Dublin is only about an hour away from London so we ducked over for a quick weekend trip to catch up with a friend from New Zealand. The city is quiet, with around 1.3 million people, based at the mouth of the River Liffey with mountains on one side and flat farmlands on the other. There isn’t actually a whole lot to do in Dublin which makes it a good destination for a relaxing city break.
Everyone I have spoken to who has been to Dublin, has been to the Guinness Storehouse. Guinness, brewed since 1725, is arguably Ireland’s most well known export. While the brand is recognised internationally today, it had very humble (if quietly ambitious) beginnings. Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease for the St James’ Gate site we visited. Yes, 9000 years. Across seven floors, we were taken on a journey from farm to tap, learning about growing ingredients through to the brewing of Guinness and finally a bar at the top where you can get the freshest pint you’ll ever have. There is a fair amount to take in but for the most part it was well laid out. About halfway through, I began to feel tired and found it difficult to focus on video content that was hard to hear over the echoing babble of guests and other videos in the room. Admittedly, I didn’t learn as much as on our Halve Maan tour in Bruges. (But that might have been to do with waking up at 4am to get our flight in.) The bar at the top was a cool circular space perched on the top of the storehouse with glass all around, providing 360 degree views of Dublin.
It shouldn’t surprise you that more alcohol followed our exploration of the Guinness Storehouse. In the cute cobbled streets of the town centre, we came across Whiskey Palace. The stairs were thickly-carpeted although the colour couldn’t be made out in the dim lighting. Inside was a small bar where the friendly bartender offered advice with Irish charm. The three of us crowded a tiny table, basking in our sophistication as we sipped and were observed by portraits of unknown people on the walls. I hope you enjoyed that embellishment because I didn’t actually sip anything! Richard and our friend appreciated two glasses however, and report they could drink it again in the future.
Prior to the opening of Kilmainham in 1796, prison cells were crowded with a haphazard assortment of people in damp and dirty conditions. Kilmainham was built as a ‘new’ type of jail where prisoners were kept in silent, isolation in an effort to rehabilitate them. There were some road bumps as prisoners started going completely nuts after a year of complete silence and isolation, after which more human contact was introduced and 1 hour of exercise outside was also included in the day for many prisoners. Kilmainham’s claim to fame these days relates to the political prisoners housed there during Ireland’s many uprisings against the British. We took a tour through the jail including the very old, cold and drafty original building followed by the newer and better insulated section added in 1840. There is also an accompanying museum where we learnt a great deal about the uprisings that failed, and the political prisoners held (some executed) by the British at Kilmainham. The tour was excellent and the museum was well done. It’s worth booking in advance for a tour if you can as places get snapped up fast.
Chester Beatty Library
Sir Alfred Chester Beatty had an astounding collection of Middle and Far Eastern artifacts that are now on display in a small unassuming building next to Dublin Castle. On our way in we took a peek into the castle church which had a beautiful organ. Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the Chester Beatty collection. We spent a while there looking at the amazing collection of ancient books, art and manuscripts. It was incredibly interesting and there are so many beautiful things on display – really worth seeing! (Also, it’s free!)
Dinner: Coppinger Row
After learning all about Guinness and feeling fancy in a whiskey lounge, we headed to dinner on Saturday night at the popular Coppinger Row. We managed to snag the last table which was outside, but no matter – a bottle of prosecco to the rescue! It was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable dinners I’ve had in a long time, with plenty of chatting, laughter and delicious food.
Lunch: Rustic Stone
Our last meal in Dublin was lunch after an exploration of Kilmainham Gaol. We arrived at Rustic Stone just as they were about to open so pretty much had the place to ourselves. The decor was relaxed and festive with fairy lights and Christmas wreaths. Their specialty is to serve you steak with a sizzling hot volcanic rock to finish the cooking yourself. It’s an involved and social way to eat that was really delicious – excellent quality meat! We were completely stuffed and ready for the nap at the end of such a delightful meal.
This post is the last for 2016! Hasn’t it been a crazy year? It has been a whirlwind of trips covering 15 countries; seeing and experiencing more than we could have hoped for. I think 2016 has also been the most politically emotional year of my life. Living in London during this time has been eye opening for sure. For 2017, we want to make the most of London life, tick more experiences and locations off our bucket lists, and hopefully see a safer world emerging at the end of the 2016 tunnel.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year!