A Day in Dublin: Our Top Five Sights in the City
While Kinsale is on the southern coast of Ireland, an easy train trip can take you into Dublin for a day of sightseeing or shopping, then an easy return trip back to Cork and the short drive back to Kinsale will complete your day. Alternately, Dublin may be the place from where you enter or exit the country. If coming up from Cork and wanting to stay late into the evening, we recommend an overnight at the Ashling hotel which is right by the train station. We find it useful to come in by train, drop off our overnight gear at the hotel as we check in, then set off to enjoy ourselves, eating and drinking for as long as we would wish, to take the train back the next morning.
Trying to decide what to do for a day seeing sights while in Dublin will be one of the hardest parts of your journey. Because its history goes back as far as the Vikings, Dublin can be seen as layers of history merged with modern considerations. We recommend the Hop On Hop Off bus system where you will be able to access anything that you find of interest. The following five are either our favorites (the first three on the list) and those most talked about by people who stay in our Kinsale self catering accommodation.
The Kilmainham Gaol
In order to understand modern Ireland a visitor should understand that the revolution and the subsequent civil war are only a generation away in Irish minds. People growing up in Ireland as late as the 1980s would have found their history books stopped pre the revolution, so likely to engender strong feelings were the events after that time. Kilmainham Gaol (jail) was in a very real sense where it all began, because, had the English not executed the men who were held here, the Irish would not have likely become so outraged as to give the revolutionary forces the support they needed to continue. Well worth coming back to, we have never had visitors not rave about this particular tour.
The Book of Kells at Trinity College
In Cahill's great book How the Irish Saved Civilizationhe discusses the dark ages of Europe, prior to the Renaissance, when second sons were often sent to Ireland to become monks- there to spend time copying and recopying the great books of the days, and therefore saving them from obscurity. The Book of Kells and the three other books (all dating from the 7thcentury) in the display at Trinity College allow you to step back into that time. The diorama is excellent and the visitor understands what was required to produce these magnificent examples of word and art on parchment. The tour finishes in the Long Room, a modern day repository still open to scholars of antique texts.
St Patrick's Cathedral
Cromwell committed many hateful atrocities as he rampaged through Ireland, diminishing the power and influence of the English Gentry and “bringing Ireland under control.” To my mind the billeting of horses in St Patrick's Cathedral. To the good, these same troops introduced cabbage (as of corned beef and cabbage) to the country's diet. Now an Anglican cathedral (as are almost all the grand and old churches in Ireland) services are held during the week and performed in rotation by parish rectors from around the country. Be sure to look out for the large door on display with a rectangular hole cut in it – this piece of history spawned the phrase “not worth risking your arm for” and represents a courageous moment when one chieftain had to put his arm through the door to shake on an agreement with his enemy in order to end a siege. Filled with history, beauty and glimpses of how things used to be, a visit to St Patrick's is a must.
Christ Church and the Dublina Exhibit
Within short walking distance from St. Patrick's is Christ Church and the Dublina exhibit is equally interesting, especially for families with children. As mentioned at the beginning, Dublin was founded by the Vikings and progressed through the middle ages as a cosmopolitan place of business between people who came from very different backgrounds. The Dublina exhibit is a fun recreation of of those times.
The Guinness Brewery
Dublin owes a lot to Guinness – the family grew their business following the partially philanthropic ideals of treating your employees well, building housing where needed, providing education, etc. Ireland owes a lot to Guinness as well, as while it is one of several porters (not being officially a beer but a porter) it is undoubtedly the best known internationally. The company also had the very good fortune to hire and maintain a relationship with very clever marketers and a trip to the Guinness brewery will leave you appreciating them almost as much as the brewers who perfect the drink itself. Be sure to leave several hours for the visit to the brewery, and if your visit goes over a lunch hour enjoy the excellent food at the restaurant on premises. Your tour starts at the top where you turn in the token given you at the door for a pint of the brew and an appreciative look over the city of Dublin.
There are of course many other sights in Dublin and some, like the Leprechaun Museum are discussed in our writing on shopping opportunities in the city. Within an hour north are Newgrange and Knowth, prehistoric World Heritage Sights that also hit our “must see” lists and are the topic of another article.