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3 Days in Dublin: Céad Míle Fáilte to the Emerald Isle

We visited Ireland for the first time this June, as the first destination on our month-long trip around Europe and the UK. With four nights in the country, we decided to spend most of our time in Dublin, with a day trip to the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough and Kilkenny. It was my first trip to Ireland, but it definitely won’t be my last! We were both a little surprised by how enchanted we were by Ireland, and are very keen to return. Now knowing how much I love it in Ireland, I’d confidently plan a 2-week (or more!) trip to see more of the country.

You’ll see & hear Céad Míle Fáilte a lot in Ireland, it means “a hundred thousand welcomes” in Gaelic.

3 Days in Dublin: Contents

Ireland has long captured my imagination. Like thousands of other Australians, I have Irish heritage from way back when. My mother’s maiden name is Irish, with her ancestors arriving in Australia in the 19th century like so many others. My grandparents were part of the Irish Club, where my parents had their wedding reception, and lived in what is the apparently, officially, the most Catholic neighbourhood in Australia. It didn’t dawn on me until this trip how present Ireland was in my mother’s family, and I was surprised at how much Irish culture reminded me of my grandparents, who are no longer with us. They weren’t Irish, they didn’t grow up in Ireland, and had only visited once. And yet, there was something about the spirit of people in Ireland that reminded me so much of them.

Day 0: A warm welcome to Ireland

Despite knowing that the “Emerald Isle” is famously green, the sight of the brilliant green landscapes still took my breath away when we flew into Dublin.

We landed at approximately 4pm, and breezed through the airport in less than 20 minutes. Flying into a smaller international airport is so much better than a major airport like Heathrow, there was barely any queue at immigration, so it took no time at all! Flying into the smallest international airport that I can is my new travel hack!

Finding the Craic in Temple Bar

Temple Bar is Dublin’s most touristy precinct, lined with traditional Irish pubs and filled with tourists. It’s touristy, but it’s not the most awful tourist trap in the world (not like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco which still takes the gong for me). Granted, we were there in the afternoons or early evening. It had to be done! I’m glad we went to Temple Bar on our first night, because it was such an overtly “Irish pub” experience which was so much fun, just hours after landing in the country,  but by our last night in Dublin I was preferring the local haunts. 

We walked through Temple Bar first, before detouring to the Stag’s Head. The Stag’s Head, a pub recommended to me by my Irish colleague who had recently been on a trip home. It’s just outside Temple Bar on Dame Street, and is absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of Dublin’s most historic pubs and has an ornate Victorian interior and stained glass windows. The team there are so friendly! This is a pub I’d definitely come back to for a meal, and was one of the best pubs in Dublin that we visited.

Afterwards, we headed to Temple Bar’s namesake – The Temple Bar itself. It’s always busy, and is full of tourists, but it’s fun. I quickly learned that Irish pubs don’t really offer much in the way of wine, and if they do, it comes in a tiny bottle (alarm bells!), so I stuck to local gins while Dave relished a Guinness on it’s home soil. The first of many! He couldn’t quite believe how much better it tasted, when it didn’t have to fly to Australia. There was a band room at The Temple Bar, which were playing pop covers with the addition of an Irish button accordian, or box. It wasn’t an authentic Irish experience but it was lots of fun.

We had dinner at Gallagher’s Boxty House, also in Temple Bar. Our first traditional Irish dish of the trip! Clearly this is a tourist haunt, but I think it was a good one. Boxty is unusual and delicious, so it was a worthwhile stop.

Day 1: Sightseeing in Dublin

Looking back, I can’t believe how much we did on our first full day in Dublin! And yet, we never felt rushed. I think it was a combination of being excited to be in a new country, and having spent most of the previous 36 hours on planes and in airports. Our only firm plans for the day were to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College in the morning and to visit the Guinness Storehouse in the afternoon. Everything else happened along the way! Dublin is extremely walkable, as its’s very compact and mostly flat.

