Weekend Traveller – Dublin
My latest trip involved another long weekend away, not in the UK and not quite as far as other city breaks such as the one to Athens. This time we hopped on the short flight over to the Irish city of Dublin.
It’s been around 14 years since I last visited Dublin and to be honest, it really hasn’t changed that much except with a much bigger foodie scene.
We flew out with Ryanair from Manchester airport on a Thursday morning, i booked a few extras to make the trip a little more stress free, you can read about those here, or about the 1903 Lounge at Manchester T3 here.
On arrival we exited the airport and decided to take the shuttle bus to the city centre. Right outside the airport you can buy a single use ticket for 7 Euro, then simply board the next bus. The trip take just over 30 mins, with this time not being affected too much by traffic, due to it using a pretty much empty tunnel most of the way.
There are various drop offs around the city and we got off at one that we knew was about a 7 min walk to our hotel.
Getting off we started walking alongside the river Liffey. The place still looked exactly the same as my last visit and it wasn’t long until I spotted the Ha’penny Bridge, a real Dublin Icon.
The hotel for this trip was The Morrison, which is actually a Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. it is located along the banks of the river itself and directly opposite the area known as Temple Bar.
The hotel check in was smooth and the staff were very friendly, I also used their local knowledge to find out about local places to eat etc.
We were lucky enough to be upgraded to a superior room which was light and airy, but very pink! One major drawback is their was only a tiny window looking out to brick wall, which was a major shame as I’m sure the rooms looking to the front would have gorgeous views of the city and the river.
Their did seem to be quite a buzzing cocktail /wine bar in the hotel, which in normal circumstances would have been very appealing, however being just a river bridge and a few steps away from Temple Bar, we decided to head out and explore.
Temple Bar is spread over a number of cobbled streets and is rammed with bars, pubs and restaurants. It is a major pull for tourists as well as stag and hen parties. One of the most iconic bars is The Temple Bar itself, which is said to be one of the most photographed pub fascias. We were lucky enough to get in there just as a seat became available, as usually people are queuing for standing room only.
The area started after Sir William Temple built his house and gardens on reclaimed land in 1599. Later after a sea wall was built to hold back the river, his son went on to develop the area, this was then know as Temple’s Barr (Barr meaning a raised estuary sandbank).
After a pint and a good old Irish sing song we headed off for some dinner. One of the restaurants that is fairly close to the hotel is called The Church.
Located at the Junction of Mary St & Jervis St, The Church has won a number of awards, including a ‘Best Old Building Award’ as it is housed in a converted 17th Century Church, which has been sympathetically transformed into a restaurant.
Complete with old staircases, stained glass windows and organ, the setting is gorgeous, unfortunately the food didn’t meet the same standards.
Dishes served up reminded me more of a chain of bar food, which was a shame as done correctly, this could have been an amazing restaurant. I guess one of the major issues in a city like Dublin, is that they can rely on tourists rather than locals. Having said that, the girls at the hotel said they enjoyed a drink and chicken wings in the downstairs bar area as they had the opinion that the upstairs restaurant was ‘posh’. More like a tourist trap – so if you do visit to see the stunning building, maybe have a drink and chicken wings in the bar like the locals do.
We headed back to the hotel just a stone’s throw away and got some much needed sleep, then upon rising we decide to head for breakfast before facing the day ahead.
The hotel rate was room only, with breakfast being an expensive add on, so we decided to use that as a good excuse to find a few other places to eat.
Day two breakfast was at Brother Hubbard, again just a short walk from the hotel and set in a restaurant once run by Gary Rhodes. Comprising of a coffee shop/roastery, cake shop and restaurant, the menu has lots of middle eastern influence.
I decided to go for a simple breakfast of Bacon and Cheese Sandwich (7 Euros) with an added fried Egg (1.50 Euros), which with a coffee came to less than half the price of the hotel breakfast. It was substantial and I left full. It was also incredibly tasty and I wouldn’t hesitate in going back.
No trip to Dublin is complete without visiting both the Jameson’s Distillery and the Guinness Storehouse, both icons of the city. Therefore day two was all about being a tourist.
The Jameson’s Distillery is not actually a distillery anymore, with their production now taking place in Midleton, Cork. It was on this site however, that production of the world famous brand (Jameson’s accounts for around 70% of Irish Whiskey sales in the US) first commenced.
