After a rousing welcome to the Emerald Isle we spent our first full day in Dublin touring several of the sights in north Dublin and along the River Liffey. We are big Rick Steves fans and his Snapshot Dublin book was in our Airbnb and is great.
This place is not all pubs and Guinness, laddies. We started at the weekly farmers’ market in Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square, just steps from our accommodations. We breakfasted on crepes and purchased Irish cheeses and Irish wine (yes, wine from Ireland, and better than expected) for our afternoon snack. The market is held on Saturdays and is worth checking out.
Our next stop was the National Leprechaun Museum. Only guided tours permitted. You can book in advance (we did not and it was on a Saturday, so probably not an issue, but it can’t hurt to do so if you know what time you’ll be there). This place is a cathedral to Irish storytelling. Our guide was an actor and a great storyteller. I imagine they look for such credentials on the applications. It is not for the really young kids, due to some of the stories about what might lurk and bump in the dark of night. Come hear about the Irish fairies, banshees, Fionn McCool and of course, the leprechauns. A highlight, for sure.
Following our education into Irish fairytale lore, we strolled back to 800 AD for a visit to the Book of Kells and the “Long Room” at Trinity College. It’s hard to not be impressed with a 1200 year old book as well preserved as this national Irish treasure, and this was a highlight of our short stay in Dublin. The exhibit before you see the Book is also very well done. The Book of Kells contains the four gospels of the Bible. Both pagan and Christian symbols illustrate its pages. The book was composed by Irish monks on dried cow skin parchment. It is believed that they composed it (at least in part, before the Vikings caught up with them and the monks moved on) on the Scottish isle of Iona.
The “long room” (the library upstairs from the Book) is also remarkable and sometimes bypassed, as we have read, by the tourists. The smell of these old tomes is very cool and something you can’t adequately describe (but Samwell Tarly from G.o.T. would barely be able to contain himself). In addition to the books, the busts of literary giants are hard to bypass without a second look. This library also contains the oldest harp in Ireland. Historians, antiquarians and librarians take heed and visit.
Skip the queue and buy online in advance (we didn’t) and maybe take a tour of Trinity College campus while you’re there as well. According to Rick Steves, the tour of the college includes admission to the Book and long room (not independently verified). For more on the book, visit this Wikipedia page.
Following that bit of enlightenment we made our way to St. James Gate. For the uninformed, that means the birthplace of that Irish black lager we Irelophiles cherish. You’ve got it lads and lasses, the Guinness tour. Definitely buy passes in advance. These were some of the longest lines we experienced in Ireland. Of course, it was a Saturday, so there’s that. You don’t need to print anything beforehand, they have a confirmation number enabled kiosk where you can print them out once you arrive.
Ok, so not to be a cynic, but the “tour” itself was very Dave and Busters-ish (and unlike other brewery tours I’ve done you don’t actually tour the real production process, just pay homage to Arthur Guinness’ genius and the special quality of ingredients which go into making every pint. The Quality Control process is pretty impressive though – so definitely check that bit out. At the end of the tour, climb to the top floor and take in the views from the Gravity Bar (redeem your admission ticket for a “free” pint). We also enjoyed the Irish music at Arthur’s bar on floor five a great deal. “Whack fol the daddy-o there’s whiskey in the jar”.
Stopping off to fortify, along the way back, at the Brazen Head (Ireland’s oldest pub) we found ourselves ready for a quick nap and an evening out on the town.