by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
Visitor numbers to Dublin have increased year on year by 16% in 2016 which means our message is getting out there and folks are anxious to catch a breath of fresh air, Dublin-style. Thankfully the scope and range of things to do around the city is increasing all the time with a plethora of new and truly exciting initiatives springing up. I’ve posted previously on “Off the beaten track things to do in Dublin” and these posts continue to bring readers to this blog. But here’s a brand new list of 10 must do activities for a Summer in Dublin.
1.The Song: “Old Town” by Phil Lynott
Let’s start by listening to a song. In those rare moments when David Soul’s “Don’t give up on us” or Chicago’s “If you leave me know” come on the radio, 40 layers of years evaporate from my body and suddenly I’m 16 again, caught raw and exposed on the slow and painful streets of adolescent infatuation. Songs conjure massively powerful emotions. My Summer in Dublin song recommendation is not “Summer in Dublin” (that’s a great one too!) but Phil Lynott’s sublime, aching and poignant “Old Town”. Check out the video and see what Dublin looked like in 1982.
2. Dublin’s Coastal Villages – Dalkey, Killiney, Howth, Skerries, Balbriggan
Dublin’s ‘Breath of Fresh Air” campaign really highlights the appeal of her coastal villages which you can reach easily and cheaply from the city centre by DART. My own favourite mode of transport, however, is road bike. You can go south or north from the city centre and challenge yourself with some nice climbs up Howth Head or Killiney Hill. Or you could take your bike on the DART to Howth and cycle from there all the way to Killiney. It’s about 75km of great cycling and you might even spot Bono or Enya on your journey.
3. The Dean Hotel and Sophie’s Restaurant
The Dean, Dublin brings the hipster-cool pedigree of Portland or Shoreditch to Harcourt Street offering an independent, boutique experience in line with the likes of Ace Hotel in New York or the Hotel Daniel in Vienna. The lobby is a great hang-out spot during the day for meetings, attracting the office crowds after work with great cocktails and cool sounds. And then there’s Sophie’s Restaurant. Located on the rooftop of the property, Sophie’s offers a panoramic perch from which to view the city as well as a wood fired oven offering amazing flat breads.
4. GPO Witness History
2016 has been all about remembering the 1916 Rising and GPO Witness History, located at the General Post Office in central Dublin, is the perfect place to start your exploration of an event which led to Ireland’s independence from Great Britain. The story unfolds using the fullest possible spectrum of people involved from innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, to British soldiers sent in to quell the revolution, to the insurrectionists themselves.
You could spend a number of fulfilled and happy days on the North bank of the River Liffey and still have a complete Dublin experience. Dublin’s Northside Attractions is an alliance of visitor attractions all located on the north bank of the River Liffey (except for The Guinness Storehouse which is actually on the Southside!) and all deserving your undivided attention. I’m singling out the Etihad Skyline at Croke Park as it offers an eyrie like viewpoint on the city and environs and is the perfect place to orientate yourself.
The food scene in Dublin continues to evolve at pace with platforms like Lovin Dublin keeping us up to date with what’s new. From a huge list of new openings I’m directing you to the modest but magnificent Tang on the top of Dawson Street, opposite St Stephen’s Green. Tang is a sister to Yogism, the wonderful DIY frozen yogurt emporium in George’s Street arcade. Expect the same shabby chic interiors and the same friendly service with the welcome addition of a full breakfast and lunch menu.
I was reminded recently of how much a Dublin institution the Shelbourne is when we spent time there celebrating our daughter’s graduation in a truly packed and heaving bar – in the middle of a Thursday afternoon! The Shelbourne has been part of the fabric of Dublin society for almost 200 years and played a seminal role in both the 1916 Rising and as the venue for the drafting of the constitution for the nascent, fledging Irish Free State. It’s a must-do for any Summer in Dublin.
I’m including Shane’s Howth Hikes in my 10 must do activities in its own right but also as a symbol of the mushrooming of boutique / artisan activity providers in the Dublin area – check out the excellent Visit Dublin website for examples. A survivor of years in the aviation industry, the now grounded Shane finds deep fulfilment and solace in sharing his immense local knowledge of the Howth peninsula with visitors and locals alike.
Just over a year old, the Irish Rock’N’Roll Museum is definitely filling a Bono-shaped void for certain visitors to Dublin. Ireland punches above its weight in many sectors, none more so than music if you consider the impact globally of rock artists born on a tiny island off a bigger island in the North Atlantic. The museum honours Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy and, of course, U2 and has recently started to showcase the next wave of musical talent – Imelda May, Hozier, The Script, Kodaline etc. Located in Temple Bar.
My last but most exciting “must do” for summer 2016 is to get yourself down to the Liffey side neighbourhood bounded by the Butt Bridge and the Samuel Beckett Bridge. If this was Manhattan it might be called something like the BEBUBE (Between-Butt-and-Beckett!!!) district. Here you’ll find iconic architecture from Gandon (The stunning Custom House) to Calatrava (The Samuel Beckett Bridge), wonderful civic spaces (George’s Dock and the riverside walk area), great hotels and restaurants (too many to list) and outstanding visitor attractions including the wonderful chq building, Rowan Gillespie’s bronze Famine sculptures, the fully restored Jeanie Johnson ship and Dublin’s newest visitor attract, the astonishing EPIC Ireland, Ireland’s diaspora museum.
Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a specialist agency working in the MICE sector with hotels, venues and destinations on strategy, marketing and training.
Big thanks to Failte Ireland for the amazing images