Our final destination on our trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; Dublin, the capital city of Ireland is unique in many ways. Warm and welcoming, it has plenty to offer to every traveller from around the world. With the River Liffey flowing through its centre, the city has many outdoor recreational activities that attract the crowds, both young and old. Equally fascinating for the children, it offers varied interesting attractions for them. The Dublin Zoo, Phoenix Park, St. Stephen's Green can keep the children occupied for entire days. Our daughter, an enthusiast reader and having just finished reading 'Dracula' prior to out trip, was excited to be visiting the home of Bram Stroker. Dublin is home to many renowned names like Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Oliver Goldsmith, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, Bono (my personal favourite) and so on. This city located on the east coast is also a solid base for day trips to fishing villages, national parks and magnificent cliffs.
Travel duration - 5 days to a week
► Currency used - Euro €
► Best time to travel - April to June
► Tourist information centres - 25 Suffolk Street and 14 Upper O Connell Street-City Centre, Dublin
Mode of travel - Phase III (Galway City to Dublin)
► Leg 1 - From accommodation at Galway to Galway Coach Station by taxi, at €7. We walked the 15 minutes as we did not have heavy baggage to tug along.
► Leg 2 - Pre-booked bus tickets online through Eireagle. From Galway Coach Station to Dublin City Centre, Bachelors Walk at €36 (2 adults+1 child). Discounted rate if booked online. Tickets can also be bought at the Galway Coach Station or directly from the coach driver. The bus dropped us directly outside our accommodation in Dublin.
Accommodation in Dublin
Situated midway between O'Connell Bridge and Ha'penny Bridge, it was the most ideal place to explore the city. Easy access to all important locations; 5 minutes walk to Temple Bar, 10 minutes each to Trinity College and Grafton Street ( shopping, restaurants, bars and museums). Overlooking a well manicured garden, the apartment was bright and fully equipped with all essentials. As is always with us, we booked through Airbnb and till date, have not had any major issues to complain about.
Day 1 - Exploring the city centre and the Jameson Distillery Bow St. Experience Tour
With the entire day in hand and with no pre-set plan, we decided to explore the city centre. Few steps away was the famous Ha'penny bridge; crossing over we first visited the Dublin Visitor Centre. With the necessary information in hand we walked out and a few 100 steps brought us to the Temple Bar Food Market which, is a weekly market every Saturday with a varied selection of home-baked goods, quick eats and delicious cheese. We bought our share from the delicacies along with some fresh fruits and vegetables, for our few days in the city. After a quick bite and a stop to drop off our shopping bag in the apartment, we agreed to go and find the pick-up location for our day trip the next morning. As always with us, we prolonged our time while stopping over to admire the O'Connell Monument, the Jim Larkin Statue, the GPO building, the Spire and so on. The GPO houses the GPO Witness History Visitor Centre which is a must for history enthusiasts. The Spire of Dublin, also know as the Monument of Light is a very recent addition to Dublin, commissioned as part of a redesign plan.
We retraced our steps back home as we were yet to thoroughly inspect our accommodation. The location and ambience of our apartment; our particular flat looking into a beautiful green patch with a pretty gazebo was great but, we had to unlock 5 doors to reach our apartment and that, was a bit annoying and tedious each day after an active day out exploring.
I had booked my hubby a tour of the Jameson Distillery Bow St. Experience Tour for the evening, prudently opting out myself in favour of spending time with our daughter and bonding over idle talk and shared interests.
I provide here a recount of his experience. A 40 minutes guided tasting tour of the recreated Jameson Distillery on Bow Street, the knowledgeable guide enlightens you with the history behind this iconic Irish brand. A treat for the genuine whiskey lover, my husband got to taste, compare and experience the triple-distilled Jameson with different styles of whiskey; the American distilled once and the Scottish distilled twice, learnt the secret behind the distillation process and concluded the tour with a taste of the signature Jameson's Ginger and Lime. The elegant in-house bar was a great place to enjoy another glass of the world-famous whiskey in the company of other whiskey lovers. Priced at €22 adults and €18 students, you can book this experience directly online through the Jameson website. The distillery also provides other experiences like Whiskey Cocktail Making Class, Whiskey Blending Class and so on.
