Dublin comes from the Gaelic Dubh Linn, meaning Black Pool. It celebrated its millennium birthday in 1988. It was founded by the Vikings and they made it into Europe’s biggest slave market during their sojourn here. The Normans captured it after a dramatic siege in 1171 and Dublin subsequently became the centre of English rule in Ireland for many centuries. In 1922, the union jack came down and the Irish tri-colour green white and orange went up; Dublin became the capital of an Independent Ireland. Since then, Dublin has grown exponentially. The greater Dublin area now has a population of 1.5 million. The population of the Irish Republic is 4.7 million. Dublin is a very big head on a small body!! To the rest of Ireland, Dublin is a very big swelled head on a small body 😛
In its over thousand year plus existence, Dublin has experienced many high and low points. One of those high points was the Georgian period from about 1730-1830. That’s a period when Dublin’s most beautiful Georgian streets and squares were built, containing magnificent three and four story houses for the aristocracy and the professional classes. Tragically, after the active union of 1800, by which Ireland lost her own parliament and became totally integrated into the United Kingdom, Dublin fell into a period of considerable decline, as it became a mere provincial city. The industrial revolution passed it by, as it did most of Ireland, except the area around Belfast. Most of Ireland declined economically, in contrast to Britain and this was reflected in the reduction of many of Dublin’s finest Georgian streets into slums. Dublin didn’t really begin to revive economically until the 1960s when the Republic of Ireland enjoyed a belated industrialisation. The Celtic Tiger years (1994-2007), after the pain of the recessionary 1980s brought a shower of real money to Ireland for the first time and Dublin became one of the most prosperous cities in the world. This cascade of money brought both good and bad. The good was in a vibrant arts and culture scene, centred on Temple Bar – Dublin’s “Left Bank.” Significant immigration into Ireland also greatly enriched a rather stagnant local culture. One of the major downsides of Celtic Tiger was that residential property prices went through the stratosphere and Dublin became one of the most expensive cities on planet Earth. The subsequent great economic crash 2007 / 2008 left many of our citizens in negative equity and bankrupted many people personally, as well as many businesses. In recent years, Dublin in particular and Ireland in general are experiencing an economic revival and property prices are on the rise again. Dublin has become the IT capital of Europe.
Dublin is situated in beautiful surroundings on the East coast of Ireland. Dublin is located where the River Liffey flows into Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea. Thus, Dublin has two fine beaches; the Northside beach at Dollymount and the Southside beach at Sandymount. To the West of the City, is the largest enclosed park in Europe, The Pheonix Park. To the south, lie the Dublin mountains. 40 km to the north of Dublin, we have the Boyne Valley, which boats some of the oldest Neolithic (New Stone Age) tombs still extant.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse is an interactive museum, located in the old part of the Guinness Brewery complex. It is Europe’s number one tourist attraction. As well as the exhibits on how Guinness is made, the Storehouse illustrates the history of Guinness over the years. There is something of fascination on every one of its seven floors. Among the highlights of your visit, you will learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, and see the wonderful selection of old Guinness posters, ads and labels on bottles. You can see Arthur Guinness’ signature on every label. You are also taught the proper way to savour Guinness using all your senses. The Storehouse has an excellent explanation on the science of brewing beer, through all its various stages. An interesting fact, if you look carefully, Guinness is actually ruby red, not black in colour due to the roasting of the barley. Guinness is roasted at 230ºC. One of the old world skills, now sadly gone, was cooperage – the art of making wooden barrels. This involved a long apprenticeship, at the end of which, the newly qualified cooper would be placed in a smoking barrel and rolled around as his initiation ceremony. The cooperage tools are on display there and you can view videos of the methods used to make the barrels. At the very top of the storehouse is the Gravity Bar, where one can enjoy a beautiful, creamy pint of Guinness, while soaking the panoramic 360 degree view of Dublin and its surroundings. If you want to become a Guinness expert, you can book a connoisseur session and learn about and taste the different variants of Guinness. Pick up the perfect souvenir from the shop on the ground floor. Many of the products are exclusive to the storehouse. You can even get your glasses engraved, which makes for a truly unique gift. Guinness have always been experts at marketing their products. They chose the King Brian Boru harp as their symbol, thus embedding their company in the Irish national consciousness. It also instantly identifies as an Irish product when sold abroad. A copy of the original lease for the Guinness Brewery taken out in 1759 for 9000 years is on display.
