Thursday, October 27th, 2011
It might not be ladylike, but I must admit that I’m partial to a bit of the black stuff. No, I’m not talking about Australia’s favourite spread, I’m talking about the hearty beverage that’s about as Irish as they get — Guinness.
It’s true that Ireland’s most legendary beverage tastes best when drunk in Dublin. And when in town, an absolute must is a visit to the Guinness Storehouse; the birthplace of this Irish dry stout.
The place has come a long way since it was founded in 1759. My tour begins with a walk through the world’s largest pint glass — a huge atrium which is large enough to hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness. While this establishment markets itself mainly as a museum, the real treat for visitors comes at the tour’s end in the Gravity Bar, which offers panoramic views of Dublin and a free pint as well.
Dublin is the ideal place to begin exploring Ireland, a country that’s about to be more accessible for Australians, with Emirates soon to offer services to Dublin via Dubai. The airline, which currently operates 63 flights per week to Dubai from Australia (from Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney) will begin daily flights from Dubai to Dublin starting from January . This is Emirates’ first route to Ireland from Australia and it joins Etihad, which already operates Australian services to Dublin via Abu Dhabi.
And once in Dublin, visitors will realise that there’s more to Ireland’s capital than Guinness. During my trip, one of my first ports of call is Temple Bar. Named after Sir William Temple, the Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1599, Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter and home to a medieval pattern of cobbled streets packed with pubs and restaurants.
Temple Bar pub is considered a hub of Dublin nightlife and visitors can expect the full Irish experience, with live music and friendly staff and patrons. Like most pubs, its atmosphere becomes more lively as the day wears on. At lunchtime, I sample the local specialty of oysters with a pint of Guinness among the civilised clientele; however, popping in for a pint nine hours later I find a reassuringly loud and boisterous scene. I am immediately accosted and encouraged to join in some linked elbow dancing by a gentleman on his stag weekend.
As one of the oldest cities in Europe (first inhabited around 140 AD), Dublin is steeped in history and only a few cobbled streets away from Temple Bar is Dublin Castle, an impressive and imposing fortress originally built as a defensive position in 1204. Over the years it has been rebuilt four times and has been used as a prison, treasury and court of law, as well as an English military fortress. It’s well worth taking a tour through.
While Guinness, pub culture and history are huge parts of the Dublin experience, it’s also a beautiful and modern city that offers excellent shopping opportunities. As a self-confessed shopaholic, I’m right at home and promptly check out the pedestrian strips on Grafton Street and Henry Street that offer high-end stores. I’d also recommend heading to Cow’s Lane Fashion and Design Market in Temple Bar for a more unique experience, with pieces from up and coming Irish designers.
Only minutes outside Dublin, visitors looking for the more scenic side of Ireland can visit the tranquil hamlet of Fingal and the village of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. Both of these areas offer similarly friendly pubs, magnificent countryside walks and rugged coastlines.
Before departing, I can’t help but finish up with one last drink at Temple Bar. Dublin has worked hard in recent years to promote itself as a well-rounded destination offering the same attractions as any other major European city, with the added value of stunning coastlines and countryside. But, sitting in an oak-panelled pub, sipping on a pint of the black stuff, you can’t help but feel that Temple Bar is the heart of the city — and what better place to get a sense of the real Dublin?