I spent the back half of May in Ireland, photographing an incredible wedding at the absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous Marfield House about an hour south of Dublin (you guys, this is where Stephen Spielberg & co stayed while they filmed Saving Private Ryan on the shores of Wexford County. It’s the loveliest).
I had six nights in Dublin, and set out to eat and drink well, soak up some history, and just in general have a nice time. It’s rare for me to spend a whole work week in a different city, and I took advantage of the time by being extra open to randomness. I asked taxi drivers and bartenders for their favorite recommendations, which I absolutely suggest you do on every trip you ever take. My opening question would be, “what is the thing that, if I leave Dublin without having done, I’ll have really fucked up?”
Here were my favorites:
I would call it the hidden gem of the historical tours scene, but it’s totally not; it has five thousand 5 star reviews on trip advisor. I discovered it because it was next door to a beautiful and delicious restaurant that an old colleague (thank Bryan!) suggested I visit (Hatch & Sons - don’t miss it), and I had an hour to kill before my lunch reservation.
The museum is only accessible if you join a guided tour, which costs 10 euros, but it's so worth it as the charm of it all is in the performance of the host. I won’t give too much away, but the set up is brilliant and the 45 minute tour was one of the most joyful parts of my entire trip. I’d rank this over the famous Kilmainham Gaol (the jail), which is interesting and offers great perspective but as a tour not nearly as fascinating (and digestible) as the Little Museum of Dublin.
Do not miss.
Ahh. This was the best. Another unique Dublin experience where the warmth and personality of the hosts (pro actors) shines through. The crawl been running for almost 30 years, selling out night after night, and for good reason. They’ve created a completely engaging walking tour of Dublin, alternating in 25 minute intervals between a literature-based history lesson (and excerpted performances) and visits to centuries-old pubs that famous Irish writers frequented. They tell a side of the story of Dublin that no other tour will touch, with the most amazing sense of grace and good humor and some group participation.
I’m not a literature buff and certainly not up on my Irish writers, but I still found the whole thing gripping and hilarious. You’ll need to block out a evening for this (the tour starts around 7:30pm and goes until 9:30pm), and you might want to eat dinner beforehand if you want to enjoy a pint at each of the four pub stops. The tour happens daily when it's warm (April 1 - October 31) and every Sunday once the winter hits.
Definitely buy tickets in advance.
Whelan’s is an old pub that doubles as the go to indie rock club for Irish artists and touring musicians - the place to catch amazing up and comers as well as big-name bands when they’re in town for festivals but want to throw a smaller, more intimate show. They also host weekly trad performances - I got lucky with two Tuesday nights in Dublin and saw a band named Call the Dancers perform both nights. They were incredible, and did a magnificent job of turning the afterwork crowd into a serious party.
Check out the schedule before your trip to see who’s playing - and if there are any traditional Irish performances, definitely add one to your schedule. Other bars known for their trad performances are listed here.
4. Eat & Drink
I could wax poetic about most of the meals, beers and cocktails I had in Dublin, but I’ll save my breath and just list the ones I’d head back to in a heartbeat on my next trip to Ireland (small plug: if you’re getting married in Ireland, please please bring me along). Oh, and almost all of these are thanks to the incredible recommendations organized by Elizabeth Clayton, and a few extras thrown in by friends, colleagues, and anyone else who caught my ask on facebook. You're all the best.
Bastible (maybe ranks in the top 25 meals of my life?)
Dunne and Crescenzi (went to the Sandymount location, which is a tiny, calm and fancy part of town that is worth a visit. Fish Shop also has a spot here).
5. Get the hell out of Dublin
So, I arrived in Dublin with all but one night and two days planned: I wanted to leave that time open for a random, local-suggested overnight somewhere that I could get to on the train. As if by magic, my second taxi driver asked, “hey, do you have any free nights?” (yes, man), and suggested I head down to Glendalough, a monastic town south west of Dublin, in the valley of Wicklow Mountain National Park. Perfect for a quiet night and a really long hike, if that’s your thing. There’s a hostel in Glendalough proper that is cheap and clean, but it was sold out so I turned to Airbnb to look for a place nearby. I booked a room at Tudor Lodge B&B, a 20 minute walk from Glendalough, nestled on the sweet Main Street of Laragh, in a row of other B&Bs.
I arrived at Tudor Lodge around 4:00pm, and one of the staff suggested I take a walk/hike that started just past a wool shop nearby. I headed out at around 6:00pm and took one of the most grounded, serene walks I’ve ever taken in my life.
Glendalough itself was cool and beautiful, and there are a series of hikes and walks you can take, all color coded and marked by distance and difficulty. I didn’t get to it, but the taxi driver who sent me (who is also an outdoors guide on the weekends) told me, without hesitation, “take the white hike, clockwise”.
So, go to Glendalough, stay at Tudor Lodge B&B, and take the white hike, clockwise. It’ll take about four and a half hours, so bring snacks.
I have three upcoming Ireland posts: a photo essay, and two more written posts that will spend more time on my night in Glendalough and another few days I spent outside of Dublin in a tiny town called Rosslare. Some of my favorite days of the trip were in that town: two hours south of Dublin (on a busy Friday with traffic), and an hour south of the wedding I photographed in Gorey at the Marfield House. Oh yeah, once it's finished I'll share that, too.