It would be pointless for us to try and write a full guide to Dublin; the bookshelves are groaning with guides to this remarkable city, and any attempt to write a pub guide would be almost derisory. So what we have here is the merest flavour of the city distilled from the bits we probably enjoyed the most. Some details may have become blurred in the passing of time and water but I think you’ll get some idea of what this unique city has to offer. Dublin has become one of Europe?s top destinations. While it may not have the sights of Paris or Rome, it is an exciting and rewarding place to visit. You may principally be here for the craic and the porter black but Dublin has much more than smoky drinking dens. Some very fine Victorian architecture, the famous Georgian doors, a turbulent and fascinating history and the largest urban park in Europe, Phoenix Park, where the Pope delivered Mass in 1997 (which we couldn’t be arsed with really at all), are just some throwaway examples. This, and its multifarious cultural and artistic attractions give it all the added value that international race goers could wish for. We recommend you take the city bus tour to get a feel for the place, check the Dublin gallery to see how much fun this can be. You’ll be shown all the sights of the city from Trinity College to the Ha’penny Bridge, from the GPO building where the Easter Rising began to the statue of Molly Malone (the tart with the cart), you’ll be shown it all. If you are really (un)lucky, your guide will sing to you as well. Whatever these fine people are paid, it isn’t enough. Many Dublin sights have been renamed by the locals with that particular wit that is the preserve of the Irish. So look out for the Tart with the Cart, the Floozy in the Jaccuzi and the newly opened Stiletto in the Ghetto.
One thing to be aware of is that Dublin, and in particular the Temple Bar area, is full of very young people. And very young people who like drinking and making a lot of noise well into the night. So if you are an old fuddy-duddy or own a Nissan Micra (apologies for the tautology) then you would probably be better looking at alternative destinations.
Shopping in Dublin is reasonably stress-free as there is a wide selection of shops to suit all finances. Grafton Street is the main area with the usual stores dotted around. However, there is the occasional
gem – you just need to look about. The high proportion of young people means that second-hand bookshops and clothes shops abound. There are many fine establishments to browse but be aware that shopping in Dublin can sometimes take a bit longer than you might think. They do like to have a wee chat with you.
Where To Eat
Dublin has what you might call an eclectic view on dining. Now ask yourself, where does Ireland feature in the league table of the world’s finest cuisines? Exactly.
Traditional fare revolves around the humble potato, be it in gigantic, singular, unpeeled, unwashed, eye-ridden, lump form or the more dignified, but equally belly-filling crepified format known as the boxty. The boxty is a kind of potato pancake filled with a variety of edible substances. Excellent examples can be had at Bewley’s or Gallagher’s – well known establishments in the city. Those in search of traditional fare might like to try Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, on Fleet Street. It is HUGE and is usually very busy which is often a good sign. It’s right in the heart of Temple Bar, though, which is often a bad sign. They claim to serve traditional Irish cooking, like Dublin Coddle (sausage, bacon, onion and the obligatory potato, stew) with dishes dating back over 100 years. IOHO, it’s OK, but there are greater epicurean delights elsewhere. Tel: 671 1822. Dublin does, of course, boast one of the finest fish & chip shops in the civilised world: Leo Burdock’s in Werburgh Street. It’s just around the corner from the Lord Edward pub or Jury’s Christchurch Inn depending on your predeliction. It is well worth a visit even for potatophobics.
A bit more upmarket is Tante Zoe’s, a Cajun/Creole place on Crow Street in Temple Bar. Excellent food and friendly service from a particularly attractive set of young ladies is not to be sneezed at. So it’s not traditional Irish, but the rice will help soak up the Guinness. Tel: 679 4407. For lunch, head off to O’Neills on Suffolk Street, a labyrinth of snugs and corners serving quick lunches or a full feed from their carvery. Much better food than you are entitled to expect from a city centre pub. Be warned that is is very busy at lunchtime but well worth the wait if you are hungry. Keep an eye out for the serving technique at the carvery. These are lads who did not train under Jamie Oliver.
A good day at the races, or gratuitous showing-off, might lead you to the Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at the Merrion Hotel. Two Michelin stars and a host of awards tell their own tale. Take your camera so you can take a picture of the food – it is truly a work of art.
