by Alvise Renier
Visiting Student Blogger, Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy
Dublin is more than a vibrant and chaotic city, more than Guinness and Temple Bar, more than Trinity College. Are you fed up with the bustling and buzzing streets of the city centre, with all the cars, buses, bicycles, people rapidly walking to their job, and students running, trying not to miss their next lesson? Let’s take a journey back to the past and visit the picturesque villages and fishing harbours located just a few minutes from the College. Let’s take a journey to the unknown Dublin!
Our tour starts from the Pearse Street Station, which is across the street from Trinity. We jump on the DART to Greystones. Wait a minute…don’t you know what the DART is? It is an amazing train that connects Dublin and its suburbs. It runs all along the coast and it’s very cheap, and even cheaper if you have a Student Leap Card! Don’t worry about the time: there’s a train almost every 15 minutes! Just find a seat and enjoy your journey! We get off the train at Sandycove Station, just 20 minutes from Dublin city centre.
Sandycove is a coastal town, well known for a place called the Forty Foot, where people have been swimming in the Irish Sea all year round, for some 250 years. You can still find some courageous men and women who take the risk of an ice-cold bath in the Winter! From the station, walk straight onto Islington Avenue and reach the Marine Parade. Take a healthy breath of ocean air and then turn right and walk towards the small hill, from which Martello Tower overlooks the entire village.
It is one of the fifty defensive forts that the British government built among the Irish coastline, from Drogheda to Cork, to prevent an expected Napoleonic invasion by sea at the time of the French Revolution. The Martello Tower of Sandycove has particular literary connections: James Joyce spent six nights there and the opening section of his masterpiece, Ulysses, is set here! A warm welcome awaits you inside, where the garrison has given way to the James Joyce Museum, which contains letters, photographs and personal possessions of the famous Irish writer. Admission is free and the view from the top of the tower is absolutely incredible (be aware of the wind, though!).
From the tower we move forward onto Harbour Road, a coastal path with panoramic sea views, and reach Dalkey, the closest village to Sandycove. In the Middle Ages, Dalkey acted as Dublin’s port, but nowadays it is Dublin’s original and most popular seaside resort village. Because of its stunning views and sheer landscape, many celebrities both local and foreign have made their homes here: you could see U2’s Bono walking around the streets of Dalkey! If you want to take a trip back in time to 16th century Tudor Ireland, visit Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre and its Living History costumed actors! Around the Castle you can find many 19th century traditional taverns, one of which is President Obama’s favourite pub, Finnegan’s!
Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre
After lunch, we travel along Sorrento Road and reach Coliemore Harbour, which has access to the sea for rock fishing (boats can be hired here from local fisherman). In front of the harbour there is Dalkey Island, home to some of the first Stone Age settlers on the East coast. On the northwest of the Island there is a 10th century Church dedicated to a little known early Irish saint, St. Begnet. Irish folklore describes her as an Irish princess who fled an unwanted suitor and embraced Christianity, undertaking many missionary trips. On the northeast of the Island there is another Martello Tower, guarding the harbour. Dalkey sound is one of the most biologically diverse areas on Ireland’s eastern coast. Watch out for dolphins and grey seals in the bay!
If you are feeling fit, take a brisk walk along Vico Road, where the most gorgeous and glamourous houses are, and look out for the ‘Cat’s Ladder’ steps in the trees on the right. Climb all 237 steps and reach the summit of Killiney Hill. Here, an Obelisk commemorates the famine of 1740 and 1741. The hill, which is 170 metres upon the sea level, boasts a spectacular view of Dublin’s bay. We follow the path beyond the Obelisk and turn right down Dalkey Avenue: we are back in town.
Video of Killiney Hill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgXgiSdwHlg
The sun is almost setting, but maybe you are not tired yet. Jump on the DART from Dalkey Station to Howth, a small peninsula at the opposite side of Dublin’s bay. Originally a fishing village, Howth is now a heaven for seafood hunters and those who love hiking. This is the ideal time to walk around, looking at the fishing trawlers and fishermen repairing their nets. Enjoy the sunset looking across to the Ireland’s Eye, a small uninhabited island located just in front of Howth Harbour. End your day having a traditional fish and chips at Leo Burdock, which is close to the train station.
It’s time to go back to the College, but do not despair: there’s more and more to explore around Dublin’s Bay. Jump on the DART and create your own journey!