Ireland is beautiful, even in the rain. Shoot, it’s beautiful because of the rain, right? In October, a friend and I were on our way to tour Morocco and we found it best to book our trans-Atlantic flight from the USA roundtrip to Dublin. Then we flew roundtrip Dublin/Marrakesh on Ryanair.
This gave us the flexibility to spend a few days in Ireland. We probably couldn’t have picked two more different countries to explore back to back but that contrast was part of the fun! This is how we spent 3 days on the Emerald Isle.
Taxi from the airport to The Shelbourne Dublin. We had left our hotel in Morocco in the middle of the night for a 6am flight and had that haggard appearance upon arrival. When we told the taxi driver we were going to the Shelbourne I think he thought we were joking! It’s known as the swankiest hotel in Dublin and it lives up to its reputation.
[PRO TIP: It’s a Marriott property so if you have points this is a great place to use them.]
Founded in 1824, the hotel overlooks St. Stephen’s Green, Europe’s largest garden square. In 1922, the Irish Constitution was drafted in room 112! One of the best things it has going for it is its location. We never took a taxi again, walking everywhere with ease.
The only thing on our agenda was a guided tour of Dublin Castle. I purchased tickets online in advance. We saw the State Apartments, the Viking Excavation and the Chapel Royal. It was 1204 when King John of England ordered the Castle’s construction. Now it serves as a government building with two museums, a garden and a café.
Over the centuries, visitors entertained here include Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Princess Grace of Monaco, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II. Among the famous figures associated with the Castle is Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who worked here from 1866 to 1878. Oh to have been a fly on those stone walls!
There’s been a chapel on the site since at least 1242. The present chapel was designed by Francis Johnston and was opened, as the Anglican chapel of the Viceroy, on Christmas Day 1814. It became known as the Chapel Royal after King George IV attended service on 2 September 1821.
This library, even if you don’t have a love affair with books, is spectacular. While awaiting our Castle tour, we learned it’s located just behind the castle and it’s a must see attraction, according to Lonely Planet and now, me.
Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) an American business man pursued his passion of collecting objects of great rarity and finest quality over his lifetime. Upon his death he bequeathed his collections of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, books and decorative arts to Ireland. On display are some of most exquisite examples of religious illuminated manuscripts and texts in the world.
Admission is free.
It was my first time in Ireland and although we could have spent all our time in Dublin we chose to book a day tour to Kilkenny and Wicklow on Paddy Wagon Tours. Our driver Frank kept us rolling literally, and with laughter, during the drive time. It was raining again (of course!) but we donned our ponchos and made the most of it.
In Kilkenny I recommend taking the the local Kilkenny Road and Train Tour. It’s a fun way to see some of the sights around town, while watching and listening to the audio guide.
You won’t have a lot of time to go inside any of the museums or monuments and you’ll most likely want to grab a bite to eat. For that I recommend lunch at the Kilkenny Design Center, housed in the Gibbsian buildings (1780) originally the stables for the Kilkenny Castle (1195) right across the street.
Also near the Design Center, Butler House (1786), the Dower House of the Castle and home to the Earls of Ormonde for 500 years, has an outdoor garden worth seeing.
We happened upon this little gem and I’m so glad we popped in. Our guide talked us through Irish history from a woman’s perspective, a fresh and interesting view on stories you may have heard, and definitely some you haven’t. The artifacts in the museum, all donated, are displayed in this town home in a visually arresting way.
Exploring Temple Bar & Surrounds
Back in Dublin later that evening we went to check out the area known as Temple Bar, where the pubs host live Irish music into the wee hours every night. We popped into Badbob’s, listened while we ordered a Guinness and waited to snatch a table from exiting patrons. It gets crowed at night in the pubs, many standing room only. Get there early to grab a good seat and enjoy the show.
For me, seeing the Book of Kells was number on my list in Dublin. It’s in the Old Library of Trinity College, which is itself an attraction. And who doesn’t love an old European College Campus?
The Book of Kells, staggeringly intricate and beautiful, is a book of the gospels created by monks around 800AD. The entire exhibit is very informative and you have to see it for yourself because they don’t want you photographing those ancient illuminated manuscripts!
[PRO TIP: Pre-book your timed ticket online and save yourself the trouble of standing in line (probably in the rain)!]
This is a wonderful museum purpose built in the 19th century, and it’s free. It’s not so large that you can’t take it all in, in an afternoon. We took our time reading through the displays and following Irish history, more or less, chronologically. Learning about the bogs, was MOST interesting. Be sure you see the room with the ‘bodies’!
A terrific introduction to Irish music, also booked online in advance. You’ll meet the musicians, learn about and listen to the music, in a reserved seat, in a private room with a beer in hand. Pubs get crowded so you’ll appreciate having a seat and learning about Ireland’s rich musical heritage in such an intimate, yet fun, setting.
Pubs We Liked:
- Doheny & Nesbitt – Friendly place near the Shelbourne, since 1867
- Ha’ Penny Bridge Inn – Locally owned near the eponymous bridge
- Brannigan’s – Locally owned, northside outside Temple Bar area
- Slattery’s – One of Tony Bourdains favorites
- Badbob’s – Ate my first fish-n-chips here
- Temple Bar – You just gotta see it!
Restaurants We Liked:
- Leprechaun Museum
- Smithfield Square
- Cobblestone Pub
- Brother Hubbard
- Legal Eagle
- Woolen Mills
- Queen of Tarts
- Olympia Theatre
- Cafe Aperitivo
- Seeing Someone Play the Irish Pipes
- Bowes Bar on Fleet Street