Where To Drink
Your choice is limited only by your imagination and the resilience of your liver and other vital organs. Most of the vibrant nightlife is based around the young and lively Temple Bar area of the city but there are plenty of other fine areas for you to explore. The traditional Irish bar may be getting harder to find, as the number of glass-and-steel dance hell-holes increases, but there are many places worthy of a visit. Is it expensive? Well, at around 3.50 a pint it’s not that much more than city-centre drinking in the UK, and much more rewarding.
A good starting point at the very top of Temple Bar is the Lord Edward on Christchurch Place, which still has some claim on tradition. A small, smoky, friendly bar full of small, smoky, friendly locals proved the ideal place to watch the Irish version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. We also spent some time in the Mercantile, on Dame Street. A leviathan of a pub, its scale alone makes it worth a look, but you could be anywhere and it ain’t cheap. It does have one other peculiar and rather unique feature, though. Seated at the very back of the pub, on the first floor, it is possible, quite innocently you understand, to see into the ladies toilets of the Dame Tavern (also worth a brief stop) across the street. Now, we are not suggesting that watching the fair maidens of Dublin on the can is in any way an attraction, but it does make for an amusing and verifiable dare after a few beers. I speak from experience when I say that the view in the other direction is just as much fun.
Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street claims the best Guinness in town, but you’ll need to judge for yourself. Davy Byrne’s, of Ulysses fame, is worth visiting for the Irish stew and the gorgonzola sandwiches. The Stag’s Head, The Long Stand and Neary’s are all worth visiting if you’re looking for bars with a bit of character.
Madigan’s, on Earl Street North, we liked. Nice high ceilings and impressive polished taps in a well-preserved old pub. Good Guinness here! The Porter House on Parliament Street is among the more interesting of Dublin?s newer pubs, being the city’s first micro-brewery with a range of its own brews, makes for interesting imbibing. Add the frenetic atmosphere and regular live music, and you’ll get a feel for why Dublin’s nightlife is so famous. It claims to be the ‘best pub in Dublin’, which makes me suspicious, but there’s no denying that the PorterHouse Red is worth the trip
Where To Stay
We stayed in the Harding Hotel on Fishamble Street, close to all the action in Temple Bar, but with the chastening view over Christchurch Cathedral from your window. It also boasts a street running through its lobby. Rooms are comfy enough and have usual modern facilities. There is also a bar below, Darkey Kelly?s, which is a good enough place to start the session. It has live music too but then, these days, what Dublin pub doesn’t. Rates are not too bad at around ?60 for a single given its location, although breakfast – served in Darkey Kelly’s downstairs – is extra.
Alternatively, you might want to spend a bit more at Jury’s Christchurch Inn – a mere stone’s throw away for those with a good throwing arm. Rooms are bright, spacious and clean and facilities are excellent. They do some good deals, particularly over the Internet, so keep your eyes peeled and you may pick up a bargain
What To Avoid
No doubt about it – Eddie Rockets. This glitzy American 50s-style diner on Dame Street is well dodgy. The food will perform one important function, though: your plumbing system will be given a complete and thorough evacuation. We recommend the aptly-named power breakfast but ensure that you are in the vicinity of a restroom towards the end of your meal.
Beggars are prevalent on Dublin’s streets but then I guess it’s the same just about everywhere. The Irish variety is blessed with the gift of the blarney though so be prepared to steel yourself against the onslaught. The area up around O’Connell Street has also gained a recent reputation for pickpockets and street muggings so you maybe want to be a bit careful round there at night.
Tat abounds. If you want a sheep fridge magnet that plays When Irish Eyes are Smiling then Dublin is yer man.
Due to its young population, cheap and frequent flights from the UK and reputation, the Temple Bar area can be a bit of a magnet for stag and hen nights so you might want to avoid the area on a Friday and Saturday night.
Dublin is one of the smallest capital cities in the world and also has probably the youngest population. So a lot of activities are aimed at the 18-30 set. Consequently, you should prepare yourself for alcohol consumption, talking nonsense and incoherent conversation after about 10 o’clock in the evening. If you own a Nissan Micra then this should not pose too much of a problem for you – except for the alcohol consumption, obviously.
