History and five walking routes in Dublin and Environs

The city of Dublin occupies a generally flat site, bisected by the River Liffey into the South Side and the North Side. The river is spanned by ten bridges, notably O’Connell Bridge and the Ha’penny Bridge.

DUBLIN (Baile Atha Cliath) (pop. 1,002,000), established by the Vikings as a walled town in the C9th, has been the Capital of Ireland for over a thousand years. It has always been the only real city in Ireland, and was used as a base by the English from the C12th onwards to administer and “civilise” the rest of the island (with varying degrees of success!). It reached its architectural apogee in the C18th, at the height of the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy. In the C19th, it was regarded as the Second City of the British Empire, after London. It is famous for its literary and theatrical traditions and perhaps even more for its pubs. The city is full of interesting historic buildings, libraries, churches, museums and galleries. Dublin has one of the youngest populations in Europe, reflected in the vibrant music scene and lively nightclubs. The Carnival in June and the RDS Horse Show in August are summer highlights.

Except in its former medieval zone, where the streets are narrow and crooked, the city centre is well laid out, with broad avenues and spacious squares, parks and gardens. The port, confined to the lower reaches of the Liffey, has quays and basins open to large vessels. Two canals, the Royal (154 km) and the Grand (335 km), provide connections between the port area and the northern and southern branches of the River Shannon in the midlands. Within these two canals, Circular Drive, a rather erratic 14 km long avenue, extends along the late C19th periphery of the city, later amplified to the rivers Dodder on the south side and Tolka on the North side. Since then, the municipal limits have been considerably extended. In the last 50 years sprawling suburbia has spread up and down the coast and advanced increasingly westwards, engulfing many former villages. Within the Dublin Metropolitan Area, some places can only be reached by car.

Dublin city centre is very compact, and visitors will have little need to go much beyond the C18th boundaries of the Grand Canal to the south and the Royal Canal to the north, except for excursions (see below).

There are guided coach tours of Dublin, including a City Tourist Bus, but these are not particularly recommended, due to serious traffic congestion and the fact that most sites are anyway within easy walking distance. However, the Dublin Splash, involving a converted military amphibious vehicle that tours streets, the river and canals, looks like it might be fun!

By far the best way to explore the city centre is on foot.

Botanic Gardens
Photo William Murphy – Dublin, Ireland


The earliest map of Ireland, made by the Alexandrian geographer Ptolemy in 150 AD, shows a settlement called Eblana civitatis near the current site of Dublin, at the mouth of the River Liffey. This was probably a fortified Roman trading post near the confluence of the only major roads on the island. An important river crossing gave the place its official name in Irish, Baile Atha Cliath [the Town of the Ford of the Hurdles], Unreliable later texts record that the locals won a military victory over the kingdom of Leinster in 291 AD, and that their descendants were converted to Christianity by St. Patrick at a holy well in 450 AD.

In 836 AD Scandinavian rovers moored in the nearby Dubh Linn [“Black Pool”] where the River Poddle joins the Liffey. The Vikings, initially split between Fin Gall (White foreigners, i.e. Norwegians) and Dubh Gall (Black Foreigners, i.e. Danes) submitted to King Olaf the White, who went on with Ivar Thorgissi to conquer Northumbria. Coins minted in Dublin (Diflyn in Danish) bear the names of Olav, Sitric, or Ivar, with the title of ‘high king of the Northmen of Ireland and England.’

In 919 AD a great host of the Uí Néill was utterly routed on the outskirts of Dublin, but Muircertach of the Leather Cloaks beat the invaders at sea on Strangford Lough in 926, and took and burned Dublin in 939 AD.

Despite this, the Norse community thrived, and Dublin continued to develop into a small but powerful kingdom, with links to the Isle of Man and the Orkneys. The city was ruled by a succession of interestingly named kings such as Ivan the Hairy and Olaf the Legless. In 949 AD, King Godfrey of Dublin plundered Kells and other churches of Meath, and carrying ‘3,000 persons into captivity, besides gold, silver, raiment, wealth, and goods of every description.’ After their conversion to Christianity c.950 AD, the marriage and military alliances between the Norsemen and Gaelic chieftains intensified, but Dublin was again partly razed in 988 AD. Nevertheless, the city continued to grow and prosper.

At the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, the Gaels led by Brian Boru broke the military power of the Norsemen, but most were by then long settled, and remained in the city. King Sitric III founded Christchurch Cathedral in 1038. Gaelic rabble occupied Dublin on a number of occasions, notably in 1052, 1075, and 1124. For a time, the city paid tribute to both the Gaelic King of Leinster and the Norse Isle of Man.

Nevertheless, Dublin gradually became the de facto commercial capital of Ireland.