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College in Dublin is one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions, because it’s home to the beautiful Long Room in the Old Library, and the Book of Kells. You can visit both with one ticket, and you do need to get them in advance. 

We had a quick stroll around the grounds, which are lovely, before the Book of Kells exhibition opened. Many of the lawns were overgrown and sprouting wildflowers, as part of No Mow May – an annual campaign to support biodiversity, including native wildflowers and bees.

We arrived at the exhibition 15 minutes before opening and there was already a solid queue snaking around the building. The line moved quickly, so I don’t think you need to get there much earlier than that. 

The Book of Kells is one of the most famous artefacts in the world. It’s an illustrated manuscript of the New Testament, made in the 8th Century BCE by Irish or Scottish monks. The illustrations are extremely ornate, and it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful manuscripts in the world. It was named for the Monastery of Kells, in County Meath, and has been kept at Trinity College for safekeeping since 1661, when the monastery was destroyed. You can’t take photos of the book itself.

Before you reach the Book of Kells, there’s an exhibition about illustrated manuscripts. From there, you can take the stairs to the famous Long Room in the Trinity College Library. You don’t have to walk in this order though. Rather than following the crowd and working your way through in this order, we made a beeline for the Book of Kells, then went to straight to the Long Room, and then back to the exhibition on our way out. We had the Book of Kells to ourselves and the library was nearly empty. 

The Long Room is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. It was built in 1732, and was home to more than 200,000 precious books and manuscripts.

When we visited in June, the library restoration project was well underway. Half the shelves were empty, so I was glad to see a few shelves in their original condition, full of books. The library is undergoing a massive restoration project, to future proof the library and it’s precious contents for generations to come. Part of the project will include a new Book of Kells exhibition, which will no doubt be a must-visit when it re-opens! (I felt like the world’s biggest nerd writing that).

Butlers Chocolate & St Stephens Green

After we left Trinity, I couldn’t resist popping into Butler’s Chocolate Cafe, across the road. Butlers is a Dublin institution, offering beautiful individual chocolates and the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted in my life. I can just about still taste it! We shared a small one, and we still couldn’t finish it, which is just about unheard of for me.

From there, we walked through Dublin’s beautiful shopping precinct, Grafton Street, to reach St Steven’s Green. The green is a beautiful city park, in the centre of town. There’s also Phoenix Park, a bit farther from the centre, which is the largest of its kind in Europe, but we didn’t have time to get there. The green lawns and leaves on the trees just about glowed, and the early summer flowers were beautiful. We didn’t stay too long, but we’d be back a few days later for a picnic when the weather was a bit warmer.

We picked up a takeaway coffee from BrewLab (worth bookmarking if you’re a coffee snob), before walking to Dublin Castle, which was a pleasant 15 minute walk.

Dublin Castle

Built in the 13th century on a former Viking settlement, Dublin Castle was the seat of British power in Ireland for centuries. From 1204 to 1922, it was a symbol of British rule, until it was handed to the Irish government in 1922, with Independence. Most of what you’ll see today was built in the 18th century. I hadn’t heard of Dublin Castle before we visited, so we decided to drop by on a bit of a whim. I was kind of expecting something like Edinburgh Castle or Kilkenny Castle, but purposefully didn’t do too much research once we heard of it because it’s nice to be surprised sometimes! While there are medieval remnants, which you can still visit today, most of what you’ll see is 18th century Georgian palace.

Today Dublin Castle is used by the government, for events, and also functions as a museum for decorative arts. We had a stroll through the palace, which is beautifully decorated, and probably spent 30-40 minutes here before heading to lunch. In one exhibition, where portraits were likened to old fashioned selfies, visitors were encouraged to make as many inferences about the subject as possible, before revealing their identity and bio posted beside the portrait, hidden by a flap. I wasn’t very good at this, but it got me seeing things differently. You could definitely spend longer here, but we were getting hungry!

This post first appeared on The Wanderbug | Travel, please read the originial post: here

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3 Days in Dublin: Céad Míle Fáilte to the Emerald Isle


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