We kicked off Day Two with a stop by Trinity College, where we visited the Book of Kells exhibit (cool, if brief…you only get to see six pages of the book itself, under glass) and the oh-so-instagrammable Long Room in the Trinity Library. Busts of famous Irish authors guarded the shelves, and it made you just want to curl up with a book for the rest of the day.
One tip: you’ll want to buy your entrance to the exhibit in advance, online, and make sure to print out your tickets. Doing this saved us from having to wait in a 30-minute long line to gain admittance to the Library, meaning we were in and out all before 10am. I’d also advise going early, as the line had nearly doubled by the time we’d left, and we spied several large tour groups being herded towards the exhibit as well.
Nearby, we stopped by the famous Molly Malone statue for a couple photos with the particularly buxom landmark. The statue is based on a famous Irish folk-song, in which Ms. Malone sells oysters by day, and another type of…seafood (ahem)…by night.
Close to the lovely Molly, we got to explore a piece of Dublin’s medieval history. The Dublin Castle is located right in the middle of the City Centre, and while the Castle itself is nice, the gardens are even more lovely.
While there, we also took a gander through the Chester Beatty Library, an excellent little museum with several exhibits on the history of the written word. Best of all, entrance to the museum is free.
Having hit the “big” tourist hot-spots in the morning, we felt we’d earned ourselves a nice refreshing beer. So we headed to the Guinness Storehouse for a bit of refreshment. In fact, we’d actually booked two spots in the “Guinness Connoisseur Experience“, which included the self-guided tour of the facility, a guided tasting of different Guinness varieties capped at 16-individuals, and instruction in how to pour the “perfect” Guinness.
Overall, we thought the experience was a bit of a dud, and certainly not worth the €48.00 a piece we paid for it. Despite claiming it was for “connoisseurs”, we found the whole thing very basic, and if you’ve ever done another brewery tour or beer tasting, it’s likely you would too.
But the biggest disappointment was that instead of getting to taste any of Guinness’s craft varietals, we were served simply a regular Guinness, a Guinness on C02 instead of Nitrogen, the African version of Guinness, the Guinness Dublin Porter, and then another regular Guinness to finish. If you wanted to get your hands on any of their craft versions, like the Hophouse 13 Lager or the Guinness Irish Wheat, you actually needed to go to the public “Arthur’s Bar” on the 5th floor, where you can just pay to order whatever you like. (And the bartenders there are happy to tell you the history of each beer as well, rendering the Connoisseur Experience even more useless.)
But, hey, live and learn.
After Guinness, we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we headed over to one of Dublin’s Michelin-Star winning restaurants, The Pig’s Ear, for a delightful dinner of reimagined Irish classics.
It was a fantastic way to end the day. I’ll say this: the Irish may not have a reputation for great food, but they certainly should, because almost everything we ate this whole trip was fantastic.
The next day, we decided to spend the morning exploring the natural side of Dublin and headed to a couple of the city’s famous gardens, both the St. Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens. They were both gorgeous!
After taking in the natural beauty, we ventured across the River Liffey to explore the Northside of the city. Here, we stumbled into the excellent Smithfield area, where we decided to have lunch at Thundercut Alley, a delightfully bizarre restaurant/bar decorated with everything from 80s video game vixens, to Victorian paintings, to an army of rubber ducks. (Really…they’re in the women’s restroom!)
But despite the eccentric decor, this place was AWESOME. After a couple fantastic cocktails to start, I went to town on one of their open-faced sandwiches, accompanied by a Watercress blue cheese soup that was phenomenal. As unique as this place was, I’m calling this the best meal of our whole trip.
And, luckily, the excellent lunch put us in a great position for our next activity, the Jameson Distillery tour, also located in Smithfield. The Jameson tour was surprisingly a lot smaller than the Guinness operation across town (and welcomed no tour groups), but in our opinion, was actually done a lot better.
Here, too, we’d upgraded from the standard tour to one of the premium experiences, and settled in for the “Whiskey Makers” Experience. (Hey Guinness, take note: this is how a premium tasting experience should be done.)
This class was a fantastic deep-dive into the different elements and varietals of Jameson whiskey, culminating in the chance to blend and bottle your own Irish Whiskey, and enjoy a sample directly from a cask of aging Jameson. The instructor was friendly and knowledgeable, and we loved every minute of it. Plus, we had a nice little buzz going by the end of the experience: bonus.
After Jameson, we retreated back to the City Centre and the Temple Bar neighborhood in search of some dinner. Along the way, we got caught in a typical Irish rain storm. Pro-tip: if you’re headed to Dublin, a good rain jacket is a must.
Luckily, we were able to escape the storm by nabbing a couple of seats at the tiny hole in the wall, Klaw, which specializes in freshly-caught Irish seafood. Here, we tried a sampling of fresh oysters, and loved every brine-y second of it.
Afterwards, we explored the Temple Bar area, but finding it a bit too touristy for our liking, headed over to the Dingle Whiskey Bar just off Grafton Street instead. Here we tried yet another flight of Irish whiskeys, and had the benefit of the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable bartender to guide us through them.
The hubby was definitely a fan of the dark, low-ceilinged haunt; he said it was how he pictured “real” Irish pubs to feel. (I don’t know what he thought we’d been drinking in up until this point, but alas…)
The following day, we actually ventured outside of the city proper, which I’ll talk about in a future post. Which meant, after four whirlwhind days so far, we only had half a day more to explore this great city.
We started our final day in Dublin the proper way, with a full Irish breakfast at Taste Food Company.
After such a huge breakfast, it would have been natural to go back to sleep, but instead we persevered and headed off to Dublinia, a museum honoring Dublin’s viking heritage. The museum was cute, if a bit childish. Still, the hubby enjoyed seeing his “kin-folk”.
However, included with our ticket to Dublinia was the really beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, a fantastic example of early Gothic architecture.
Having hit almost all the big tourist attractions in just 3.5 days time, there was only one thing for us to do before bidding Dublin adieu: grab a pint. So we headed to the The Long Hall, near Dublin Castle, one of the oldest pubs in the city dating back to 1766.
Just think about that for a second. They have bars older than our entire country.
So, with our thirst quenched, we headed back to the ferry port to catch our ship back to Manchester, for a few more days before we headed home. Stay tuned for the next leg of our adventure, or even better, subscribe to make sure you don’t miss a single post!