The first thing everyone mentions when you plan a trip to Dublin, is Guinness. “Oh you’ll drink a lot of Guinness” they say. “Guinness tastes different in Ireland”. Now, whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but the one thing I do know is that Guinness isn’t my drink of choice.
I’m not tea-total, but I’m also not a massive drinker either. Yes, I enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner. I love a good gin and tonic, every now and then. Ginger beer, I love, although the regular stuff, not so much. I probably sound very square, but it’s just not me and I’ve come to accept that!
The way people talk about it, you’d think that planning a non-drinker’s holiday to Dublin is like a vegetarian planning a trip to a steakhouse. Actually though, whilst Tom and I did make the customary trip to the Storehouse, where I dutifully sipped my “pour-your-perfect-pint-of-Guinness” this moment didn’t make it into my Dublin top 5. My best bits were a) completely unplanned and b) nothing to do with alcohol whatsoever.
1) Phoenix Park
I love nothing more than wandering around a big green park in the middle of a busy, bustling city. Phoenix Park is absolutely huge- the Dublin equivalent of Richmond park in London. The reason it’s made it to number one of my list is because Tom and I chose, quite possibly, the worst time to go. It was freezing cold, pouring with rain and with the threat of a torrential thunderstorm looming in the black clouds overhead. But despite the fact that our shoes were wet and we had our hoods up covering our eyes we both just had the best time. We had the whole place to ourselves, with the exception of a herd of deer that we managed to make friends with, thanks to a couple of apples left over from breakfast!
Go to get lost amongst the green and get some relief from the liveliness of the city centre.
2) Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison, built in the 18th Century. It housed several of the Irish Revolutionaries of the 1916 uprising and was the sight of many public executions. It’s now a museum that runs regular tours every day and I would absolutely recommend booking tickets in advance for this place. It’s an incredible sight, which is is steeped in history. It also helps that the tour guides are genuinely passionate and really seem to know their stuff.
3) Backstreets and Bookshops
If you’re anything like me, then you’ll love getting lost around the lesser known streets of a new city. In my mind, it’s not getting lost if you don’t necessarily have anywhere to be! Dublin is a brilliant city for “getting lost” in and it’s definitely worth spending an afternoon exploring the backstreets with no purpose or time-constraints. This is how you manage to find the real gems – old music shops, antique stores, random street art. My favourite was a tiny green bookstore on the corner of a cobbled street. It’s name was fashioned out of old newspaper and there was an array of jumbled classics on display in the window. A book lover’s heaven!
4) The Army Barracks
Tom and I wandered into the former Collins Army Barracks on the walk back from Phoenix Park. The site is now home to the National Museum of Ireland for Decorative Arts and History. It was a solution to get out of the rain for a while! It’s also not the sort of place I would have chosen, had a planned it out beforehand. Luckily, sometimes things just happen for the best and I actually found the museum (which is completely free) really interesting. The core exhibition is a tribute to Ireland’s Military History, including (of course) the 1916 uprising. As someone who was completely dense and naive to Irelands past (we studied the potato famine at school briefly when we were doing Seamus Heaney’s poetry in English, but that’s about the extent of it) it made for a very educational afternoon.
5) Trinity College Library and Marsh’s Library
If you hadn’t already gathered, I’m a die-hard lover of all things book related. Nothing makes me happier than curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. I always manage to find or stumble across a new library or fun bookstore whenever I visit somewhere new. Dublin was a haven for me. It seems that around every corner and in every other building there’s a library to visit. Trinity College library is a breathtaking sight even for non-bookworms, whilst Marsh’s library (round the back of St. Patricks Cathedral) has been perfectly preserved since the 18th century. You may not be able to understand what is written in the books, but it’s enough just to be surrounded by them!