Monday, July 17, 2023

A Walking Tour of Dublin

 (Day eight recap of my late April Ireland trip.)

Our first full day in Dublin!  Due to the previous night's adventure, I was wiped out and consequently had the best night's sleep of the entire trip.  Another advantage of getting lost in a big city, I guess.

Trip through St. Stephen's Green

On tap for the morning was a walking tour of Dublin with a local guide.  After breakfast our group met the man outside on the sidewalk.  Stepping out the hotel doors I realized it was misting and I'd forgotten to pack the rain cover for my camera.  No time to go back, the guide was already starting off down the street.  Oh well, I'd just have to make do. (I ended up repurposing my backpack's rain cover for a camera shield, and it worked quite well!)

It was a lovely park

Our guide led the group over to nearby St. Stephen's Green.  Located in the center of Dublin this public park is huge - 22 acres to be exact - and is the largest of the parks in Dublin's main Georgian garden squares.  Even on this gloomy day, the park was quite lovely, full of colorful flower beds, stately green trees, and many monuments to famous Irish people.

Lake, gazebo, and even a swan!

I especially enjoyed the large lake that spanned the park's north end.  Passing over a bridge gave some great views of the tree-lined water and lovely gazebo along the shore.  I even caught an elegant swan swimming in the waters.  Perfect!  If not for the rain, I could've stayed here all day.

Downtown Dublin street

But our guide had a schedule to keep.  He led us out of St. Stephen's Green via the Fusiliers Arch, a tall gate-like memorial to the Irish soldiers who lost their lives in the Boer War.  From here, we crossed a busy road onto Grafton Street once again.

Not sure what the golden gorilla was all about

Weaving through the busy sidewalks of Dublin, I couldn't stop to get many photos or I'd be left behind.  But I did manage to snap a few pics of some of the more unusual sights.  Like a huge gold gorilla in a nearby shop window.  Not sure what that was all about.

Pretty red door

Or this lovely red door on a stately, stone cathedral.

Entrance to the Book of Kells exhibit

In no time at all, we had reached the campus of Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university.  Established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, her goal was to reeducate the Catholic Irish in Protestant ways.  Modeled after the famous colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, Catholics had to renounce their faith in order to attend.  As a matter of fact, Catholics were denied admission until 1873.  However when the ban was finally lifted, the Catholic Archbishops of Ireland continued to deny members of their flock enrollment until 1970.  Today Trinity College accepts all faiths, and has a reputation as a research-intensive institution.

First we walked through a series of displays explaining the Book of Kells

The reason for our visit to this great college was to view an important historical document, the Book of Kells.  An exquisitely detailed manuscript of the four gospels, this book was created by Irish monks 1,200 years ago.  After Rome fell and the world entered the dark ages, a handful of monks on far-flung islands off the coasts of Ireland and Scotland rescued and made copies of many great literary works, including the New Testament.  If not for the skilled calligraphy of these holy men, these books may have been lost forever.  

Lots to read!

Before being allowed to view the actual book, visitors were routed through a maze of exhibits all explaining how the book itself was created.  The room containing the displays was so crowded, I gave up reading the placards after the first 10 minutes.  

The place was absolutely packed

Kim and I wound through the exhibits before finally coming to the room where the ancient book was displayed.  No photography was allowed and the Book of Kells was placed behind a glass case.  Despite all this, it was impressive to look at.  The colorful illustrations and precise calligraphy were a sight to behold.  It's amazing that a book so old had been preserved throughout the ages.

Trinity College Library

Although the Book of Kells was interesting, the next stop on our tour was even better.  After exiting the display area, we climbed a set of stairs that led us into a wing of the massive Trinity College Library.  Known as the "Long Room," this wood-paneled space was quite impressive!  Tall bookcases soared high above our heads.  The ceiling was made of oak, curved in an arch pattern.  Ivory busts of famous benefactors lined the aisle.  It was the most beautiful library I've ever seen.  

Such a cool looking library!

This particular room of the library held thousands of rare books.  Many of these were early volumes, holding important documentations of Irish history.  