The Distillery Experience allows you to learn about the production process, with the chance to see and smell the various elements involved in the production, as well as being able to taste and compare this Irish Whiskey to market leaders in the US and of course Scotland.
The tour has changed dramatically since I did it around 14 years ago. It is much more upto date and interactive and I’m sure this helps to increase the number of visitors by being more streamlined, however it did lack a lot of the original feeling of actually being in the old distillery. To be honest you could have been anywhere once your inside, having said that, it was still as interesting as it ever was and for anyone that has never done any kind of distillery tour before, you will learn a lot about the production of Whiskey.
The Guinness Storehouse is the second must do. It also allows you to step back in time, as you journey through floors detailing the history, production, advertising and of course tasting of the black stuff. This is a self guided tour, you simply walk from room to room, floor to floor watching interactive displays.
There is a chance to learn how to pour the perfect pint as well as being able to have your own face printed onto a pint, using new technology known as Ripples, which uses 3D printer technology and a malt based ‘ink’.
The tour finishes with your own pint, enjoyed at their rooftop ‘Gravity Bar’, which has panoramic views of the entire city.
We booked both of these tours separately, however if your looking for a ram packed day and want to visit even more attractions, then it may be worth purchasing a ‘Dublin Pass’ which gives you entrance to many of the city’s attractions as well as use of the hop on – hop off bus service.
For dinner tonight, being a Friday, we ended up deciding on a fish and chip supper. After a little research we headed to Leo Burdock’s in Temple Bar.
Said to be one of the early purveyors of fish and chips in the area, the wall hosts pictures of hundreds of celebrities and dignitaries who have eaten there. We order and take a seat at one of the few tables inside.
Within minutes we are served up our fish and chips. Was it good – Yes. Was it a life changing experience – not really! The fish was really good – having ordered a battered smoked fish, that was bursting with flavour, but like everything else, you pay a hell of a lot for simply being where you are, with Fish and Chips setting you back 11 Euros per person.
Well fed and watered we retire for the night, preparing for the final day and the trip home.
For day 3, we end up crossing the river for breakfast and head to Dollard and Co, an upmarket deli and food hall owned by Press Up Entertainment (Ireland’s leading hospitality brand with a huge number of restaurants, bars and hotels in the area, including a number of franchised brands).
Breakfast time was busy and we only just managed to grab a table, before heading up to order.
Full Irish for me.
Eggs Benedict for India.
Both dishes were again good, and much less than the hotel breakfast charge, which while I can not comment on, as I never tried it, I’m sure would have been a standard hotel buffet.
The weather gods were not being kind today and its non stop rain, we therefore decided to do a tour of Dublin Castle. On arrival it appears everyone had the same idea, so we had to book onto a later tour in the afternoon.
We took the chance to wander around some more of the sites and even found the oldest pub – The Brazen Head.
Dating back to 1198, this cosy little pub was a welcome break. Yes it was busy and full of tourists, but we did manage to get a stool at the bar and was pleased to see that locals were in there drinking and not just tourists.
When the time came we headed for our tour of the castle. You can opt to do a self guided tour for 8 Euros, however this only allows you to visit the state rooms. For a few Euro more, you can have a guide who will take you into the basement, where the original parts of the castle walls and moat can still be seen.
The guide also takes you into the chapel, with its amazing wood carvings and stained glass windows.
I have to say, the guide we had was very knowledgeable, however really seemed to struggle to bring any of the story to life, however for the sake of a few more Euros just to get to see this hidden gems, it’s definitely well worth it.
Time had now come, to head back to the airport. We collected our bags from the hotel and ordered a taxi – for this I used the app ‘Free Now’, which is similar to Uber but for licenced / black taxis. The taxi back to the airport was just over 20 Euro.
We had checked in online so headed straight to security, which was no bother. For the return we had the lounge booked at Dublin Airport which costs 25 Euro per person.
The lounge was very quiet, but wasn’t a patch on the 1903 Lounge at Manchester that we used on the way out. However there was a football match on that I wanted to watch, so with my Ipad on the Wi-Fi and headphones on, I managed to sit back for a couple of hours and watch the game with a few beers and nibbles, it was almost like not being at the airport for over 2 hours.
The trip to Dublin was a nice long weekend, it really hasn’t changed much in the last 14 years and I won’t be heading back again just yet as there are many more places that I need to see. However if you have never been, then make a visit – just make sure you’ve lots of spending money for that food and drink!