On his return that evening, we walked out lightly clothed for the first time since we arrived in Ireland. To the Temple Bar Pub, we headed for music and drinks. Started off with drinks served outside, strolling about clicking snaps and viewing the many campaigning strategies that were on to re-appeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. With the golden hued warm drink and a wonderful elderly couple from Australia for company, we chatted over many musical performances while our daughter enjoyed an Irish meal for herself. Our daughter and I called it a night at around 10 pm and walked back home, leaving behind the dad to wander around and make discoveries of his own through the many lanes and pubs dotting the area.
Day 2 - Malahide Castle, Dublin Bay and Howth Village Half-Day Trip. An evening of food and music (a traditional Irish house party including dinner and show) in the later half.
Pre-booked though Viator, the booking came with a small discount on each booking. e-voucher is accepted.
1st stop - Malahide Castle and its beautiful grounds - Home to the Tablots for generations, the Malahide Castle is steeped in history and the guide regaled us with numerous stories attached to the various family members and their associates. The guided tour allows the visitors to explore the private rooms, furniture and art that adorns these many rooms. With each exploration, the tour guide provided us with information on the various art and furniture pieces; how these came to be part of the Tablot family collection. Approximately 45 minutes, these tours are conducted in English by an expert guide and are available daily. Audio guides are available in Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Mandarin. These tours are suitable for children and the guide ensures that the children are equally entertained with her stories. Our daughter was fascinated when the guide enlightened the crowd with accounts of phantom visitors in Malahide Castle. Once such story is about a jester. In earlier centuries, privileged families always had a jester among their staff members. Puck, one such jester was discovered one night with a dagger through his heart for having fallen in love with one of the manor lady's relatives. It is believed that Puck still haunts the turret in which he resided. Another recounts the story of the White Lady. For many years, the painting of a very beautiful anonymous lady, in a flowing white dress, hung in the Great Hall of the Castle. It has been recorded that from time to time she would leave her painting and wander through the Castle in the quiet of the night. However, younger kids (below 8 years) might not be too happy with this tour.
It is advisable to pre-book the tickets online on the official website, Malahide Castle and Gardens although you can also purchase them on the day of your visit in the Visitor Centre. However, tour times are subject to availability when tickets are purchased on the day. The ticket also includes entry to the Fairy Trail, Walled Garden and Butterfly House. But, when booked through a tour operator, you are placed at a disadvantage once the castle tour is over and you are left with very less time to explore the castle's enormous and beautiful surroundings.
2nd stop - Howth village and view of the Dublin Bay from the Howth Summit - A quaint fishing village on the fringes of the Dublin Bay, the loveliness of Howth shall captivate from the moment you set your eyes on it. A short but scenic coastal drive away from Malahide, Howth offers stunning views, history and great food (the best fresh sea-food we have had). However, once again, not enough time to have lunch and explore the village in the 45 minutes that is allowed to us. With incessant rains on that particular day, we were also unable to catch the dazzling beauty of the Dublin Bay. After filling ourselves with amazing food but hardly any exploring of the village, we began our drive back to Dublin.
Back in Dublin by 2:00 PM. Headed back to our accommodation for some downtime which was definitely needed by the 10 year old.
???? My suggestion - Do not combine exploring Malahide Castle and Howth Village on a half-day schedule. Opt for a full-day tour or choose to tour them separately, on different days. Both the attractions are noteworthy and requires more time to do full justice. The half-day trip is only meant for travellers who have a few hours in hand and prefer to get out of the city.
► Things to note
Cost - €27 adult / €15 youth (3-13 years) Duration - 4 hours Departure time - 9:30 AM & 2:00 PM. Departure point - Check-in at the Dublin Visitor Centre, 16 Upper O'Connell Street before boarding the coach at City Sightseeing Dublin Shop, 13 Upper O'Connell Street. Inclusions - Transport by an air-conditioned coach with professional local guide and live commentary on board, access to all attractions without extra charges. Includes the VIP tour of Malahide Castle. Exclusions - Food and drinks and Hotel pick-up / drop-off.
► Alternative transport options to the listed attractions in the above itinerary
◆ From Dublin City Centre to Malahide Castle
By self-driven car, less than 30 minutes. By taxi, less than 30 minutes, at €18-€22. By bus, approximately an hour. Bus no. 42 (every 30 minutes, daily) shall take you from Moland Street to Malahide Castle Bus Stop, at €5. Walk approximately a kilometre to the castle. By train, approximately an hour. Take the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) connection from the Tara Street station to Malahide, 30 minutes. Alight and walk approximately a kilometre to the castle.