In 1171 the Anglo-Normans led by Strongbow took the city easily, but then had to defend it from a large army brought from overseas by the last Norse King, Hasculf. Their daring strategy worked, Hasculf was executed in his own palace, and the Ostmen were expelled to what is now Oxmanstown. Henry II, king of England, held his court in Dublin for 3 months in 1172, receiving homage from Irish civil and ecclesiastical leaders, and declared Dublin a Royal City, and a dependency of the English city of Bristol.

Despite numerous Gaelic tribal attacks (notably on “Black Easter Monday” in 1210, when hundreds of “Bristolmen” were massacred by marauding O’Byrnes and O’Tooles), an unconsummated siege by Edward Bruce in 1315, and devastation caused by the Black Death and other plagues, English overlordship in Dublin remained relatively unchallenged for the next two centuries. Dublin Castle became the seat of English administration in Ireland, which effectively extended only to a variable region called the Pale, along the East coast, and sometimes also the South East and South.

The most powerful Anglo-Norman families in Medieval Ireland were the FitzGeralds or Geraldines of Kildare and their arch-rivals the Butlers of Ormond. Their supporters often brawled in the city streets.

Dublin came under Yorkist influence in the C15th English Wars of the roses. Garrett Mór Fitzgerald, the powerful 8th Earl of Kildare and Lord Lieutenant, approved the coronation of the Pretender Lambert Simnel in Christchurch Cathedral, and also supported Perkin Warbeck’s claim to the English throne. Both he and his successor, Garrett Óg, virtually ran the country. However, on hearing of the latter’s death in London, his son “Silken Thomas” Fitzgerald laid brief siege to the city in the course of a foolish and doomed rebellion in 1534, and was duly hanged, drawn and quartered in 1537.

During the tempestuous reign of Queen Elizabeth I, western rebels were imprisoned in Dublin Castle. Some escaped, notably Red Hugh O’Donnell, the “fighting prince of Donegal”. In 1592, the Queen founded Trinity College “near Dublin”.

Dublin was predominantly Royalist during the English Civil War (1545 – 49), but surrendered to Oliver Cromwell when he landed with his troops at Ringsend. The city had only 9,000 residents at this time and was in a state of shambles. With the Restoration of the Monarchy (1659), the Duke of Ormonde began an ambitious programme of extending the city with plans for new streets, parks and squares, mainly to be financed by the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and named after them or members of their families.

Almost all Ireland backed King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, but Dublin crowds jeered the hapless monarch as he fled from the rout.

The C18th was a golden era for Dublin, if not for the rest of Ireland. The port moved downriver and grew considerably in importance. Commerce boomed. Protestant refugees from the European continent arrived in considerable numbers. Members of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy moved into new residences near the old city, and the nouveau riche abandoned the confines of medieval Dublin to live in the fine new Georgian houses lining broad streets and stately squares. Trinity College came into its own, and the intellectual and cultural life of the city thrived with the foundation of various learned societies. In the course of the next decades, Dublin grew enormously.

The 1798 Rebellion did not affect Dublin directly, but the execution of Wolfe Tone and other rebel leaders caused widespread unrest. Another badly planned and ill-conceived revolt in 1803 saw rioting street mobs murder the Chief Justice. The ringleader, Robert Emmet, was executed outside St Catherine’s Church, joining a lengthening list of eloquent Irish martyrs.

The Act of Union 1801 drastically reduced Dublin’s status, and the city soon fell into a slow but steady 50-year decline.

Daniel O’Connell held several ‘monster meetings’ around Dublin to agitate for Catholic Emancipation and later Home Rule. He also engaged in a few famous duels.

Although Dublin escaped the worst effects of the Great Famine, the streets were packed with refugees, and the slums grew dramatically. However, from 1850 onwards Victorian Dublin regained a degree of prosperity and was proudly called “the second city of the British Empire”

Charles Stewart Parnell linked the two issues of Home Rule and rural Land Reform, and in several elections to the Westminster Parliament, his party won easily in most constituencies outside Ulster, but the Dublin area also returned several Unionist MPs.

The Phoenix Park Atrocity of 1882, when the British Chief Secretary for Ireland was assassinated by a Fenian splinter group, met with widespread revulsion. Royal Visits by Queen Victoria and the Princes of Wales were enthusiastically received by the populace, while Irish patriotism entered an introspective phase.

Appalling poverty in the city’s slums led to industrial unrest, culminating in The Great Dublin Lockout of 1913.

In the Easter 1916 Rising, the General Post Office (GPO) and other key points in the city were quickly taken by the rebels. However, they soon found themselves outnumbered and outgunned. Shelbourne guests were bemused to observe Countess Markievitz organising the digging of trenches in Stephen’s Green while the British Army installed machine guns on the hotel roof. After days of fighting which left large parts of the city in ruins, the insurgents surrendered, and their leaders were jeered and spat upon by irate Dubliners as they were led away to jail. However, the rebel leaders’ May executions at Kilmainham transformed them from public nuisances into heroes.

