer that symbolizes Ireland. A tour through the Brewery includes a couple of free pints, access to the gravity bar that offers splendid views of Dublin City, and an introduction to the process of what goes into brewing the ‘Black Stuff.’

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol is now a museum in the building that once was a notorious prison while Ireland was still a British Colony. Many Irish rebels and Republicans were held behinds its bars and the prison became and still is, an enormous symbol for Irish Nationalism. It was within Kilmainham’s yard, that all seven of the 1916 Easter Rising ring leaders, were shot by firing squad, which began a massive shift in public support for the cause of Irish Independence.

EPIC Museum

If you are a member of the vast Irish Diaspora scattered around the world, than the EPIC museum is a place you must visit while in Dublin. Located in Dublin’s Docklands, literally right on the edge of the Liffey, the museum is a fascinating place to learn about the wide impact of Irish immigrants across. It was only in the 1950’s that Ireland finally reversed its strong emmigration trend but the museum pays hommage to Irish communities in North America, England and across the world who through their ingenuity and artistic prowness, have made large impacts on the progress of Western civilization. If you are Irish but not sure where abouts in Ireland your ancestry hails from, the EPIC Museum will help you find it in its Irish Family History Centre.

Trinity College

It just isnt possible to visit Dublin without going to Trinity College. By far and away, Irelands most prestigious college, Trinity is home to the iconic Book of Kells and the Douglas Hyde Gallery of Modern Art. Just being within its grounds and Cobbled Squares makes for an inspiring and imaginative visit. No doubt the College has the look of a historic British institution like Oxford or Cambridge, where young men and eventually young women, gathered to share a zeal for learning and a love of empire.

The College was originally founded by Elizabeth the I in 1592 in order to combat Catholicism and to stop Young Irish students traveling to France and beyond to obtain higher education. The College was exclusively Protestant until 1793 when officials finally relented and allowed Catholics to apply.

A great way to see the college is through a walking tour, led by students that departs from College Green once every 45 minutes.

Image by mkozemchak from Pixabay

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle is an icon in Dublin and in Ireland as a whole. Built in 1204, Dublin Castle served as the administrative and military center of British Rule in Dublin until 1922 when it was handed over to Michael Collins with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The castle is located on Dame Street in Dublin 2, not far from Stephens Green. Tours cost 6-7 Euros a person.

O’Connell Street

O’Connell Street is the beating heart of Dublin and is known primarily for the towering Dublin Spire and the General Post Office. The Street is named after Irish Nationalist Daniel O’Connell, a world renowned civil rights activist who was also known as ‘The Liberator,’ In the first half of the nineteenth century, O’Connell fought for Catholic rights in Ireland and helped secure emancipation for Catholics in 1829.

The GPO is a special and historic place in Ireland, as it served as the headquarters for the Easter Rising Rebels of 1916. Rows of shops, pubs and restaurants line O’Connell with the Luas Tram system also running through it. Pearse street is just to the north and aptly named after the main leader of the 1916 uprising. Thus while it is a bit touristy, if you come to Dublin, you are going to roam down O’Connell eventually, its just an inevitability.

Howth

Howth is a real gem of a small coastal village in the north of the Dublin Metropolitan area. Head to Connelly Train station and purchase a ticket for six euros and after about a 25 min train ride, you will arrive in the small town of Howth, that is strong in Norse influence and one of the best places in the area to spend a day or two walking along the coast.

There are plenty of small cafes and restaurants to visit here but the most appealing venture, is the Howth Cliff walk, which is an over six kilometer hike along the coast that is hilly, rocky and offers some of the best coastline panoramic views on the east coast of Ireland.

View from Howth Cliff walk

St Patricks Cathedral

St Patricks Cathedral was built in the 1100’s, supposedly on the remanents of a well blessed by St Patrick himself. The Gothic church is a pilgrimage center for Catholics and is located in Dublin 8, just south of Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral on road R137

Temple Bar

Easily the most touristy and overpriced area of Dublin, Temple bar is still worth visiting due to its excellent music venues and pubs. Resting on the south side of the liffey and only a few blocks and few minutes walk from O’Connell Street, Temple Bar is a great area to have a pint or two and eat the most expensive Irish Breakfast in the entire country.

Alleyway in Templebar

Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire is another seaside town of Dublin Metropolitan, though it is much larger than Howth and a bit more upscale. Hop on a train from Connolly and you’ll be here in under 25 minutes. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and shopping opportunities in Dun Laoghaire, and it is defiantly more of a suburb than a village by itself. The main appeal is probably walking the East Pier, which is over a kilometer long and extends into Dublin bay offering views of the Howth Peninsula to the North. Many locals come here to walk and absorb some sea air. Dun Laoghaire’s harbor played an important role while Ireland was still ruled by Britain. It is here that the majority of British troops arrived to repress the Easter Rising rebellion of 1916. To this day, it is still one of the largest harbors in Ireland.

Dun Laoghaire is home to Ireland’s National Martime Museum which includes several exhibits, including a recreated ships radio room, an exhibition on the Titanic and remanents of the RMS Leinster that was torpedoed in 1918 off the Dun Laoghaire coast. The Museum is housed in a former Mariners Church, a building purposely built to give sailors a place to pray, it is one of the few left standing in the world.

Bray

Bray is about a half hour train ride from Connelly station south and resides in County Wicklow. Bray is the childhood home of prolific Irish Poet, Oscar Wilde and one can visit his home at the now Strand hotel and restaurant. Bray has to be one of the more beautiful coastal towns in Ireland’s Ancient east and its Victorian style promenade is a great place for a coffee, ice cream and a walk along the sea. The Bray head is fairly easy but scenic hike that culminates on a tall cliff ledge overlooking the jarring and rocky Coastline. There is a large cross planted at its head.

From Bray one can also walk the cliff pathway that leads to the town of Graystones and deeper into the mountainous county of Wicklow. Greystones is also a quant coastal town with charming cafes and restaurants.

Atop Bray head

Where to stay

Jacobs Inn– Jacobs Inn is the by far the best budget place to stay in all of Dublin. Its location is ideal, being only a few blocks from O’Connell Street and Connelly train station. Even though it is a hostel, it hosts capsule like enclosures for beds with LED lighting and has 6, 8 and 12 bed dorms. These ‘bunks’ provide ample privacy and a very interesting way to nod off at night. Jacobs Inn has a bar and restaurant as well and a basic breakfast for around 8 euros.

Dergvale Hotel– Dergvale is an affordable and comfortable place to stay in Dublin if one is looking to avoid hostels. A one bed room runs at about 75 Euros a night. It has the feel of an old and heritage rich hotel which old fashioned gold room keys and rooms that are neither posh nor dirty and neglected

Abrahams Hostel– Abrahams is a nice budget hostel also located near O’Connell street and just a few blocks south of Mount Joy Park. The dorms are not as nice as Jacobs Inn, but it has a free breakfast, locker storage and a friendly staff.

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