I can’t quite put my finger on it, but visiting Dublin is like coming home.
I have no Irish ancestors. So perhaps it’s the familiarity of the history or the beauty of the oh-so-green landscape that I long for. Maybe it’s the warm welcomes or the twinkle in the local’s eyes.
Revisiting the elegant city of Dublin 20 years on from when I was a young and sprightly traveller, I realised what a comfortable, walkable city it is. My plan was to cross the Liffey River, revisit my remembered favourite sites, and uncover the emerging attractions, all the while catching up with the renowned food scene that has taken a great gourmet leap of note.
The fair city of Dublin had put on the usual summer weather for me: sunshine, then light, misty rain, and sunshine again (locally known as a ‘soft day’). The order of the day is to wear walking shoes, take a light jacket and a brolly, and set off to do the Dublin dance.
Every step of the way offers the joy of seeing the splendid Georgian Squares and townhouses. Oh, those lovely painted doors – red wins every time.
The term Georgian Dublin originates from 1714 to 1830 – a time when four different British and Irish kings were all named George. Medieval Dublin received a royal makeover with early developments such as Henrietta Street, elegant terraces, charming squares and the bold buildings Leinster House, the Hugh Lane Gallery and King’s Inns.
The architectural golden age has left a fine legacy and today, Merrion Square, St Stephen’s Green and Fitzwilliam Square are some of the city’s most beautiful examples of the Georgian period.
What to do in Dublin
The Little Museum of Dublin was a highlight of my trip. The devil is in the detail in this small museum with a big heart. The award-winning museum, set in a grand Georgian terrace home, showcases the Irish capital of the 20th century. It opened in 2011 with a public appeal for historic objects. The impressive response to the appeal illustrates the generous nature of the Irish people. Each of the exhibits is brought to life by the personal, homely tales behind the objects. I admit to taking a sneaky selfie with a wax replica of U2’s Bono. Still a rock ‘n’ roll fan. If you book a ticket on Dublin Hop On Hop Off bus, you get free entry to this museum.
The National Library of Dublin, is another wonderful place to spend an afternoon. The library has more than eight million items in its collection, including a comprehensive compilation of music, periodicals and photographs, maps, manuscripts and genealogical material. Little rooms throughout the library hold small yet important exhibitions. I was lucky enough to be there for a wonderful FREE exhibition, Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats.
If you love books – you should visit Marsh’s Library. The perfectly preserved library of the early Enlightenment period still has original oak bookcases which hold more than 25,000 rare and fascinating books. It’s ancient places like this that give a sense of continuity of the city populace.
Trinity College Dublin.
An absolute Dublin must-do is a visit to the famous Long Room of Trinity College. This room is a splendour to behold. Give yourself an hour here and discover the exquisite Book of Kells and the Old Library at the college.
Dublin doesn’t have too much evidence of Viking history remaining. But you can delve back into the Scandinavian past of this city at the exhibition at Dublinia (owned by the Medieval Trust). Viking Dublin and Medieval Dublin recreate the city through life-size reconstructions including a Viking house and a medieval fair.
When a hearty dinner beckons, head to Nassau Street, opposite the lovely green spaces of the Trinity College parklands. Here you will find The Pig’s Ear. Take a stairway to heaven off the street to a bustling little restaurant with a menu that punches far above its weight. The food is sensational – go for the slow-cooked lamb and linger longer.