The Sinn Fein victors of the British general election of 1918 formed the first Dáil Éireann in the Round Room of the Mansion House. The British government refused to recognise this body.

Within a short time, terrorist strikes against symbols of British control began, led by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the military wing of Sinn Fein. The British countered by introducing tough militias, notably those known as the Black and Tans because of the colour of their uniforms. Both sides committed atrocities in and around the city, and several public buildings were badly damaged. On November 11th 1920, the Tans opened fire on the crowd at a hurling match in Croke Park. The violence continued until a truce was signed on July 11th 1921, followed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created the Irish Free State on December 6th 1921

Civil War broke out in June 1922. Dublin had its share of violence, including political assassinations and executions, and several municipal landmarks suffered attacks before the Truce of May 1923.

Since then, Dublin has enjoyed a relatively tranquil existence, marred only by occasional periods of social unrest, demonstrations, marches, a few riots, and the infamous 1972 bombings.

Walking around Dublin

WALK 1 starts in College Green. First check out the rather splendid C18th Irish Parliament, now the headquarters of the Bank of Ireland, where you can see the former Irish House of Lords. Tucked away beside it is Foster Place, home of the quaint Irish stock exchange.

Proceed through the Front Gate of Trinity College, founded in 1592 and featuring buildings of almost every architectural period since then. A very pleasant stroll through lovely old Georgian squares (en route, check out the beautiful Chapel, the impressive Exam Hall and Dining Hall, the Book of Kells in the Old Library, see what’s on at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in the modern Arts Block, and step into the splendid Victorian Geology Building  that takes you to the College Park playing fields and past the Science End (somewhat unprepossessing, but there are several fine old lecture halls, e.g. in the Zoology Dept., and some of the newest buildings are interesting.)

Lincoln Place / Clare St., (check out Green’s bookshop, especially upstairs!), admire the new extension to the National Art Gallery. While not in the same league as the Prado or the Louvre, there is some excellent work in the permanent collection, including several Old Masters, and the temporary exhibitions are often very good. The main building adjoins Leinster House, originally built in the C18th for the Duke of Leinster, now home of the Oireachtas (modern Irish Parliament, comprising the Dáil and the Senate.)

Merrion Square (classic Georgian – find the statue of Oscar Wilde, opposite his childhood home; the park railings are used by local artists to hang their paintings on summer Sundays). Pop into the Natural History Museum (worth seeing as classic Imperial Victoriana at its most morbid!) next-door to Leinster House; then (enjoying the view of the pepperpot church in the distance) walk up Merrion St. past the former Royal College of Science (opened by King George V in 1911, now housing various government departments.)

Upper Baggot Street (have a pint for me in Dohenny & Nesbitts!), where it’s well worth taking a couple of quick detours, one to admire nearby beautiful Georgian Fitzwilliam Square, and another if there is an exhibition of paintings on at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Ely Place; then proceed back along Merrion Row to the rather splendid Shelbourne Hotel (have a drink in the famous Horseshoe Bar, or take tea and cakes in the gracious foyer); as a child, I was always scared of the Nubian lamp-bearers outside. There is an interesting old Huegenot cemetery next to the hotel. The monument across the street commemorates Theobald Wolfe Tone, leader of the 1798 Rebellion, and is nicknamed Tonehenge.

St. Stephen’s Green is in my opinion one of the world’s loveliest city parks (say hi to the ducks, and find the monument to James Joyce). Emerge through the Boer War Memorial Arch at the top of Grafton Street, Dublin’s premiere shopping street, and walk down past the Provost’s House back to College Green.

All the streets within and many of the streets adjoining the rough rectangle described by this walk are interesting, with lots of beautiful old buildings and many good shops, hotels, pubs, clubs and eateries. Around St. Stephen’s Green, The Royal College of Surgeons is a curious institution. Iveagh House is a magnificent mansion, now occupied by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Next door, the former Catholic University Church is high Victorian rococo, while the nearby Unitarian church is pleasantly austere.

Weir’s is a particularly interesting establishment on Grafton St. itself, and Neary’s and McDaid’s are good pubs on short side streets. I particularly like the Wicklow Inn on Wicklow St. The Dublin Civic Museum on Clarendon St. is very interesting, and Powerscourt Townhouse is a splendid old city mansion now filled with trendy shops and eateries. Grogan’s Castle Inn is a fun pub near the entrance of the George’s St. Market Arcade (say hello to Mac the record-seller for me!). The Long Hall is the best pub on George’s St; and The Stag’s Head in Dame Lane is atmospheric. Dawson Street features the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House (the first Dáil met in the adjoining Round Room in 1918), the headquarters of the Royal Irish Academy, several good bookshops, and a period reproduction bar called Le Café en Seine. Nassau Street, overlooking College Park, is notable for Hanna’s Bookshop, and the Kilkenny Design Centre used to have a good café. The Kildare Street side of Leinster House is flanked by the National Library (restricted access) and National Museum; well worth a visit. You can take a bizarre tour of the Masonic Hall on Molesworth Street.

