With a name like Colleen (which is Irish for ‘girl’), you’d think that I would have made a plan to visit Ireland at some point in my life, but alas, the closest I have come to anything Irish, was having an Irish great-grandfather (so not very close at all really).
Determined to finally visit the land of the leprechauns, a friend and I decided to set aside 10 days to tour around the island.
First stop – 2 nights in Dublin.
I flew with Aer Lingus because their flights seemed to be a good price. But by the time I’d added on checked luggage and a booked seat, the flight totalled over £100.
After a tricky start at the Hertz desk, we found our way to our hotel in Dublin, just 4km from the city centre: the ever faithful Travelodge. Booking early gave us a great discount so do remember this when planning your holiday.
Quite tired after our travelling, we decided to try out the restaurant attached to the hotel which was a very basic ‘diner’. This was then followed by a very welcome bed.
Up early and heading out, we discovered that not only was there a bus stop heading into town just around the corner from our hotel but also that the bus service in Dublin doesn’t take notes or give change. Luckily the petrol station nearby swapped our notes for coins and we were finally on our way into Guiness city.
Dublin lies on the coast and is built up around the estuary from the river Liffey. Bridges of all shapes and sizes criss cross the river, and shops, bars and restaurants line the waters edge.
We walked around and found a little coffee shop for breakfast – Irish porridge with seeds and fruit. A healthy start to my holiday…
Walking through town I noticed that the postboxes that are usually red in England are all green here. Tickled, I ask my friend to take a picture of me standing next to one.
We made our way to Trinity College, bought our €11 tickets and managed to just catch the 11:00 tour.
Trinity College, officially called ‘The University of Dublin’, is a charming mixture of wonderful old buildings and a couple of modern concrete buildings which aren’t so attractive. It has just one college hence being popularly known as Trinity College. It was started way back in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. You get a real atmosphere of university life strolling around the beautiful campus (thanks to Wikipedia, I found out it is ranked by Forbes as the 6th most beautiful in the world.) Bicycles everywhere, students lying on the lawns, teachers with stern faces walking around holding official looking books, you get the idea. According to our tour guide, they didn’t start accepting women until as late as 1904 but women now represent more than 60% of the current enrolled students.
The most famous thing to be seen in Trinity College (and it’s not the concrete building), is ‘The Book of Kells’. An ancient Latin manuscript of the 4 gospels of the bible. As well as other famous books (which are so famous, I don’t remember their names), the Book of Kells lies in a glass case open for you to admire. The pages are frightfully thin and the writing and illustrations so intricate that you feel the need to press your nose up against the glass for ages to fully appreciate it. Widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure, it is well worth the visit.
The floor above the Book of Kells houses the most amazing Library with books so old, you can’t even touch them unless you are a student of the University. A long room with thick, dark, wooden mezzanine levels running along the two sides, the books and shelves make you feel as if you have stepped back in time (or into a Harry Potter movie).
We leave Trinity College and walk through town making a short trip through St Stephen’s gardens. A small pretty, landscaped garden with a lake in the centre and pretty gazebos and pergolas scattered throughout the park. We watched a wedding photo session and sympathised with the bride in her strapless dress while we were snug in coats, scarves, gloves and hats. The things you do for love…
Walking back through town we explored little cobbled streets, discovered a small indoor market and managed to resist the creamy ice-cream and other sweet treats on display. We were entertained by street artists and music being piped out from various restaurants. All of the time I generally felt ‘festive’ in a way. Like I wanted to sit outside and tap my foot to some good ol’ folk music.
Our tummies now rumbling, we headed to Temple Bar, the pub/restaurant area of Dublin. Here you are sure to find something for almost anyone. You can hear laughter and music coming from most places. Walking through a huge stone arch, we happened upon a small bar/restaurant with 2 guys providing some live entertainment. Heading upstairs we watched Gavin on the bagpipes and Kieran on the guitar. It wasn’t quite the foot-tapping music I was hoping for as they played mainly modern tunes but they played well and their enthusiasm made up for everything.
I indulged in a delicious ‘auld Dublin cobbler’ which was a salty soup with bacon strips, barley, sausage and potato.
We enjoyed a lovely walk along the river’s edge before paying our €4,30 bus fare (for 2 people) back to the hotel.
The next morning we were up and out, armed with the correct change and heading back into the city centre. Making our way through the centre, we found Dublin castle (entrance free) hidden away behind some buildings and roadworks. The little church in the grounds was a pleasant surprise. Wooden, red-velvet padded pews, a striking alter and an impressive organ hanging over the entrance. Stained glass windows finished off what was a very pretty interior.
Around the corner, we found where all the traffic police in town either park their cars or go for lunch.
A garden around the back of the church had snake-like paving patterns complete with eyes which was quite unusual. Benches are provided for those who want to sit and relax in the pretty gardens.
Heading next for Christ Church, we walked around the outside and decided not to pay the €6 entry fee deciding to save it for St Patrick’s cathedral instead. We admired this pretty church from the outside before making our way over to St Patricks, the city’s cathedral.
Built in honour of Ireland’s patron saint, the cathedral stands near the well where St Patrick was supposed to have baptised converts on his way to Dublin. Entrance fees is €5.50 per person. We had read in our guide book that it was closed until 12:00 for services in the morning but decided to get there early and photograph the outside first. To our surprise, it was open but would close from 12:45 – 14:45 for something private. We had just one hour! Lesson learnt: always check the website for details and don’t rely 100% on the guidebooks as they can get outdated quickly). Here is the website so you don’t get caught out like we did: http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/index.aspx
Stepping inside, the air immediately filled with angelic singing. Deciding that it was probably not me having a spiritual moment, I looked up towards the altar and discovered an Irish choir having a practice session. All in traditional dress, they harmonised beautifully, sang a mixture of modern and traditional songs and attracted quite a crowd. Quite beautiful and a real treat.
Walking around St Patricks provided the usual cathedral grandure but it was still Dublin Castle’s church that won points for prettiness.
Unfortunately, we had to leave because we had to drive down to County Wicklow for the next leg of our journey so that’s all we had time for. But we proved…
…you CAN do Dublin in just 2 days.
- Points to note:
Food is EXPENSIVE!! For dinners, it was near impossible to find anything under €12 a dish. A steak is well over €20 and even a bowl of pasta can set you back nearly €17. If you eat your big meals at lunch time, you could save quite a bit of money. During our whole Ireland trip, we mostly bought our own breakfasts and lunches, fruit and snacks and saved a small fortune on food sold in hotels.
Live music is played at almost every single bar or restaurant in Temple Bar so you’ll certainly not miss any.
Buses are plentiful and cost roughly €2.15 for a one way journey. Depending on where you’re going to, they come approximately every 10-15 minutes.
Bus tours are popular and you get 15% discount when booking online http://www.dublinsightseeing.ie/
Parking is expensive in the city centre. It can range from €1.60 – €2.90 per hour. Use the bus and have the correct change.
Temple Bar WILL be full of drunk people on weekend evenings so plan your trip accordingly for whatever suits you.
There are plenty of cafes and snack places to munch on throughout the day. Costa, Starbucks, Subway and many others are easily found in the city centre.
All in all, I had a really good time in Dublin. The atmosphere was great, the people friendly, the food plentiful, the drink plentiful and the sights worth seeing. A lovely city – I would definitely recommend it.