A long weekend in Dublin! What a nice way to cheer up a the autumn. An early evening flight brought Hattivatti and friends to the south side of central Dublin. After dropping the bags off at the O’Callaghan Mont Clare hotel, a proper pub dinner was in order. Some seafood chowder and a steak and Guinness pie at The Ginger Man was just the thing. The evening was quite short, as the following morning would start with alarms going off at 5:30 am.
The first morning started in the dark: it was time to head north! The Irish Day Tours bus took off at 6:30, headed via Belfast to the coast of Northern Ireland. The first couple hours passed quickly on the motorway, with most passengers napping, but after a stop for coffee, all were wide awake and ready to hear from Jennifer the guide about the bloody and brutal history of the divided northern corner of the Irish isle. Not a nice story…
After passing Belfast, the bus first took to the narrow coastal road running through quaint fishing villages and gleanns (gaelic for glens, i.e., valleys) and then moved on to narrow country lanes. Lush green countryside spotted with sheep and cows abounded, making it clear that agriculture is still a big part of life here.
The first sight on the tour was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was originally used by weather-hardened salmon fishermen, death-defyingly carrying their catch and nets over the bridge each day. Even with no added weight and two free hands, the walk over the bridge suspended about 30 m above the rocky sea was daunting. And once one went over, it was the only way back. This was one of those moments when Hattivatti was happy to just be carried along.
After a stop for some steak and Guinness pie, washed down naturally with a Guinness at The Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, the tour continued on to the Giant’s Causeway. Listed as a World Heritage Site, this amazing natural formation of volcanic basalt rock columns looks like a giant mosaic set by the seaside. One of a kind scenery!
Then it was time to start heading back, passing through the town of Bushmills (yes, that Bushmills) and stopping to admire the ruins of Dunluce Castle, which appears in the album sleeve of the Led Zeppelin album House of the Holy, which also features the Giant’s Causeway on the cover. The original itinerary included an hours stop in Belfast on the way back to Dublin, but a bomb threat and the subsequent traffic chaos swiftly led to a change of plans. No worries though: that just meant more time to enjoy the Friday evening in Dublin with good friends flying in to join the happy party. After spending 13 hours on the road and travelling a whopping 650 km in one day, a quiet evening at Probus with burgers, pizza, craft beer, and wine was more than welcome. The rowdy pubs could wait.
Breakfast the following morning consisted of salty crepes and warm sandwiches, filling and tasty, at the Lemon Crepe and Coffee Co. As there was nothing special planned for the day, the afternoon was spent leisurely walking through Temple Bar and along the River Liffey with stops at pubs such as The Norseman, J.W. Sweetman, and The Brew Dock. Then on to the oldest pub in Ireland, the Brazen Head, for a hearty pub dinner of Irish stew and bangers & mash washed down with pints of Guinness. The entertainment was supplied by a group of Frenchmen, avidly watching the World Rugdy Cup on TV while trying to impress a couple of young American tourists.
A quiet corner in The Porterhouse was just the place for a wee digestive dram before heading through the noise and hassle of Temple Bar in full swing, halting to enjoy some street musicians along the way. The final stop on the trip back to the hotel was made a bit exciting by a bunch of young Irishmen who were convinced that one of Hattivatti’s companions was a Jürgen Klopp from the German national soccer team. All in all an interesting day.
Sunday morning means brunch in Dublin as well, and a nice version of such was found at the 3rd Floor Espresso, a small trendy coffee shop with tasty food, flavorful coffee, and very friendly staff. With yet again full stomachs, a walk in the campus area of Trinity College was welcome before heading to the Science Gallery to find out some secrets sbout surveillance and spying at a free exhibition. Intriguing and slightly intimidating at the same time.
The main attraction for the day was Kilmainham Gaol, an infamous jail where especially Irish political prisoners were held and also executed over a couple centuries before its closure in 1924. The one hour guided tour offered a crash course in Irish political history and was well worth the trouble. To lighten the somber mood, our troop headed to another Dublin landmark, the Jameson distillery. Some Irish coffee and other hot drinks in the bar hit the spot and brought some welcome internal warmth.
What else was there then to do but search for dinner, which this time was found at Arthur’s Pub, where sheperd’s pie and fish’n’chips were devoured. Live pub music in the form of a talented trio was also finally experienced. To round the evening off, a last stop was made at The Dingle Whiskey Bar. Not at all a bad way to end the day. Overall quite a nice and versatile trip. And even the morning flight home went without a hitch!