My eachtra aisling Éireannach (Irish dream adventure) began with a 4-day stay in the Dublin area, during which I went on 3 sightseeing walks. The first was kind of a brief initial exploration, the second was a more extensive walk through the Temple Bar and River Liffey areas, and the third was a revisit to the center city area after completing the half marathon. All of these walks began and ended at my hotel. True its reputation, the weather presented a variety, with changes happening fairly rapidly, including light rain.
Prior to the first walk I’d been on the ground only a few hours, and I needed to go to an exhibition hall to pick up my half marathon participant materials (bib, shirt, goodie bag, and so on). Fortunately this was only about 1½ miles from my hotel – it was a convenient distance to walk to get some fresh air, stretch my legs, and hopefully help keep me awake until a decent hour in the evening. Before I set out, the hotel concierge kindly marked a map for me with the hotel and exhibition hall locations, as well as a suggested walking route.
Note: Since my GPS software does not include any maps in Europe, my GPS tracks for this trip will all be displayed in Google Earth. In the track for the first day’s walk the hotel is at the left and the exhibition hall is at the right; the track is displayed blue.
GPS track for Aug 2 walk
I had gone just a couple of blocks when I heard a bird chattering and saw it fly away from the sidewalk into a tree on the grounds of an apartment complex. It turned out to be a magpie: in Europe it’s called a European or Eurasian magpie, and in the US it’s called a black-billed magpie. Apparently it’s the same species (pica pica)!
On my way to the exhibition hall I passed through a mostly residential area, including a parish church (Church of Ireland, Parish of St Bartholomew). In one of the driveways I noted a car restoration project. There was also a local commercial area with – of course! – a pub or two.
The River Dodder passes through this area, and the designation Ballsbridge refers to an actual bridge, Ball’s Bridge, originally built in 1791. Along the edge of the river I saw what I think were black-headed gulls, as well as a grey heron.
Grey heron feeding in the River Dodder
At the Health Expo where I picked up my half marathon numbered bib, I was amused to note that one of the exhibit booths was basically a cupcake stand; usually the food items in the Health Expo are more like race nutrition and organic foods. There were at least 10 or 15 types of cupcake available, and I couldn’t resist trying one!
For my second day’s walk, I headed the other direction to visit Trinity College, the Temple Bar district, the River Liffey, Christ Church Cathedral, and Dublin Castle. The hotel is at the lower right of the GPS track, which is again shown in blue.
GPS track for Aug 3 walk
My path to the city center crossed the Grand Canal and passed through St Stephen’s Green, a 22-acre public park in the Victorian style (see the green square almost in the center of the GPS track image). Each of the 4 times I walked through St Stephen’s Green I took a slightly different route, enjoying trees, lawns, magpies, flower plantings, and a small ornamental lake with swans, ducks, and herring gulls.
My first major stop was Trinity College, created by royal charter in 1592 and formally titled College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin. Near the main entrance is a beautiful campanile, or bell tower.
Campanile, Trinity College
I was hoping to view the Book of Kells, housed in the Old Library building. This involved waiting in an imposing-looking queue. Fortunately the queue moved steadily and everyone was friendly and seemed equally excited to get in to see the exhibit. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript, which means that various ornamentations (initials, borders, and miniature illustrations) have been added to the text. It contains the four Gospels in Latin. Created in a monastery around 800AD, it is considered by some to be Ireland’s finest national treasure. Seeing it was well worth the half-hour wait!
After exiting the exhibit, I continued directly to the famous Long Room, which houses some 200,000 books, a mere 4% of the entire Old Library collection. The Long Room is simply magnificent, 65 meters long with a high, arched ceiling. There are two galleries, with lettered alcoves lining both sides of the central hall. Beautiful spiral staircases allow access (by staff only!) to the upper gallery. Each alcove contains two floor-to-ceiling sets of shelves, with each shelf labelled. So every book housed in the Long Room can be located to its shelf with just two coordinates. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a bit of a musty odor, associated with the number and age of the books housed there.
Long Room, in the Old Library of Trinity College
There was a special exhibit about Brian Boru, Ireland’s most famous king, and the Battle of Clontarf, where he was killed in 1014. A special, permanent, exhibit, is one of three surviving medieval Gaelic harps, known as the Brian Boru harp.
Ready for some fresh air, I headed for the adjacent Temple Bar district, where I walked along Fleet Street past a TGI Friday’s on my way to the River Liffey, which winds through the center city. The river is relatively narrow, and over a dozen bridges cross it in center city. First I crossed the O’Connell Bridge, known for being wider than it is long. I walked a bit farther north to view the Spire, a cone-shaped sculpture some 120 meters tall, with a diameter of 3 meters at the base and 15 cm at the top. It is thought to be the world’s tallest sculpture.
