Naomi MacKay describes attractions in Dublin, which will see a brand new visitor attraction opening this spring
Eire’s capital, Dublin, sits on the mouth of the River Liffey on the east coast of the country. With medieval buildings including the largest church in Ireland, the buzzing nightlife area of Temple Bar and a busy shopping area on Grafton Street, this friendly city has a lot of offer group visitors.
A key attraction for many is the Guinness Storehouse where visitors can follow the journey of the creation of this famous drink from grain to glass then take in views of the city from the bar at the top of the building. Groups are made very welcome with a guided tour available. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call + 353 1 408 4800
New for 2016 will be Epic Ireland (www.epicirelandchq.com), an innovative visitor attraction due to open in May. Set in the heart of the city at House Quay on the River Liffey, this is the original departure point for many of Ireland’s emigrants, so it’s fitting that the attraction will tell the story of the Irish People’s dispersal across the globe through the ages.
The exhibition is spread across 21 galleries and aims to bring to life the story of Ireland’s communities overseas – past, present and future. The self-guided tour will take 90 minutes and group rates will be €10.50 per person. There will be dedicated coach pick-up and drop-off, and advance bookings are now being taken. Tickets will be available online by next month (March). There will be a ‘soft opening’ in April when familiarisation visits can be arranged for operators.
A similar visitor attraction concentrates on the story of the Irish people from 8,000 BC to the present day. At Story of the Irish (www.storyoftheirish.ie), visitors are guided through six twilight lit chambers by a live actor dressed as a member of the Tuatha De Dannan (mythical pre-Celtic people). The premises can be booked for a private performance with pre-show drinks and canapés, live traditional Irish music, chat with the author, and dinner after the show. Coach parking is available.
The city itself is rich in history, and the Kilmainham Gaol (www.heritageireland.ie/en/kilmainhamgaol) has held some of the most famous military and political leaders in the country’s history. Access is only allowed by an hour-long guided tour. Groups (maximum 35 people) must be booked in advance – email email@example.com.
Dublin Castle (www.dublincastle.ie) was built in 1204 and remains at the heart of the city. It’s not a ‘traditional’ castle – there’s no moat or drawbridge. Visitors can wander freely around the building, although a small entrance fee is charged to see the State Apartments, Medieval Undercroft and Chapel Royal. Groups of 10 must be booked in advance for guided tours, which last around 50 minutes. A number of specialised tours are also available. To book call +353 1645 8813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Book of Kells was written around 800AD and is considered one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts in the world. It’s now the centrepiece of an exhibition at Trinity College that attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year. Tours of the college campus are available throughout the year. Groups should contact email@example.com for details.
Ireland’s largest church is also situated in Dublin. St Patrick’s Cathedral (www.christchurchcathedral.ie) was founded in the 12th century – it’s the burial place for Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, and houses a spectacular exhibition of original 16th century costumes from BBC TV series The Tudors.
Guided tours include a tour of the Belfry, where visitors get the chance to ring the bells under expert supervision. For group tours, call Jessica on +353 1677 8099 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Museum of Ireland (www.museum.ie) takes visitors back in time. Don’t miss The Treasury, with its outstanding examples of Celtic and Medieval art, including the famous Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Derrynaflan Hoard. The new Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition centres on a number of bog bodies dating back to the Iron Age. Admission is free.
A Breath Of Fresh Air
Escape the bustle of the city streets by visiting Phoenix Park, the largest urban enclosed park in Europe – it is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park! The park houses the residence of the President of Ireland and the excellent Dublin Zoo (www.dublinzoo.ie), which offers fast track entry for groups, free entry for driver and organiser and a number of guided tours. To book call + 353 1474 8900 or email email@example.com.
Phoenix Park is also home to Farmleigh House (www.farmleigh.ie), which covers 32-hectares and contains many beautiful features, including the Georgian-Victorian house and Victorian and Edwardian ornamental features such as walled and sunken gardens, and scenic lakeside walks.
The National Botanic Gardens (www.botanicgardens.ie) is located at Glasnevin, 3.5km from the centre of Dublin. It is home to more than 15,000 plant species and cultivars from around the world. The gardens are famous for their glasshouses. Admission is free, and guided tours can be booked at €5 a person.
No feature on Dublin would be complete without a mention of the most famous Irish festival – St Patrick's Day on March 17 (www.stpatricksfestival.ie) when a huge parade sees some of Europe's best street performers come to entertain the city.
Dublin Port is two miles from the city centre. Irish Ferries offer several cruise and fast ferry options from Holyhead, North Wales. Stenaline operates the Stena Adventurer and Nordica between Holyhead and Dublin Port, with four daily sailings each way. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company connects the Isle of Man to Dublin in just under three hours. P&O Ferries takes car passengers between Liverpool and Dublin. Dublin Bus (number 53) connects Dublin Port with the city.