Dublin Farewell

This was my last full day in Dublin. I was kind of lazy, and just spent the day wandering around Grafton Street and Temple Bar. Apparently, the bank holiday that I thought was last weekend is, in fact, this weekend, so my comments about how busy it was on Monday seem kind of quaint after going out today.

Nothing really special to report, except that I stopped in for some ice cream at Murphy’s Ice Cream. I’d been walking past their shops in each of the cities I’ve stayed in this trip, and finally broke down to give it a try. The young man offering samples convinced me to try Dingle Sea Salt ice cream and Caramelised Brown Bread ice cream, which were both pretty tasty, so I got a cup with a scoop of each, and I gotta tell ya, they were awesome together.

I also completed the last little bit of shopping I wanted to do, and came back to the flat by a roundabout route. This evening, I’m going to get most of my packing done, so I’m ready to head out the door moderately early tomorrow morning. I don’t want to have to rush at the airport.

Tomorrow’s going to be a long day, with a long1 layover in Toronto, and I’m not looking forward to that bit. I’m going to miss Ireland – I’ve had an awesome vacation here, again – but I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night.

Slán leat, Dublin.

  1. 6-7 hours. []

By the Sea

Today was the last tour I have scheduled for this trip. When I woke up1, I was tired, and it was raining, and I thought long and hard about whether I actually wanted to go. In the end, I realized that I was all dressed and ready to leave, so I figured I might as well go.

There’s this area around Trinity College that is just a nightmare at rush hour. I’m not a nervous passenger, most of the time, but the cab driver I had was… let’s call him daring. Weaving around buses and trams, cars and cyclists, talking the entire time about how the Liffey was low today because of the tides, and how that made the smell terrible.

But I made it to the tour office on time, and made it on to the tour bus. It was a tour of Malahide Castle and the coastal area of Dublin, including the fishing village of Howth. Maybe it was the fact that it was an early-ish, half-day tour, or maybe it was the fact that it was raining, but there were only ten of us on the tour. I like the smaller group tours.

There was a bit of a mad rush from the bus to the Malahide Castle welcome centre, and again from the welcome centre to the castle itself, because of the pelting rain. Malahide is, according to our guide, from the Irish phrase Mullach Íde, which he said meant “By the Sea.” 

This is Malahide Castle. It took some time standing out in front of the castle to get the picture without a bunch of people in it during a lull in the rain. The woman standing there? Yeah, all her friends said, “These people are trying to take a picture, so let’s stay out of the way,” and she walked right to where she’s standing and stood there, waiting. I gave up and just took the picture.
The Oak Room is part of the medieval section of the castle. It’s a dark room, with everything done in oak wall panels. There was a time when, due to a dream of the Virgin Mary, who said that the room should be decorated in ivory, that the columns were all painted white. That didn’t last long, because they decided that it made the place look too much like a candlemaker’s shop.

There was a panel with a carving of the Virgin Mary over the fireplace that apparently disappeared for ten years when Oliver Cromwell seized the castle and gave it to one of his favourites, but it returned when the rightful owners2 reclaimed the castle. It was touted as a miracle, and apparently no one suggested that the Talbots might have taken the carving with them when they surrendered the castle and replaced it when they reclaimed their ancestral3 home.

This is the drawing room, decorated in Georgian Style. A lot of the furniture in the castle, and most in this room, is original to the castle, and the Talbots. It was mostly auctioned off in the 70s, but several years ago, National Gallery (which had purchased most of the furniture and art) returned a lot of it for display here.
Toys in the children’s room upstairs. I just thought they were cool.
The library, off the great hall. It used to hold all the records and accounts for the castle, but those have been moved to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. These are substitute books, correct for the Victorian decor.

There are, apparently, extensive and impressive gardens at Malahide Castle, but the rain convinced me to skip them.

The bus tour continued, and our next stop was the fishing village of Howth, on the peninsula sheltering Dublin Bay. The rain had stopped by the time we got there, and we had a little time to go for a walk on the pier.

This is the lighthouse in Howth harbour.
Ireland’s Eye is an uninhabited island off the opening to Howth harbour. I like the notch in the rock.

And then it was back to Dublin, just in time for me to get rained on again, so I decided to go see a movie.

Tomorrow, it’s a free day, and my last day in Ireland. I’m going to spend some time looking around the neighbourhood, and maybe walking through the Temple Bar area.

  1. Much earlier than I really wanted to, because I had to get down to O’Connell Street before 9:00. []
  2. The Talbots. []
  3. Apparently, the Talbots held Malahide Castle for 788 years, less the ten years of Cromwell’s buddy’s residence. []

Phoenix Park Fail

My plan today was to head out to Phoenix Park, and visit the Dublin Zoo.

I failed in that attempt.