Spire of Dublin
Next I walked a couple of blocks southwest to cross the Ha’Penny Bridge, viewed here from O’Connell Bridge. Ha’Penny Bridge was the first pedestrian bridge in Dublin, built in 1816. It was originally a toll bridge; its half-penny toll was exactly equal to the fare for the about-to-be-redundant ferry. It was the only pedestrian bridge across the river until the nearby Millennium Bridge was built in 1999.
Something that both impressed and amused me was the prevalence of indications, painted right on the street pavement, reminding pedestrians which way to look before crossing the street. Clearly there are many visitors from countries in which the driving conventions differ from Ireland (where you drive on the left)!
Look to the right to avoid being run over
After enjoying the River Liffey and the 3 bridges I walked across, I continued southwest to Christ Church Cathedral (at the left of the GPS track), which was probably founded around 1030. Some of the building dates from the 1100’s but there has been extensive rebuilding over the centuries.
Christ Church Cathedral
Not surprising for a church of its age, there is a lot of history associated with Christ Church. For one thing, music has been very important; there are several plaques and other exhibits. The choir was founded in 1480, and in 1742 a combined choir with St. Patrick’s Cathedral gave the world premier performance of Handel’s Messiah, conducted by the composer. Here is a beautiful group of stained glass windows in the nave.
Stained glass windows, Christ Church Cathedral
While walking around the interior, when I got to the area where the choir typically sits, I was surprised to see it signed “Quire”. Later I learned that this is an accepted alternate spelling for this area in a church or cathedral. (Live and learn…)
The crypt is very interesting. Dating from the 12th century, it is thought to be the oldest structure in Dublin. It was restored in 2000 and opened for public visits. One interesting exhibit is a collection of sliver gilt plate presented to the cathedral by King William III and Queen Mary following the king’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Another is a display of a mummified cat and rat, which apparently became trapped together in an organ pipe in the 1850’s and were found sometime later.
The cat and the rat, Christ Church Cathedral crypt
I had been hoping to have afternoon tea in a little tea room in the crypt, but unfortunately it wasn’t open. Continuing on my itinerary, I started back toward the Temple Bar area. Along the way I passed a large bike rental facility and was passed by various tour buses. The most interesting was this one, which apparently has an amphibious aspect to it – and participants are encouraged to wear Viking hats while on the tour.
Viking hat, anyone?
A short distance from Christ Church is Dublin Castle, which has been continuously inhabited since its founding in 1204. I briefly visited the Chapel Royal and viewed the adjacent Record Tower. Most interesting, however, was an exhibit of sand sculpture in the Great Courtyard. The exhibit included 3 sculptures with a theme of black, white, and grey. I particularly liked the sculpture corresponding to black, which depicts a portrait of Albert Einstein stretched over the event horizon of a black hole (on the other side of the sculpture).
Sand sculpture at Dublin Castle
After a break for a late lunch, I started back to the hotel. As I walked along King Street, which, like many others in Dublin, has a particular name for only a few blocks, I passed the Gaiety Theatre. I was interested to note that the 20th Anniversary Tour of Riverdance was playing there.
After passing through St Stephen’s Green again, I continued along Leeson Street Lower. I began to pay attention to the variety of colors of front doors to apartments or other units in the buildings, and I captured quite a few images before I crossed the Grand Canal and arrived at my hotel.
Colorful doors of Dublin
My third walk was the following day, in the afternoon after completing the half marathon in the morning. Once again I went to the center city and River Liffey area. This time the weather was relatively clear and dry.
GPS track for Aug 4 walk
I took my time and just enjoyed the day. When I got to the Grand Canal I walked along the side for a few blocks. The surface of the water was smooth like glass.
I spent some time observing a moorhen walking around by the edge of the canal and in the grass. Its feet seem exceptionally big!
I continued to St Stephen’s Green, where I enjoyed watching a mute swan swimming in the lake.
Mute swan in St Stephen’s Green’s lake
I continued through the Temple Bar district to the River Liffey. This view is from Ha’Penny Bridge looking toward O’Connell Bridge.
After strolling along the riverfront for awhile, I retraced my way through the Temple Bar district and along Grafton Street. There were several street musicians and other street performers. This group was particularly interesting; there were actually people in these unusual costumes, in stationary poses.
Unusual street performers
After a break for a snack I walked through St Stephen’s Green one final time. There were plenty of Dubliners enjoying the beautiful summer early evening. There was even a young woman practicing cartwheels!
My time in Dublin was too brief to be able to visit as much as I would have liked. Indeed, on the third day it would have been too rushed to visit any museums or indoor venues, so I simply enjoyed walking outdoors in the beautiful weather. I would enjoy having an opportunity for a return visit.