Ireland

Some how I ended up with 5 days of holiday left to take before the end of March. I’ve always thought of it as a waste to book time off with nothing planned. It was getting a bit late to try and find friend who was free and up for going away somewhere. I mentioned this to my parents and my Mum suggested I go away with my Dad. So that’s what I did and this is what we got up to.

Dublin and Belfast March 2019


Day One – Journey to Dublin, exploring Dublin including a visit to the Cathedral
Day Two – Drimnagh Castle, Glasnevin Cemetery, O’Connell tower
Day Three – Belfast – Political history tour + exploring the city
Day Four – Exploring more of Dublin before the journey home

Day One – Monday 25/03/2019

Like usual before a trip away I slept terribly. I left the house and picked Dad up a 6.30am.

I pulled into Stansted’s Mid-Stay car park around 8am. After a 5min bus journey we we at the terminal. Dad set the securtiy scanner off and had to take his shoes off but soon enough we were eating breakfast at Leon.

Veggie breakfast box

Because of Ryan Airs recent change of baggage policy you no longer get a cabin sized case included in your flight cost. You have to add it as an extra, though for some reason it is cheaper to pay for priority boarding (which includes the cabin case) than it is to get the case with standard boarding. So the priority boarding queue was pretty long!

Halfway through the flight there was a strange announcement, they started to play Barry Manilow – Can’t Smile Without You over the speakers. I’m still not sure what it was all about. The flight only lasted about an hour.

As usual Dad had trouble with the e passport thing. I told him to relax and look at the camera and stop looking away if it doesn’t work instantly.

Anyway we were in Ireland.

There were posters for a taxi app (Mytaxi) all over the airport so I decided I better download it.

The taxi driver phoned me up and directed me to where he was, we had to walk to edge of car park, if he drove in he would get charged. He was a nice guy and told us a bit about Dublin and recommended some places to visit.

We got dropped off outside the Clifden Guesthouse, check in wasn’t until 4pm (it was around midday when we arrived) but they had a luggage room where we could leave our bags.

Armed with our matching camera bags we set out for a wander. The top end of O’Connell Street was a short walk away from the guest house. I didn’t really have anything plotted that I wanted to see so was just up for seeing anything, Dad had a few places he wanted to see.

On O’Connell Street we passed the Spire, a 120m tall needle like monument, the General Post Office (had a quick look inside) and the Bank of Ireland which was originally built as a parliament building (had a quick look inside).

The sun was out and it stared to get quite warm. We headed though the narrow doorway into the Trinity College grounds and had a wander around before getting lunch from one of the many Spar shops.

With our 5 Euro meal deal we went back to Trinity College and found some steps to sit on. By this time the sun had gone in and it started to feel really chilly as we ate our lunch.

Trinity College, Dublin Trinity College, Dublin

We carried on walking around the college grounds, I spotted a random concrete building on a road beyond the college.

There were some steps up to a door which lead onto the street, the door was locked! so we had to walk a lot further to find another way out!

The Setanta Centre, Nassau Street.

Setanta Centre, Dublin Setanta Centre, Dublin Mural at Setanta Centre, Dublin

There was more concrete to be seen, we walked to the brutalist part of Trinity College, the Arts Block and the Berkeley Library.

Trinity College, Dublin Trinity College, Dublin Trinity College, Dublin Trinity College, Dublin

There was still plenty of time before we could check in to the apartment, we walked past Dublin Castle on way to Christ Church Cathedral.

Dublin Castle Dublin Castle Dublin Castle

Dad had already purchased tickets online for the Cathedral.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

The first stop was obviously the crypt.

Christ Church Cathedral Crypt, Dublin Christ Church Cathedral Crypt, Dublin Christ Church Cathedral Crypt, Dublin

There was a tour about to go up to the bell tower, somehow we managed to tag along and follow the tour up the staircase to the outside balcony at the top.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Dad went back down but I carried on on the tour up a some more stairs into the belfry where the tour guide explained about the types of bells they have including a really old automatic system and then everyone got to have at ringing the bells.

Old automatic bell mechanism

Apparently they can be heard over a 2 mile radius. I met back up with Dad and asked if he’d heard the bells, he said no!

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

We walked back to b&b got keys and went to the apartment which was two doors down from the guest house. There were sinks in our rooms! I put Friends on the TV and chilled out for a bit before getting ready to go out for some food.

We walked back down O’Connell Street and down a side street to a pub called Branigans where we had fish and chips which was pretty good.

Dad wanted to see some live music, the closest place in the direction of our apartment was Murray’s. I can’t really say I’m in to Irish music but the band we fairly good and mainly played covers of Irish songs.

We stayed there for a while before heading back to apartment.


