10 minute read

Ireland: Dublin

Layered with history, heritage and handsome architecture, Dublin is an old city with a modern soul. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a vibrant capital ready to seduce you with its charm and warm Irish hospitality.

It's a quirk of language that Dublin isn’t known as Black Pool. Founded by Danish Vikings in 841 AD, the Irish capital takes its name from the union of two rivers – the Poddle and the Liffey – which mingled underground to create a deep tidal pool. This dark pool, or dubh linn in Irish, lent the new settlement its Nordic name of Dyflin, which over time became Dublin.

A stroll to Dublin Castle, a proud fortress erected in the 13th-century on the site of the Viking settlement, is the closest landmark to the original pool, and much like the waters beneath it, this historic building is deeply woven into the very tapestry of Dublin’s DNA.

Guests of Dream Escape can take a special tour of the State Apartments, subterranean remains of some of Viking Dublin’s original defences, and a stroll in the Castle’s Dubh Linn Garden, which lies near the site of the original black pool. Given that 2022 marks the centenary of The Irish Free State, which would go on to become Ireland in 1937, this is a special time to walk these historic cobblestones.

And it’s not just Dublin Castle that impresses. Close by and definitely worth a visit is this is the amazing Marsh’s Library, dating back to 1707 and housing a rare collection of books and documents that shed light on Dublin’s Enlightenment. Delight in a private tour of the atmopsheric building and see where eminent readers, such as Oscar Wilde, would come to borrow books and be locked into reading cages to ensure nothing was stolen or defaced.

All around, guests can expect to be delighted by layers of architectural riches spreading out in all directions. From the gates of Trinity College, founded in 1592, to the Georgian squares lined with handsome townhouses and ornate doorways; past the impressive cathedrals of Christchurch and St Patrick's; onto the rows of red brick workers’ cottages around The Liberties and down to Guinness brewery; the city’s story is laid bare.

Guinness Storehouse
Ha'penny Bridge, River Liffey
Dublin Castle

With Dream Escape you can enjoy a selection of very special private Christchurch experiences at this magnificent deconsecrated Anglican cathedral in the city centre. Private pre-opening tours allow you to savour the silence of this once sacred space. Rise high above the city to enjoy bell ringing in this landmark spire or go subterranean for a private tour of the fascinating restored 12th-century crypt and its many treasures. Unforgettable private dining can be arranged in the crypt or, for those that want to embrace the incredible acoustics, a private choral recital in this historic Dublin landmark. Guinness may be a story that runs deep in Dublin’s lore, but there’s more to the capital’s inventory than the iconic Black Stuff. Around the corner from the enjoyable Guinness Storehouse, visitors will find Pearse Lyons Distillery in the remarkable setting of the former Church of St James. Come to enjoy a private tour and tastings, and to learn about the art and craft of Irish whiskey distilling.

Not a whiskey drinker? Then why not head back to the classroom with an enjoyable day at The Gin School, on the grounds of Dublin’s only family-owned distillery in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties.

Architecture only tells part of the city’s story, and behind the facades lies a collection of world-class museums, galleries and attractions that reveal the heart and soul of Dublin. Trinity College houses one of the oldest books in the world, the Book of Kells, a beautiful illuminated manuscript decorated by monks in the 9th century. This prized artefact sits in the Long Room, a dazzling double-storey chamber 65-metre-long room and a dramatic arched roof. You don’t need to be a book lover to be wowed by its beauty, and with Dream Escape we will arrange a pre-opening private visit to view this wonderful piece of Irish history.

Georgian Door Dublin
And it’s not just Dublin Castle that impresses. Visitors can expect to be delighted by layers of architectural riches spreading out in all directions
Pearse Lyons Distillery Pot stills: Might Molly and Little Lizzy

But not all treasures in this city are old. The Irish Museum of Modern Art may be housed in a breathtaking 17thcentury building, but IMMA houses a world-class collection of contemporary classics, from Lucien Freud to Jack Butler Yeats. Arrange an out-of-hours experience here with Dream Escape and absorb the history and culture of this exquisite art museum alone.

The Abbey Theatre played a key role in Ireland’s cultural identity, founded in 1904 as a national theatre by W.B. Yeats, the brother of artist Jack, and Lady Gregory. Charismatic revolutionaries who dreamed that the Abbey Theatre would “bring upon the stage the deeper emotions of Ireland," (Yeats' and Lady Gregory's manifesto), can have an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour with rare access to the theatre’s important archives. Tread the boards at this famous theatre and enjoy a masterclass with one of the Abbey Theatre’s directors.

Located in a historic Georgian building minutes from Grafton Street, MoLi, or the Museum of Literature, is Ireland's newest museum and a Dream Escape favourite. It's a striking building that hosts modern exhibitions showcasing Ireland's rich literary heritage, and visitors will find celebrations of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde among top contemporary writers, interactive displays. You can also enjoy the historic house tour on Sunday mornings, should you be seduced by the building’s colourful past.

Kayaking on the River Liffey
IMAGE © ROB DURSTON/FÁILTE IRELAND
Paddling along the River Liffey with a private guide will give you a unique perspective... an unforgettable experience in the silvery waters of Dubh Linn

After exploring the culture, be sure to move on to the magnificent gardens at the back. The Commons Café in the basement serves creative Irish food, with the courtyard tables in high demand on fine days, but you can also grab a coffee and sit on a bench in the peaceful Readers’ Garden with a good book. Best of all, the gardens at MoLI connect to Iveagh Gardens, a magical park known as Dublin's Secret Garden. When you pass through the wrought iron gate, you’ll understand why this place has won the hearts of Dublin’s citizens.