◆ From Malahide Castle to Howth
By self-driven car, approximately 20 minutes. By taxi, approximately 20 minutes, at €18-€22. By bus, approximately an hour 45 minutes. Walk from the castle to the St, Sylvesters School, about a kilometre. Bus no. 42 (every 30 minutes, daily) shall take you to Amiens Street, at €5. Walk a little distance to Portland Row Stop. Bus no. 31 /31A shall take you to Abbey Street in Howth, at €5. By bus and train, approximately an hour. From St. Sylvesters School Stop, Bus no. 102 (every 30 minutes) shall take you to Sutton stop, at €2-€4. Transfer to the train station and take the DART connection (every 30 minutes) to Howth, at €1-€3.
◆ From Dublin City Centre to Howth
By self-driven car, approximately 20 minutes. By taxi, approximately 20 minutes, at €20-€25. By bus, approximately an hour. From D'Olier Street, Bus no. 31N (once, daily) shall take you to Harbour Road in Howth, at €7 OR from Abbey Street Lower, Bus no. 31 / 31A (every 30 minutes) shall take you to Abbey Street in Howth, at €5. By train, approximately 30 minutes. Take the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) connection (every 30 minutes) from the Tara Street station to Howth.
???? My suggestion - You can skip the guided tours in Dublin for the short distance day trips, out of the city. The DART; the city's electric rail system allows one to visit and discover the many beautiful sights along the coast of the Irish Sea, from Malahide or Howth in north County Dublin to as far as Greystones in County Wicklow. Visit Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail for further information. This way, you can have more control over your itinerary and enjoy the trips in a more personal manner.
For this evening on day 2, we had pre-booked ourselves a traditional Irish entertainment package; a 3-course Irish traditional dinner and live entertainment.
Please click A Travel Experience! A Musical Evening in Dublin to read about this well-spent and well-enjoyed evening.
Days 3 and 4 - City Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-Off 48 hour Tour
Pre-booked online, in advance, through Viator. You have the option of choosing either the 24 hours or 48 hours tour. Paper voucher is mandatory.
Most cost-efficient and effective way of exploring a bigger city. Make the best use of this to view and explore the city at your own pace and convenience.
With the 2 days / 48 hours pass, you can choose to either stay on the bus (I suggest, for the first ride, at least) or hop-on and hop-off at any of the route's 32 stops.
Some must-do attractions along the tour route:
Irish Whiskey Museum - Located in the heart of Dublin City this historic building offers tours for those interested in the history of Irish whiskey and its importance in Ireland's turbulent past. Tours are available between 10am-6pm daily, and visitors can also experience a variety of live traditional music, storytelling and events every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until 10.30pm. Dublin Castle - An important landmark and historically significant; visit the castle for a fascinating tour with experienced guides to explore the excavation site of the Vikings, the medieval tower, the State apartments, the royal chapel and the castle gardens. Christ Church Cathedral - Choose to take part in a guided tour or explore independently this spiritual site of reverence. Entry is allowed into the interiors at a cost. St Patrick's Cathedral - At a minimal entrance fee, explore this stunning cathedral or choose to wander along its beautiful, well-maintained grounds. Guinness Storehouse - What an EXPERIENCE! Alight at this stop for a delightful tour of the 7 floors dedicated to the history and process of making the Guinness Stout. Be part of the music and tasting in the lively tasting rooms. Finally, reward yourself to a pint of Guinness beer on the roof-top Gravity Bar with magnificent 360° views of Dublin City. Pre-book your tickets online from Guinness Storehouse to avoid long queues and for a complimentary pint.
We are expected to reach at the designated time and within minutes a guide welcomes us with a short history behind Guinness. We are then left to ourselves for a self-guided tour of the facility, an interactive museum. We begin by learning about the four ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast) that make beer. Built in the shape of the beer glass, we make our way from the bottom passing by the blue cascade of fresh water from the Wicklow mountains that is pumped in to the brewery. On the next floor, the Cooperage and Transport section, we witness the history behind making the wooden barrels meant for transporting the beer to 150 countries. We make our way from here to the second floor; the tasting rooms. To us, this truly was an experience. We followed the music that beckoned us and after inhaling the wafts of aroma from smoked filled tumblers in the aroma room, we entered the tasting hall to witness an excellent display of entertainment, music and dance. Took out time tasting small glasses of 6 different Guinness beers while enjoying the performance. The 3rd floor is mostly dedicated to Guinness advertising. This floor is entertaining and informative, displays the creativity (the fish on a bicycle, the whistling Oyster) behind making Guinness into the famous brand that it is today. The fourth floor houses the Guinness Academy where, you can choose to learn how to pour your own perfect pint of Guinness and receive a certificate from the academy. You can also book a private bar for the Connoisseur Experience with a personal guide. On the 5th floor, you can finally sit down to some food experience in the Arthur's Bar that promises "traditional Irish pub experience" or the Brewer's Dining Hall (self-service) or the 1837 Bar & Brasserie. Basically, you finally get to do what you came here to do, drink BEER. Finally, on the top floor, you can enjoy the spectacular 360 panoramic views of Dublin City and in The Gravity Bar, indulge yourself to more beer.