Day One – Journey to Dublin, exploring Dublin including a visit to the Cathedral
Day Two – Drimnagh Castle, Glasnevin Cemetery, O’Connell tower
Day Three – Belfast – Political history tour + exploring the city
Day Four – Exploring more of Dublin before the journey home

Day Two – Tuesday 26/03/2019

There were two places we wanted to visit today. Dad wanted to visit Drimnagh Castle and I wanted to go to Glasnevin Cemetery to climb up the O’Connell tower. The places were opposite sides of the city.

To get to Drimnagh Castle we needed to get a tram, we also needed some breakfast, I found a bakery on Google maps right next to the tram stop but in reality it didn’t seem to exist so we went to Spar.

Tram tickets can be purchased from machines on the platform, we could have got a return for about €5 but for some reason bought the “1 Day Flexi Ticket”, it cost €7.30 and was valid for all zones.

The closest tram stop was Bluebell and from there it was a 10-15 minute walk to the castle.

Dad had stumbled upon the castle while scouring the internet for anywhere in Dublin with a medieval undercroft. It didn’t seem to be very well advertised but they offered tours on the hour on week days. We thought we might have to wait at until midday because it was 11.10am when we arrived.

Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin

A bridge over the moat led us through to the courtyard. There was a sign pointing to the office. Before we approached it a man came out and introduced himself as John. He said he could take us on a tour and it would be €5 each.

John asked how we had found out about the place and Dad explained his interest in undercrofts. (Terry George and undercrofts!!)

As we were the only people we got a personalised tour.

Drimnagh Castle Undercroft, Dublin Drimnagh Castle Undercroft, Dublin Drimnagh Castle Undercroft, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Drimnagh Castle, Dublin

After a really good tour we walked back to tram. We got off near to a bus stop where the bus that would take us close to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Bee Euro Kiosk, Dublin

It is free to walk round the cemetery but you have to pay to go up the tower.

O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

The lady at the pay desk was really nice. Dad didn’t fancy going up the tower so he got a ticket for the museum while I got a combined ticket. Dad said he was a senior, she asked me if I was a student, I said that I could be and she said “say no more” and the total cost was only slightly more than the cost of a regular museum and tower ticket so that was a bonus!

O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

In the museum we went downstairs watched film about cemetery and tower, I looked over at Dad and he was asleep! The film was quite interesting, the rest of the museum wasn’t great.

Before the heading to the tower we thought we’d grab a bite to eat in the cafe. There was nothing in there that I liked or fancied, we ended up just having a slice of cake each.

They don’t allow you to take a bag up the tower so I left it in one of the free lockers. You can take your camera up.

I told the girl on the cash desk I was ready to climb the tower so she radioed somebody to go meet me there. I had the tower to myself! I entered through the tomb of Daniel O’Connell to the bottom of the stairs.

Tomb of Daniel O'Connell, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin Tomb of Daniel O'Connell, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin Tomb of Daniel O'Connell, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

As I climbed the tower dad walked to find the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell.

I climbed 198 steps to the top and admired the view. Because it was so enclosed it didn’t really feel like I was that high up.

The view from the top of the O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin The view from the top of the O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin The view from the top of the O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin Looking up at the top of the O'Connell Tower, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

After descending the tower, I found Dad, collected my bag, took a few more photos before taking a short walk to the botanical gardens (which are free).

The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Dublin The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Dublin

We went in the palm house. It was pretty impressive and pretty warm!

I looked up the best route back to the city centre and we started walking towards the bus stop passing a pretty random pyramid shaped church.

Our Lady of Dolours Pyramid Church, Dublin Our Lady of Dolours Pyramid Church, Dublin Our Lady of Dolours Pyramid Church, Dublin Our Lady of Dolours Pyramid Church, Dublin

The bus took us near to the end of the road we were staying on. I went off on my own to get some snacks, something for breakfast, an souvenir Ireland flag for my bar and some nail clippers (I had a broken nail on my toe that kept catching on things! – I had to look round three souvenir shops before I found some!).

While having a look for somewhere to eat online, Dad found a pizza restaurant in an undercroft! (Al Vesuvio).

We made use of our day tram ticket and travelled as far as we could go, the restaurant was in the Temple Bar area.

After our meal we started walking back and googled pubs with music, all seemed to be back in the temple bar area. Apart from the Celt.

Inside the Celt the live music was in the form of a man with a guitar playing and singing Irish songs. The barman took the piss because we order half’s, he said something like when are the women turning up?

The musician played a mix of Irish songs, covers of various other songs and a few IRA/Irish Rebel songs.


Day One – Journey to Dublin, exploring Dublin including a visit to the Cathedral
Day Two – Drimnagh Castle, Glasnevin Cemetery, O’Connell tower
Day Three – Belfast – Political history tour + exploring the city
Day Four – Exploring more of Dublin before the journey home

Day Three – Wednesday 27/03/2019

We got up early, got ready then walked to Connolly railway station. The self service ticket machine was easy to use, I had to type in the booking reference number and it printed our tickets.

