If you missed the first three blogs on our stay in Dublin, find them here and here and here. Warning on that last one: I just added a new picture of Fiona hugging a lamb that my mother-in-law caught. It is ridiculously adorable.
When planning our trip to France, we took a bit of a departure from our previous methods and decided to make a pretty specific plan for what we’d try to do each day. (In the past, we’d mostly tended to just have a rough idea of what we wanted to do for the entire trip and then decide as we went). I really preferred this way of doing things because it generally meant we had things planned in a logical order, and we were never surprised by showing up at a museum and finding out it was, for example, closed on Mondays.
Because we’d figured this out in France, I’d had every intention of trying to get very specific about planning day-by-day in Dublin. Well, life kind of got in the way. With just three weeks between the two trips, I got bogged down by playing catch up from being gone, trying to get ready for Ireland and (most of all) trying to finish several writing assignments before we left. Our trip was by no means “unplanned” — for example, we’d had our tours and rental car booked, Guinness tickest purchased, van-taxi from the hotel sorted out, etc — but a couple of times not having thoroughly researched everything kind of bit us. For example: we tried to go to the Kilmainham Gaol on Monday and had no idea that it was so popular that you absolutely need tickets ahead of time. Whoops!
Luckily, we managed to get into the Goal after all on Wednesday because there were still two times available when we went online to buy them. I’m relieved that we did because it ended up being one of my favorite parts of our trip.
So the Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1796, and it has an overall a long, sad history (unsurprisingly for a prison, I suppose) that includes people committing crimes on purpose to get sent to prison, and thus fed, during the Great Famine. However, it is best known because of its association with the Irish revolutionary movement. Many Irish revolutionaries were imprisoned and/or executed here, among them the leaders of the 1916 Easter RIsing.
Our guide for this visit was excellent. Throughout the tour, which lasted a little more than an hour, he explained the history of the jail and its political significance in an interesting, easy-to-follow way that didn’t drone too much. Fiona was asleep in my carrier during the majority of the tour, but Owen was pretty interested. I do recommend that you use a carrier for toddlers and younger — it is a tight space and some of the steps can be pretty steep.
Note: I didn’t get many decent pictures at the jail because it was mostly quite dark and I had a kid to haul around.
Throughout the tour, our guide shared a lot of anecdotes about people who had been prisoners in the jail over the years. Among these was Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. Plunkett was allowed to marry his fiancee, Grace Gifford, just hours before he was executed by firing squad at the jail. Afterward, Grace went on to be promote Sinn Fein policies and became a political cartoonist. She was imprisoned herself in Kilmainham in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, during which times she drew inside her cell. This one, which you can see only through the peep hole in the door, is called the Kilmainham Madonna.
I’m not sure our guide would love this pic, but this is right outside Grace’s cell.
This is the site of the executions of 14 people in May 1916 in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.
This marks the spot where General James Connolly, a man already mortally wounded in battle, was executed. Connolly had to be brought to the jail via ambulance because he was already nearly dead, then ultimately tied to a chair so that he could be shot after he lost consciousness. According to our guide, this was so outrageous to much of the Irish public that it actually took a movement that didn’t initially have a ton of support at the time and magnified it.
The tour ended here, but there was also a nice museum at the jail to peruse, which we did for a little while. Overall, I’d say Kilmainham Gaol is at the top of my list for Dublin recommendations, followed closely by the Guinness Storehouse.
The jail was actually the second stop of the day. We’d purchased a three-day pass for a hop-on,hop-off bus on Monday — incidentally I do not recommend this — and planned to use it to get to all our sights on this particular day. We decided to hit up the National Museum of Ireland – Archeology first, then hope to get to Dublin Castle after the jail since it was open later than the museum. Unfortunately, the hop-on, hop-off turned out to be a bit of a hassle and it took so long to get to the museum that we were left with not much time to explore. Luckily, it was free so we didn’t feel it was a waste to go in and have less than an hour there, and it did turn out to be really interesting.
They had a lot of Viking artifacts, including a lot of gold jewelry and some weapons, that Owen and Fiona were interested in, but for the grown ups the highlight was the “bog mummies.” These are bodies that were perserved in peat bogs in Ireland and other northern European countries, retaining their skin and organs even. They are a little creepy to look at — one even has fingernails! — but fascinating. The bodies on display died violently more than 4,000 years ago, and were possibly human sacrifices.
We had taken a taxi from the National Musuem to the jail so that we wouldn’t waste another hour on the bus, and after the jail we decided to try a taxi in order to make it to Dublin Castle before close as well. It worked out in the sense that we made it there with a little less than an hour, but there wasn’t room in the final tour of the day and we ultimately decided that the price tag wasn’t worth it for only having 45 mintues to wander by ourselves. Oh well!
We ended up wrapping up our final night in Dublin with a nice dinner and a little walking around. Overall, we really liked Dublin. Everyone was very friendly and the city was just kind of low-key and fun. Chris declared several times that he could live there, but part of that may have been that we got extremely lucky with the weather. We arrived during what several locals described as a “heat wave,” with temperatures rising to about 70 and, best of all, NO RAIN!
Next on the agenda: The Blog Where I Endlessly Scared Christopher While Driving On The Left Side of the Road. Stay tuned, folks.