???? My suggestion - I would not recommend this for everyone. This experience is meant for the true Guinness fan. Not really for children but fine if you cannot leave your children behind. Definitely, for the young adults who are at the legal age to drink.
Irish Museum of Modern Art - If modern and contemporary art is what draws you, this museum is the place to visit. Get inspired as you enjoy not only the exhibits but also the beautiful grounds and buildings. Admission is free, and entrance to most exhibitions is also free. Visit IMMA for more information. Kilmainham Gaol - Notorious for its cruel treatment of the prisoners, the Goal offers informative pre-booked tours at designated day and time with a maximum of 35 people per tour. The tour is scheduled for approximately an hour and is not recommended for children under the age of 6 years. Phoenix Park - This enclosed public park is just perfect for families with children. It offers plenty of open space for a variety of recreational pursuits. The Park is also home to the Zoological Gardens, Áras an Uachtaráin (the official residence and workplace of the President of Ireland) and Victorian flower gardens. Well thought out and executed walks and cycle trails are available to the public. It is open 24X7, all year round with the main gates of the Park at Parkgate Street and Castleknock Gate open 24 hours and the side gates to the Park open from approximately 7am until approximately 10.45pm.
While hubby and daughter chose to hire cycles and explore the park I took off, walking to discover the delights the park had to offer. My solitary walk started from the Phoenix Park Tea Rooms; I gave the Dublin Zoo a miss and continued on the beautiful tree-lined Chesterfield Avenue, taking small stops and breaks, going off-course to explore a quaint cottage here, click pictures of the Presidential residence there, sitting down under huge trees to enjoy and reflect. Past the Papal Cross, the Phoenix Monument, the US Ambassador's residence I entered the Ashtown Castle Visitor Centre for a take-away coffee. With cup and freshly-baked quiche in hand I ventured deeper into the surrounding woodland and to my great delight, discovered a picnic site and a playground. Retracing my steps back to Chesterfield Avenue to continue further on I chanced upon a sign urging me towards 'Farmleigh House and Estate'. Past the vigilant but relaxed security, I walked on and was totally captivated by the acres of greenery and farm life. Horses and cows grazing around, ducks quacking about heading to cool off in the lake. I discovered that the Farmleigh Estate housed an art gallery, the official Irish state guest house and a working farm and, was open to public tours from Monday to Sunday between 10:00 AM and 5.30 PM at a cost with children below 12 years going free. However, I gave the tour a miss and decided to enjoy nature as I took the lakeside trail and sauntered on, lost in thought. Soon reality knocked and I half-heartedly made my way back to the entrance of the estate and started my return back to the Tea-rooms where I had left behind my two travel-buddies.
Dublin Zoo - Located within the Phoenix Park, the Dublin Zoo is a big hit with younger kids. It is a safe haven to hundreds of animals, including endangered ones and a source of knowledge and education along with being a star tourist attraction amongst families. There are many daily activities and events scheduled all year round which draws in big crowds from all over the world. Temple Bar - The best that a city has to offer; galleries, restaurants, pubs and music spread over cobbled pedestrian lanes. It is the heart of Dublin's culture; street-performers, open-air markets are regular features along with the many pubs and cafes that line the narrow lanes. You can also catch film-screenings and theatre at the Meeting House Square and the Irish Film Institute. And, with the sun down, the area comes alive with music and gaiety. Grab a pint, enjoy Irish traditional music as you hop from pub to pub or grab some food in high quality restaurants.
Our evenings were mostly spent here, just 10 minutes walk from our accommodation. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we partied, we made fleeting friendships and we made memories.