Connolly railway station.

There was a man sitting in my seat! The seat opposite Dad was free so it didn’t matter.

The man in my seat talked and talked non stop at the guy opposite him, hardly stopping for a breath, a continuous monotone drone, he was talking about all manner of things and almost missed his stop. I was relieved when he got off and I’m pretty sure the guy opposite must have been too.

You wouldn’t really notice the transition from the Republic to Northern Ireland unless like me you had Google Maps open waiting for the train to cross the border or if you look out of the window closely at the car number plates and road signs.

Most Belfast travel guides, travel videos and people all recommend going to the Titanic experience, it probably is good but to me it didn’t look that interesting so was really low down on my list and something we would check out if we had time.

I wanted to see some of the political history, remnants of the troubles, the peace wall etc.

The best way to do this seemed to be getting a taxi tour with a local driver/ guide. I had looked online and found a taxi company which specialised in this type of tour – Taxitrax. https://taxitrax.com

Taxi Trax Tour, Belfast

We walked from the railway station to the taxi office, once inside a man approached us and guessed what we were there for. He paired us off with a driver called Seamus. They told us that some of the drivers had been killed during ‘the troubles’.

It was £30 for a 1.5 hour tour.

I noticed there was a cash point outside the taxi office so thought I should probably get some cash out ready to pay. (their notes are different to our notes!) I left Dad in the cab. I turned round and the taxi had disappeared! For a split second I thought they’d driven off without me, then I spotted where they had moved to.

I really hoped the tour would be similar to the one I had taken in the West Bank where the driver kept stopping the car so we could get out and take photos.

After a very short drive we pulled over at the first stop where Seamus told us a bit of history on what happened. We’d stopped at the foot of the Divis Tower. The British army occupied the top floors and had an observation point on the roof during the troubles.

Divis Tower, Belfast Divis Tower, Belfast Flags mural, Belfast

Seamus was Catholic so the tour was centred more around the nationalist/republican view point. He told us about the things that had gone on in the Falls Road area and that most of the area had been rebuilt.

Peace wall behind houses

He stopped adjacent to a number of murals depicting various events and significant nationalists/republicans that played an important role in the troubles. There were also other political murals such as one supporting Palestine.

Belfast Murals Belfast Murals Belfast Murals Belfast Murals

Seamus was pretty informative and keen to show us things but he didn’t really seem to hear very well when we tried to ask questions to i gave up and just listened to what he had to say.

Belfast Murals Belfast Murals Belfast Murals Belfast Murals Belfast Murals

He turned off Falls Road and stopped at some more murals and told us about the gates that separate the Catholic and Protestant area that are opened at 7am and closed at 7pm every day.

Seamus then took us to the IRA museum and showed us a cell door and bed which came from Armagh women’s prison.

Inside the IRA museum

He also showed us some video clips.

Some of the other things displayed in the museum were uniforms, guns, photos, books and posters.

As we were pretty much out of the door of the museum Seamus remembered something else he wanted to show us so took us back in and flicked through a book, I honestly don’t remember what it was though.

We stopped at the Bobby Sands mural which is around the corner from the Sinn Fein office.

Belfast Murals Sinn Fein Office, Belfast

The last stop on the Catholic side was at the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden on Bombay Street which I believe is dedicated to various Republicans who died during the troubles. It, along with the houses either side of it back on to the so called “Peace Wall”. Much like the West Bank separation barrier is was built to minimise the violence between two different peoples.

Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden

The back gardens of the houses were caged in!

Caged gardens, Belfast Peace Wall

We drove through the gates into the protestant/ loyalist area and stopped at the peace wall. It very much reminded me of the West Bank separation barrier. It was covered in graffiti and murals, Seamus gave us a marker pen so we could write our names on the wall.

I would have liked to have spent a bit more time here but soon enough we were off again.

Belfast Peace Wall Belfast Peace Wall Belfast Peace Wall Belfast Peace Wall

Seamus took us to a memorial dedicated to all the victims of the IRA.

Memorial dedicated to all the victims of the IRA

I spotted building plastered in pictures of the queen.

We drove through a housing estate with murals of various protestant/ loyalist people. As he drove past one of the murals, Seamus told us to watch the end of the gun, it was as if it was trained on us and followed us.

Lt. Jackie Coulter mural, Belfast

He made his way past the William of Orange mural and didn’t stop!

William of Orange mural, Belfast

We stopped outside the derelict Crumlin Road Courthouse which played host to some high profile trials throughout the troubles. 

Crumlin Road Courthouse Crumlin Road Courthouse Crumlin Road Courthouse

So that was it, we made our way back in the direction of the taxi office passing a unionist banner supporting Israel.

