Grand Tour Day 53: Dublin

Missing Link log 8 June 1999

The General Post Office in Dublin
The General Post Office in Dublin

Malcolm and I visited Dublin today, taking advantage of the fast, frequent, efficient and remarkably cheap DART railway service that runs from Howth right into the city centre.

I had built up high expectations of this visit in my mind. But stepping off at Tara Street station and walking along a completely dormant River Liffey, plastic bags the only thing occasionally disturbing its surface, I was immediately struck by how far flung everything is. Instead of an intimate core from which everything radiates, Dublin has scattered its features around and about the place and you need patience to find it all. And instead of an overtly Irish tone to everything, the city is a typical capital mix of cosmopolitan influences.

Ha'penny-Bridge over the River Liffey
Ha’penny-Bridge over the River Liffey

Cheating a little we started by taking one of the open-topped tour buses that pick you up and drop you off wherever you want if you hold a day pass. There’s a running commentary too, the descriptions and history described with a keen passion, especially when you pass significant landmarks in the country’s history such as the General Post Office where the Irish declaration of independence was read for the first time on Easter Monday April 1916.

But occasionally our commentator’s lilting tone delivered ironic Irish jibes in the general direction of some of the city’s less serious, albeit prominent, facets. And so it was we were introduced to the statue of Molly Malone who was said by our commentator to be celibate – she’d sell a bit here and sell a bit there…

Back on foot we returned Molly and her barrow, finding a shop nearby who sold us a postcard with the familiar ballad:

Dublin's statuesque Molly Malone
Dublin’s statuesque Molly Malone
In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
She wheeled her wheel-barrow
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying cockles and mussels,
alive, alive, oh!

Sadly, statuesque Molly is not alive, alive, oh! but the streets all around her certainly were. Perhaps the presence of the impressive Trinity College helps to tip the balance but three-quarters of Dublin’s 1.2m population are aged under 27 and quite a number of them seemed to be out as the afternoon grew late.

Many were heading to the Temple Bar area, with its nearby postcard favourite, the Ha’Penny footbridge over the Liffey and its art galleries, music venues, pubs, restaurants and cobbled streets within. So we took the hint and wound up spending the rest of the evening here, eating at Gallaghers Irish restaurant and not being disappointed that we had waited over an hour (on a Tuesday evening) to do so.

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1999 Grand Tour circumnavigation of Britain by motorboat index.

This article originally appeared on the Motor Boats Monthly website.

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