A cruise around the British Isles can either be limited to the larger island of Great Britain, which includes England, Wales and Scotland. It can also include the smaller island properly known as Eire, but more popularly called Ireland. I strongly urge anyone planning to cruise the British Isles to choose an itinerary that does include a visit to the beautiful “Emerald Isle” that is Ireland. Among the ports of call will be Dublin, capital of the Irish Republic and a city of great charm that reflects the gracious personality of the Irish people.
Dublin is located on the east coast of Ireland, about midway between the southern end of the island and the border with Northern Ireland. The city occupies what is essentially rather level ground, divided by the River Liffey, which gently flows through the heart of the city. Dublin is not a very large city, its greater population including the suburbs being around one million. Most of the major sights that visitors want to explore are located in and around the city center, and it is a city conducive to walking. And if you do get thirsty, there are many pubs that you can dip into and either have a hefty Guinness or a spot of tea, if that is your preference. And then off you can go again and do more exploring.
Ireland has become known as the “Emerald Isle” because of its mild, damp climate. Being the outermost of the British Isles, it is bathed by moist air carried by the evaporation from the Gulf Stream current that brings life-giving warmth to the northern coast of Europe. Thus rain, mist and fog are a part of the Irish landscape. And when you visit Dublin or anyplace in Ireland, do not count on many consecutive sunny days with blue sky. It is the moisture that nourishes the land and makes Ireland so very green. And when you visit, a jacket and a portable umbrella are always a part of your wardrobe. But this is part of what makes Ireland the land that it is.
Most cruise ships will sail into the mouth of the River Liffey and dock very close to the city centre of Dublin. Tours of the city are readily available, offered by the cruise line or you can very easily see the city on your own if you prefer. There is more than what can be seen in a single day, but the highlights to try and not miss are:
- St. Stephens Green is a beautiful mid city park on the west side of the River Liffey and it is one of the most popular meeting spots in the city. Here you can people watch and truly get the flavor of Dublin amid the greenery and flowerbeds.
- Temple Bar is the district between St. Stephen’s Green and the River Liffey that is filled with the city’s best shops and is heavily oriented toward traditional pubs and restaurants. This is the major nighttime entertainment district and you will hear the sounds of Irish music wafting on the air. Grafton Street with its colourful flower vendors connects St. Stephen’s Green with Temple Bar.
- Trinity College and the Book of Kells is a must for all visitors. The college campus is architecturally a gem and the Book of Kells dates back 800 years. It is a magnificent illustrated work by medieval monks and brings the stories of the Gospel to life. It is very sacred to the Irish people.
- Guinness Storehouse Museum is considered to be the most popular site for visitors to Dublin. You will learn the story of this famous Irish brew, see many important artifacts and then end up at the Gravity Bar high atop the building for both a taste of this great brew combined with a fabulous view of the city.
- Irish Whiskey Museum is another attraction for those who enjoy the strong brew itself and want to learn about how it is made. The museum is a very popular venue and completes the story of the making of one of the world’s most famous whiskeys.
- Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the real thing when it comes to Catholic cathedrals so named. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and this gothic cathedral is very special architecturally and historically given that it is in the heart of Dublin.
- Kilmainham Gaol is a very somber site to visit, but it helps you to understand and greatly respect the tenacity of the Irish people during their struggle for independence from British rule. Many thousands of political prisoners were harshly treated, many died or were shipped off to penal colonies in Australia. Visiting this jail is in a way paying tribute to Ireland.
- O’Connell Street is the main street in the heart of Dublin. Standing in the middle of the street is the Monument of Light, a massive 121 meter high tapering obelisk that commemorates the 21st century. Also at the head of the street just after crossing the River Liffey is the important statue to Daniel O’Connell, the 19th century Irish independence leader for who the street is named.
- Moore Street Market is an outdoor food market that is where farmers bring their produce and other wares to sell. It is a throwback to earlier centuries and is especially colourful.
- National Museum of Ireland has an outstanding collection that focuses upon the history and archaeological pre history of the Irish people and of those who were its far distant ancestors.
There are many more sites to be visited while in Dublin, but when you are on a cruise you only have a single day in which to explore a city. If you can manage to see all of the places noted above, you will have accomplished quite a bit and will come away wanting to return to Dublin in the future. The city embodies the very spirit of being Irish and it is going to be the highlight of your cruise through Irish waters even though the most breathtaking scenery is in the southern part of the country. Dublin is in essence to Ireland what London is to England.
Submitted by, Dr. Lew Deitch www.doctorlew.com