Dublin is much more than pubs and storytelling, this UNESCO city of Literature is brim-full of historic buildings, Georgian squares, has an impressive foodie scene and quite possibly the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere.
There are plenty of fine and fancy hotels in Dublin but 5* boutique hotel The Dylan is one of the best. This Victorian building, a former nurses home for the Royal City of Dublin Hospital, is tucked away in a residential corner of the city. A recent 10 million euro facelift saw its bedrooms increase from 44 to 72.
In public areas the hotel offers opulence with a twist, leather padded walls and flocked wallpaper sit alongside Murano glass chandeliers and deep crimson carpets. Bedrooms are restful to the eye with calm décor, king size beds, Bose IPod stations and state-of-the-art bathrooms, some with additional tv above the bath, just in case you can’t bear to miss any of your favourite programmes, even while you soak.
The National Gallery of Ireland highlights collections of every major European school of painting with works by Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya and Picasso to please the eye, while the Yeats Collection displays more than 30 works by the Irish Impressionist. The Gallery is child friendly, with regular events and drawing workshops held in the atrium where there is also a bright and friendly café.
The Little Museum of Dublin – something of a misnomer, because it’s not really little – is located in a Georgian townhouse and crammed to the gills with stories, photos, artefacts and exhibits donated by the general public. The collection includes a lectern used by JFK on his visit to Ireland in 1963 while an entire room on the second floor is devoted to the history of local boys, U2.
EPIC is an interactive museum in the Docklands area telling the story of the millions of Irish who emigrated, driven out of their country by starvation, religious intolerance and more. If you’re one of the world’s 70 million people claiming Irish ancestry, the hands-on exhibits could connect you with your roots. Outside the exhibition centre poignant statues of people head for the ships that they hoped would take them to a better life.
Merrion Square, a Georgian garden square, was home to fashionable and aristocratic types of the day including novelist Oscar Wilde who lived at number one. He is commemorated by a statue in a corner of the park opposite his former home.
There’s no better place to enjoy a dose of sea air than pretty Howth village, just outside the city. This upmarket suburb has a working harbour and glorious cliff walks, ideal for blowing away those cobwebs. In the grounds of Lutyens-influenced Howth Castle is the National Transport Museum of Ireland and a foot golf course. In simple terms, foot golf is where participants kick a football around a specially adapted golf course – it is surprisingly popular. The Castle’s restored Georgian kitchens are home to the Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School where courses range in length from an afternoon to one week.
Experience Dublin differently when you climb onboard a Routemaster to enjoy a Vintage Tea Tour while tapping along to a soundtrack of 1950s jazz. The one and a half hour trip takes you past many of Dublin’s sights including the Guinness Brewery, St Patrick’s Cathedral and goes through Phoenix Park, one of Europe’s largest parks, home to herds of fallow deer and the Irish President’s official residence. The afternoon tea itself is top class – a generous selection of finger sandwiches, fruit scones with cream and jam and more pastries and desserts that the average person can handle. They cater for various dietary requirements and even give you a box so that you can take away what you can’t eat.
Talking of food, Fallon & Byrne is a Food Hall, restaurant and basement wine bar in the heart of Dublin. Menus include delights such as Carlingford Lough oysters served on ice with shallot and sherry vinegar, toasted spelt and mushroom stroganoff, while charcuterie boards offer selections of cheeses, cured hams and salamis served with cornichons and caperberries.
The Oar House, an old stone fisherman’s cottage in Howth, serves irresistible fishing net fresh food. Queues of diners testify to its popularity.
Avoca Handweavers is a family owned craft design company dating back a couple of hundred years. They produce gorgeous woven fabrics and signature throws and knits which are the company’s hallmark. Avoca Malahide in the grounds of Malahide Castle provides a merry hub of shopping opportunities and has a lovely café/restaurant on site. Everything here is homemade from delicious soups and desserts to breads and gorgeous cakes.
Fly to Dublin from London Southend Airport up to three times daily through Stobart Air’s franchise partnership with Flybe. Tickets from £29.99 pp one way (including taxes and charges). www.flybe.com
For more information and ideas, visit ireland.com.