24 Hours in Dublin: history, books and booze.

24hrs in Dublin

24 Hours in Dublin.

A full day exploring Dublin ended in a busy bar on a summer Saturday drinking yet another glass of Guinness, the final location on the thoroughly entertaining Dublin Literary Pub Crawl.

It was the gloriously Art Deco, Davy Byrnes bar, a regular haunt of James Joyce. It appears, along with Davy Byrnes himself, in Ulysses. Although Joyce would never have seen the glamorous interior in his day.

This was my last Guinness of the week, and what a great place to enjoy it, the ceiling alone is worth a glance up: I just can’t get enough Art Deco in my life!

The tour had begun, as it always does (at 19.30), in the upstairs bar of the The Duke Pub. The literary hilarity began at the off with a scene from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

One pint of stout down, we moved on to Trinity College – where we had been in the morning to see the sublime Book of Kells: more of that later.

Oscar Wilde had us in stitches, well the actor quoting him did! The two actors presenting the tour were so good, even to someone – me– with shamefully poor literary knowledge: trust me, you don’t need to be a great reader or academic to enjoy this tour.

From the four pubs we visited and the street locations we stopped at for a skit we heard about Dublin’s literary heritage as well as a little Irish history along the way. The pubs were all different from the atmospheric rabbit warren – how many rooms? – O’Neills to the airy The Old Stand and the Deco Davy Byrnes.

There was just enough time (20 minutes) for a pint in each, or a half if you’re like me and don’t like to rush it!


I had to cut my Irish holiday off short and travel back via the ferry and trains to England to house sit for my brother, so I only had a brief time in Dublin.

Fortune had it that we were able to meet up with some very good friends here. We met Keli and Dave in a hostel in Tokyo back in 2008 and we’ve stayed in touch ever since, meeting up with them in Los Angeles (where they live), Scotland and Paris over the years.

They travel to a couple of countries every summer and we’ve been able to meet them most years, it’s so cool to meet up with people on your wavelength isn’t it! We joke: where will we meet next? Sweden is our bet for next year!

We camped just north of the city at the Camac Valley Camping and Caravan Park in the Thunder Truck, a handy bus stop picks up just outside the park to transport campers into the city and in the mornings the Red City Sightseeing Dublin bus can take you directly into the city for €2: you don’t need to take the full tour.

Thunder Truck at Camac Valley Dublin

Dublin, Trinity CollegeIt was this tour bus that dropped us off into central Dublin on the Saturday morning. We met Keli and Dave and walked over the river to Trinity College and joined the queue to see the Book of Kells.

Some things are worth the wait: I would wait all day to see the Book of Kells.

Simply put, it is one of the most extraordinary things you could set your devouring eyes on.

We didn’t have to wait all day, the line was quite long yet I still had to drink a cup of coffee faster than I ever have before we reached the front (there’s a super handy coffee stand next to the queue with great muffins!).

Before you reach the book, you are taken through an interesting and informative exhibition about the craft, art and history behind the book. It slows the flow of people and builds up the excitement.

In the adjacent darkened room two folios of the 9th Century book lie open under glass, four richly decorated pages revealed to the visitor. The book is split into four folios.

“I wanted it to be St Matthew.” An American woman near me stated with a hint of disappointment.

One open page showed a spectacular portrait St John, I’d been admiring its remarkably fine detail, bright colours and gilded design for a few moments, purely from an aesthetic point of view. Of course, many people come to see the Book of Kells for its religious significance too.

The Book of Kells dates from around 800 AD, and it is generally thought to have been crafted on the Isle of Iona in Scotland before making its way over to Ireland, it contains the four Gospels telling the story of Jesus’ life.

I can’t show you photographs as photography wasn’t permitted, however you can view every single glorious page online here! How amazing is that?

What I can show you in pictures is the magnificent Trinity College Library which you are lead into after the Book of Kells.

Trinity College LibraryBut I can’t share with you the incredible smell of this old library, the magical scent of ageing knowledge, of leather-bound books: a comforting, embracing smell.