The taxi set off at 10.38 and didn’t get back to the taxi rank until 13.00, we had almost 2.5 hours, it still only cost £30 but we gave him £40.

King Pigeon Mural, Belfast King Pigeon Mural, Belfast

We were hungry.

Pizza and chips for lunch (from Di Maggio’s £4.95).

Dad had a browse round a CD shop but didn’t find anything he was looking for.

We walked to Belfast’s botanical gardens on the way to the Ulster museum. The botanical gardens are older than Dublin’s but are a lot smaller.

Belfast Botanical Gardens

I wanted to see the Ulster museum, I wasn’t bothered about going inside, I just wanted to see the outside, the reason being that in the 1960s/70s the neoclassical museum building had a brutalist extension built on to it. It’s a pretty cool architectural mashup.

Ulster Museum, Belfast Ulster Museum, Belfast Ulster Museum, Belfast

It was time to make our way back to the railway station via a couple of souvenir shops, no time for the Titanic!

Back in Dublin we went for dinner at an Indian restaurant called Aleena in the Temple Bar area of the city.

For a bit of Irish culture we went to O’Neil’s bar where there was live music and dancing upstairs.

We sat very close to the dancing but tried to avoid getting dragged up to join in! We were definitely far from being drunk enough for that!


Day One – Journey to Dublin, exploring Dublin including a visit to the Cathedral
Day Two – Drimnagh Castle, Glasnevin Cemetery, O’Connell tower
Day Three – Belfast – Political history tour + exploring the city
Day Four – Exploring more of Dublin before the journey home

Day Four – Thursday 28/03/2019

I got up early, planning to go for a run. I started to get ready until I realised I hadn’t packed any shorts or a tshirt. It didn’t seem like a very good idea to run in skinny jeans or boxer shorts so I had to abandon the idea!

Dad went for a short morning walk whilst I got up and packed, he brought back breakfast.

We checked out of our apartment but left our luggage at the guesthouses.

The flight wasn’t until late afternoon so we had most of the day to carry on sight seeing so first we walked in the direction of the Samuel Beckett bridge .

Mural, Dublin Green Post Box, Dublin Lamp, Dublin Sheriff Street Lifting Bridge, Dublin

Sheriff Street Lifting Bridge.

Luke Kelly Sculpture, Dublin

A sculpture of Luke Kelly, an Irish folk singer.

Tram, Dublin Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin

Samuel Beckett Bridge.

As well as medieval undercrofts, Dad is also quite interested in medieval city walls, I managed to find a small section of wall for us to check out. 

Matryoshka Kiosk, Dublin

The 26 bus would take us pretty close. The driver kept honking at a truck in front who wasn’t pushing his way out of the lights into the queue of traffic ahead. 

The piece of wall was tiny!

Dublin City Wall

I checked Google to see what else was nearby and found a city gate within a larger section of the city wall. We thought we needed to get through the church gate to get to the wall, it was locked but there were people in on the other side, they said they were bell ringers.

We walked round the perimeter and found the city gate, it was open so went for a wander – it led to the exact place where we’d seen the “bell ringers!” (St. Audoen’s Park.)

Dublin City Wall and Gate Dublin City Gate St. Audoen's Church, Dublin

After taking some photos and some messing around with the random instruments within the garden we made our way back towards the city centre, via the castle and city hall.

Bedford Hall, Dublin Castle
Dublin City Hall
Dublin City Hall
Dublin City Hall

We also went to an Irish music shop in the Temple Bar area so Dad could buy a CD.

After finding a bakery to get some lunch we tried to find a bench to sit down and eat. O’Connell street doesn’t seem to have a single bench!

I spotted metal kiosks on the other side of the road, the middle one looked low enough to use a seat. One of the larger kiosks had “IRA 2019” sprayed on the side.

I offered Dad the seat but he wouldn’t take it so I did, it was nice to sit down even if it wasn’t the most glamorous of settings!

I finished my roll and Oreo cake so convinced Dad to sit down. Then I noticed that he had luminous green paint all over his sleeve! He’d been leaning on the IRA graffiti!

I went for a wander round some shops while Dad had a rest at the Garden of Remembrance.

We headed back to the guesthouse, collected our cases and ordered a taxi on the app.

Garden of Remembrance, Dublin Garden of Remembrance, Dublin Garden of Remembrance, Dublin

After buying a few bags of Taytos we boarded the plane for the short flight back to Stansted.

Back in Stansted we bypassed passport control which sped up the airport process considerably.

Soon enough we were back in the car and driving home.

The End.


Day One – Journey to Dublin, exploring Dublin including a visit to the Cathedral
Day Two – Drimnagh Castle, Glasnevin Cemetery, O’Connell tower
Day Three – Belfast – Political history tour + exploring the city
Day Four – Exploring more of Dublin before the journey home

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