WALK 2 also starts at College Green. Dame Street features pompous Victorian buildings, each almost grotesquely different from its neighbour. The splendidly restored City Hall partially hides Dublin Castle, the seat of English rule for 800 years. The complex now houses disparate elements, from modern government offices and touristy shops and eateries to the medieval St. George’s Chapel and the State Apartments, well worth a tour, and the superb Chester Beatty Library, an extraordinary collection of ancient Middle Eastern and Oriental religious Art & Design.

Christchurch Cathedral, (mid-C11th & late C12th, Anglican since 1536) is very atmospheric, and contains the tomb of Strongbow, leader of the 1169 Norman Invasion. Look for the niche with the urn containing the ashes of the Hereditary Standard Bearer of the Royal House of Montenegro (!) The fascinating crypt once partially housed a collection of stalls and taverns arrayed along disreputable passages, one called Hell, another Paradise. The old city tumbril stocks sit surrounded by noble tombs and a mummified cat. An English army officer was once locked in the crypt by mistake after a funeral, and was devoured alive by rats. The Dean of Christchurch has always been regarded as a powerful figure.

Nearby are the remains of St Audoen’s one of many mediaeval parochial churches of Dublin, dedicated to the great patron saint of the Normans, Audoen or Ouen, Bishop of Rouen in 640 AD, founded by Archbishop Henry de Loundres in 1219. The ruins incorporate part of the old City Wall. The hideous modern Civic Offices were built, despite massive protests, on top of the archaeological remains of the original Viking town.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral (late C12th, also Anglican since 1536, seat of the Archdiocese of Dublin and Glendalough and principal site of worship of the Church of Ireland in the Republic, nowadays often used for Ecumenical services) was founded just outside the then city walls in 1190 by the Archbishop of Dublin ,John Comyn, apparently in a fit opf pique after a failed Templar plot to assassinate the Dean of Christchurch. It is the largest church in Ireland, and contains the tomb of its former Dean, the famous C18th satirist Jonathan Swift. There is also an excellent crypt.

The park (known informally as the Beano) is a popular venue for open-air events in summer; it was the site of the Cathedral cloister, which housed a rather sporadic university from the mid-C13th until its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1536.

The Cathedral Choir School is across the street from the public entrance to St. Patrick’s; it is amazing to see these kids transformed into angels when they sing! Ussher’s Library, beside the Cathedral, is an C18th jewel, and claims to have been the first library in the world open to the general public.

The two Cathedrals were somewhat over-restored in the C19th by the Guinness family. They are in one of the oldest parts of Dublin, known as the Liberties since the time when it enjoyed various medieval privileges. In the C19th this district was largely rebuilt as terraced houses for workers in various local industries, notably the Guinness Brewery, the aroma of which still permeates the area. High St. (where John’s Lane Augustinian church, designed by Nicholas Welby Pugin in 1874, features a spectacular white Carrara marble altar) leads to Thomas St, where Guinness has a Visitors’ Centre and a lovely art gallery and restaurant in the old Hop Store.

{Citizen: Didn’t the Guinness family do great things for the people of Dublin?

{Brendan Behan: Didn’t the people of Dublin do great things for the Guinness family, more like!}

The district is interesting to wander around, but keep your wits about you, and avoid the area at night. Although becoming increasingly yuppified, the Liberties have a recent history of social problems and drug abuse. Many of the street names are interesting; e.g. the Coombe was the banks of the river Poddle (now covered), Cork St. was the main road to Cork (7 days away by coach), and Meath St. commemorated the Lord Reginald Grey, Earl of Meath, who named several of the surrounding streets after himself too. Francis St. has some interesting shops, pubs and eateries.

If you are feeling energetic, continue just beyond the Guinness Brewery, and you will come to St Patrick’s Hospital, the world’s oldest psychiatric institution, founded with funds bequeathed by Jonathan Swift. From there, you can walk down towards the river, past the renovated Dr. Steven’s Hospital, which now contains government offices, or you can follow the signposts for Kilmainham Royal Hospital, a beautiful C17th edifice designed by Sir Christopher Wren set in park grounds, originally a geriatric veteran’s home comparable to Chelsea Hospital in London or Les Invalides in Paris. It now houses the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), and often hosts interesting temporary exhibitions. Also well worth visiting is the nearby Kilmainham Jail, of grim historical notoriety. From here you are within striking distance of Farmleigh House, an aristocratic residence recently restored by the government as accommodation for visiting dignitaries, occasionally open to the public. You are also near the Islandbridge War Memorial Park, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, commemorating the many Irishmen who died fighting in foreign wars (mostly for the British army). This is a pleasant place to stroll beside the river. (Cross the bridge to Phoenix Park, and return to the city centre by reversing Walk 4.)

