I stood alone in the middle of the leprechauns. As I surveyed my surroundings of rainbows, lucky charms, pots of gold and bemused parents, I decided that this brief trip to Dublin might just have been the best stint of short travelling I’d ever done.
Allow me to explain.
For years I’ been fascinated by Ireland. The culture. The beer. The craic. It all sounded amazing. But I’d never been. Like most backpackers I’d foolishly neglected the awesomeness on my own doorstep.
Well, it’s not literally on my doorstep. I still had to get a ferry from Liverpool to Dublin. But the point is that it was close, and I knew almost nothing about it. I was more familiar with Caracas than Cork. I knew more about Dortmund than Dublin. Clearly, this had to change. So one spring morning I excitedly boarded a seafaring vessel and left the shores of Mother England for the unknown – or, as people like to call it, the ‘Irish Sea’.
It was a surprisingly smooth journey. I had distinct memories of ‘ferry fear’ during my younger years, but it turns out that most things are simply scarier when you’re a kid.
As beautiful and historic as Dublin is, a big draw for me was its brewing heritage. I wanted beer. I wanted whisky. I wanted to marinate my liver in good old Irish booze. So I stayed at the Four Courts Hostel, which is a great base from which to explore the city’s alcoholic attractions (and stumble back). It’s previously been voted ‘Ireland’s Best Hostel’, and on Tuesdays there are free pancakes. FREE. PANCAKES. Incredible.
After a swift beverage in the Brazen Head – Ireland’s oldest pub – my first proper stop was the Guinness Storehouse. Located in the heart of St. James’s Gate Brewery, the Storehouse was built in 1904 and used to ferment beer until 1988. It’s a legendary site. The Guinness Mecca. As you’d expect, there are tours, tastings and souvenir shops. I had a great time, even though the Storehouse claimed to showcase the “world’s largest pint glass, ” which is, of course, mathematically impossible given that a pint is a unit of measurement and no one unit can be ‘larger’ than any other.
Anyway. After the Guinness visit I checked out the Jameson Distillery. It did not disappoint, and following a thoroughly well spent day I headed out to Temple Bar, the cultural heart of Dublin, for some beers with two Swedes from the hostel. We met a whole bunch of Irish guys, and it appears in Ireland they do actually say, “Top of the morning.” At least, they did to us. In hindsight, they might have been mocking us.
But mockery side, I generally found the Irish men (and non-men) of Dublin to be friendly and welcoming. They had a wry, understated pride in their city and an unpretentious, down-to-earth sense of humour.
Waking late the following day my new Swedish friends Steffen, Bengt and I headed out for lunch. ‘Lunch’ ended up being liquid. After a procession of the black stuff, broken only by salted pub snacks, we decided to mix things up a bit. At that moment in time, a visit to the National Leprechaun Museum seemed like an amazing idea. Yep, it’s a real place. We all found it a fascinating dive into Irish folklore and mythology. We were enchanted. We were inspired. We were drunk. We were also a little disappointed by the lack of genuine leprechauns, but I guess you can’t have everything.
Dublin is a great city to do on a budget, which is sweet music to a backpacker’s ears. After a couple of days of Guinness and leprechauns I decided to lay off the liquor and rosy my cheeks the natural way. This means greenery, ponds and walking. Dublin has tons of parks to stroll in and clear your head, and the city is packed with Victorian and Georgian streets to wander and just really get a sense of the place. Dublin has produced some cultural titans, like James Joyce, Francis Bacon, Samuel Beckett and – greatest of all – Colin Farrell. It was incredible to walk in their footsteps. To follow the paths they may have taken.
I managed to find my way to Dublin castle, which was cool. History is brilliant. Art is brilliant too, especially if it’s free. Ireland’s National Gallery on Kildare Street costs nothing, and I thoroughly enjoyed a late afternoon saunter through the works of Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet.
A mini backpacking trip to Dublin can be an amazing experience. My few days were a whirlwind of inexpensive fun, and I’m convinced that you can do a trip to Ireland’s capital on a tight budget. Just remember not to go crazy buying souvenir whiskies and beer.
I found a list of 5 secret bars in Kilda that will get you absolutely hammered!