Dublin Writers Museum - Set in a beautiful 18th century house showcases the country's literary heritage. O'Connell Street - Dublin's busting street in the city centre is very popular with tourists and locals alike. The GPO Witness History Visitor Centre, the Spire, O'Connell Monument are all situated at close proximity. A large avenue with plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants, it is well connected to the rest of Dublin City. EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum - A must for those who truly wishes to understand the history behind the Irish leaving behind their original motherland and immigrating to other countries, through the stories of Irish emigrants. It also houses the Irish Family History Centre where you can trace the connection of your ancestors to Ireland. Merrion Square Park - Perfect place for a rest and a picnic after a long day of exploring the city. Saint Stephen's Green - Another beautiful public park to explore and enjoy. Many other tourist attractions like The Little Museum of Dublin, Fusiliers' Arch (monument), Saint Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, Grafton Street (shopping destination), Trinity College and the Book of Kells can be accessed from this stop. Trinity College and the Book of Kells - Founded in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university. This prestigious academic institution boasts of an impressive alumni list. Visitors can tour the grounds independently or choose to be part of a guided tour. It also houses the Book of Kells, an illustrated ninth-century manuscript of the four gospels, in the library. The Old Library in the college exhibits four pages from two volumes of the book, its creation and history.
► Things to note
Cost - €25.20 adult / €9 child (4-12 years) Duration - Approximately, 1 hour 45 minutes, if you stay on the bus. Frequency - Every 30 minutes Departure time - 9:00am - 6:00pm, every 30-45 minutes. Departure point - Start and disembark at any of the spots listed in the itinerary. You are provided with a map with all the attractions and spots listed down for your convenience. Inclusions - 2 days / 48 hours unlimited hop-on-hop-off bus pass, multilingual on-board audio commentary + free headphones, 10% discount at Irish Whiskey Museum, Irish Day Tours and Lazy Bike Tours, Free Walking Tour and Dublin City by Night 1 hour Bus Tour. Exclusions - Food and drinks and Hotel pick-up / drop-off.
These two days took us all over Dublin and gave us a fair exposure to all the attractions that the city had to offer. Though two days were not enough to explore and experience each and every attraction, the hop-on hop-off bus tour allowed us an adequate glimpse into Irish history, culture, heritage and people.
???? My suggestion - I would recommend this to everyone irrespective of the time in hand. It allowed us a comprehensive tour and exploration of the city and we managed to spend a good amount of each day at one particular attraction of our choice. Our first day, post hopping off at a few stops of interest, was spent at the Guinness Storehouse and a good part of the second day was spent in Phoenix Park.
Day 5 - An independent trip to Howth and one last evening of shopping and pub-hopping
We had fallen in love with Howth and decided to do an independent day trip as our previous guided tour to the village was marred by the rains and lack of time. The DART connection from Tara Street took us to Howth within 30 minutes. The fresh sea-air welcomed us to this fishing village as we strolled along the pier and watch the fishermen at work, mending their boats. Along the waterfront we continued and encounterd the local sea-residents and spent few minutes interacting with the people-friendly seals. Further along, the Baily Lighthouse, Ireland's Eye (a beautiful island just a 15-minute boat ride away) and the stunning Dublin Bay come into view. Stopping at various locations along the route we took in the delights this village had to offer. We made our way back to the pier for some fresh sea-food to take back for our lunch. Locally sourced and the freshest, the choices were plenty; prawns, mussels, oysters, calamari, salmon and many more. The DART connection got us back to Dublin and home for a home-cooked meal of grilled salmon and veggies, the taste of which I have never been able to dish up since then.
Our last afternoon and evening was spent shopping and wandering around and, finally settling down in a pub for one final performance of traditional Irish music over Jamesom Ginger and Lime.
With another couple of days in hand, you can explore Dublin far out with independent or guided day trips to the Wicklow Mountains and National Park or to the city of Cork, Waterford or Kilkenny.
At the wake of dawn, we bade goodbye to this city half-heartedly as we made the 5 minutes walk towards Eden Quay from where Bus no. 503 would take us to the airport. The road was deserted and the city called out to us, to linger on and breathe in the early-morning Irish air one last time.
Ireland and the Irish capitaved us; the stunning landscapes, the rich history and culture, the warm, friendly and kind people and, the beautiful music overwhelved and inspired us. This trip was a delight to the three of us and we genuinely enjoyed every minute of our travel and exploration in Ireland.