I’ll be honest here… I’m biased when it comes to Dublin. Growing up in north Wicklow, Dublin was this exotic city… so close, yet so far. I have a vivid memory of getting lost there with a friend when I was twelve. My Mum left us at O’Connell street and I rang her three hours later from a phone box for directions. “What can you see?”, she asked…. “A big shop called ‘Clery’s'” I responded. We were exactly where she’d left us.
I then spent four years at university in the centre of Dublin. Lunchtimes, breaks and occasional class times were spent roaming the local area in search of bargains, new foods and frothy cappuccinos. Although it was a vibrant and fun place back in the mid-noughties, the most exotic foodstuffs on offer tended to be soggy paninis and half full wraps (or half empty depending how you view the world). Ten years later, things have changed dramatically… More on that in Day two!
Day one was a step back in time rather than a leap forward… It started with a guided tour of Glasnevin cemetery. I cannot recommend this place highly enough, especially for history buffs. The tour takes 90 minutes, and is a real snapshot of Irish historical figures. You visit the graves of Cromwell, Parnell, O’Connell, Collins and many in between, and at each graveside you learn all about the significance of that person. The tour guide (John) knew a ridiculous amount about everyone and everything and even managed to throw in some cheesy jokes and fascinating trivia for good measure… Did you know that there was a famous transit camp in India, where everyone went crazy from the heat, called Doolally? I found it quite an emotional place and it really connects you to the people buried there and their stories. The bit that really got the waterworks going was when John recreated Padraig Pearse’s famous 1915 speech at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa. Just as he read out the last line “the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead , and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”, the plaintive tone of a bagpipe joined in from a nearby funeral. I was finished…
After all of that emotional upheaval, it was really time to drown the sorrows in ‘The Gravediggers’. This pub is synonymous with the graveyard. It was established the year after the cemetery was created, when a local man realised how lucrative it could be and converted his house into a bar. Since then, it has been frequented by locals, mourners and tourists, and is rumoured to have the best Guinness in Dublin. At only €4.50 a pop, it’s pretty good value too! This is an obligatory stop off if you’re in Glasnevin, but make sure to bring cash as they don’t accept cards. That very fact limited us to one pint each, which may have been for the best.
I would love to say that the rest of our day continued with culture, history and folklore, but instead it turned into a competition to find the best Guinness in Dublin, along with a little stroll in Phoenix park. Final tally puts Gravediggers first, Mulligans (Poolbeg street) second and the Brazen Head third, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them!