A few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Dublin, Ireland, visiting a good friend who’s doing an internship there. Dublin is a truly wonderful city, with a rich history and interesting layout. The vibe of the city varies from truly historical and seaside to modern and cosmopolitan to edgy and industrial. My friend aptly described it as “Like New York City, if nothing in New York City was more than five stories tall”.
After a rather hectic Friday morning at the airport (tip: if you’re flying Ryanair DEFINITELY print your tickets in advance because they REALLY MEAN IT), I caught a bus along the pier and on to downtown to meet my friend. We walked along the river and saw the Ha’Penny Bridge before luckily avoiding the Dublin rain by ducking into an Irish pub. I enjoyed an Irish stew (which was delicious) and had a Guinness, because what else would you order in Dublin? We chatted with a local Irish man, who upon learning I was studying at Edinburgh made sure to inform me that bagpipes and whiskey are originally Irish, but they “let the world think bagpipes are Scottish because they were a mistake”. Throughout the whole weekend I was struck by how welcoming every person we spoke to in Ireland was—everyone was willing to help us with directions, and take the time to chat with us and ask about our visit, or recommend local sightseeing.
Saturday we went on a trip to the Writers Museum, which was excellent for an English Literature student like myself. The museum has original manuscripts and biographies from some of the most famous Irish authors, including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Jonathon Swift. After a quick lunch and some time spent at the gorgeous Garden of Remembrance, we continued the literary theme of the day with a tour of the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin. The university itself is gorgeous and worth a visit on its own, but the book of Kells was truly stunning. It is a beautifully decorated 9th century decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ, hand written and constructed over many decades. The book itself was beautiful, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to wander the university’s 18th century library. We ended the day with a walk through the restaurant district and another yummy dinner (more Irish Stew for me!) before a quick visit to an Irish Pub.
Our final day in Ireland was spent exploring two very different sides of Dublin’s history—Christ Church Cathedral and the Kilmainham Gaol Museum. The Christ Church Cathedral is a beautiful, intricately designed church dating back to the early 11th century. After exploring the architecture we booked a tour that included the opportunity to ring some of the Church’s record-breaking 18 bells. A bell ringer led us up an absolutely tiny set of winding stairs (for context: I’m 5’3” and had to crouch to fit through the final door) to a room with 18 ropes hanging from the ceiling. He explained that each bell, which weighed anywhere from 0.25 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes, was attached to a rope and the bell ringers were trained to rotate the bells without letting them over-rotate due to their weight. After demonstrating the technique, we were allowed to go in trios to ring the bells ourselves. It was way more difficult than I would have expected! The force of the bells was enough to lift me off my feet a little, and trying to coordinate with the other bell ringers was challenging enough without trying to keep your feet on the ground. After only a couple minutes ringing the bells I felt like I had gone through an arm and ab workout, but this was probably the highlight of my visit to Dublin and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Dublin.
My final afternoon in Dublin took a slightly darker turn as we travelled across the city to the Kilmainham Gaol, or Jail. The Jail was used for many centuries, but became a particularly well-known institution after the Irish Republic Movement. The Museum outlines some of the fights that took place for better treatment of prisoners, and gives a thorough history of the Irish Civil War. Normally you can take a tour of the jail, but when we arrived it had been sold out for the day. However, even just touring the museum was really interesting and really informative about the Civil War. As my friend put it, “This would make a great subject for an HBO show or something”.
Overall, I left Dublin wishing I had many more days to spend there, but being grateful for the weekend I had. The city is wonderfully dichotomous, mixing rich and hidden history with urban industrialism and modernity. You can walk down one street and be struck by its understated, quiet romanticism and turn the corner onto a street full of people, live music, and vibrant food. It combines so many opposing aspects in a harmonious way, and I really hope to go back soon!