Travel

Sunday 16 December 2018

First Look: Inside Dublin's epic new €15 million tourist attraction

A deep dive into Irish DNA

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

A €15 million addition to the CHQ Building is Dublin's biggest new tourist attraction since the Guinness Storehouse.

Priced at €16/€8, EPIC Ireland is described as an interactive visitor experience celebrating the global journeys and influence of the Irish disapora.

Opening to the public on May 7 after an official launch by Mary Robinson, the attraction is set in the brick vaults of CHQ on Custom House Quay.

It is entirely privately funded, developed at a cost of €15 million by Neville Isdell, former Chairman and CEO of Coca Cola and member of the Irish diaspora.

On a preview tour, my experience was of a bold series of 20 galleries slickly fitted with at times breathtakingly immersive technology-driven displays.

Designed by Event Communications, the award-winning designers of Titanic Belfast, EPIC Ireland aspires to tell the story of "10 million journeys", with galleries organised into themes of migration, motivation, influence and connection.

Epic Ireland: Inside Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Epic Ireland: Inside Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Inside the vaulted galleries of EPIC Ireland. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Wherever green is worn: members of the Irish disapora celebrated at EPIC Ireland. Photo - Pól Ó Conghaile
Epic Ireland: Walking through the vaults of the CHQ building in Dublin's newest tourist attraction. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Visitor passport at EPIC Ireland. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Epic Ireland: Receiving a visitor passport at Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Epic Ireland: Musicians with Irish roots, celebrated at Dublin's new visitor attraction. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
The 'Emigration' desk at EPIC Ireland. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Epic Ireland: Interactive books in Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Epic Ireland: Interactive books in Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Epic Ireland.

Why did people leave? What was their influence overseas? How has the emigrant experience changed over time? All are questions integral to the experience.

"The vision and objective of EPIC Ireland is to be the essential first port of call for visitors to Ireland," said its Managing Director, Conal Harvey.

75pc of visitors are expected to come from overseas, with 25pc coming from the island of Ireland, according to Dervla O'Neill, its head of marketing.

She described the experience as "a real deep dive into the Irish DNA".

Visitors receive a passport as they enter the attraction, stamping it at various points before using it to send a virtual postcard as their tour concludes.

Some 70 living characters are included among the galleries, ranging from Magdelene daughter Mari Steed to Graham Norton and President Barack Obama.

Epic Ireland: Walking through the vaults of the CHQ building in Dublin's newest tourist attraction. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Epic Ireland: Walking through the vaults of the CHQ building in Dublin's newest tourist attraction. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Epic Ireland: Inside Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Inside the vaulted galleries of EPIC Ireland. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Wherever green is worn: members of the Irish disapora celebrated at EPIC Ireland. Photo - Pól Ó Conghaile
Visitor passport at EPIC Ireland. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Epic Ireland: Receiving a visitor passport at Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Epic Ireland: Musicians with Irish roots, celebrated at Dublin's new visitor attraction. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
The 'Emigration' desk at EPIC Ireland. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Epic Ireland: Interactive books in Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Epic Ireland.
Epic Ireland: Interactive books in Dublin's newest visitor experience. Photo: Epic Ireland.

A rogues' gallery evokes characters like Ned Kelly and Typhoid Mary, whilst others celebrate the achievements of scientists like Ernest Walton, musicians like Morrissey, and literary giants ranging from Bram Stoker to Edna O'Brien.

I wondered whether the €16 price is too high (though it falls short of the €20 fee at the Guinness Storehouse), felt the soundtrack leaned a little heavily on sentimental Irish airs, and would have preferred a less 'Oirish'-feeling gift shop.

All told, however, this is a much-needed and extremely polished addition to Dublin's deck of tourist attractions - at a time when the city is badly in need of new competitive edges to re-position a somewhat tiring image.

Tickets are now available at epicirelandchq.com.

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