In between our weekend in Belfast and two nights in Dublin we spent a week in the countryside near Ardcath. There was not much to see around Ardcath, plus we felt the need for a break from touring castles, churches and ruins, so we had a very laid back and quiet week. We took a few drives locally, we went to the gym, we watched world cup soccer and did some research for our upcoming stay in Dublin. Overall it was a great week to recharge. But Dublin was another story…..
Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Ireland with a population of over 600,000 within the city. This number swells dramatically with close to 7 million tourists a year coming to or transiting through Dublin each year. There is a lot to see in Dublin and we were barely going to have 48 hours there during our stay so we decided to drive in for a day from Ardcath to tour the Kilmainham Gaol. Getting tickets to the gaol was a challenge with all tours fully booked for weeks ahead, but around 9 am every day additional tickets are released and we got lucky and found some. Seniors tickets cost 6 Euros (USD $6.50) each and can be booked here. Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 and housed men, women and children as young as 7 years old in deplorable conditions. Cells were 5’x10′ housing up to 5 people at one time with no lights or toilet facilities. While most prisoners were common criminals the gaol held many well known political prisoners over the years, most famously the leaders of the 1916 uprising, 14 of whom were executed here by firing squad. The gaol was closed in 1924 and left abandoned until the 1960’s when it was restored and opened to the public. It is considered to be one of the most important Irish monuments relating to the struggle for Irish independence. You may have seem images of the gaol since it has been used in many movies and music videos.
After leaving the farm in Ardcath we had two nights booked at the lovely Grafton Hotel in Dublin with plans to see as much as possible during such a short visit. One of the reasons for our trip to Dublin was to celebrate Blair’s 65th birthday 🎂🥳 It was fun to be in an interesting city, enjoy a couple of nights in a fancy hotel, catch a show and indulge in some lovely meals.
We arrived at the hotel around 2pm and our room was ready so after quickly depositing our suitcases we headed out for a wander, finding the Molly Malone statue nearby. There are conflicting stories about who Molly Malone was, a fishwife a prostitute or both, but regardless of which story you believe, the statue is a popular one with visitors.
Leaving Molly Malone we made our way to the River Liffey and the Ha’penny bridge, a pedestrian bridge built in May 1816. The bridge is so named because it was built to replace decrepit ferries crossing the river and the bridge builder was granted the right by the city to charge a ha’penny to cross, the same price as the ferry cost.
The next day was our only full day in Dublin and it was a busy one. First was an early visit to visit St Patrick’s Cathedral (Ard-Eaglais Naomh Pádraig) built between 1191 and 1270, although little remains of this original work. Over the centuries the church was built, rebuilt, and fell into ruin so many times until a major restoration was undertaken from 1860-1865 such that much of the current building dates from the Victorian era. Senior tickets cost 8 Euros (USD $8.60) each and includes an audio guide.
After the cathedral tour I was getting hungry and the previous day I had spotted a Parisian restaurant we are very familiar with, so we made our way to Laduree. I devoured their hot chocolate (which really is just melted chocolate) with fruit scones and two pistachio macarons…it was heaven and a treat I will likely repeat when we are in Paris very soon.
After satisfying my sweet tooth at Laduree we dashed off for our 2:30 pm tour reservation at the Guinness Storehouse. This place is huge!!!! We walked, and walked, and walked covering 7 floors of history and information about the brewery, culminating at the rooftop Gravity Bar where we enjoyed a fresh pint of Guinness (included in the ticket price). We have toured breweries before so understand the process but here are a few bits of info that we found interesting:
- Mr. Guinness was so confident of his success that he signed a 9,000 year lease on the St James’s Gate property in 1759, and the rest we know is history!
- The Guinness Harp was trademarked in 1876 and when the Republic of Ireland adopted the same harp in 1922 as their emblem, they had to reverse it to avoid infringing on the Guinness trademark.
- By 1880 St James’s Gate was the largest brewery in the world exporting their brew all over the world.
- The Guinness yeast is only grown at St James Gate and is so valuable that a reserve supply is kept in the Director’s safe.
- In the 1920’s Guinness employed 300 coopers making wooden casks which were discontinued in 1963 (we are always drawn to stories about coopers because Blair’s great grandfather was a cooper in Scotland)
- Guinness launched nitrogenated beer in 1959, creating the bubbles and familiar head on the beer.
- In 1988 the innovative ‘widget’ was introduced.
- Guinness tastes way better in Ireland 😂😂😂
After a less than stellar first dinner out, our second dinner in Dublin was fantastic!! We totally lucked out finding the amazing Sicilian restaurant Amuri. I made a reservation online and Blair went out to find it and was unable to do so, so we called from the hotel to see if they were legit and got directions. Turns out the entrance is down a small hallway to a dentists office, then you must ring the buzzer to get inside and go upstairs. Once there we were delighted to see a beautifully decorated small restaurant. The food that followed was honestly the best meal we have had in years. We enjoyed chatting to the owner and his brother, hearing the story about how they ended up owning a restaurant in Ireland and that their chef’s are all Sicilian….of course!!! We were so disappointed that we had to hurry through our meal, but we had tickets to a Riverdance performance. Personally, I would come back to Dublin just to go to this restaurant again!!!
Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, well that pretty much says it all. Neither of us had ever seen a Riverdance performance live and here we are seeing it in Ireland at this wonderful theater built in 1871. We walked past the theater the day before and saw the playbills for the show and thought there is no way there are tickets available for the next day, but we popped in anyway and much to our surprise there were still seats available so we jumped at the chance. What a wonderful decision that was, the show was phenomenal and being such a small theater I don’t think any seat would be a bad one. We enjoyed the performance and were incredibly impressed by the talent of all the performers. The show is just over 2 hours long and our tickets cost 58.50 Euros (USD $63.55) each.
We spent our final morning in Dublin enjoying a lovely breakfast at Keoghs Cafe then walking along Temple Bar street, probably the most well know street in Dublin. I really don’t think this would be our kind of place in the evenings with it being popular with young tourists out for a party. It has been criticized as being overpriced and dirty and understandably not an area frequented by the locals.
Leaving Temple Bar we popped into Trinity College to look around the courtyard. We did not book a tour to their famous library because in an unfortunate bit of timing, all the books have been removed for cleaning and restoration. Paying to look at a bunch of empty shelves was not that appealing, so that will have to wait until a return visit to Dublin. One more reason to come back!
I have mentioned that the weather has finally improved, whether that’s because it’s back to normal or it’s because Dublin is one of the driest places in Ireland, who knows, but we had dry and partly sunny weather the whole time we were in Dublin. Even our previous week in Ardcath we only saw 2 days with a bit of rain, so things are looking up, too bad we are nearly finished our time in Ireland. Here are a few random photos from our visit to Dublin:
After a fun couple of days in Dublin we continued on our way south to our last stop, just outside the town of New Ross. Wow, our final week in Ireland, where have the past 2.5 months gone…..
An té a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach
He who travels has stories to tell