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05 March 2024

48 hours in Dublin

The Trinity College in Dublin, which was once frequented by James Joyce – the writer of epic novel Ulysses. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Barbara Lewis

First day (Saturday)

After arriving at Dublin's airport, jump on a bus to take you straight to the heart of the city for €6 (DhDh30.28) or for around €30, a taxi will whisk you into town.

11am: The airport bus will drop you off at O'Connell Street (previously called Sackville Street) on the north of the River Liffey. If you want to send a postcard home, the General Post Office provides the grandest possible setting to buy a stamp as well as a history lesson.

It was the focal point for the 1916 Easter Rising and in the philatelic section, visitors can read the proclamation demanding the formation of an Irish Republic.

11.30am: Cross the O'Connell Bridge to Trinity College, Dublin's oldest university – home to the world-famous illustrated manuscript the Book of Kells, which dates from around 80AD. Its many illustrious students included writer Oliver Goldsmith, whose statue is just outside the main gate.

1pm: Head south to Grafton Street for elegant shops, buskers, street artists, lunch and a coffee at the bustling and beautiful art deco cafe, Bewley's.

The Bewley tea and coffee company dates back to the 19th Century. Its Grafton Street cafe was opened in 1927, with stained glass windows by renowned artist Harry Clarke, and has been a haunt for many of Ireland's literary and artistic figures, including writers Patrick Kavanagh and Samuel Beckett.

2.30pm: Slightly further south is St Stephen's Green, once an open common for public whippings, beatings and hangings, now a peaceful picnic and leisure spot surrounded by Dublin's fine Georgian buildings.

Exit through the southeast corner into Kildare Street, home of the National Museum and some fine examples of Celtic Art. Then, head across a street to Merrion Square – another green space surrounded by Georgian grace.

On the west of the square is the National Gallery of Ireland. Highlights are Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ and the Yeats collection, which includes more than 30 works by Irish painter Jack B Yeats, brother of the poet W B Yeats.

5pm: The Lonely Planet tourist guide has been withering about the lost authenticity of the Temple Bar area of Dublin, but you might want to make up your own mind.

If you're interested, head back towards the Liffey and enter the maze of second-hand book-sellers and tourist shops touting Guinness memorabilia, green rugby shirts and toy leprechauns.

Amongst them, the Temple Bar itself is a 19th Century pub, well-stocked with Dublin bay oysters and live traditional music.

7pm onwards: If you can resist spending the rest of the evening taking in the atmosphere of the Temple Bar Dublin offers many other cultural options.

Head back south, just beyond St Stephen's Green to Earlsfort Terrace and Ireland's National Concert Hall, where some of the world's leading musicians and orchestras regularly perform.

Alternatively, on the north bank, stands the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theatre founded by poet WB Yeats and fellow cultural nationalist Lady Gregory in 1903.

To help cater for an appetite for large-scale shows in Dublin, the new 2,000-seat Grand Canal Theatre is taking bookings ahead of its opening in March. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, it is a striking modern building on the Grand Canal Dock, parallel to the Liffey.

Later, you could stroll back to the Liffey to take a night-time glimpse at Dublin's newest river crossing, the Samuel Beckett Bridge, which takes the form of Ireland's symbol a giant harp.

Next day

On a fine sunny Sunday – a precious commodity in Ireland – Dubliners have a tendency to head out of town.

But first they might want to stock up for the day with a full Irish breakfast (the Irish version of the great British fry up) and they could also call in at one of Dublin's cathedrals.

In this very Catholic city, the irony is that the grandest cathedrals are Protestant.

Christ Church Cathedral, south of the river and just west of Temple Bar, was founded in the 11th Century. The cathedral is the burial place of the medieval leader Strongbow, although his tomb is probably not the impressive effigy of a recumbent knight, but rather the smaller, older monument by its side.

Later, you could head a few streets south to St Patrick's Cathedral, another fine 11th and 12th Century Protestant Cathedral, or back over to the north bank where Catholics have to make do with St Mary's Pro Cathedral, tucked away in Marlborough Street, just to the east of O'Connell Street.

11am: At 11am on Sundays, the renowned Palestrina Choir sings Latin Mass at the Pro Cathedral. It comes with very high recommendations, but if you'd rather get out and enjoy the sunshine, now could be the time to hop on the Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) and head for the seaside.

Stations are scattered throughout Dublin centre and trains are frequent even on Sundays.

For anyone with a literary turn of mind, they should head south to Sandycove, where the action begins in James Joyce's epic novel Ulysses.

First take the Dart (Connolly station is the nearest to the Pro Cathedral) for a roughly 30-minute journey to Dalkey, once a thriving port, now the chosen retreat of various celebrities, including writer Maeve Binchy and singer Van Morrison. Ruins of ancient castles serve as reminders of its former importance and offer visitors "the medieval experience".

Walk up into the hills behind Dalkey for spectacular views of Dublin Bay and work up an appetite for lunch.

1pm: The Queen's in Castle Street, where two of Dalkey's castles face each other, offers meat and fish dishes, such as a hearty seafood chowder, as well as the Sunday papers to browse.

2pm: Next walk the kilometre or so back up the coast to Sandycove, with its beach and Martello tower, built by British forces to watch out for a Napoleonic invasion. It now houses the James Joyce Museum – a collection of papers, first editions and death masks.

Below the tower is the Forty Foot Pool, an open-air sea-water bathing pool, where brave souls jump into Irish Sea whatever the weather.

4pm: Time to return to Dublin, where you could seal your visit with a traditional high tea.

A very high-class option would be the five-star Merrion Hotel (regarded as the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington) on Merrion Street, just off Merrion Square.

6pm: Before the final dash back to the airport, Dubliners will tell you to head to Mulligans pub.

It's tucked away in Poolbeg Street between Trinity College and the south bank of the Liffey – and was once frequented by James Joyce. (Reuters)


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