Weekends Away - In Dublin's Fair City

Dublin - A City of Many Treasures

A weekend in Dublin seemed to cry out for a pub crawl but discovering a literary pub crawl, thus rendering it a cultural pursuit, was a real find.

We met up in the top room of The Duke pub for the first Guinness. Thence we set off by foot to various ancient hostelries and through the grounds of Trinity College, following in the footsteps of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan.

Along the way we were treated to prose, verse, drama and song from fantastic local actors. Americans were in abundance, Eastern Europeans and a motley crew of nationalities made up the party, with serious scrapping for the quiz prizes at the end.

There was also a historical foot tour on offer setting off from Trinity College but much as it appealed, time constraints sent us to the hop on, hop off open-top bus tour of the city, with live commentary from a driver delivering lines straight from Father Jack and Craggy Island.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Would you look at that fekin eejit," as a car seemed intent on reversing into the front of the bus.  All the more fun for his jokes and irreverent commentary, we saw a great deal of the city this way and decided against the Guinness Storehouse visit when we looked at the length of the queue.

The Guinness Storehouse visitor experience is housed in a six-storey listed building dating from 1904. No longer a working brewery, it has become the popular public face of probably Ireland's most recognised brand.

Determined to avoid the 'plastic Paddy' purchases from the many authentic Oirish shops, I was nonetheless drawn in and couldn't resist buying the McLoughlin coat of arms and description of royal ancestry, only to discover my name misspelt towards the end.

Serves me right, my father long ago brought back both a shillelagh and a coat of arms in Gaelic, which my brother told him actually read "rogues, vagabonds and thieves"! Still his roots were firmer than mine, his father having left Dublin for England as a boy.

And why are we all so keen to claim our Irish ancestry?  Perhaps because the craic's still the thing, the people seem glad to meet you and keen to help and there's a feeling that sitting on the banks of the River Liffey you are surrounded by history still redolent in the very stones.

The Liffey divides the city, with O'Connell Street on the north side, intersected by shopping streets. The General Post Office on O'Connell Street still serves as a symbol of the 1916 Easter Rising. Members of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army seized the building on Easter Monday and Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from its steps. Where Nelson's Pillar stood until destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1966, now stands the incredible Spire of Dublin, officially titled the Monument of Light, a needle-like stainless steel monument 121.2 metres (398 ft)high.

On the south side of the city, across the Liffey, lie Trinity College and Grafton Street with St. Stephen's Green at its far end.

There's an abundance of hotels to choose from but go for one in the city centre, they range from the conversion of redbrick Georgian houses which is now the 3* Cassidy`s Hotel at the top of O`Connell Street, to the five star Westin Hotel opposite Trinity College in an imposing building that used to be the Allied Irish BankDublin Bus will take you straight to the city centre from the airport with buses every 10 minutes at peak times.

And enjoy eating out, there's lots of choice from across the world, from L'Gueuleton bistro, with traditional French onion soup and boeuf bourgignon - no booking but wander up and the staff will take your mobile number and call you in the pub when your table's available - to Carluccio's in Duke Street, convenient for the literary pub crawl, and with their usual excellent service and food. Or go Spanish at La Paloma, Temple Bar, for tapas, steaks and sangria. There's everything from Mexican to Chinese and you can even eat Irish in the middle of Temple Bar at The Quays Restaurant, offering traditional Irish food like Irish Stew, Dubliner Coddle or Lamb Shank.

Whether you are having your picture taken by the bronze of Molly Malone (see the shinier ample bosom stroked by thousands of tourists' hands) or enjoying some 'Waiting for Godot' in an upstairs room of the Duke, you'll enjoy the craic in Dublin's fair city.

Patricia McLoughlin