In Jail – Dublin Day 3

Our day started off with a tour of Kilmainham Gaol. Extremely popular with tourists this year, since it’s the centenary of the Easter Rising, it is wise to book ahead to make sure there’s space. Today this building is symbolic of the fight for Irish independence, and leaders of many rebellions were detained or executed there.

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Once inside, you can wander through the exhibits. The guided tour starts from the holding cells and takes you through the preserved buildings. You can get a taste of what life was like for ordinary inmates, as well as hearing the stories of many famous rebellion leaders, including Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford, who married seven hours before his execution.

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Many sightseeing buses stop outside the Gaol, and so we bought another ticket and hopped on board. The bus carried us around to Phoenix Park, one of the largest parks in Europe and home to Dublin Zoo. Tickets to the zoo came as part of our holiday package deal, including the flights and hotel stay, but they can also be purchased on the day or online at 17 for adults.

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Dublin Zoo is the largest zoo in Ireland and a great place to spend the day out. The Phoenix Park Tea Rooms are located by the entrance, if you’re in need of a snack or drink. The maps provided by the zoo staff are accurate and easy to follow to ensure you don’t miss out any animals. Their largest exhibit is the African Plains, which houses a variety animals from gorillas to giraffes.

After spending a few hours there, we took the bus back into town and then a taxi ride to the airport. Our stay in Dublin may have been short, but it was definitely enjoyable. It’s a shame there wasn’t chance to explore the rest of Ireland – another day, perhaps.

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Sights to See – Dublin Day 2

Morning came and we were greeted by an unusual sight from our window: bright blue skies. The day turned out to be blazing hot, proving that it is possible to get sunburnt in Ireland.

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I highly recommend on the first day in a new city to go for a tour, either a free walking one or a paid bus tour. There are three main sightseeing bus companies in Dublin: CitySightseeing, Dublin Bus, and CityScape. The first two charge 19 per person, while CityScape costs only 10€ (and kids go free). Don’t be afraid of picking the budget option – all three routes are practically identical and we had an amazing experience with CityScape. 

Tickets are valid for 24 hours so hop on and off at your discretion. We used the sightseeing bus as an alternative to public transport, since the buses in Dublin sell single ride tickets (a pain if you have to switch) and accept exact fare in coins only. Just make sure you don’t miss the last bus – it leaves from stop 9 at 5.45 pm.

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We got off at stop 7, which is the O’Connell Bridge, crossing the River Liffey by the main shopping area. And we headed to the National Leprechaun Museum. While not cheap at 14 for adults (10 for under 18s), you will receive a 2 discount if you show a valid CityScape ticket. A guide will take you through the exhibits, telling fascinating stories about mythological creatures in Ireland. It’s a magical experience.

Since the tide was low and the river almost drained of water, we took the chance to explore a few shops in the centre. I left my companions and visited the GPO Witness History Museum alone. This is a brand new exhibition devoted to the 1916 Easter Rising and the events leading up to Irish indepence in 1922. With tickets at 10 for adults, it’s a must-see for anyone with Irish heritage or an interest in their history. If you are travelling from Britain, please be respectful inside the exhibit but also on the streets of Dublin.

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Back to the River Liffey and we used our CityScape ticket again for a 15% discount Dublin Discovered Boat Tours (originally 14 for adults and 10 for under 18s). These are perfect for a relaxing ride down the river, while your guide talks about the founding of Dublin and the importance of various historical buildings. Feel free to ask questions or wander around the boat to take photos.

For dinner we went to Ten Thousand. This is an Asian all you can eat buffet located just off O’Connell Street. At only 7 per person and packed to the brim with tasty dishes, this is an absolute bargain. We would have returned for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day if we could.

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On our way home we stopped at the Merrion Strand again. This time, with clear skies ahead, we climbed up onto the wall and waited for sundown. We were not disappointed.

An Irish Welcome – Dublin Day 1

No welcome could possibly be more Irish than the sight of grey skies followed by the downpour of rain. This is what greeted us when we stepped off the plane. It was as if we’d never left England.

Transport from the airport to the city is a simple choice. You can go with the standard Taxi fare which, depending on traffic and location of your hotel, will vary between 20 – 40 . Or there’s two coach services that stop outside the Airport, the Aircoach and the Airlink Express. The former costs 10 for a single or 16 for a return. In the end, there’s not much difference to the cost either way, and if the coach stops directly outside your hotel, you get the benefit of free WiFi on top.

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We didn’t arrive until late afternoon so there wasn’t much chance to explore. If your flight lands earlier, take the opportunity to visit some of the free attractions in Dublin (save your money for bigger things). There are four National Museums in the city centre: Archaeology, Natural History, Decorative Arts & History, and Country Life.

You could also explore the grounds of Dublin Castle for no cost, as well as the Chester Beatty Library and the Revenue Museum. The State Rooms are available for guided tours only, for which you can purchase tickets in the Upper Yard.

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Little did we know that our hotel was situated in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 which is the wealthiest district, or we would have stayed in town for dinner. Our choice of restaurant was Bianconi’s Bistro, on Merrion Road, which was reasonably priced at 13 – 19 per dish, but there are much cheaper eats available in the centre.

After dinner we wandered down to the beach – Merrion Strand. The water is not safe for bathing but the scenery does provide a nice opportunity for photographs. Unfortunately, the cloudy sky meant the sunset was not visible that night. Better luck next time.

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