See, I caught the City Sightseeing bus on the route that would take me to Phoenix Park. And, when we got to Heuston Station, the driver said the bus wasn’t going to the park, but there was a shuttle bus just over a bridge by the station that would take us in to the Bloom festival that was going on right now, and was the reason the sightseeing bus wasn’t going in to the park.

The park was packed, and it became very obvious why the sightseeing bus wasn’t going in. But the site of the Bloom festival was quite some distance from the zoo1, and the shuttle bus didn’t stop at the zoo. I got off the bus at the Bloom festival, with some thought about walking to the zoo, but that would mean I’d also have to walk back to catch the shuttle bus. So, I thought I’d go take a look at the Bloom festival, seeing as I was here. Then I found out that tickets were over 20 euros, and I had no real interest in the festival, so I got on the next shuttle bus and rode it back to the sightseeing bus route.

I figure I’ve got a free day on Saturday, so I may take a cab out to the zoo that morning.

Anyway, I got off the bus on O’Connell Street, and went to check out the General Post Office. Since my last visit to Dublin in 2013, they’ve added a really impressive little museum, called GPO Witness History, that commemorates the 1916 Rising.

There are a lot of informational displays, including several interactive screens that take you day-by-day through the Rising. The coolest thing is a short movie that dramatizes the Rising. It tells the story well2 and does a great job of showing how the Rising was not a popular move amongst the population, how most of the damage was inflicted on civilians, and how both sides were rather ruthless and unrestrained.

Basically, it shows what a mess3 the whole thing was.

I also had promised a friend that I’d send her an actual postcard via the mail on this trip, so I bought a card in the gift shop at the GPO. The woman who sold it to me asked if I wanted a bag, and I said, “No, thanks. I’m going to mail it right away. I hear there’s a post office nearby.”

She looked at me strangely for a second, and said, “Yyyyyeeesss, just through the… Oh, thank god! You’re joking!” And I immediately felt guilty for trying to be funny to someone who has to field stupid questions all day.

And then I went and had some lunch and went home.

So, no pictures, but at least some stories.

  1. Like, 2-3 miles. []
  2. Though it stops at the point where the GPO is abandoned – and pretty much destroyed – and so doesn’t tell some of the cool stuff that happened afterward. []
  3. I debated using a different term: a compound word that incorporates the word “cluster,” but I chose not to. []


It’s getting near the end of this trip, and you can tell. I’m starting to run out of steam, and I’m starting to miss my own bed.

Today, I thought I was being very slow to get moving. But I was out the door shortly after 10:00, and walked down to St. Stephen’s Green to catch the City Sightseeing bus. I had a ticket for Glasnevin Cemetery tour, so that was my big plan.

The bus timing worked out perfectly. By the time I got to the bus stop, the right bus was just leaving, and it was a nice trip round through the city and all the way out to Glasnevin. And the weather was bright and sunny, again, but it was a little cooler today, and nice and breezy on the top of the bus.

Timing was not perfect at the cemetery – I got there just after one tour started, but had two and a half hours to wait for the next one. It was sub-optimal, but I didn’t have any real plans, and it was a nice sunny day, and an interesting place to wander around, so I decided to wait.

I’m really glad I did. The tour was fantastic.

It started with a re-enactment of Patrick Pearse delivering the eulogy for Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, which was very well done. This was one of the sparks that roused people for the 1916 Rising a year later.

Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, by the way, was a big name in the Fenian movement. He started the Phoenix National and Literary Society, which had more to do with dynamite than books.

This was pretty much the way things went on the tour: we walked to various graves and got good stories.

This is the grave of Charles Stuart Parnell. He was an Irish MP who almost twice got a Home Rule bill passed. But then a scandal forced him to retire from politics. He gets name-checked in Come Out You Black and Tans1. Any way, he wanted to be buried among the poor that he had spent his life trying to help. There are about 11,500 people in this grave; it’s a mass grave from a cholera outbreak.

There was a lot of discussion about last wishes for burial. My favourite is when the guide told a story about the chapel in the cemetery2 – it was very expensive to build. The archbishop who oversaw the construction wanted to be buried in an unmarked grave in the poorest part of the cemetery, with no record of where his body was put to rest.


He had chosen as the architect to design the chapel a man with a rather bitter rival, who stewed over the perceived sleight for six years, until the archbishop died. Then he convinced the Glasnevin council to allow him to build the (second) biggest, most impressive tomb in the cemetery. And to put it right in front of the chapel, so that it blocks the view of the chapel from the street.

The is the biggest, most impressive grave in the cemetery. It marks the tomb of Daniel O’Connell, known as the Liberator in Ireland. The tomb is under the mound beneath the tower, and you can climb the stairs to the top and get an amazing view of the city3.

