June 3-5 2017:
Our Ryanair flight from Edinburgh left almost an hour late, for no apparent reason, but once we arrived, we quickly found our rental car and drove 45 minutes to our Airbnb in Churchtown, a suburb on the south side of Dublin. The reviews for the B&B were excellent and we were excited to be staying in another lovely room in an old Victorian home. However, as we walked up to the house, and passed the “conservatory”, a glassed-in sunroom that appeared to be used as a junk storage room, we began to wonder if we were at the right place.
A young girl of about 20, checked us in and took us upstairs to our room. The doors to the rooms along the entry hall were partially closed but I could see piles of junk and clothes and art supplies as we walked by, and the carpet was worn and a little dirty. When we got to our room, it did look more or less like the pictures but with almost indiscernible differences. The light coloured carpet had stains, there was a large throw rug that wouldn’t lie flat and was a serious trip hazard, and the room had the smell of deodorizer attempting to cover up unpleasant odours. The room had a big bay window that looked out onto a overgrown yard, a far cry from Mary’s lovely garden in Stirling. However, the bed seemed clean and comfortable, and overall, the room was large and relatively comfortable.
We settled in, unpacked, and then walked a block down the road to catch the Luas light rail tram into town (€4.20 each for a return ticket but you can get a day pass for €7 for unlimited travel if intend to make more than one return trip). It was an easy 15 minute ride that took us right down to St Stephen’s Square. We walked around the town and found a place to eat. It was busy all over but we chose a quiet place that was closing soon and had a light meal, then we headed back home as we’d had a long day. We went to bed around 11:30 but could hear people talking until well after midnight. Still, I had a decent sleep and was comfortable.
The next day, we planned a full day in Dublin. We went downstairs for our breakfast time of 8:30. The kitchen door was closed so we went in and were met in the somewhat cluttered kitchen by three boisterous dogs, complete with doggy smells. We weren’t sure what to do so we stood there for a few minutes and hoped someone would show up. Sure enough, John, the owner, came in from outside, and eventually took two of the bigger dogs outside, and then came in and made us breakfast. He was friendly and helpful and gave us some good advice about where to go and what to do for the day.
We learned that he lived there with his wife (who we never met because she was working), his young adult daughter, and two son adult sons off and on. After breakfast, we headed back to the tram and into Dublin. We bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus (online because there was a 10% savings) and we sat on the bus and listened to the live commentary for about 2 1/2 hours. It was pretty good and we enjoyed learning about the history of the city.
After one complete loop, we got off and wandered around a bit, stopping at a pub for a pint of Guinness and some lunch, and then did a bit more wandering. We didn’t bother to go on the Guinness or Jamison’s tours – they are pretty expensive, and touristy – but we did check out most of the free sights. We enjoyed the Temple Bar district and saw lots of touristy places to hang out. We were glad we watched the Netflix miniseries called “Rebellion” about the Easter Rising when the Irish fought the English in an effort to regain control of their own country in 1916. This seems to have been a common theme on our trip this year – the Scots and the Irish both had to fight the English to end British rule.
Although we didn’t actually go into any of these places, here are a few of the most popular things to see and do in Dublin. In many cases, it’s advisable to book online, often in advance, and then just show your digital ticket (but read the fine print carefully first in case some insist on a printed ticket). Usually, you will save 10-20% as well.
- Kilmainhan Gaol, where the Irish rebels were executed (€8, book tickets ahead, online)
- The Book of Kells, in Trinity College (€13)
- Dublin Castle (€10 guided, €7 unguided)
- Guinness Storehouse (€14 and up)
- St Patrick’s Cathedral (€6.50, plus €5 for audioguide)
- National Botanical Gardens (€5 for guided tour)
- Monument to Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square (free)
- Literary Pub Crawl (€12)
- The Temple Bar Pub, in the Temple Bar district (the cost of a pint)
- Hop On, Hop Off Bus – There are three companies (see list below for links) and each has a slightly different route and options with additional offers attached to the ticket such as discounts on sites, or a free pint in a specific pub. We chose the least expensive (yellow) and were happy with the tour. Plus we bought our tickets online at a €3 discount.
- Yellow – By Cityscapes – €15 for one day pass (not 24 hr), or €12 if booked online
- Red – €19 for 24 hour pass – 15% off if booked online
- Green – by DoDublin – €16 for 24 hour pass
If you intend to visit a lot of the sights I have listed above, you might consider getting a City Card such as the DoDublin Card which gives you free access to a number of sights. The DoDublin card is €33 but I’m sure there are others as well.
In the late afternoon, we took the tram back to our B&B to relax for a few hours before supper. John and his two sons were outside when we arrived and we said hello. One of the sons seemed a bit taciturn, and almost rude, but we figured, whatever. We went up and relaxed and discussed how we were going to review the place. We couldn’t believe it had so many good reviews, given the state of the house. There was a definite musty odour in the bathroom, the painted clawfoot tub was peeling, the shower curtain had seen better days, and the toilet seat was cracked and could pinch you if you weren’t careful. We are not super picky – how can we be seeing the place in such a different light than other guests??
Around 7pm, we walked one kilometre down the road to a popular bar/restaurant called the Dropping Well, named because so many starving peasants dropped dead from exhaustion after stopping for a drink at the river during the potato famine in the late 1840’s that they had to build a morgue – and a pub, because why not? Supper was good and we walked back to our B&B as it got dark.
When we arrived, the “weird” son was out front and grunted a response when we said hello. We went upstairs to relax before getting ready for bed around 11:30. We could hear fairly loud voices, both inside and outside the house and had to close the bedroom window because of the noise and cigarette smoke. There were doors slamming, and some loud yelling that sounded aggravated or angry. Erik confided that he thought one of the young men was a little ‘off’. His dad had mentioned he had ADHD and had gone to a special summer camp in Canada one year but we began to wonder if he didn’t have more serious psychological problems. We discussed the fact that our bedroom door had no lock and I decided to drag the heavy armchair up against the bedroom door, just to be certain. I know, probably a little overkill, but it was late and I was tired.
We went to bed, but I still had a terrible sleep. The loud voices and slamming continued until close to 2am and I never really felt safe. In the morning, Erik went down for breakfast, but I skipped it. I couldn’t face the dog-smell kitchen and the weird family again. We checked out as soon as we were ready and left Dublin. I guess that just goes to show you, you can’t always trust reviews 100%. Sometimes, you just get a dud. We’ve had so many awesome accommodations, I really can’t complain, and there were a number of positive things about the accommodations including the excellent location relative to transit, and the reasonable price for a fairly expensive city.
Next up: Waterford, Ireland