After a solid ten hours of sleep, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our first full day in Ireland. After a delicious breakfast at The Shelbourne, we decided to try our luck at the sightseeing bus again.
What it is: An open-top sightseeing bus that has stops at over 20 attractions where you can, you guessed it, hop on or hop off.
We tried to do this on Day One but because of the water protest, the buses weren't running. We were more successful on Day Two. I've done this in a few other cities and have never been a huge fan. But I love the idea of this so I keep trying them in new places. I'm happy to say that I finally found a good one. It's possibly because the center of Dublin is relatively small or the traffic on the Sunday morning that we went was minimal. I thought this was a great way to get an overview of the city, especially since we were in Dublin for less than two days. We were also able to coordinate what we wanted to see with the stops of the bus to use it as a way of transportation instead of a taxi.
What it is: A historic Irish jail with a dark and bloody history. The chief figures in the 1916 uprising were kept here.
The first place that we hopped off at was Kilmainham Gaol. If you only see one sight in Dublin, this should be it. I recommend seeing it early in your trip, if possible, because it gives you a really good perspective into the history of Dublin and the Irish. I would also plan to visit early in the day to avoid long lines and the possible disappointment of not getting in. We arrived about ten minutes after it opened and still had to wait 40 minutes for our tour.
This is by guided tour only and it is excellently done, despite it being one of the saddest places that I've been to. The way the prisoners were accommodated (and a lot of these "criminals" were children who were homeless and starving), along with the political history is heartbreaking.
As a side note, this is also where I purchased my Heritage card. You buy this once and can use it at any Heritage site in Ireland over the next 12 months. I was not expecting to be back before it expired but based on where I was planning on visiting, it made sense for me to get one. While we were waiting for our tour time, I was telling two Canadian ladies next to us all about the card and convinced them to also purchase one. Too bad there's not a referral program!
After our tour, we only had to wait a few minute for our HOHO bus and we were off to our next stop.
What it is: An almost 1000 year old cathedral for the Church of Ireland
Let me preface this by saying that I love old churches. There is something so peaceful and calming to me from the first moment I step in the door. Christ Church did not disappoint. Not only is it beautiful from the outside but it was breathtaking to stand at the far end of the nave with its 68 foot high ceiling and glance into the heart of the church. If that wasn't enough to see, there are some interesting tombs, including Strongbow, and the largest crypt in all of Ireland and Britain.
Although it was originally built in 1030 by the Vikings, the current stone structure was finished in the 13th century. It was later thoroughly restored in the 1870's.
Last week, I mentioned that during this trip, we had quite a few occurrences where we randomly saw the same people. The second time happened as we left the church. We were standing outside getting our bearings and the ladies from Canada that we had stood next to in line at Kilmainham Gaol walked right by us!
By now, it was 2 pm and we were both getting a little hangry (hungry-angry). This never ends well so we had to find some food asap! We wandered into the Temple Bar area and ended up at The Porterhouse. Sabrina had a burger and chips (fries) and I had the seafood chowder and continued feeding my brown bread obsession. The bread was not nearly as good here as at The Sussex but it still hit the spot. We washed all of this down with a couple of ciders and we were ready to head back out and continue our day.
What it is: A castle in the heart of Dublin, there has been a fortress of some sort at this site since around 930 AD. No longer housing royalty, it serves as a tourist attraction and host for national events.
This was a spontaneous addition to our day. After lunch, our plan was to walk towards Grafton Street. We ended up walking past the castle and since it was included in our Heritage Pass, we decided to check it out.
Castles in general are pretty awesome. The size of the rooms, the massive paintings on the walls and the ornately painted ceilings all add up to amazing.
For me though, this one didn't capture my heart. I think because even though the site has had some kind of castle or fortress on it for over 800 years, the current building was rebuilt in the 1700's after a fire and had a more modern feel. I personally like the really old stuff! It was nice to see once but I wouldn't hesitate to skip it.
What it is: A pedestrian-only thoroughfare with lots of shops and random entertainment.
After the castle, we planned to head back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. The most interesting route back was down Grafton Street. It's a several block stretch of many different stores, from cellular stores to Boots (a drugstore similar to Walgreens) to Brown Thomas (an upscale department store) and everything in between. There are also street performers singing, dancing, doing fire tricks or some doing nothing at all, like the group in the picture below. Although I'm not much of a shopper, I am a people watcher and there was no shortage of material here. There's something for almost everyone to enjoy here and is definitely worth checking out at least once while you're in Dublin.
I wanted to find a pub that had some traditional music starting early (most starts around 8 pm) and was close to the meeting spot for our walking tour later. The Boar's Head not only had those two things covered but it also had great food reviews. This place is a classic pub - nothing fancy, lots of wood and lots of character. There was a group of musicians playing in a couple of booths in the corner, and they were our first experience of trad music in Ireland.
The food was very good. I had an Irish Stew, which was tasty and full of meat and veggies. Sabrina had a Shepard's Pie that she really enjoyed. After we ate our fill and finished a couple of pints of Guinness, we were ready to head out to meet our tour.
What it is: Hidden Dublin Walks tour through Dublin highlighting haunted buildings and telling ghost stories.
Although I planned the majority of our itinerary, there were a few things that Sabrina wanted to do. Although the Guinness Storehouse was not her best pick (in my opinion), the others were all winners. One of her requests was that we do a ghost walk of some sort. Surprisingly, with as much history as there is in Ireland, there are very few haunted walks to choose from (actually this was the only company in all of the places that we were visiting that I was able to find). Even so, Hidden Dublin Walks cares about putting out a quality product despite being the only choice.
The walk lasted about two hours and was a couple of miles total, taking us through some neighborhoods north of the River Liffey that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. We saw a haunted hospital, a mass grave that is now a park and Saint Michan's Church, where an old crusader's mummified hand is considered to give luck to those that touch it. Our guide was very charming and a great story teller. I liked it because he wasn't trying to scare people, there were true historical stories behind the ghostly tales. Of course, listening to him while walking around Dublin in the dark definitely gave me some goose bumps that weren't from the cold!
The tour conveniently ended at The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Dublin. Even though we were pretty tired by then, we couldn't turn down a pint here. It's a really interesting building with lots of different rooms, including a large one with a band that was playing very lively music. They were really energetic and gave us a second wind. However, we were leaving the city the next morning and I wanted to get a good night's sleep so I would be fresh and alert for my first time driving in Ireland. So we hopped in a cab and were whisked back to the Shelbourne for another solid night's sleep.