Sunday 25 June 2017

10 off the beaten track things tourists will love about Dublin

Hidden Dublin

Disco divas: Guru Dudu leads his followers around Dublin city centre. Photo: Arthur Carron
Disco divas: Guru Dudu leads his followers around Dublin city centre. Photo: Arthur Carron
A view of Howth coastline

Claire Roney

Being a two-month tourist in Dublin meant doing the touristy things first, and finding the real adventures second. Here's what I've found for the tourists that like to go off the beaten track.

1) Swimming in Howth

The Irish Sea isn't exactly known for its temperate waters, but if you take the trip to Howth, you'll find it quite worth the chattering teeth. Howth is a fishing and yachting port located about 40 minutes away from the city centre. On any given day, it sports fantastic views and nature paths along its coastal cliffs. On the weekends it also hosts an Irish Farmers' Market with everything from fine chocolate and jewelry to music and fresh seafood. If you find the time and have the sun, take a trek down the cliff stairs and onto the shore. A plunge into the waters is refreshing, and having a swim might just land you with a family of seals.

A view of Howth coastline
A view of Howth coastline

2) The Ferry from Dublin Port 

Whether you're going to Edinburgh, the Isle of Man or even Amsterdam, traveling by ferry can seem daunting. When you hear the word 'ferry' you may have a nightmarish fantasy of freezing temperatures, drenched clothes, white washed walls and a hammock to sleep in. You might be right, but if it's Irish Ferries you're wrong. Instead it's like being aboard a hotel on the sea. Long couches, comfy chairs, bars, a movie theater, game rooms and gift shops are all on the first level. With each floor level of the ferry you have more access to other entertainments. The views are spectacular and the ride is leisurely. 

3) The Long Room

The Book of Kells is one of Dublin's most popular and historic attractions, but the Long Room was, in my opinion, the most magical part of the tour. Although a prominent attraction, The Long Room doesn't seem to get nearly enough attraction abroad as it deserves. It's located in the main room of the Old Library in Trinity College just after you go through The Book of Kells tour. Filled with 200,000 books and 14 sculpted head busts, the Long Room transports you to a different place in time. It also contains one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. 

Passenger numbers are up 8pc, while car numbers are up 11pc
Passenger numbers are up 8pc, while car numbers are up 11pc

4)  Dun Laoghaire Market 

You may not think that a weekend market is the place to spend your mornings and afternoons, but make a stop at Dun Laoghaire's markets and you won't be disappointed. About 40 vendors pitch stalls each weekend in the People's Park to showcase their crafts. You might want to bring a backpack, you'll more than likely be walking away with about 30 pounds of food, honey, keepsakes and oils in your arms. It's that amazing.

5) Forty Foot

About a 10-15 minute trip on the DART will bring you to Dalkey: a suburb and seaport located in Co. Dublin. It has wonderful restaurants and spectacular views of the coast, and a jump site called Forty Foot. No, it is not a 40 foot cliff and no, the water is not 40 feet deep either. Instead it's a cluster of large rocks protruding from the ocean where families and friends gather to courageously jump into Dalkey's waters. The experience is refreshing and fun, and most especially rewarding. 

The Long Room at Trinity College
The Long Room at Trinity College

6) Kayaking on the Liffey 

While you may want to avoid taking a dip in the Liffey, kayaking along the river is a fun and interactive way of sight-seeing all that Dublin has to offer. And although it seems like a touristy thing to do, some Dubliners do frequent the water with their kayaks for joyrides. You can choose to book a guided tour through one of Dublin's many companies, or rent your own kayak and make the journey your own. 

7) Walking tour of Dublin Mountains 

Dublin Mountains Partnership (dublinmountains.ie) offers free guided walking tours throughout the county's mountainous area. Pack a picnic, enjoy the views and meet new people as you explore some of Dublin's magnificent forestry. And, it's free. A schedule is offered each summer of the many tours the program has available throughout the weekends. 

Dun Laoghaire Harbour
Dun Laoghaire Harbour

8) A GAA Game 

You may not know what GAA stands for or know that Gaelic Football is the Irish equivalent to America's football or soccer, but you need to go to a GAA match if you can. The GAA players are all volunteers that maintain jobs to support their families while training long, hard hours to play in the amateur sport. It's a much-loved sport that will show you the full extent of Irish spirit. You can purchase game tickets for about €15-30 at the office on Dorset Street Lower. 

9) Silent Disco

Whether you enjoy dancing or can't stand the thought of it, a silent disco must be on your Dublin bucket list. During a silent disco, each person is given a set of headphones to dance to their own music. You control the switchboard. The result? A hilarious and semi-awkward milieu of people dancing to the beat of their headphones. It may not match your partner's rhythm, but the ensuing smiles will make the night more than worth it. Try Whelan's on Wednesdays (whelanslive.com), and don't worry, it's free! 

Forty Foot jump site in Dalkey
Forty Foot jump site in Dalkey

10) Horse riding on the coast 

Even if you're not a particularly skilled rider, you can still enjoy all that the Dublin coast has to offer from the comfy (ok, sometimes not so comfy) back of a horse. Ireland is home to many horse and pony breeders who offer trail rides and week-long excursions throughout the countryside. But if you're looking for something on the smaller scale, search for a Co. Dublin barn that offers day rides. You'll find a wide range of times, locations and noble steeds to suit your interests and your pace.

Claire Roney is an intern visiting from the US.

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