Guinness is one of Dublin’s oldest firms. It has manufactured stout, a form of heavy black beer, at St. James’s Gate, Dublin for over 250 years. Guinness was always an excellent employer and generation after generation of men within families would work there. Guinness gave substantial money to worthy causes. They built the Iveagh complex of social housing and helped renovate one of Dublin’s historic cathedrals – St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Likewise, they turned St. Stephen’s Green into a beautiful public park.
Walking around St. James’s Gate, it feels like stepping back into history, with the tall old warehouses, the cobbled streets and the remnants of the brewery railway. Guinness was so big that it had its own narrow gage railway to transport goods around the brewery and down to the loading docks. It connected to the main railway system at King’s Bridge Station, to the barge loading point on the River Liffey and to the barge loading point at the Grand Canal terminal. Up to the 1950s, Guinness was brought by barge from Victoria Quay to the Custom House, where it was loaded onto the special Guinness fleet of ships for onward transport abroad. An example of true Dublin humour was that children would call out to the crew on the barges on the River Liffey “Hey mister, bring us back a parrot” (knowing full well, the barge was only going 3km down the river). Various momentos from the Guinness shipping fleet are on display in the Storehouse. One of my favourite things is the smell of Guinness wafting through the air in and around St. James’s Gate.
The Pheonix Park is Europe’s largest enclosed park, home to Áras an Uachtaráin (the President of Ireland’s “White House”) and Dublin Zoo. An interesting fact – the Lion that appears at the beginning of movies for MGM was born in Dublin Zoo and Dublin Zoo has long specialised in the breeding of lions in captivity. A brilliant way of getting around the park is to rent a bike. I recommend renting a tandem bike if visiting the park with a friend for guaranteed fun and enjoyment!! A nice place to stop for a picnic is at the Wellington Monument, which commemorates Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, victor over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo 1815; or stop by the Papal Cross, erected when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979. Lots of wild deer flock around this area.
The Old Jameson Distillery
Jameson is one of Ireland’s finest whiskey brands. Take a tour of the original distillery, opened in 1780 and enjoy a tasting session at the end of it.
Temple Bar is a must see when in Dublin. The cobbled streets lined with pubs, restaurants, theatres and quirky shops make it Dublin’s answer to Paris’ Left Bank. Adding to the atmosphere are the buskers performing on the streets and the brilliant live music in many of the pubs. No matter what day of the week, it is always a lively place to be. People should be aware that high tourist areas attract high tourist prices.
Founded by King John in 1204, Dublin Castle was for centuries the centre of English power in Ireland. As a result, the name Dublin Castle, or simply ‘Castle’ struck fear into the Irish natives as it represented the cutting edge of British power. The Castle spy and informers broke up many an Irish rebellion until the General Michael Collins found an effective remedy, thus ensuring Irish freedom! Within the grounds of Dublin Castle, there is Dubh Linn, the black pool after which Dublin gets its name. It is in this area that the city of Dublin originated. You can take a guided tour of the castle and see the State apartments and function rooms. You may also visit the Garda museum, the Chapel Royale and the Chester Beaty Library.
Ireland’s oldest university, founded in 1591 by Queen Elizabeth I, is home to the Book of Kells, an ancient Celtic manuscript dating from about 800 AD, which contains the four Gospels written in Latin. It is one of the most valuable treasures, not just in Europe but in the world. It is the central attraction in the historic library of Trinity College, surrounded as it is by many old books dating back hundreds of years. For centuries, Trinity College was one of the four places in Britain and Ireland which by law had to receive one copy of every book published in these countries.
The General Post Office
The GPO opened in 1818 and refurbished during the years 1914-15. In Easter 1916, Irish Republican revolutionaries ceased the GPO and used it as their headquarters. Pádraig Pearse, the rebel leader, proclaimed the Irish Republic at the front of the GPO. Their rising lasted one week and was confined mainly to Dublin and a few places outside of Dublin. After the rising was crushed by the British army, the leaders were executed and the ongoing crises caused by the First World War swung Irish nationalist opinion firm behind the republican cause. This led ultimately to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic. There is an excellent museum located within the GPO, which explains this incredible period in Irish history. The columns of the GPO still bear the scars of British riffle and machine gun bullets from that glorious Easter Week. Easter 1916 is reckoned to be the opening battle in the subsequently successful campaign for the establishment of the sovereign, democratic Republic of Ireland.
