This is the first of at least two posts about what Christine and I got up to last week whilst we were in Dublin – the focus of this one being about the attractions we visited, in no particular order.
Allegedly the most-visited attraction in Ireland, the Guinness Storehouse tells the history of Guinness, which is probably the most well-known brand of stout in the world. Although Guinness is still brewed in Dublin, on a huge site just outside the city centre, the Storehouse is across the road and not part of the main brewery site. Consequently everything inside is simulated or are static models, rather than actual, in-use brewing equipment like you would see on a tour of a microbrewery.
It’s one of Dublin’s more expensive attractions, however we spent a few hours here so it was somewhat worth it. Except that neither me or Christine particularly like Guinness – Christine hates beer altogether, and although I like stout and porter from time to time, I’ve never enjoyed Guinness in the past. And, sadly, our visit was to be the same – despite being shown how to pour my own pint, I still didn’t like it. The restaurants inside are very good though, with an above average food selection and many menu items using Guinness as an ingredient. For beer-haters, there is some interesting displays about Guinness’ advertising and how beer is made.
The Old Jameson Distillery
If Guinness is Ireland’s best known beer, then Jameson is its best known whiskey. Like the Guinness Storehouse, the Old Jameson Distillery isn’t an active distillery as production was moved to the southern Irish city of Cork in the 1970s, although here some of the displays were active. It’s a guided tour, taking about an hour, with eight volunteers being picked for a whiskey test at the end. You should definitely volunteer if asked, as you get to try shots of Jameson’s whiskey, Jack Daniels’ bourbon, and a blended Scotch whiskey, to compare the three styles. Christine was chosen – I didn’t volunteer because I don’t like neat whiskey, but enjoyed a Jameson and ginger beer drink at the end, and a really nice Irish coffee in the bar. Again, a pricier attraction but we enjoyed this more than Guinness.
Christine and I love visiting zoos so we spent most of last Monday at Dublin Zoo, as many other attractions in the city are closed on Mondays. It’s quite a big zoo, and whilst it has fewer animals than some others it does have some big enclosures. It was quite quiet when we went but it was a weekday and not especially nice weather, so at other times it will probably be busier. We were also wisely advised to take a packed lunch, as the food offerings there are not great. It’s home to two species of tiger (both very endangered), red pandas (my favourite animal), otters, lions, various apes, penguins and many others. The entry price is in line with other zoos over here in Britain.
Natural History Museum
After you’ve visited the zoo, have a look at the ‘dead zoo’ – yes, it’s really known as that. Though significantly smaller than its London namesake, and less interactive, the Natural History Museum has an extensive collection of stuffed animals. The ground floor is set aside for species native to or resident in Ireland, with everything else upstairs. The two balcony floors are currently out of bounds due to a lack of fire exits but most of the exhibits are viewable. Some of the specimens are very old, and were stuffed at a time when people were less familiar with exotic animals, so there are some slightly dodgy examples of taxidermy on show. Entry is free, although it is shut on Sunday mornings and all day Monday. Set aside a little over an hour for a visit.
The Temple Bar is a district of Dublin which is home to many pubs and restaurants – the above pub gets its name from the area, rather than the other way around. It’s nice for a stroll through but livens up on an evening.
General Post Office
I’ve already briefly mentioned this one, but it’s worth a look. As well as being the main post office for the city, there is a small museum inside, which tells the history of Ireland’s postal service. In particular, there is quite a bit about its role in the Easter Rising of 1916, which set in motion various events over the next decade which ultimately led to Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom. It’s only €2 to get in, and kept us occupied for up to an hour. You can also post letters and postcards into the oldest postbox in the country, and any mail collected from it will get a unique cancellation stamp.
We decided not to do the guided tour of Dublin Castle, which costs money, but there were plenty of bits to walk around for free. Follow the signs to the tearooms, and you will go past several boards with information about the history of the castle, and its wider role in Irish history. You can also cross a bridge into Dubh Linn Gardens, at the back of the castle, which are nice to walk around.
Another historical attraction worth visiting is Kilmainham Gaol. Though it’s been many years since prisoners were interned there, it forms an important part of the history of the nation. The population exploded during a crime wave brought on by the potato famine – as the potato crop failed for several years running, those without food had to steal to survive, and many were caught. But in the early twentieth century many of those involved in campaigning for Irish independence, and those that opposed the Irish Free State in the Irish Civil War, were imprisoned and executed here. There’s both a small museum, and a guided tour of the main jail.
The jail isn’t in the centre of Dublin and is a good 20 minute walk from the Guinness Storehouse, itself away from the city centre. If you’re not up for a long walk, you may wish to catch the bus out here. It’s worth the long trip though.