Beauty of Dublin's Downtown, Castles and Nearby Howth

On the second leg of our first international trip, Brandon and I settled on Ireland. It’s a country I’ve always dreamed of visiting. I wanted to see the historic castles and vast rolling hills of the countryside. In this look-back entry, I will transport you to our trip to Dublin and the surrounding area.

February 23, 2016, 11:30 a.m. Dublin time:

Dublin has been fantastic and it’s sad to think we are already leaving! I hope to make it back someday and see more of the cliffs and the countryside. We arrived on Sunday the 21st around 10 a.m. from Oslo and from there we made our way to the Abbington House Bed and Breakfast in the neighborhood of Drumcondra, about 10 to 15 minutes by tram from downtown Dublin. It’s a cute little bed and breakfast, but I’m learning European rooms can be tiny. Brandon and I barely had room to put our suitcases on the floor, and sometimes when passing each other in the room, one of us had to hop on the bed. It was quite the experience, but we managed!

We began our trip here with a free walking tour of Dublin. Our tour guide was absolutely hilarious and was what seemed to be fully Irish. His name was Eoin which is pronounced Owen in English. He started us at the Dublin Castle, which is where the government now works. It has a very fascinating history. The tax revenue office is now based in the building the British built. The tower of the castle is where they held prisoners. He told us about the speech Queen Elizabeth IInmade there in 2011, what an impact it made that she even visited and how profound it was when she greeted them in Irish, especially since the language had been banned for so long. He also talked about how Mel Gibson used the Irish Army soldiers in his movie “Bravehart” and how the scene about Normandy in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” was shot in Ireland. He talked about JFK’s visit a few months before he was assassinated. One-third of the population of Ireland stood along the streets to get a glimpse of him. His family had actually immigrated to the US from Ireland. The speech was about hope. It came at a time when the Irish really needed it because there was such a state of poverty and so many people were emigrating.

We saw the castle from the back in the garden. We learned more about the Irish language and how only about three percent of the population still speaks it fluently. There are even villages you can only live in and build a house in if you speak Irish fluently.

We saw the “40 steps” show in the movie “P.S. I Love You” (which I loved!) and the Temple Bar neighborhood where U2 got its start during a battle of the bands competition. Now Bono owns many of the bars, restaurants, and places in that area. We also visited Trinity College which was very pretty as well and had a chance to see the Leinster House. This houses the seat of Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland, and is modeled after the old and first White House (not to be confused with Aras an Uachtarain, or the “mini white house,” further out of the downtown area of Dublin).

After the tour, we tried to visit Stephens Park, but got distracted by a nice mall and by that time the park gates had closed. The mall and the outside shops along the cobblestone streets were so cute! Dublin was almost exactly as I had imagined it. Old buildings, cute cafes and coffee shops everywhere mixed with pubs. I absolutely loved it! I liked it was very pedestrian friendly and so colorful.

Earlier in the day, before the tour, we went to this cute little coffee shop called Bittersweet Cafe. There I ate a roasted chicken bacon chabatta sandwich. Really good and the latte was delicious as well. All the baked goods everywhere were so tempting! I have heard Europeans tend to have more fresh food than America does. McDonalds even had its own separate cafe with bakery items.

The clothing differences weren’t as apparent here as Norway. Still many skinny jeans, but more variety and everyone wasn’t as dressed up as Oslo. I also had to get used to people driving on the other side of the road. I kept looking the wrong way while while waiting for the tram to arrive! Of course, I enjoyed listening to the accents as well.

After getting a few gift items from the mall, and taking a few minute nap on a bench, we got Leo Purdock’s Fish and Chips (chips really means fries, crisps are chips). This came at the suggestion of a friend and it was delicious! It was rainy and cold that day, but we had to sit outside and eat anyway because it was the only place to go. We ended up back at where our tour group met, just on the other side of City Hall.

From there we walked to the river and I took plenty of pictures of the Ha’Penny Bridge. I noticed the engraved locks that had been put there, just like the “love lock” bridge in London which was recently taken down due to its weight. Walking along the river was pretty. We made our way to Tara Street and took the “DART” or tram/train from there. Back to our hotel, we were exhausted!

The next day was packed. We woke up pretty early and made our way to Kiemham Gaol, the city’s old prison. While I got in line for tickets, Brandon went to Spar, the local grocery chain/drug store to get the English breakfast roll (suggestion of the tour guide!). It was a heart attack waiting to happen, but it was delicious! It had several sausages, corned beef, ham and egg with sweet chili sauce on buttered bread. So good we ended up getting it two days in a row!

The prison tour was really interesting and actually only 4 Euros instead of 10 because they are doing renovation on it. (Currently one Euro is about $1.10 in the US.) It was interesting to hear how young children, even as young as 10 years old, were jailed for things such as stealing potatoes. Women and children were jailed and subjected to hard labor just like the men. The children had separate “exercise” yards from the men and women. We saw the jail cells, including solitary confinement and the big common area, as well as the execution yard where two crosses are now planted. The museum in the prison was huge, covering three floors with many artifacts and stories from those who spent time there.

Next we traveled to the Malahide Castle and Gardens outside Dublin. It’s one of the oldest castles in Ireland. This, too, was very fascinating. I really enjoyed its history. It was in the Talbot family for more than 700 years. It was claimed in about 1165 and was taken over from the Talbots for a short time. The land was given to them for helping and supporting the King. It was last lived in by Rose Talabot, but when her brother Milo died she couldn’t afford the taxes on the estate. She had to hand it over to the country, when then it was opened up to the public. She died at 93 years old in 2009 at the Malahide house in Tasmania. The rooms all had very unique facts about them and the gardens were so pretty. The whole castle covered more than 260 acres. The west garden is about 20 acres and the other garden (walled garden) is a bit smaller. It contains plants, trees, and flowers from all over the world. Milo started it due to his love of gardens. It included several green houses, a pond, and a “chicken yard.” The castle itself is said to be haunted.

From there we took two trains to Howth, a coastal community with several piers and cliffs northeast of Dublin. This, too, was of course beautiful. We walked along one pier where there were several restaurants. At the end of it you could see “Ireland’s Eye Island” and the Howth lighthouse on the other pier. It was so fascinating to see all the fishing boats. I couldn’t imagine doing that work!

We came across the imprint of King Edward’s footprints at the end of the pier. They are very tiny! We also observed seagulls fight over a starfish that had just been caught. We walked further towards the cliffs, hoping to do the cliff walk, but after waiting for the bus to come (we noticed busses and public transit didn’t seem to be much on time here), we decided we were too cold and couldn’t wait any longer to get to the summit. It was getting dark anyway.

From there we went back to the first pier to eat dinner at a seafood restaurant. We shared a platter for two. I never thought I’d like smoked salmon, but it didn’t taste fishy, which was good! It included fried fish, fish goujons (I think that’s the name?), calamari and salad. We also tried Bulmers cider as a suggestion from my friend. I highly suggest it!

Finally, after a long day, we went back to the hotel to get ready to leave for London the next day. 

I really hope to get back to Ireland someday. I just loved the atmosphere. The Irish were so funny and nice. Not a huge fan of the chilly rain, but I heard it rains a lot. As the tour guide said, “We have good days and we have authentic days!” 

Until next time Ireland, cheers!
Beauty of Dublin's Downtown, Castles and Nearby Howth Beauty of Dublin's Downtown, Castles and Nearby Howth Reviewed by Tara Grimes on June 05, 2018 Rating: 5

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