Walk 3 starts at O’Connell Bridge (originally Carlisle Bridge) and proceeds up O’Connell St. (formerly Sackville St., originally Drogheda St.).

When the machines used to erect the Millennium Spike were finally taken away, a spontaneous wave of song went up on O’Connell St: “I can see Cleary’s now the cranes have gone“. The shop has been in financial difficulties for some time, but may be rescued by an American consortium.

This wide thoroughfare was once very elegant, but is now rather tawdry. During the daytime, the street features several good shops (notably Cleary’s Department Store), and the GPO is worth visiting for its historical significance. The Gresham Hotel is attractive. Some of the statues and monuments are worth a look. My favourites are Larkin and Parnell. The newest addition is the Millennium Spire, nicknamed the Spike, inaugurated a year late; when the machinery was removed, people sang “I can see Cleary’s now the crane has gone”! It is worth making a small detour to see the mock-Egyptian Roman Catholic Pro-Cathedral and Tyrone House, now housing the Dept. of Education on Marlborough St.

The Hugh Lane gallery of modern art on Parnell Square is excellent, and now houses the legacy of Francis Bacon. The Garden of Remembrance in the square itself is worth a look, as is Findlater’s church (Presbyterian) on the corner. There is a beautiful rococo chapel in the Rotunda maternity hospital on Parnell St, and The Eagle is an atmospheric pub just across the street. The buildings on North Great George’s St. (including the excellent Joyce Centre) and around Mountjoy Square have in many cases been restored to something of their original early Georgian elegance. The Black church on Werburgh St. is elegant, and associated with several early urban legends.

Henrietta St. is worth a visit for the same architectural reasons. This early Georgian street is dominated by the King’s Inns, Ireland’s quaint school for barristers (that I attended for two irritating years). There is a lovely library housed in an exceptionally handsome building before you reach the rather grim portal of the main edifice housing the magnificent Dining Hall (where I ate my 32 regulation dinners) and the Registry of Deeds, designed by Gandon, (who was also responsible for the Four Courts and the Customs House). The interior is painted in surprising pastel shades. Visit the park on the other side, with its famous bench-eating tree.

Walk back towards the river down atmospheric Capel St. The busy streets between this and O’Connell St. are good for shopping, especially Henry St. There is a good library in the otherwise rather soulless ILAC Centre. The market on Moore St. can be fun. The lovely C18th church on Mary St. is now Orthodox.

WALK 4 starts at, in front of or opposite the C18th  Customs House; go upriver along the quays beside the Liffey (Joyce’s Anna Livia Plurabella), criss-crossing the bridges (especially O’Connell Bridge, the widest; the Ha’penny bridge, Dublin’s symbol, and the new pedestrian bridge, christened the Wibbly Wobbly Bridge – you’ll see why if it’s windy!), admiring the new Boardwalks and the renovated hotels (the Clarence is owned by Bono of U2) and pubs (don’t miss the bizarre interior of Zanzibar!), to the Four Courts (where I worked as a barrister from 1983 to 1988. Most courts are open to the public. Check out the Law Library). It is well worth making short detours up the streets off the quays on both sides of the river. St. Michan’s Church (c. 1095, dedicated to a Norse saint, “restored” 1828) on Church St. has a fascinatingly creepy crypt, where you can shake hand with a 13th century crusader. Continue on the North side to recently redeveloped Smithfield, admire the Law Society’s premises in the old Bluecoat School in Blackhall Place, and pop into Ryan’s of Stonybatter for a pint of Guinness and a plate of stew at lunchtime. A visit to Collin’s Barracks, converted into an excellent National Museum extension, is highly recommended. From here you will see (and smell!) the Guinness Brewery on the south side of the river, but stay on the north side and you will arrive at a street leading to the gates of Dublin’s main park. Ryan’s of Parkgate Street is the Mecca for drinkers of good pints of Guinness (which is, of course, how you judge a good Irish pub).

Phoenix Park claims to be the largest city park in Europe, if not the world. Originally the Vice-regal hunting ground, it is largely composed of flat expanses of grass, grazed by a resident herd of deer and sometimes cattle or sheep brought in to assist, and dotted with stands of trees, patches of woodland and small glades and miniature glens. There are various clubhouses and sometimes spectator stands beside rugby, soccer, hockey and cricket pitches, GAA football, hurling and camogie fields, running tracks, athletics installations, tennis courts and polo grounds, and an equestrian centre provides riding facilities and excursions within the Park. The principal buildings are the Presidential Residence (Aras an Uchtarain), the American Ambassador’s Residence, a police barracks now used as Garda headquarters, several military edifices and a couple of geriatric homes. The Papal Cross where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass with a million congregants in 1979 is prominent, as is the monument to the Dublin-born victor of Waterloo (known as the Wellington Erection, for obvious reasons). The People’s Gardens are pretty, but the main attraction is the second oldest public zoo in the world.

