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Make a break for it to Dublin: best bits during a staycation in the fair city

By Melanie May

September 2, 2020 at 10:13am

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Dublin beguiles with its charm, culture, creativity, and a unique setting surrounded by hills and by the sea. It is a combination few other cities can match.

The city has an intimate feel and a lively heart. It revels in its modernity but also in its cultural heritage. It is upbeat and cosmopolitan yet still retains its gritty old soul.

With its museums and monuments, whiskey and water, parks and pubs, Dublin’s fair city has more than its fair share of culture and craic to keep everyone entertained. Its compact size means it is perfect to explore on foot, but you can also uncover its stories and secrets by peddle- and paddle-power. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to pack your bags and make a break for it “cause Dublin keeps on changing and nothing seems the same” so there are plenty of new and exciting things to discover in the capital.

Here are eight things not to miss in the fair city.

National Museum of Ireland

Discover more about Ireland’s place in the world and its fascinating and diverse history with a visit to the National Museum of Ireland. There are three National Museums in Dublin each dedicated to preserving and presenting the stories of Ireland in a unique, interactive and fun way. All of these museums are free to visit.

Natural History Museum

The kooky ‘Dead Zoo’ is located across the road from Merrion Square. This beautiful building dates back to the 1800s and is stuffed to the rafters with stuffed (not in a cuddly way) animals of all sizes, preserved insects and spiders and a whole host of other species too. Terrific taxidermy line the walls and skeletons fill the floors. Children love this place especially the Discovery Zone where you can handle taxidermy and bones. The museum is truly fascinating and good fun. There is some work going on in the museum at the moment but it's still definitely worth a visit.

Collins Barracks

The Museum of Decorative Arts and History is housed in Collins Barracks near to Heuston Station. A former military barracks, the grounds are impressive and imposing, and here you’ll find two diverse collections; the decorative arts collection and the military history collection.

Curious to know how fashion has changed throughout the years? ‘The Way We Wore’ exhibition displays clothing and jewellery worn in Ireland from the 1760s to the 1960s - the silk breeches are rather fetching.

The Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition traces Ireland’s military history from 1550 into the 21st century. Want to know what life was really like in the Barracks? Spend some time in the Barracks Life Room where you can try on the uniforms and delve deeper into Ireland’s military history using the interactive computers. Do you think you could hack it like a solider in the 19th century? With its engaging and interactive exhibits, there is plenty here to keep children of all ages entertained.

Top tip: When you come off duty, head over to the cafe and enjoy some food and drink in the history-steeped courtyard and don’t forget to exit through the gift shop.

Make a break for it to Dublin: best bits during a staycation in the fair city

Kayaking

Go with the flow and get up close to Dublin’s natural beauty on a scenic kayak tour. Don’t worry if you’ve never paddled before, kayaking.ie provides all the gear and equipment as well as instruction and guides. Are you a bit of a paddling pro? Then just rent the gear and off you go on a self-guided adventure along the Royal Canal.

Kayaking is relativity easy to learn and paddling the Royal Canal from Leixlip to Castleknock is a relaxing experience as the still waters are mostly calm and peaceful. Fancy saying hello to Dublin’s friendly seals? Take a guided kayaking tour of Dalkey Bay and watch these charming mammals playing in the water.

Top tip: For an extraordinary end to your evening, book a sunset kayaking tour of Dalkey and enjoy a colourful sundowner over this picturesque part of Dublin.

Dublin City Bike Tours

Get off the beaten path and on to the cycle lanes with Dublin City Bike Tours. The friendly and knowledgeable guides will take you to interesting places and give you historical and recent information about the city, some of which you won’t find in the guide books.

You’ll cover a lot more ground on a bike and the 2.5-hour guided Dublin bike tour takes you along Dublin’s canals and the River Liffey, around the gorgeous Georgian quarter and the grand 18th-century houses - wait till you see the decorative doors of Dublin - and you’ll also visit important places of culture and conflict and revelry and revolution. As you’ll see, Dublin’s fair city has its fair share of sights.

 

 

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Teeling Whiskey

A revival of the whiskey distilling industry is happening in Dublin with much of it taking place in one of the city’s oldest areas, The Liberties.

Setting the trend, Teeling was the first new distillery to open in Dublin in 125 years and it did so on Newmarket Square in The Liberties area in 2015. A mere three years later it produced the first whiskey distilled in Dublin since the 1970s. On a Teeling Distillery tour, you’ll uncover the secrets of Irish whiskey and why, unlike Scotch, it is usually triple-distilled and you’ll learn about the ‘angel’s share’. Then you’ll witness the fermenters work their magic turning grain, water and yeast into alcohol which is then sent to the copper pot stills. Finish in the tasting room and learn how to sip like a pro as you sample Teeling’s small-batch, single-grain and single-malt whiskeys.

Top tip: Don’t drink whiskey? The tour is still very interesting and you can sip a delicious mocktail and the end of the tour.

Roe and Co Distillery

Roe and Co Distillery is housed in the former Guinness Power Station on James’s Street and taking its terrific tour gives you a flavour of the history and distilling process of Irish whiskey.

Start with a sensational experience by sniffing the items in the ‘sensory box’ which represent the flavours of Roe and Co whiskey. Then, it’s on to the beating heart of the distillery to admire the three huge copper stills before heading to the workshop to don an apron and create your own whiskey-based cocktail. It is a very hands-on experience and one that will leave a lasting impression and taste - the tour finishes with a seasonal cocktail in the Power House Bar.

Top tip: In the Power House Bar, peep through the glass and you’ll get a glimpse of the past as parts of the original power station are visible.

Phoenix Park with CP Adventure

Twice the size of Central Park in New York, the Phoenix Park in Dublin is the largest enclosed public park in any European capital city. What that means is, this place is huge with a lot to see and do.

The best way to cover a lot of ground is to rent a bike or take a Segway tour with CP Adventure and explore more of this urban oasis and its meadows, ponds, woodland and attractions.

Phoenix Park is steeped in history, with plenty of historic buildings to discover. The park is also home to Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland, and, if you are lucky, you might catch Bród and Síoda (Pride and Silk) his two Bernese Mountain dogs playing on the lawn. They are very good dogs.

The park is also home to Victorian flower gardens, Dublin Zoo and up to 600 fallow deer which roam wild.

Bring a picnic and laze on the grass or plonk down at a picnic table or treat yourself to some delicious dishes at the Victorian Tea Rooms in a beautiful listed building, which was built in 1896. The Tea Rooms are ideal for rest and refreshment and, if you nab one of the outside tables, the perfect place to people-watch in the park where Dubliners come to breathe.

Top tip: The best time to see the deer is early in the morning when there aren’t many people around.

2020 is the year of discovering the delights on our doorstep. It doesn’t matter if you have a few hours, a day, weekend or longer, now is the time to make a break for it and discover the essence of the Irish capital.

Whether you want to get your culture fix at a leading museum, picnic with the deer, explore elegant Georgian squares, navigate its aquatic surroundings or discover its distilling past and present, Dublin delights and excites with something for everyone.

Limited capacity and procedures may be in place at visitor attractions, sites, and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment.

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