Daniel O’Connell’s final wishes were, “My body to Ireland, my soul to heaven, my heart to Rome.” His friends, being ever the literalists, brought his body back to Dublin for burial; trusted that his soul would find it’s way to heaven; and cut his heart out, put it in a silver box, and shipped it to Rome, where it was promptly stolen and never seen again.

Glasnevin Cemetery was Daniel O’Connell’s doing. After he managed to get the Penal Laws repealed, granting Catholics legal status and the right to practice their religion, he established Glasnevin Cemetery, because there hadn’t been any (legal) Catholic cemeteries in Ireland for years. But O’Connell set down the rules for Glasnevin that said anyone in Ireland could be buried there, regardless of religion, or lack thereof.

This is the most visited grave in the cemetery, possibly in all of Ireland. It’s the grave of Michael Collins.

One last little story I got as I was leaving the cemetery: There is a pub called John Kavanagh that’s up against the cemetery wall. The wall was important, because of the prevalence the Sack-’em-up Men, which is what they called the local body snatchers. So, big walls, seven watch towers, all to prevent the corpses being stolen and sold for medical research.

Anyway, Kavanagh’s got to be called the Gravedigger’s Pub, and there was a hatch cut in the wall so that the gravediggers could buy beer while working. But Kavanagh’s cut off the practice, because the gravediggers weren’t very good about returning the glasses. So the gravediggers started bringing their own jars to be filled. And thus the Irish slang of referring to drinks as jars.

My timing for the bus worked out perfectly, again. I was able to walk from the end of the tour pretty much right on to the tour bus again, and it took me right back to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is right across the street from where I’m staying.

Tomorrow is another City Sightseeing day. My objective is to see the Dublin Zoo at Phoenix Park. Now that I’ve activated my 72-hour ticket, I can just catch the bus back at St. Patrick’s, so that makes everything easy.

  1. Come let us hear you tell how you slandered great Parnell, when you taught him well and truly persecuted. []
  2. No picture, because it was in use. []
  3. I did not do this. You can tell, because I am not dead. []

Boyne Again

This morning I was up early and down at the Molly Malone statue before 8:00 for my tour of Newgrange, Monasterboice, the Hill of Tara, and the Hill of Slane. On my first trip to Ireland, I took a tour of Newgrange and the Hill of Tara that you can read about here, but this tour offered a few more stops, and the weather was much nicer this time.

There were so many companies picking up tours at the statue that I thought for a while  that I had missed mine, but our guide showed up right on time. Apparently, he had planned for earlier, but there was a real traffic tangle because of an accident on one of the Dublin ring roads.

I am glad I hadn’t missed the tour. On my last trip to Ireland, I used the same company to take a tour to Trim Castle and Glendalough, and it was one of the best tours I’ve been on, thanks to the very excellent guide. I had booked this exact tour last trip, but it got canceled because of not enough people signing up for it.

Anyway, off we went to Newgrange.

It was a bright, shiny day, and that made so much difference to the way Newgrange looked. The white facing of the wall practically glowed.
I still love the threshold stone at Newgrange, with the megalithic art on it, and the symbolism of having to climb over it to enter the underworld of the passage tomb.
This is one of the 90-odd curb stones ringing the base of the Newgrange mound. I’ve tinkered with the contrast and stuff to try and bring out the patterns etched in the stone. Apparently, true megalithic inscriptions consist of these types of abstract, geometrical patterns. There’s lots of disagreement about what they actually mean.

From Newgrange, we went to Monasterboice. I had heard about this place – a monastery that had faded when the Cistercian Order came to Ireland, and didn’t leave much in the way of records. Left a lot of high crosses in the graveyard, though.

This is the tallest high cross in Ireland, at about 7m. The damage at the base was apparently done around the time of the famine, 1845-1850, as locals who were emigrating chipped bits off to take with them as they left home. Also, that’s one of the tallest round towers looming in behind it.

From Monasterboice, we went to the Hill of Slane.

The Hill of Slane features the ruins of a Franciscan abbey and school. The story is that St. Patrick violated the rules of the High King at Tara by lighting a fire on Slane Hill on Beltane – Easter – to announce the arrival of Christianity. The King didn’t punish him, and allowed Patrick to begin his mission to convert the pagans to Christianity.

Apparently, each Easter, the church re-enacts this, lighting a small fire on the Hill of Slane. I asked about whether or not they have someone watching for the fire over at the Hill of Tara, where the High King had seen Patrick’s fire, and was told that the fire is now to small.

But, my guide said, several years ago, RTE1 conducted the experiment: they lit a large fire on the Hill of Slane, and apparently it could be seen very clearly from the Hill of Tara, 15km away.

And the Hill of Tara was our next stop.