Walk 5 starts at the Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green. Walk along Baggot St. to the pleasant late 19th century / Edwardian residential area of Ballsbridge. Stroll down Wellington Road to the American Embassy; beside the river, Herbert Park is a jewel. From there you can walk along the bank of the Dodder to Sandymount; there are a couple of excellent pubs on charming Sandymount Green. A pleasant place to stroll is Sandymount Strand, especially when the tide is out, and its Martello Tower was immortalised by James Joyce in Ulysses. You can catch the DART back into town at nearby Sydney Parade station

On the South Side, Temple Bar, an extension of Fleet St. running parallel to the river, is the main artery of the touristiest part of Dublin. Many “real” Dubliners affect to despise it, but it actually features some good shops, pubs, clubs and eateries. Unfortunately, it tends to get very crowded, especially at night, and is particularly popular with young English hooligans on weekend stag parties. The best pubs in the area are The Palace (especially the backroom) and The Norseman. I also like the Temple Bar bar, and the Auld Dubliner does a nice traditional Dublin Coddle lunch.

Other very good pubs in the south city centre include O’Neill’s on Pearse St. and Hartigan’s in Hawkins St., just off Tara St. at the river end.

The area around Grand Canal Basin (where juvenile delinquent swans often congregate in gangs) and the formerly working class areas of Ringsend and Irishtown are being rapidly gentrified, as evidenced by the trendy pubs at the Beggars’ Bush Barracks crossroads.

The Grand Canal itself provides several pleasant stretches for strollers and joggers, particularly on either side of and beyond Leeson St. Bridge and Portabello. Around Baggot St. Bridge, the canal bank is a traditional haunt of prostitutes at night.

On the North Side of the Liffey, it is probably not a good idea to walk around the city centre by yourself at night. Lower Abbey St. has an excellent café called Susie; Wynne’s Hotel is quite good, and the Abbey Mooney is bizarre. There are a couple of reasonably priced good eateries in Earl St., Talbot St. and around Beresford Place. Just east of the Customs House is the modern International Financial Services Centre, the focal point of massive redevelopment of the North Docks, now the fashionable address for thrusting new enterprises.

The most expensive restaurants in Dublin are usually French in inspiration. If you want Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Nepalese, Iranian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Algerian, Moroccan, Turkish, Russian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Swiss, Greek, Mexican, Guatemalan, Columbian, Peruvian, Chilean, Argentinean, Brazilian, Portuguese, or Belgian (!) dishes, there are some very good and reasonably priced establishments. Japanese noodle, sushi and sashimi and Spanish tapas places are currently very fashionable. Indian and Pakistani restaurants tend to be pricier than their counterparts in Britain. Like the more numerous Chinese establishments, they vary hugely in quality, from superb to atrocious. And of course there is the usual range of American style eateries, pizzerias etc. Avoid pretentious Italian pasta restaurants.

Of those restaurants serving Irish food in the city centre, I can only remember Quo Vadis on Suffolk St. and Gallagher’s on Temple Bar as being any good. The only two Irish eateries I can confidently recommend are curiously juxtaposed: the traditionally best fish restaurant in Dublin is the Lord Edward on Christchurch Place, and the traditionally best fish’n’chips joint in the city is Burdock’s, downstairs in the same building. Beshoff’s on Westmoreland St. is also worth a look.

Many of Dublin’s best Irish restaurants are in the suburbs or in isolated country spots even further afield. Roly’s in Ballsbridge has an excellent reputation. The Restaurant na Mara in Dunlaoighre and the King Sitric in Howth are good fish establishments.

To find out what’s happening on the entertainment front, consult the Evening Press or In Dublin magazine.

Dublin has a strong theatre tradition, so check out what’s on in the old Olympia, Gate and Gaiety theatres or the relatively modern Abbey or Peacock Theatres. The Project is also worth a look, as are new places like Andrew’s Lane. The annual Dublin Theatre Festival in September is usually excellent.

I believe the Gaiety is now the main venue for informal Friday and Saturday night concerts, having taken over from the Olympia, where singers such as Mick Jagger, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan just wandered onstage and sang and played acoustic instruments on various nights I was there.