Alcohol is a central feature of Dublin lifestyle so be prepared to spend a lot of time in pubs. So the Guinness Brewery (or Storehouse, the brewery itself is not open to the public) is worth the trip: a splendid museum charting the rise and rise of the country’s most famous export. Features include a whole section on the famous Guinness advertising and endless opportunities to buy Guinness branded merchandise. Be sure not to miss the SkyBar, where your free sample will be served in a tower with a 360 degree panoramic view over the city. The story is that the people of the city wanted a tower as their millennium celebration, the Dublin Corporation refused and Guinness took up the challenge. Whether this is true or not is debatable – like most of the things Dubliners tell you – but what cannot be argued is that this was the best Guinness to be had in the city, even at 11 in the morning.
Most pubs have some form of live music, usually of the fiddle variety. The quality can vary but sessions are very lively. If you fancy a bit of dancing then go no further than Kitty O’Shea’s. Full of
tourists but hey, are you not a tourist yourself?
Ireland has, of course, produced some of the finest writers in the world. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey and Jonathan Swift et al have all made their unique mark on the literary lexicon. And we’ve
already mentioned that alcohol is a central part of the Dublin way of life. What could be more typically Dublinesque than to marry the two. And so was the literary pub crawl born: a wonderful, rambling journey through the best bits of Irish literary history with a few snifters of the Guinness thrown in.
For some peace and tranquillity, you might want to spend an hour or two at Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest Uni and right in the heart of the city, only a short walk from Molly Malone on Grafton St. Lovely buildings and grounds and, of course, the Book of Kells in the Old Library. Be prepared for a bit of a queue though. We recommend that you join one of the guided tours. They are usually led by students or postgrads from the University and can be eventful. Something about studying at Trinity seems to bring out the Oscar Wilde in them all. The cultural event, though, that gets the Plumbers ‘u-bend’ of approval is the short taxi ride (see the Getting to the Course section) to Dalymount Park to see Bohemians play. The Eircom Irish league champions provide excellent entertainment and you’ll get good craic from the crowd. Boh-es ’til we die.
Go to Dublin at Easter time for the parades and songs of the 1916 Rising, where O’Connell Street is packed with people and the lampposts are adorned with faces of the martyrs of that rising.  .
Take the plane. Ryanair flights are plentiful and cheap with the trip taking no more than an hour from most civilised parts of the UK.
Getting To The Course
If you’re heading out to Fairyhouse for the racing, you’ll need a car or a taxi unless you want to slum it with the hoi polloi on one of the many extra buses put on by the Corporation on race days. We recommend the taxi option, and we’d go as far as to recommend a driver. Ray is yer man, call him on his mobile, 086 345 2081. Not only will he take where you want to go, but he will give you the inside story on everything en route, from horse racing to the Papal visit. Ray’s unique view is a true Dublin experience. If easily offended by profanity, take the bus. In fact, if you’re easily offended by profanity you’d be better not going to Dublin at all at all. Access to/from the course is via one single track road so it gets busy. The last time we were there the Garda decided it would be a good idea to allow only incoming traffic prior to the meeting. Presumably, the idea was to minimise congestion by trapping everyone at the course for the whole afternoon.
About The Course
Fairyhouse is a grand course on a grand scale. It’s a good few miles outside the city (it’s at Ratoath about 15 miles north of Dublin) so remember to book Ray. Views are excellent with a large grandstand accommodating a vociferous and good-natured crowd. Fairyhouse also hosts one of the biggest bars you are ever likely to see in your life. Betting is pretty much the same as in the rest of the UK with plenty of on-course bookies to choose from. There is ample opportunity to polish up your Irish accent too.
The website carries scant details of hospitality offerings, fixtures, admission prices and so on.
What to Wear
Horse racing is such a central part of Irish life that you will find it very much a family occasion. So the rule for the well-dressed plumber is wear what you like. Barbour and Burberry or Winfield and WhatEvery’s: they’re all in great abundance at the course.
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