Saturday was the first day of my Contiki tour of Ireland! I landed in Dublin a day early, and since I wasn’t meeting up with the tour group until dinnertime, I set out for a day of exploring around the city.
I started at Kilmainham Gaol, going on a tour at 9:45. This place was so, so cool. As someone without very much prior knowledge of Irish history, it was a great introduction. The Gaol seems to have been a part of almost every significant event in Ireland’s history, particularly the Great Famine and the rebellions for Irish independence, including the Easter Rising in 1916. The tour guide was fantastic; in addition to telling us the dates and significance of the place, she also shared stories of specific individuals who spent time at and/or died at the Gaol, really bringing the history to life with the stories.
Inside the Kilmainham Gaol. The Gaol has several different wings, based on different ideologies about prisons. This was one of the nicest sections; most of the others were dark, completely enclosed, and intended for almost complete isolation.
Museum at the Gaol:
After the Gaol, I decided that, considering I had just a day to explore the city, how much there was that I did want to see, and my ability to get lost practically every time I try to go somewhere, I bought one of those hop on/hop off bus tickets that took me around to all of the top sights. Finally, no more getting lost! It was brilliant.
My next stop was at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History. This museum is in a former military barracks, and it was surprisingly empty; I almost had the entire place to myself.
Panoramic shot of the barracks:
It was also free to enter! (Love those free museums). I only spent a couple hours here, but I did really enjoy their exhibit on “Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising” that explained the Easter Rising of 1916 in a lot more detail. It’s crazy to think that all of this history didn’t happen all that long ago; the 100th anniversary was just celebrated a year ago. On my tour of the Kilmainham Gaol, my tour guide told us that when she was in school, they didn’t really learn about the 1916 rising because it was just too recent, and still too difficult for many people to talk about.
After the National Museum, I went on to see Trinity College. I got briefly lost (of course), but found my way to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room, both of which were beautiful.
The Long Room also held one of just 12 remaining copies (out of 2500 originals) of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which was read out at the start of the rising in 1916. My day definitely had an Easter Rising-theme throughout.
As well, while I was walking around the campus of Trinity College, I had a couple tourists walk up and ask me for directions. Since I had my backpack on, am university-aged, and tend to walk quickly (like I know where I’m going… ha!), I blended right in!
Having run out of time, despite having so much more I wanted to see in Dublin, I took the bus back to my hotel. Unfortunately the hop on/hop off didn’t go near my hotel, so I had to take a city bus… and promptly got lost for about an hour and a half. In the end, I made it to my group dinner just ten minutes late.
We had dinner, got to know each other a bit, and then our guide led us into the city for a bit of a walking tour. We finished off the evening in the Old Storehouse Bar & Restaurant, in the Temple Bar area, where we listened to live music and enjoyed Irish beers for the rest of the evening. The live music that night was really amazing, a mix of traditional Irish tunes and more modern music, and the atmosphere in the pub was incredible.
Much of the crowd was singing or clapping their hands along with the music, which seemed to be encouraged, and it was so much fun to join in with the whole pub loving the music.