Traveling to Ireland is a bucket list trip for many people. But when it comes down to it, travelers often wonder just how to do Ireland right. Well, in a series of posts about my husband’s and my recent adventure, I’m going to offer some tips based on what we did right and what we did wrong on our memorable trip to the Emerald Isle this summer.
Now, when I say “what we did wrong,” I don’t really mean “wrong,” because I don’t believe you can make wrong choices on trips. I just think there are sometimes better choices.
So, let’s get to it. Below is how my husband and I would spend a perfect day in Dublin based on our favorite activities we did this summer. Except for the end-of-day excursion out to Howth, we walked everywhere listed below because we stayed near city centre. We hopped into our rental car and braved driving on the left side, including traffic circles, to drive to Howth.
The Rolling Donut
We would begin our day bright and early at our favorite donut shop. I don’t even like donuts usually, but The Rolling Donut was amazing! The moment you walk into the small shop, you’re overwhelmed with the smells of vanilla, chocolate, and other sweet scents mixed with the lovely aromas of cappuccinos and lattes. The bonus feature of The Rolling Donut? They have vegan choices that are just as tasty as the non-vegan choices. I know, because I tried both.
St. Stephen’s Green
After getting our donut(s) and lattes for “take away” (that’s what the Irish call a “to go” order), we would venture to the beautiful green space and ponds of St. Stephen’s Green, a lovely park south of Trinity College. There are many park benches to sit on while enjoying your breakfast, people watching, and admiring the many ducks, swans, and other interesting birds. (I realize how old that makes us sound, but it really is a lovely, thought-inspiring park.)
Trinity College and the Book of Kells
After a leisurely walk through St. Stephen’s Green, we head north to Trinity College. No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the Book of Kells exhibit and a walk through the center of Trinity College’s campus.
What is the Book of Kells? From the college’s website:
“The Book of Kells is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The 9th century book is a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.”
While the book is in fact beautiful and the exhibit provides a lot of information about how the manuscript was created and later discovered and preserved, the library where the book is displayed is the real marvel. My husband had to beg me to leave this most amazing library of very old books.
Lunch at The Winding Stair
Now that we’ve walked to get donuts, strolled through St. Stephen’s Green, and explored the campus and library of Trinity College, it’s less than ten minutes to where Mike and I used the famous Ha’penny Bridge to cross the River Liffey to a small restaurant hidden among the riverfront shops. Be careful! If you’re not looking for it, the tight set of wooden stairs are easy to miss.
Once you’ve climbed the steps, you’re greeted with a fabulous restaurant on the second level overlooking the River Liffey. The quaint restaurant is decorated with shelves of books and small café tables where you can enjoy a lovely lunch of fresh seafood, traditional Irish cuisine with a twist, and a perfect wine selection. This was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time and our top meal while in Ireland.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum
If you’re looking for a fascinating history lesson into what it was like being born and living in Ireland over the years, and where the Irish emigrated to during some of the harshest conditions, then the EPIC Emigration Museum is for you. I hesitate to say that this museum is entertaining because it’s based on centuries of oppression, but in many ways the museum is, in fact, entertaining. While it is self-guided, the museum offers an interactive and highly engaging approach to giving visitors an overall look into the people of Ireland, both past and present, and where the Irish have ventured (and often stayed) throughout centuries. (You will recognize a lot of famous people featured inside this museum.) There is a reason so many people around the world claim Irish heritage. This museum is a must visit!
The Pearse Lyons Distillery
Not quite time for dinner, and still pleasantly full from lunch, we hop online and secure a couple of tickets for a tour at the Pearse Lyons Distillery. This tour takes a top spot on my favorite things we did while in Ireland. And we did a lot of amazing things once we left Dublin (more on that in future posts).
It was my Kentucky roots and the main male character of the In Darkness series that drew me to learn more about Mr. Pearse Lyons (the man that Declan O’Roark from Exposed in Darkness is loosely based on) and his Irish whiskey. But it was the church that Mr. Lyons spent more than $30 million (and counting!) to convert into a working distillery, the surrounding cemetery, and the incredible storyteller that guided us through the grounds and building that made me fall in love with this experience.
Unlike most museums and other distilleries in Ireland, this experience came with a personal guide that was knowledgeable about the Lyons family, the history of Irish whiskey, and stories about the more than 100,000 people who are buried on the less than acre of land surrounding the old, restored church where Pearse Lyons whiskey and Ha’penny Gin are created. (Yes, we tried all of the whiskies and the gin! We even stopped at the bar next door to enjoy a discounted gin & tonic after the tour, courtesy of the distillery.)
If you’re in Dublin, visit this distillery. It’s across the street from the Guinness Storehouse, and if it were me, I would skip Guinness for Pearse Lyons every single time. Trust me. We toured both.
Dinner and Sunset in Howth, Ireland
It’s been a full day, I know! But we haven’t even had dinner, and we’re technically on an island, so what better way to enjoy an island than with seafood and a perfect sunset. For that, we hop in the car we rented, and head out to Howth, a small village and outer suburb of Dublin. Here, we walk along the docks and admire the beautiful sailboats before walking up the hill or along the main road and find the perfect dinner.
Mike and I actually had the best fisherman’s pie and fish & chips at a quaint pub called The Abbey Tavern at the top of the hill above Howth. After dinner we walked off dinner and the cider with a sunset walk. It was a perfect end to a perfect day in Dublin.
Have you been to Dublin? What was your favorite part of this city? Of the things listed above, what would you like to hear more about?
Note: This trip was taken to research Book 3 of the International Thief series, but I also might have come up with a future idea for the In Darkness series.
Photos © Copyright – Robert Sunseri, Mike Sunseri, and Heather Sunseri. All Rights Reserved.