Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ireland travels - Dublin and surrounds

Why, hello! I didn't intend to drop off the radar for nearly a week. However, Ireland has been rather lulling and between sight-seeing, 20 mile running and catch up sleeping, blogging hasn't really fit into my schedule. I suspect it will take me a while to work through our trip (and there are still 4 days to go), but I'm taking the opportunity to share some of our time in Dublin today.

Dublin's River Liffey

Ireland has been full of surprises thus far. It isn't as green as I'd expected, and there are sections of shrub and heath that almost remind me of Australia (although not quite). The people are amazingly friendly. The roads are generally wide and often empty, and there are lots of runners and cyclists. Houses are often painted in attractive vibrant colours.

Colourful architecture, near Dublin Castle
Dublin itself was also surprising, in large part because it was so small. It is the capital of Ireland yet houses under 530,000 people. The central city area is vibrant and busy, but it turns to sprawling suburbia very quickly. There is an amazing sense of space for so small a country.

Old gates, Kilmainham

We had two full days in Dublin itself, and spent the first one exploring the central town area, including Dublin Castle, Christ Church and St Patrick's Cathedrals, and the Chester Beatty Library. The original Dublin Castle has largely gone, and the buildings comprising the castle area are mostly made up of ornate state rooms that housed past royalty and nobles. They are very impressive, and the guided tour is worthwhile for sharing insights into the history. However, we were sorry there wasn't more of the original castle.

State apartments, Dublin Castle

We didn't venture inside the cathedrals, but they are imposing structures from the outside. We were fortunate with sunny weather on our Dublin days, so it was enjoyable to wander the town taking in sights at leisure.

St Patrick's Cathedral

Chester Beatty Library houses an impressive collection of ancient manuscripts, written works and pieces of art ranging from 2700BC until the present day. It is free and a very worthwhile stop. The collections stem from the original private collections of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, which in many ways makes it even more admirable - that one man could found such an amazing collection. Photography isn't allowed, so I can't share images, but it was an enjoyable visit. I especially liked the ancient religious scribes, which must have seen so much in their history before ending up in the collection.

Christ Church Cathedral

The library, cathedrals and castle are all within a central area by the old section of the town. We stumbled across a cozy restaurant just across from the castle, Falafel Lounge, which offers a selection of salads to pair with (surprise!) falafel balls. I enjoyed a brocolli mix and a barley and pomegranate salad, while Mr Bite had pesto pasta and potato salad. The falafels came with tahini sauce, and I liked the set up of mixing them with salads of choice. The restaurant doesn't seem to have a website, but I have provided address details at the end.

Falafel plus salads, courtesy of the vegetarian Falafel Lounge

On our second Dublin day, we had planned to visit Kilmainham Gaol, which is a fairly renowned attraction. Alas, it was so renowned there were long queues for the tours and we would have had to wait 90 minutes or so. We decided we could skip it, and instead wandered the attractive formal gardens at the adjacent Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Formal gardens, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham

That same day, we took in the excellent archaeology branch of the National Museum of Ireland, which covers Irish history with well thought out exhibits. It is near Trinity College, which has attractive buildings and relaxed student vibes, and we were again fortunate with beautiful weather.

Trinity College

We had intended to eat out on our nights in Dublin, but circumstance conspired to result in three nights of take away instead. The first was due to not having a booking at the well reviewed Independent Pizza Company. Having set our hearts (and stomachs) on pizza, we took some back to our hotel instead: his (no sweetcorn) and hers (no cheese) versions of their vegetarian special pizza. We enjoyed them, although perhaps not as much as the stellar reviews would have suggested.

I'll share our other Dublin eating experiences another time, along with more of our travels. Dublin is already feeling like a long time ago, so I am glad I have gathered my thoughts on it before more time passed!

Details of Dublin Castle can be found at . It is open daily and is located on Dame Street, Dublin 2. There is a cost for admission.

Details of Chester Beatty Library can be found at It is open daily and is located just behind Dublin Castle. Entry is free.

Details of the National Museum of Ireland can be found at There are three branches; the archaeology branch is located on Kildare Street, Dublin 2. It is open daily and entry is free.

The Falafel Lounge is located at 68 Dame Street, Dublin 2.

The Independent Pizza Company is located at 28 Drumcondra Road, Dublin 9. Details can be found at Bookings are recommended!

Have you visited Ireland? Or where was the last place you visited that was different to your expectations?


  1. Thanks for the nostalgia this post caused! I was in Dublin in 2007. I, too, was surprised at how "not green" it was. I'd love to go back and explore the Irish countryside! And the corn-as-pizza-topping was a shock to us. Although I have since tried corn on pizza and it's actually pretty good!

    1. I rather like it too (corn on pizza)! I'm glad it wasn't just me who was surprised by the Dublin / Irish landscapes :-)

  2. I didn't realise the capital is so small. I love the architecture, especially the Christ Church Cathedral - so beautiful. Lovely to see some blue sky in one of the images. The pizzas look good too. Glad to hear you're having a lovely holiday xx

    1. Thanks Charlie. And I know, I thought Australian cities were small, but Ireland's are most definitely smaller!

  3. Glad you are enjoying Dublin - it is probably one of the cities in the world I have visited the most and been to lots of attractions and I am very fond of it. I am surprised to hear that Kilmainham Gaol was so busy as I remember going there when it was very quiet many years ago. I have only visited the Chester Beatty Library on our last visit to Dublin and was impressed with it. I would love to have a house with such treasures stored in it - how amazing would that be.

    1. How interesting regarding the gaol. The guidebook I looked at before visiting (from the library - a recent edition) warned of the possible busyness, so perhaps it has grown in reputation over the years.

      I too would love a house filled with treasures such as the Chester Beatty collection!

  4. Those cathedrals are stunning! I'd love to visit Dublin one day. From your post, it sounds like there's lots to see and do :)
    Enjoy the rest of your holiday! xx

    1. There is indeed - and it's a very easy trip from the UK!


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