Lots of old, old books

An uber-popular tourist attraction, the place was packed with people.  It was extremely difficult to get photos without anyone in them.  Kim and I shuffled along with the masses, taking it all in.

Row of sculptures

Near the Long Room's opposite end, sat a glass case containing a wooden harp.  Known as "Brian Boru's harp" this medieval instrument dated to the 14th or 15th century and was the oldest of three surviving medieval harps from the region.  An important symbol for the Irish, the harp can be found on the country's coat of arms and is also the trademark of Guinness stout, Ireland's national beer.

Loved the ceiling details

We were told this library would soon begin renovations.  In preparation, many of the books had already been removed from the shelves and half of the sculptures covered with plastic bags.  After a bit of online research, I discovered that Trinity College will close the Long Room on October 2023 for 3 years to complete all the necessary restoration work.  Now I'm especially thankful we got to see it.

Brian Boru harp

The library exit routed visitors through a huge gift shop.  Although many souvenir items caught my eye, the check out line was so long I decided none of them were worth purchasing.

The ground of Trinity College

We regrouped with our tour-mates outside by the massive lawn area between the library and cafeteria buildings.  Thankfully, the misty rain had stopped and although still cloudy, at least the weather was now dry.

Everything was green and blooming

Our indoor stop now complete, the guide now led everyone through the grounds of Trinity College.  I admired all the stately, stone buildings (and took copious photos!)

Stone archway, Trinity College

Classes were still in session, and I observed many students coming and going between buildings and gathering outside to chat with their friends.

More Trinity College buildings

A couple more pics from our walk through campus.....

Interesting building

Another view of the college grounds

Many transportation modes

Then we exited through an arched doorway of a nearby campus building.  After winding through more crowded sidewalks, our group emerged at O'Connell Street.  Being a retired transportation engineer, I geeked out on the many alternative transportation modes (bus, light rail) present on this busy street.

Our guide explaining the statues on O'Connell Street

O'Connell Street's wide median was home to many sculptures featuring Irish heroes.  At the roadway's beginning was the largest of them all, a tall monument honoring Daniel O'Connell himself.

A very busy intersection

Known as "the Emancipator" or the "Liberator," Daniel O'Connell was a major Irish political leader at the beginning of the 19th century.  He was best known for for arguing for the repeal of the Act of Union, which united Great Britain and Ireland in one 'United Kingdom' and also campaigning for Catholic emancipation.  Throughout his life, O'Connell never supported the use of violence, but rather believed the Irish should instead assert themselves politically.

O'Connell Monument (see the pigeon on his head?)

The O'Connell monument featured a lot of Irish symbolism, including my favorite, the harp.

Liked the harp on one side!

From here, our group continued walking along the median, taking in many other sculptures, our guide pointing out significant buildings on either side.  Such as the General Post Office.

General Post Office, site of the 1916 uprising

The General Post Office (GPO) is the city's main post office and one of its most famous buildings.  The site of the 1916 Easter Rising, it served as the headquarters of the uprising's leaders.  It was from outside this building on April 24th, 1916 that Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.  Except for the granite facade, this building was totally destroyed by fire during the rebellion.  Rebuilt in 1929 it has served as a post office since, and added a museum documenting the uprising's history.

Jim Larkin Statue

We passed by many sculptures, but by far my favorite was the Jim Larkin statue.  This statue was a tribute to the Irish politician and socialist who championed the rights of workers.  Jim Larkin also founded the Worker's Union of Ireland.   I liked this statue because it showed the man in action, even though the outstretched arms looked a bit humorous.  

What other kind of drainage would they have in Ireland?

Being a public works geek means when I'm in another city I check out all the infrastructure.  The notation on this vault cover made me chuckle.  What other kind of water would they have in Ireland?

Another view of the General Post Office

Here's another look at the GPO, because it really was quite an impressive building.

Our tour group, gathered in the middle of O'Connell Street

And a shot of my tour group, standing at rapt attention.

Our tour guide is imitating the statue!

We happened to stop behind the Jim Larkin statue, and I couldn't help getting a shot of our guide unintentionally imitating the sculpture (tee-hee!)

