To beat the January blues, I decided a day away might be the perfect gift to start the new year in style. Whilst looking for inspiration, I came across Dublin, a city I had always overlooked. I hopped straight onto Skyscanner and managed to find the perfect flights. 8.30am take off and a return flight at 8.30pm the same day. As the flight is only 1 hour, it isn’t too exhausting and saves money on expensive hotels.
The day finally came and I bleary eyed made it to the airport, I sped through security in search of an extra shot latte. Before I knew it, my flight was called to board and as the caffeine slowly kicked in, I started to descend towards the Irish capital. I got the bus into the city centre and next thing I knew, I was walking towards St Stephen’s Green and it was 9.30am.
I topped up my coffee fix by heading to a donut shop before my 11am tour of the Little Museum of Dublin that I had pre-booked. I walked around the corner to find the museum nestled in a row of beautiful houses with a view of the park. The first tour focused on 2 rooms of the Georgian townhouse and lasted approximately 45 minutes. Each room was filled with portraits and posters, each having an interesting story as the guide progressed through Ireland’s history from being part of the United Kingdom to a cool secular nation. All items have either been donated or loaned by Dubliners. A display of note in the one from the artist Caroline McCarthy who presents gold plated monster munch as a metaphor for the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and the growth of the Irish economy during the 1990s-2000s.
Shortly after the museum tour, there was another tour organised by the museum for nearby St Stephen’s Green. Steeped in history and full of statues dedicated to important Irish political and literary figures. A highlight was hearing about when the Easter Rising took place, there was battles occurring in the park and fire was temporarily halted for one hour a day to allow the park’s groundsman to feed the local ducks. For €10 for access to the museum and both guided tours, it was exceptional value for money. For a short visit to Dublin, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
After a morning of being steeped in Irish history, it was time to wander further. I went to 132 Lower Baggot Street. Not an address known by many and it has no signs outside to notify its importance. In the 1970’s it was owned and run by Margaret Gaj and was one of the cafes frequented by the Irish Women’s Liberation movement. It was also home to poetry readings, cultural events and a safe spot for Dublin’s LGBT community. One of the campaigns that was sourced at this cafe was the the Contraceptive Train to Belfast, which was the first public challenge to the ban on contraceptives in Ireland. The group boarded a train to Belfast in May 1971 where they bought condoms and spermicide jelly. I specialised in Irish women’s relationship between church and state during these times for my undergraduate degree so I could talk about this for hours… so if you are interested on this and want to know more, I highly recommend reading Monday at Gaj’s by Anne Stopper.
It was time for lunch so nipped into a traditional Irish looking pub just off Lower Baggot Street for some soup and soda bread. Naturally I had to have half a pint of Guinness to wash it down! Despite this being my first time to Dublin, it was not my first time to the Republic of Ireland as I frequented County Donegal during my early twenties. This meant that I had to stock up on my creature comforts of Tayto crisps and Club Rock Shandy for the rest of the afternoon.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering Grafton street and wandering down alleyways, taking in the statues, architecture, street art and failing miserably at avoiding the January sales. After spending the last of my wages and filling my backpack with clothes and candles, I decided to finish my day exploring Temple Bar and Crown Alley. Brimming with street art, live music, pubs and vintage shops, it was a feast for the eyes. At the end of the street I was greeted with the ultimate landmark of Dublin, the Ha’penny Bridge. The name of the bridge comes from the toll charge that was in place to get from one side of the River Liffey to the other.
Before I knew it, my feet started to ache from the walking and my neck was cramping from looking in every direction in wonder at how beautiful the city was. The sun started to set over the river Liffey as I was walking along Bachelors Walk and it was time to head back to the airport. A whirlwind trip to Dublin is highly recommended albeit exhausting. A city that has hints of various UK cities such as Liverpool, London and Glasgow but all the comfort of a small town feel and very friendly locals. I will definitely be back as I missed some major sites such as Kilmainham Gaol (which was shut the day I was in Dublin), Trinity College, the book of Kells and the Chester Beatty library.
Have you ever been to Dublin for the day? What did you visit?