The books are arranged by size to strengthen and stabilise the structure of the building, plus it looks so neat! 

While it appeared that most of the books are in Latin, I asked and there are actually many different languages represented in the collection.

After the Book of Kells, this library is the fitting post script: from one remarkable book to a remarkable collection of many.

Leaving the Library we strolled to the nearby Merrion Square to see Oscar Wilde’s fabulous statue where he lounges in the corner of the small park.

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin and spent most of his childhood in a house overlooking the square, a blue plaque shows which one.

The statue was fun to see, especially after seeing his Deco grave stone in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris a few summers ago (again, with Dave and Keli!).

After grabbing some take out lunch at the delicious vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia we took our picnic to Dublin Castle, eating it in the sunny courtyard after watching the opening of a march for the state commemoration of the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa, a founding member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the 1850s.

The Star of the Order of St Patrick, worn by a Viceroy

The castle was a peaceful retreat from the passionate march outside, which, as an English girl, made me feel somewhat uncomfortable.

We paid the extra couple of euros for a guided tour which was an excellent decision, our guide was informative and humorous, albeit with an even more amusing poker-straight face.

Over the tour our mixed group of tourists were taken through the castle from the basement to the state rooms, and also into the beautiful chapel.

Every room revealed snippets of Irish history in a digestible pieces going back to the Vikings and Norman rule. It was the seat of the British administration of Ireland up until 1922 when it was handed to the newly formed independent government lead by Michael Collins.

I think the castle experience would have been a bit flat had we not opted for a guide, I’d definitely recommend doing it.

DublinHaving been on our feet for most of the day we found a quiet little tea shop for a sit down and some refreshment, a pot of Darjeeling was exactly what I needed. We talked travel, blogging, life, work until our bellies started to growl.

I’d love to say now that we feasted on good Irish fare, but we ended up have some tasty veggie Mexican burritos that were both inexpensive and perfect to fill us up before the Literary Pub Crawl!

So that brings us up to the Pub Crawl.

I rose early the next day and Chris drove me to the Dublin port to catch the ferry over to Wales where I caught two connecting trains to Birmingham, in the delightful comfort of first class for a bargain treat.

My Irish adventure was over, Chris is still there enjoying it all: he highly recommends the Historical Walking Tour!

How have you enjoyed Dublin?

By Rachel A Davis   Follow on Bloglovin

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6 Responses

  1. Oh my goodness, that library alone would make the trip worth it. I know what you mean about the smell of old books too – I love it! I am such a literary geek and got so excited this weekend when I went to the former home of the Bronte sisters in Haworth!
    thegrownupgapyear recently posted…Truck Festival: My first festivalMy Profile

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Yes, the books smell dreamy! When I lived in Oban Chris was an online bookseller and our living room was just walled with secondhand books, it was great (although they generated dust like a plague!). It made our home smell a little like this library 😀

  2. Dave Rowley says:

    I’m always so amazed by the level of detail in your blog postings – so impressive! Especially the descriptions of each pub on the Literary Pub Crawl. I barely remember which one was which (though alcohol could contribute to that.) I think the Trinity library is the most beautiful I’ve seen yet in the world – especially the feeling of age – how many centuries have some of those books been there? Looking forward to your next blog posting as always, and looking forward to our next meetup!
    Dave Rowley recently posted…Ozgehan Istanbul Interview Part 1My Profile

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Thanks Dave, I do try to be clear and full of detail, even if it takes a bit longer to write! I had to research which the pubs were, I was able to recognise them by images.
      I loved that Library too, thank you so much for inspiring us to visit it, I’m glad you wanted to do it again!
      I can’t wait to the next meet up!

  3. Kasha says:

    I’m heading over to Dublin for the very first time next month and your post has made me SO excited! I studied English Lit at uni, and Trinity College Library looks like the stuff of dreams. I’ll have to add that one to the itinerary!
    Kasha recently posted…Memories from my first GlastonburyMy Profile

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Really! Oh, you are going to love it Kasha! Be sure to check out the library and the Book of Kells. I wish I’d had a bit more time to explore more. Have a great trip!

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