Travel Writing: Dublin, Ireland

When I think of Ireland, I think of brightly coloured villages and green, green hills rolling down to the beautiful coast. Every single house in the row on both sides of the road is a different colour – bright blue with ochre windowsills, various tints of pink and red, a dark orange with the name of the pub painted in bold letters. Yet I never knew that these vibrant colours were as present in the city until I visited Ireland’s capital Dublin.  

It all starts in Temple bar. Like any touristic area, it features bars with drinks that are too expansive, lots of clicking cameras and many different languages spoken on the terraces and pavements. While these pubs are perhaps not the most authentic Irish experience, they sure are beautiful to stroll past. Impressive bunches of white, purple and pink flowers adorn almost every windowsill, parts of walls and sometimes even complete buildings are decorated with bright colours, images of famous Irishmen and quotes. And it’s not just Temple Bar. All around the city, originally grey traffic light boxes are painted by individual artists, a project by “Dublin Canvas” to create a work of art that spans the whole city. Ingenious and creative, they’re a surprise every time your eyes catch their colours. In the same way, so many walls and shutters are adorned by gorgeous works of art, matching the shops, making an alleyway into something truly special.

Some would argue Ireland’s national drink is Guinness, but before 12noon it’s definitely black tea with milk. However, just like in Glasgow, the independent coffee scene is making its way into the streets and alleys of Dublin. Picking up an ‘Ireland Independent Coffee Guide’ or checking out the Indy Coffee guides websites will help to find some new temporary favourite hangouts. You’ll definitely find a tasty flat white in an area just south of Temple bar, called Camden. Like it’s counterpart in London, you’re able to eat food from all over the world here and buy new second hand clothes in charity shops. Yet there are no market stalls in sight – just plain old indoor establishments that will keep you dry from the rain. There’s a good vibe here, and it’s away from most of the tourists in the centre of town.

Even further away, but definitely worth the bus ride, are the National Botanic Gardens.

While I love the Botanics at the top of Byres Road, they’re nothing compared to the gardens in Dublin. A vast area that showcases about five beautiful historic glasshouses, where I experienced both the jungle and the dessert, saw the cutest succulents; an array of carnivorous plants; how one of my favourite spices, turmeric, grows; and about a thousand orchids. Alongside that, you can feel romantic in a rose garden, try to identify as many different types of trees, or lie in the grass beside charming, sweet-smelling flowers and plants. Technically, the garden is only meant for scientific purposes and not as a “pleasure garden”, but nobody seemed to mind.

While Dublin is a brilliant city steeped in history (check out the book of Kells at Trinity College, the gorgeous cathedrals, or the General Post Office with bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Rising in the walls) and culture (recommendations are the charming Chester Beaty Library near Dublin Castle and the Irish Museum of Modern Art), great transport links allow you to easily explore nearby coastal towns too. Less than an hour north-east of Dublin, the small town of Howth sits on the cliffs of Howth peninsula. The village itself is overcrowded in summer and not really worth mentioning except for the immense queues at fish & chip shops and overpriced restaurants, but it’s all worth it for the extraordinary views from the cliff walk. The narrow path has a very steep drop on the left side, right down to remarkable rocks and the glorious water. On the right side is a patchwork of green ferns and bright yellow and purple flowers. You can take a walk all along the edges of the peninsula, past a lighthouse and Martello tower, or take a shortcut back to Howth. Walking back into the village past glowing white houses standing against an incredible blue sea, I almost imagined myself somewhere along the Mediterranean. Who said Ireland is only rain and sheep and Guinness?

[Aike Jansen]

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All images courtesy of Aike Jansen. 

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