We’d been to Dublin twice before when we’d toured inside most of the historic sites, so this visit was to use it as a base for a day trip and to revisit a favorite pub, the Brazen Head, that’s existed since 1198. Somehow that pint of Guinness just tastes better there especially with live traditional Irish music playing in the background. Naturally it’s popular with tourists yet they have managed “to retain the original features that tell the story of our deep history within Dublin city” as their website says. We went there for dinner and to plot out our strategy for walking around town and for visiting a castle outside the city that was one family’s home for 800 years.
The Liffey River runs through the heart of Dublin and without venturing further than 10 minutes from either bank, we had a full day’s worth of activities lined up. Our idea was to take the Red Tram Line as close as possible to the furthest point on our itinerary and then walk back towards the center of town. That made our first stop the docklands where a life-size replica of the Jeanie Johnson is moored. The original tall ship helped transport thousands of people to North America who were fleeing the famine from 1848 to 1855. The nearby Famine Memorial displays haunting statues representing the million people who died of starvation. I found it a hopeful sign that in the distance behind these images of devastation we could see the Samuel Beckett bridge (featured photo above) in the shape of a harp, Ireland’s national symbol showing that the country has survived.
We next encountered the Ha’Penny bridge referring to the half-cent toll that was charged to cross this graceful iron bridge constructed in 1816. That led us across the Liffey to the city’s “party district”, Temple Bar, with at least two dozen pubs in a small area including one called “Bad Bob’s”! Near there is the larger-than-life statue of Molly Malone, the heroine of Dublin’s unofficial anthem “Cockles and Mussels”. It was then an easy walk to Trinity College that has been educating students since 1592 and where on an earlier visit we had seen the Book of Kells, the 1000-year-old beautifully illuminated manuscript. Lunch was in the neighborhood at O’Neill’s Pub and Kitchen where fish and chips were 15€ and a pint of Guinness was 6€.
A 5-minute walk put us in front of Dublin Castle, parts of which originated in 1204, from where Britain ruled over the Emerald Isle for 700 years until the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921. Ten minutes later we were at the largest church in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cathedral that dates from 1191 although legend says that St. Patrick began baptizing converts on the site in 450 AD.
With our intown rambling complete, the next morning we took the train north for 30 minutes to see where, in 1185, King Henry II had given Richard Talbot the lands and harbor of Malahide for his services to the crown. It was there that the family stayed for the next 800 years until the last surviving relative sold Malahide Castle in 1975 to the Irish State who opened it to the public. During the required 45-minute guided tour, we saw several bedrooms, two drawing rooms, the Oak Room named for the 16th century carved panels that cover the walls, plus the medieval Great Hall. (The second photo gallery below has several images from our day out.) Our 9€ Senior ticket also allowed us access to the 20 acres of open grounds plus the Walled Garden and Butterfly House.
We’d been in Ireland for two weeks and now it was time to retrace our steps by taking the overnight ferry to Cherbourg, spending a night in Paris—essentially because we could—then continuing with the train to Carcassonne. Just in time to start planning our next slow travel trip.
Electrical adaptor note: Ireland and the UK use the same plugs and sockets which differ from mainland Europe. One hotel offered an array of sockets (even one for US plugs) but we needed an adaptor for most of our overnight stays.