O'Connell Bridge and River Liffey

After our walk down the O'Connell Street median our guide led us back towards the River Liffey.  On one side of the river was a wide sidewalk, perfect for strolling and taking in the city views.

Ha'Penny Bridge

Which is what we did......

Hanging out along the waterfront

There was a nice walkway on one side of the river

Following the riverside wooden walkway our group traveled over to the Ha'penny Bridge.  We all traipsed across it, taking photos along the way.

Building with an archway

On the opposite shore, our guide led us to the brick archway, the same alley that my friends and I had ducked down the previous evening and then became lost.

The same archway we walked through the previous night

But this time we had a guide, so no one was getting lost today!  We wound through the Temple Bar district, checking out all the unique pubs and restaurants.

The Temple Bar district

Although it was only mid-morning there were already people patronizing the pubs.  We even walked past the most famous pub of them all, the bright red Temple Bar.

The famous Temple Bar

Our guide took us past many more attractions, such as the Irish Rock 'n Roll museum and a few others, on our way to Dublin Castle.  At one point when our group was stopped in a street while our guide was explaining something, I looked behind us and spotted a sex toys shop, brazenly displaying its wares in the widow.  Giggling like a 9-year-old, I nudged Kim and snapped a couple shots of the place.  (And, no I'm not including the photos - if you want to see it for yourself, you'll just have to make the trip to Dublin!)

The Chapel Royal

The final big attraction we visited was Dublin Castle.  First stop was at the grand Chapel Royal, adjacent to Dublin Castle. 

Window details

Built by the English in the early 1800s, this building served as the official Church of Ireland chapel until the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.  The building was then reconsecrated as a Catholic house of worship.  However, it has not been utilized for church activities since 1983.

Loved the door!

We weren't able to tour the inside, but the outer decor was fantastic.

Castle turret details

Our group took a quick break at a nearby garden called "Dubh Linn."  It featured a large grassy area, and long planters full of blooming tulips and other flowers.

Our group taking in Dubh Linn Garden

From the garden, our group was then led onto the grounds of Dublin Castle.  Once the seat of the British government in Ireland, most of the current buildings date back to the 18th century.  

Dublin Castle grounds

After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, the complex was ceremonially handed over to the newly formed Provisional Government, led by Michael Collins.  In the movie Michael Collins (highly recommended!) this scene is filmed on the actual grounds of Dublin Castle.

Cool archway

Nowadays, Dublin Castle hosts the inauguration of each Irish president and various other state receptions.

Leaving Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle was impressive - the grand brick buildings and tall sculpted arch were quite remarkable.  But after walking around all morning, stuffing my mind with so much information, I was quite ready for a break.  Luckily, this was the last stop on our tour.  The guide led us to a nearby street corner with a large sign pointing to nearly all the attractions in Dublin (or so it seemed!)  It was here that he told us the tour was finished.  We now had the entire rest of the day to ourselves for more exploration.

Our tour ended at this unique sign

Kim and I inspected the sign.  Where should we go from here?  Luckily one of our tour-mates, a lady named Debbie, asked us if we'd like to join her for lunch at the Brazen Head.  Said to be the oldest pub in Ireland, it was only a short walk away.

How did we end up spending the afternoon and evening?  Well, you'll just have to come back for my next blog post and see!



  1.'s easy to see why everything is so green. The architecture is a treat to see.

  2. You certainly got your money's-worth out of your Irish holiday! Never a dull moment. I've often toyed with the idea of buying an Olympus Tough camera for rainy days, but probably never will. I would love to see that ancient harp.

  3. You certainly encountered the best of the Irish weather! Lots to see and experience in Dublin.

  4. Amazing, you have seen more than I ever did of Dublin though I do remember going down O'Connell Stree and seeing Nelsons Pillar (near the GPO), the next time I was there it was just a stump, the IRA blew it up one night.

  5. Dublin is full of many great attractions. Love seeing the architecture. Thanks for sharing.

  6. A brilliant recap of your day in Dublin. It would seem that your tour group was just the perfect size and your guides have been fun and knowledgeable.

  7. What an amazing place, and such a rich history. The third photo looks like a gorgeous painting!


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