Music lovers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of four of Dublin’s most famous citizens; Bono, Adam, The Edge and Larry, aka U2. Your Dublin trip can include a VIP trip to Windmill Lane Recording Studio, where the world-famous rock band recorded many of their albums. The Rolling Stones, Kate Bush, New Order and Ed Sheeran are among the global stars who have recorded at Windmill Lane, and as a Dream Escape client you will also enjoy a backstage and artist pass.

Taking inspiration from all this creativity, why not try your hand at making your very own Irish holiday souvenir? Perhaps you’ll enjoy a hands-on experience doing letter printing at the captivating National Print Museum or maybe a private pottery class at Arran Street East Pottery under the watchful eye of talented artisans.

And should you wish to celebrate the city’s Viking founders, and honour the origins of the capital’s name, let us take you kayaking through the heart of the city. Paddling along the River Liffey with a private guide will give you a unique perspective, and while we can’t promise you’ll find the source of the eponymous Black Pool, we can promise you an unforgettable experience in the silvery waters of Dubh Linn.

WHERE TO STAY

The Merrion Set in four elegant Georgian townhouses, just off Merrion Square, The Merrion Hotel is the choice of presidents and pop stars. With dazzling Georgian interiors, impeccable service, lavish bedrooms and a sensational Irish art collection, it’s a wonderful bolthole after a day’s sightseeing. Sink into a deep sofa, enjoy fireside drinks and slink next door for dinner in Guilbaud's. With two Michelin stars, this chic restaurant is celebrating 40 years serving some of the most exquisite food in the country. The Merrion’s Garden Room is wonderful for al fresco lunches, and there’s a lovely pool and spa. Spoil yourselves by staying in the Main House with its huge bedrooms and original period features, including a fireplace, ornate ceilings and beautiful sash windows.

The Merrion
The Merrion

The Shelbourne A landmark hotel for almost 200 years, The Shelbourne Hotel stands proud on St Stephen’s Green in the heart of Georgian Dublin. Considered the Grand Dame of Irish hotels, it enjoys one of the loveliest locations in the city.

This fashionable five-star establishment has always found itself at the centre of Dublin’s social scene, with great bars and a famous afternoon tea. The impressive Park View rooms offer bird’s eye views over leafy St Stephen’s Green, giving you one of the best views in the city.

The Shelbourne

The Westbury With views towards Grafton Street, The Westbury Hotel puts you at the very heart of Dublin’s buzz. Stay in one of their newly upgraded bedrooms, and surrender to the decadent decor that’s a heady mix of art deco glamour and modern comforts. With the chic Sidecar cocktail bar, dazzling Wilde dining room and buzzy Balfe’s for lunch, you could happily stay indoors for your whole visit. Afternoon tea is always popular, and don’t miss The Westbury’s eggs Benedict for breakfast – they really are the best in the city.

The Westbury

The Fitzwilliam Overlooking St Stephen’s Green, The Fitzwilliam Hotel is currently undergoing a stylish refurbishment, floor by floor. The new bedrooms are a dream, offering a nuanced evocation of deco-liner luxe.

The Fitzwilliam bathroom

Enjoy luxurious window-seat sofas, desks with a view, and beautiful details like reeded glass, brass, walnut and marble. Offering a luxe 1930s vibe that reaches all the way to Glover's Alley (the hotel's glamorous fine-dining restaurant), this tranquil five-star venue feels intimate, elegant and very stylish.

You’ll find a collection of beautiful work by Irish designers and artists...
The Dylan

The Dylan A former Victorian nurses' home, the Dylan is a historic townhouse that’s been cleverly converted into a chic five-star boutique hotel. Tucked away on a leafy residential road in Dublin’s south city centre, the hotel is fresh from a recent refurbishment. You’ll find a collection of beautiful work by Irish designers and artists, with new bedrooms, a newly designed Dylan Bar (a glamorous cocktail bar), and the cool Eddison restaurant with its lovely outdoor terraces.

The Wilder Those craving something more contemporary will love the style of The Wilder Townhouse, named after playwright and celebrated wit Oscar Wilde. A cool contemporary hideaway wrapped up in a handsome Victorian exterior, it offers a boutique luxury experience. Indoors, guests will find a vibrant jewel-coloured interior with polished flooring, distinctive fireplaces, cosy bedrooms and thoughtful little touches.

The Wilder

You might also enjoy... Our Dream Escape Travel Designer can organise personally guided foodie walking tours of the city. Your personal guide will entertain with snippets of history on Irish food and the city, pointing out interesting and quirky architecture as you pass. They will take you to a range of independently owned shops and eateries, where you will meet the local purveyors and makers. At each stop, a specially prepared treat will be waiting for you to try. Though the portions are all sample and starter sized, it is best to skip lunch in order to enjoy the experience to the full.

Find out more

Emer Mortell, Head of Sales "I adore experiencing an early morning private pre-opening visit of the Book of Kells at Trinity College before it opens to the general public. It's also fun bell-ringing at Christchurch Cathedral and visiting my Uncle Michael Mortell’s antique store on Francis Street; a must for all visitors coming to Dublin."

⬥ emer@dreamescape.co.uk

→ dreamescape.co.uk

WORDS | JILLIAN BOLGER