Dublin - a day out to walk around
“Dublin can be heaven with coffee at eleven and a stroll round Stephen’s Green...” or so goes the Percy French song. And indeed a stroll around Dublin City can be a total pleasure. Dublin has enough tourist attractions, Irish dancing shows, traditional Irish bars and more modern ones, literary trails, museums and music sessions to keep the erstwhile traveller busy for several months. But is this what holidays are about? Where is the relaxation, the break from busy schedules, time constraints, the downtime of just doing nothing and enjoying every single second of it without guilt, without worry that you should really be somewhere doing something? Caught in the midst of a sightseeing frenzy where one Church or one Art Gallery or even one City starts to blend into the next. Do you find yourself no longer focusing on tourist guide and having bought enough fridge magnets to cover several fridges??? Then Stop take a deep breath, and in the words of another famous song – Let it Go!!!
Take a day or even half a day out and just hang out. Dublin is a city to be sampled like one of its most famous products, a pint of Guinness, just sit back, watch it settle and enjoy slowly as if you have all the time in the world. Sometimes we are so keen to get in all the sights that we miss the essence of the City, the flavour and atmosphere of the place. So stroll around and absorb. One of the big advantages of Dublin is that it is compact and can be navigated on foot. One word of warning, Dublin is a capital city like many others where some parts are better for strolling around than others and this is always worth bearing in mind. The following is a suggested route, feel free to change the order, do in your own way or just stroll off on your own little voyage of discovery (bearing in mind previous notes re suitable areas).
Start, with map of Dublin City Centre in hand at St Stephen’s Green as the song suggests, you will be totally spoilt for choice in relation to where to have that coffee. If in the mood for a treat then I would suggest booking the Shelbourne Hotel which is on the North side of the Green and breakfasting/brunching in grand but olde worlde style. If you fancy something a bit more modern KC Peaches which is a few doors down offers all styles of breakfast in a more modern and more affordable setting. Better still, in the spirit of the day just take a ramble around and find a coffee shop or breakfast place that takes your fancy, grab a paper or your current book/e-book and relax for a bit. Take in the sounds and hussle and bussle of everyone else starting their day, getting to work, having meetings, all the more enjoyable for the fact that you know you don’t have to do any of these things in fact your day is going to happen without any great planning and without anyone dictating where you need to be or when. After all this is what holidays are all about is it not – time out, no schedule, no commitments, no deadlines.
Once done start with a stroll around St Stephen’s Green itself, there is the duck pond by the Grafton Street entrance, the floral display in the centre and a children’s playground, even if you have no kids the joyful sound of children busy at play always one to gladden the heart and lighten the step. Sit on a bench, sit on the grass, soak up the feel of it. There is nothing quite like a beautiful park in the middle of a busy city to calm the soul and warm the heart.
Next, I would suggest walking down Leeson Street towards the Canal, taking in the beautiful Georgian doorways (those that remain) the busyness of the area, watch out for the students and try not to breathe too deeply when all the buses are motoring on by!! When you get to Leeson Street Bridge turn left and you can walk along the banks of the canal, see if you can spot a swan, the ducks and a variety of other feathered friends hiding in the rushes.
If lunchtime has arrived and the old tummy is rumbling there are lots of choices here on Baggot Street or Leeson Street for lunch. If you like organic food Farm on Upper Leeson Street (just over the Bridge) is great. The nearby Canal Bank also does a great lunch, on Baggot Street look out for Donnybrook Fair, can eat in or perhaps, in the keeping with the day get one of their beautiful salads, rolls or takeaways and sit by the canal and enjoy, grab a bench, perhaps even sit next to Patrick Kavanagh near the weir at Baggot Street Bridge. If it is a Thursday there is a mobile food fair along the canal with a vast array of culinary styles of food to be had, the wondrous odour of all that open air cooking enough to get the most stubborn of appetites started. Often there is some musical entertainment so perhaps if planning ahead plan this for a Thursday and soak up the ambiance of an outdoor food market. Again with that extra little bit of satisfaction knowing that most people are out for a break in their chaotic day and you are not bound by any such obligations today.
Perhaps a little musing whilst here, this is the heart of old Victorian Dublin, in days gone by the Canal was filled with busy barges bringing goods to and from the Port and Docks, the eager banter passing within and between the barges. The roads filled with busy horse drawn carriages ferrying their important guests around, the sound of the horse hooves ringing in the air. People walking up and down much as they do today, looking at much the same sights, going about their daily grind. Maybe even the aforementioned Percy French enjoyed a pleasurely stroll along these very banks.
Credit: SFW Photos 2015Follow the Canal down to Grand Canal Street which is pretty much at the end a quick left and right onto Grand Canal quay, crossing over Grand Canal Square, pausing to admire the Bord Gais Energy Theatre on the left, the water of the Dock itself (swans not guaranteed) on the right reaching out to Ringsend and the Bay.
Walking across the square and straight ahead you will find yourself on the South Bank of the River Liffey, the majestic river that flows through the centre of Dublin City. If you cross over the Samuel Beckett Bridge which is on your left, to the North Bank there is a boardwalk here and you can walk along the Liffey taking in most of the North Quays.
This is the part of your journey when you are most likely to encounter marauding tourists, aboard their amphibious vessel dressed as Vikings, striking terror into the hearts of those they pass with their blood curdling roars!! I dare you not to smile or even laugh. If you feel like doing your share of marauding another day check out Viking Splash.
Credit: SFW Photos 2015When you come to the Ha’penny Bridge you will probably find that you have walked more than far enough. For those who enjoy books, there is a little independent book shop just by the Bridge called the Winding Stair which is a joy to browse around. All sorts of books in here and can even enjoy a tea or coffee at the tables in the window. Across the Ha’Penny Bridge lies Temple Bar, then Trinity college, Grafton Street which will take you right back to where you started. But maybe you are not quite ready to join the chaos just yet. In which case there are plenty of places nearby to enjoy a well deserved pint, sip of wine or coffee. I hope you enjoyed your stroll around this beautiful city and are already planning your next trip to Dublin. Perhaps the next time a trip outside Dublin might also be in order.