Trip date: September 2019
I had two full days in Dublin to explore and had a lot on my itinerary. The Westbury Hotel's continental breakfast was served in the beautiful WILDE restaurant and was a quick, easy and delicious way to start my morning.
It was a super sunny fall day for my short walk to Trinity College. I had purchased a timed ticket for the Book of Kells
online and was a little early so I strolled around the campus. It's a very picturesque campus, with a mix of medieval stone buildings, statues, and modern art.
The exhibit is amazing! It starts with the history of the Book of Kells and then leads you to blown up recreations of different pages so that you can see the intricate illustrations that went into writing each page of the gospel manuscript. A single letter could contain an entire picture with animals, flowers, people, etc.
The rooms of recreated and magnified pages give you a better understanding of the book as a whole. The illustrations and Celtic symbols are absolutely stunning.
After this you enter a darkened room containing the actual book. It's kept under glass and photos aren't allowed. A variety of pages are on display, incredibly having survived since being written in 800 AD! If you want to read more, there is a very complete history of the Book of Kells here.
As you leave the Book of Kells exhibit you enter the Long Room in the college library, a truly wondrous site. Light streams onto 200,000 of the oldest and rarest books in the college's collection. It takes about an hour to go through the entirety and even though there wasn't a line when I entered, the rooms were fairly busy. What a great introduction to Ireland, highly recommend making this one of your first stops!
Next up was the Museum of Archaeology
and their super interesting collection! I browsed through gold relics and jewelry, artifacts and icons, and even bog bodies! The stories of those bodies and the treasure they find in bogs was worth the ticket alone!
That afternoon I took a taxi to Kilmainham Gaol
for a tour of the prison. Tickets are purchased in advance online for timed entrance and as it is quite a popular destination I had only a few choices of tour availability.
It's a very interesting tour, with lots of historical information on the residents of the jail. Originally opened in 1796; men, women, and children were held here for being a part of revolutions, rebellions, and movements against the government as well as those who did actual crimes.
Many of the arrested were imprisoned here and then transferred on a long journey to Australia! And of course there are countless Irish songs that tell the stories of the incarcerated and executed of Kilmainham Gaol.
On a much lighter note, the next day I took a bus to the Guinness Storehouse
. This self-guided tour is housed in the original brewery location which was opened in 1759. There's a lot of history behind the 250 year old brand and the visit is equal parts education, advertisement, and touristy fun.
There was a really interesting mini exhibit about their coopering practices (barrel making). And also a whole floor dedicated to the different characters and themes used in their advertisements. There was also a fun interactive aroma and tasting experience. And at the end of your tour you had a ticket to use at the top-floor Gravity Bar for a pint of the star of the show.
The views of Dublin and the surrounding areas, especially on this sunny fall day, were fantastic. Even if you are not a huge beer person I thought this was a great way to spend a couple of hours.
The rest of the afternoon I spent wandering around the Temple Bar area to Christ Church. The Cathedral is beautiful and has a lot of interesting relics in its crypt. There's also a case containing a mummified cat and rat which were found in an organ. The Irish love their preserved bodies!
It had been a long two days of seeing Dublin's sights, so I was headed back to the Westbury to have a little lay-down and I ended up walking past Dublin Castle on the way.
I didn't go inside but the large square is very impressive. It is still a government building and is smack in the center of town.
Dublin is absolutely fantastic for walking around. Lots to see and do, I couldn't get to it all but I feel like I did a pretty good job!
**As I visited all of these places before the COVID-19 pandemic, please double check on opening hours. And fingers crossed these businesses all stay in business!**
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