This is the view down from the central mound of the Tara earthworks. You can see the rings of berms and ditches, and the outer ring way down near the flowering blackthorn trees.
And, of course, the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, which was used to crown the kings in ancient Ireland. Apparently, it used to sit on the high point of the Hill of Tara, the passage tomb called the Mound of Hostages, but was moved here after the Battle of Tara in the 1798 rebellion.

And then it was back to Dublin, back to the flat, and catching up on the blog. Tomorrow, I get on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour. One of the things I’m planning on seeing is Glasnevin Cemetery, which I haven’t visited before.

  1. The national television network in Ireland. []

In Dublin’s Fair City

This post is a day late. By the time I got back to the flat last night, I was tired and went to bed almost immediately, because I had to get up early today for a tour.

Yesterday, I was kind of lazy in the morning, doing some laundry1, and generally taking it easy. I left around 11:00, and went for a walk.

My first destination was the Molly Malone statue. That’s where I had to meet my tour this morning, and the statue wasn’t where it was five years ago. But I found it.

After that, it was a short walk over to Grafton Street, grabbed some food, and headed down to St. Stephen’s Green.

I think it was a bank holiday yesterday, and the weather was perfect, so the park was very, very full of people. It was a lovely day.

After lunch, I headed over to Dublin Castle. I’ve been there before, but what with one thing and another, I never got a chance to take the tour. This time, I changed that.

Because it was such a beautiful bank holiday Monday, this place was also packed, and I had an hour’s wait before I could get in on a guided tour.

I spent the hour sitting in the courtyard. This clock tower is where the drawbridge used to be when the castle was an actual castle and had a moat. It also used to house the crown jewels, but they were stolen in 1907, and haven’t been recovered.
One the coolest parts of the tour is going down into the remains of the medieval castle structure. This is the base of the Powder Tower, which was destroyed in a fire in the 17th century. They actually detonated some of the powder stored here to destroy the tower and extinguish the fire.
This is a section of the surviving castle wall, also down below the ground level. Down at the bottom is the remains of the River Poddle, which was diverted in the middle ages to act as a moat to the castle, and eventually was completely covered over.

We went across to the Chapel Royal, as well. I’ve got some pictures of that over here, but I learned something kind of interesting.

Okay. The lofts around the Chapel Royal have all the crests of the Viceroys of Ireland, along with the dates they started their terms of office. But, see, the Bishop can’t sit behind a political crest, so they put St. Patrick’s crest up in front of the Bishop’s Seat. And (this is the part that amuses me) they put the date that St. Patrick began his mission to Ireland – 432.

From the Chapel Royal, we went over to the rooms of state at the castle. Again, very busy, very crowded. I managed to get only one picture that didn’t have a bunch of other tourists in it.

This is the drawing room. It gives you an idea of the sumptuous decor of the rest of the rooms of state. The administration rooms aren’t nearly as opulent.

After the tour, I walked back to the flat, and had to leave again in about 45 minutes to get to the Irish House Party. This was a really nice2 evening that involved a good dinner and an evening of traditional Irish music and dance. I met a very nice family from Missouri, got a copy of the band’s CD, and made it home around 11:00, where I posted my excuse for no post, and went to bed.

  1. I love having a washing machine in this AirBnB flat. And that’s a pretty good clue that I am old and boring. []
  2. If a little touristy. []


So, I had a good day in Dublin today. Weather was awesome, I wandered around seeing some neat stuff, took a tour of Dublin Castle, and went to the Irish House Party. Now, it’s 10:30, I haven’t processed the pictures, and I have to get up early tomorrow morning for my tour of Newgrange, the Hill of Tara, and Monasterboice.

That means this is all the post you’re getting today. I’ll try and catch up tomorrow evening.

Sorry, folks.

Back to Dublin

Not much to report today. Got up, packed, cleaned up the flat, dropped the keys off, and schlepped my backpack down to the train station. The train from Galway to Dublin was very full, and many of the passengers showed evidence of having had a rather festive Saturday night before getting on the train and heading home.

I killed a little time at Heuston Station in Dublin, because it was raining and I was about an hour and a half too early to go meet my AirBnB host. I took a cab down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and found my way the block or so to the flat, and got the keys, and settled in.

I picked this place mainly because of the location. This is the view out the window. That’s St. Patrick’s Park right across the street, right beside the cathedral. I am, I must say, pretty happy with my choice.

I’ve been pretty lucky with both my AirBnB stays on this trip. This place even has a washing machine, and one of the first things I did when I arrived was put a load of clothes on.

I also walked down to a grocery store and stocked up on some drinks and some food for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.

Tomorrow is pretty much a free day, and I’m probably going to spend most of the day wandering the neighbourhood. I’ve spent more time in Dublin than any other place in Ireland, and I want to try and get my familiarity back. Tomorrow evening, I go to the Irish House Party, which should be fun. I just hope the weather gets back to the glorious sunshine I’ve been getting most of the time on this trip.