The Next day found us with improved weather and docked in the Irish capital of Dublin. Dublin is a Viking city dating from 988. With Irish Independence in 1922, Dublin became the capital of the Republic of Ireland, today Ireland’s largest city. The Republic joined the European Union in 1973.
Rocky and I have an afternoon tour of the countryside scheduled, so in the morning we took the ship’s shuttle into town. Our first stop was to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Dublin has three universities, but Trinity College is the oldest University in Ireland, founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Most of the buildings on the 40-acre urban campus date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Trinity College campus, Dublin, Ireland The Book of Kells, an amazing illustrated manuscript, dates from 800 AD. One of the oldest books in the world, it contains the four gospels written in Latin. “It is said to be the work of the monks at St. Columcille’s Monastery, from the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland.” The book was sent to Dublin in 1653 “for reasons of security during the Cromwellian period” and came to Trinity College in 1661. It is truly beautiful. To see the book, you pass through a museum with detailed information regarding the origin and the specifics on the book before reaching the room where the book is held. The Book of Kells is kept on the ground floor of The Old Library on the Trinity College campus. Two volumes are on display and open for your viewing. No photographs are permitted in the museum or in the book room.
Above the museum on the upper floor is the most amazing library I have ever seen. “The Long Room” is 65 meters long and houses approximately 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. The books were originally on a single story. However, when the shelves filled, the roof was raised in 1860 to create an additional level.
The room also features marble busts down both sides from a collection started in 1743. One of the dozen copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is also on display in the Long Room as is the oldest surviving harp from Ireland believed to be from the 15th century. This room awed me; it is truly breathtaking.
In the realm of study, I was surprised to learn that Irish children are required to study Irish Gaelic (not to be confused with the Gaelic spoken in Scotland, which has similarities but is a different language) until the age of 15. Many signs are written in both English and Gaelic. To become either a teacher or a policeman, you must be proficient in Gaelic. For 85,000 people in Ireland, Gaelic is the primary language. Some Irish students spend a summer in special communities where Gaelic is the language spoken to hone their language skills.
After viewing the Old Library and walking the length of the Trinity College campus, Rocky and I did some walking around in this area of the city mindful that we need to get back to catch our tour bus. We saw the National Gallery, National Library, Natural History Museum, and the National Museum. We wandered into several of the parks as well. In Merrion Square, we walked down wonderful wooded paths, saw unique children’s play area, and found a statue of Oscar Wilde in repose.
The Government Buildings were quite impressive and on the backside we saw what appeared to be a set up for a news conference. As we were leaving we saw many more police officers gathering and knew something big was up.
The gem we found was St. Stephen Green, a lovely park with gazebos, fountains, footpaths, flower gardens, waterfowl, and scenic bridges. We had fun just wandering around and taking pictures here. Rain was threatened for the afternoon, but on this beautiful morning the park was full of young and old people alike. The lovely swans on the water just added to the romantic feel of the park.
One of iconic symbols of Dublin is the colored door, found in almost every color on the Georgian townhouses all over town. I had fun trying to spot ones in a color I had not yet captured on film. All too soon, it was time to head back to the ship. I would have been happy to stay in town for the whole day, actually you could have left me in St. Stephen’s Green for day and it would have been blissful.
After lunch on board, we boarded our tour bus for a visit to the Irish Countryside. Passing through Dublin, Our guide mentioned some of the city’s favorite sons, pointing out Mount Temple, where Bono (of U2 fame) went to school and the Bram Stoker museum. Dracula’s (literally “bad blood” in Gaelic) author grew up a sickly child and was influenced by stories of the cholera epidemic and the potato famine.
We saw and learned a lot, but not what we expected. This really ended up being a tour of the Dublin suburbs around Dublin Bay. We passed a home with a thatched roof, a dying building type in Ireland with few craftsmen who can build and repair them now. In the outlying communities, until only recently the railroad crossing signals were operated manually. When the weather cleared, we saw people out enjoying the weather playing cricket or rugby. We passed old cemeteries with the reminder that we were in Ireland with all the Celtic crosses.
It was raining when the tour began which damped our photo stop at Malahide Castle, a fortress and home for over 800 years. Ireland claims the greatest number of castles in the British Isles, but some look more like stately home or are tower houses. Still impressive, they are simply not necessarily what one thinks of when you here the word, castle. An interior viewing was not included on our tour. We passed next through the villages of Malahide and Portmarnock, noting the two miles of sandy beaches.
After a photo stop of Dublin Bay, we stopped at Abbey Tavern in the fishing village of Howth. The traditional pub had a fabulous bar. The drink of the day was an Irish Coffee, but since Rocky and I don’t like coffee we had our whiskey straight up. They use Powers rather than Jameson because it adds an element of spice to the coffee. Our server even let Rocky and I have our turn behind the bar. It was a quaint place and weather cold enough that a wood burning fire was going inside.
Our bus took us next down to the marina at Howth with colorful fishing boats and fishmongers (fresh seafood shops). Rocky and I walked along the embankment toward the lighthouse. Looking back up toward the village, you could see the ruins of the Abbey from which the Tavern took its name.
This is our last port in the Republic of Ireland. I would love to come back on a land-based tour and see more of the countryside. That said, I wouldn’t mind spending some more time in the cities we visited either. A cruise-based visit is just a tease, giving you a flavor for the Island and having you leave wanting more. Ireland (land based) is back on the bucket list. Green is my favorite color.