The main classical music venue is the National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace off Stephen’s Green, formerly the main University College Dublin (UCD)site and now home of the Irish National Orchestra. Live chamber music, song, violin, piano and harp recitals etc. are also performed there and in other lovely settings, both indoors and out, around the city. Choral music is popular, appropriately in the city where Handel composed The Messiah in 1724. St. Patrick’s Cathedral has an excellent boys’ choir, and the Pro-Cathedral and several other churches also have good choirs, as do amateur groups such as the Dublin University Choral Society in Trinity College. Operas are performed sporadically, usually starring visiting divas. Gilbert & Sullivan operettas are annual events. Christchurch and several other churches also host excellent organ recitals.

I am not au fait with the current music scene in Dublin, but I believe the trendy club and rave zone is now the Docks area. Expect heavy bouncers. Many pubs around the city and suburbs have live music, ranging from rock, rythme & blues and jazz through latin and country & western to traditional. There are several excellent pub venues for Irish traditional music, the most famous of which are O’Donoghue’s on Merrion Row; the Brazen Head (Dublin’s oldest pub) near Christchurch Cathedral, and Kennedy’s on Westland Row.

The biggest concert venue is the Point Depot in the renovated downriver North Docks area. The Royal Dublin Society (RDS) in Ballsbridge hosts various rock concerts, both indoor and outdoor, throughout the year, in addition to the annual Spring Show in March and the Dublin Horse Show in August, as well as other events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Dog & Cat Show (only Licensed Premises in Dublin on 17th March!).

Major Gaelic Games events are held in the magnificently refurbished Croke Park. International rugby (and sometimes soccer) matches are held in the IRFU stadium at Lansdowne Road, while the traditional home of Irish soccer is Shelbourne Park. Greyhound racing at Ringsend or Harold’s Cross is also entertaining, and special public transport facilities are laid on for Horse Races at Leopardstown, Fairyhouse, or any of the other race-courses near the city motor racing events at Mondello Park in Co. Kildare.

The Cross Gallery is based at Number 59 Francis Street and is one of the few buildings that retains a complete historic shopfront. It is a really beautiful building and The original old brick work with it’s yellowish colour gives a real feeling of history to the building.

Excursions in and around Dublin:

You can take the mainly coastal DART and the new LUAS trams through pleasant suburbs and housing estates to a number of interesting spots, and the bus (single and double-decker) and minibus network is extensive. Public transport is not cheap, but driving in Dublin can be a nightmare.

On the South Side: Near Donnybrook; for hundreds of years the site of a major fair that became so famous for drunken brawling that it was banned in the late C18th, the elegant embassies on Ailesbury Road and Shrewsbury Road make these the most expensive squares on the Irish monopoly board!You can walk or take the Luas tram to the bohemian suburbs of Ranelagh and Rathmines (where Oliver Cromwell defeated the Duke of Ormonde’s Catholic Royalist troops in 1649), but bus rides are necessary if you want to visit the atmospheric old cemetery at Mount Jerome, view the opulent new Mosque in Clonskeagh beside the extensive UCD campus, or see the magnificent archway of the former Palmerston estate. Rathfarnham was the scene of several major battles between the Norman “Bristolmen” of Dublin and the marauding Gaelic O’Byrne and O’Tooles in the C13th, C14th and C15th.

The Dublin Mountains (hills) are pleasant. Focal points include the old Hellfire Club ruin and the lead mining chimney on the hill called Katty Gallagher. Carrickmines Castle, recently excavated, was a major Norman outpost, and together with nearby Puck’s Castle also saw major fighting between Cromwellians and Royalists in 1649.

Johnny Fox’s pub in Kilcullen is rightly famous. Nearby, a plaque commemorates one of Daniel O’Connell’s “Monster Meetings” in 1823.

You can take the DART along the coast past Booterstown bird sanctuary and through Blackrock to Dun Laoghaire (formerly Kingstown, now pronounced Dunleery), an attractive Victorian borough featuring a long promenade and pier popular for strolling, where there are often buskers and entertainers in summer.

There are regular ferries to Holyhead in Wales. It is very popular for sailing (mostly from the four clubs in the harbour), and has a new marina. The National Maritime Museum in the Mariner’s Church on Adelaide Street is worth a visit. Nearby is Sandycove, where the Joyce Museum is housed in another Martello Tower beside the ‘Forty Foot’ open-air sea swimming pool (called after the 40th Foot Regiment of the British Army, who were stationed there for many years).

Dalkey is an old village that has retained some atmosphere as an exclusive South Side suburb, and has several old castles, good pubs, expensive restaurants and a beautiful little harbour.

Dalkey Island, just offshore, is a bird sanctuary and a popular diving site, with a Martello tower, a holy well, and a colony of very unfriendly goats.