Kilmainham Gaol was opened in the 1790s and first came to fame as the place of the tension for many Irish rebels after the collapse of the Risings of 1798 and 1803. One of the most prominent leaders of that time, Robert Emmet was imprisoned there before his execution in September 1803. His faithful colleague, Anne Devlin was imprisoned there at the same time and despite many threats and brutalities, she did not turn informer against her fellow rebels. That jail was used right up to 1924 and many an Irish patriot wept bitter tears within its walls. It was the place where the British executed rebel leaders of the 1916 Rising by firing squad. Under Martial Law, executions are carried out by the military and are by firing squad. Under Civil Law, executions were by hanging. During this tour, you can visit the execution site in the Stone Breakers’ Yard, as well as the cells where many prominent Patriots were held.
Other commemorative sites to visit are the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, in memory of all those who fought and died for Irish freedom and the War Memorial Park, Island Bridge, in memory of all the Irish men who died serving in the British forces during World War I. The graves of many Irish patriots such as Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Anne Devlin and Daniel O’ Connell are located in Glasnevin Cemetery. The 1916 leaders are buried in Arbour Hill, directly behind the National Museum in Collins Barracks.
The National Museum
The National Museum is headquartered in Kildare Street, in the centre of town. It has a subsidiary museum in Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, near Heuston Train Station. In Kildare Street, it covers all periods of Irish history from earliest times onwards, while the museum in Collins Barracks hosts the must see exhibition about the 1916 Rising and also Irish military history from 1550 onwards.
The National Library in Kildare Street and the National Archives in Bishop Street between them contain the written records of Irish history (official documents, newspapers and other publications). Ideal for persons researching their genealogy.
For art lovers, you can visit the National Gallery, Clare Street which has an excellent collection of Irish and European masters, while the Municipal Gallery on Parnell Square also has a very interesting collection.
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens contain samples of our native flora and many specimens of foreign plants as well. It’s a must see for anybody interested in gardening or more simply a stroll in beautiful surroundings.
The Molly Malone Statue
The legendary Dublin fishmonger, Molly Malone, is commemorated by a statue, showing a young woman pushing a hand cart filled with fish. This statue is located in Suffolk Street, in the centre of town. She is also commemorated in the much loved local anthem “Molly Malone.” You can listen to the song here.
Dublin is served by two excellent stadia. Croke Park, headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is where our national games Hurling and Gaelic Football are showcased. Croke Park is Ireland’s largest stadium and holds over 80,000 people. It was recently rebuilt into a state of the art sports facility and contains the museum of the GAA, which was founded in 1884. Croke Park was the site of the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre by British forces on 21/11/1920.
The Aviva Stadium is where all the major soccer and rugby games are played. It is a modernised, state of the art sports facility. Likewise, tours run daily.
The Quays, along Dublin’s River Liffey, have been regenerated very successfully in recent decades. The Quays are home to the Irish Financial Services Centre and to such entertainment centres as the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, the 3 Arena and the National Convention Centre. The Samuel Beckett Bridge epitomises the new image of Dublin’s Quays.
Dún Laoghaire is 12km south of Dublin. It has a beautiful harbour, complete with promenade and two piers. It is also a ferry port for links to Holyhead in Wales. It is a favourite place for Dubliners to stroll and relax and it is well served by good hotels, restaurants and pubs. The Martello Tower, where the famous Irish author, James Joyce, stayed for a short time in the early 1900s has been converted into a museum dedicated to his memory. An ironic fate for a former British army coastal defence fort. It’s now called the James Joyce tower. Just beside it, we have the 40 Foot. Some believe it is so called because it is 40 ft (approx 11m) deep, while others believe it got its name from the British army regiment – the 40th Foot, the regiment deployed on coastal defence duties during Napoleonic times. One of the traditions associated with the 40 Foot is to take the plunge on Christmas Day to work up an appetite for your Christmas dinner.
Dún Laoghaire is easily accessible by Dart or by the 46a bus.