Killiney is an extremely exclusive outer suburb with a hilltop park and a long pebble beach around a beautiful bay, overlooked by some semi-detached castles. The view alone is worth the DART trip to Bray, a rather tawdry Victorian resort just across the border of Co. Wicklow. I like Bray; the seafront amusement arcades, candyfloss stands, chip joints and fortune tellers’ signs do not entirely destroy a certain faded elegance, and there is a lovely promenade. It has a good Heritage Centre, and is also home to the Irish Sealife Centre, formerly the National Aquarium, featuring over 100 species of fish, shellfish etc. I particularly like the old part of the Harbour Bar, not too far from the station.

Bray Head is a fairly easy hill to climb, and there is a chairlift for the lazy or unfit. There are magnificent views from the summit, and on a clear day you can see the peak of Mount Snowdon in Wales. Take the scenic cliff walk (if you are lucky you may see seals) around the headland to the pretty village of Greystones, with its attractive harbour. You can catch the DART back into the city centre.

Also in northern Co. Wicklow is the pretty village of Enniskerry, where I strongly recommend a visit to Powerscourt House and gardens and (separately) Powerscourt waterfall. General Winfield, later ennobled as the first Lord Powerscourt, led a Dublin citizen’s militia to victory against the Kavanaghs here in 1545. I particularly like the animal cemetery.

On the North Side: It’s worth taking a bus to Glasnevin, a pleasant suburb with a fascinating cemetery and beautiful Botanical Gardens. I am told that the new Dublin City University (DCU) campus features several remarkable buildings.

Further afield, Castleknock. Chapelizod and the Strawberry Beds are also pleasant suburbs. The elegant Dunsink Observatory is a fascinating C18th Enlightenment oasis in an area of troubled modern housing estates.

The coast starts at Fairview, once a very fashionable suburb. Fairview Crescent, where Dracula author Bram Stoker was born, was apparently built deliberately to obstruct the view from Lord Charlemont’s Casino in Rialto, a charming Georgian folly.

The site of the Battle of Clontarf, where in 1014 Ard Rí Brian Boru beat a huge Viking army aiding King Sitric, the Norse ruler of Dublin, was in fact a long-drained marshy area near the old city. Clontarf is a pleasant but uninspiring suburb. Nearby St. Anne’s Park is attractive.

Bull Island is a wildfowl sanctuary with an interpretative centre, on a spit of sand dunes in Dublin Bay, accessible by a causeway. The beach, Dollymount Strand, is popular for swimming. Howth is an attractive seaside town on Dublin’s northern Peninsula, accessible by DART. It features a popular yachting harbour, sea angling, good pubs and restaurants, and the ruins of Saint Mary’s Abbey, founded in the early C11th by King Sitric. Howth Castle is open to the public in summer and contains the small National Transport Museum, plus magnificent rhododendron gardens, the ruins of another ancient castle and a Megalithic dolmen tomb called Aideen’s Grave.

There are walks up the Ben of Howth Hill and along the cliffs of Howth Head, and a Martello tower open to visitors. Boat trips are available to Ireland’s Eye, a small rocky island sanctuary for hundreds of seabirds, with the ruins of C6th Saint Nessans church and a Martello tower.

Larger Lambay Island, with yet another Martello tower and an interesting castle, belongs to Lord Ravenscroft and is rarely open to the public.

The north Dublin suburb of Malahide has a nice marina and features Malahide Castle, owned and added to by the Talbot family from 1185 to 1976, so that it has a strange mixture of architectural features. It houses the National Portrait Gallery and the Fry Model Railway, which has a large layout of a miniature model of the railways around Dublin.

Newbridge House is a Georgian stately home at Donabate north of Malahide with an open farm and small Museum of Curiosities.

Skerries is a small quiet old seaside resort with friendly seals and views of the offshore Skerries islands.

Swords is famous for its ancient round tower. North of Dublin

Northwards, Co. Meath and its tiny neighbour Co. Louth both feature lovely countryside.I recommend a trip to see the ancient megalithic tombs in the River Boyne Valley. In the biggest passage grave, at Newgrange (c.3200 BC), the central chamber is only illuminated by sunlight at dawn on 21st December, the winter solstice and shortest day in the year.

You can also check out the site of the Battle of the Boyne (1689) and the pretty village of Slane; Lord Mountcharles’ Slane Castle has hosted many major rock concerts.

The Hill of TaraKells features an interesting ancient monastic site with a round tower and a splendid ornate high cross. There is also a ruined Norman keepTrim Castle (refurbished by the Hollywood producers of Mel Gibson’s meretricious Braveheart) is very interesting. There is also a (somewhat artificial) Gaeltacht area. An annual three-day race meeting is held at Bellewstown, and Laytown annually holds the only official strand races remaining in Europe.

Historic Drogheda is an interesting town..just outside Ardee.

The coast is very attractive, particularly Carlingford Lough (from the Viking Carlinn’s Fjord), popular for sailing.

The atmospheric village of Carlingford retains a medieval gate, and the Cooley Peninsula is great for horse riding.

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