This week, Midnight Trains is dropping by Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland and the home of Guinness, that super-famous dry stout Irish people around the world can’t get enough of. The dark hue of this beverage has a rather unlikely link with the origins of the name of its home city. Founded in the ninth century by a colony of vikings, the name Dubh Linn comes from the Gaelic term for a nearby ‘black pond’. But don’t fear: there’s nothing dark or gloomy about this place. Quite the opposite.
Any trip to the city should start at St Patrick’s Cathedral, named after the country’s patron saint, perhaps best known for the drunken celebrations that take place in his name rather than his role in spreading the Catholic faith throughout the region. The thirteenth-century building is remarkably intact, with its mind-blowing vault, complex woodwork and intricate crests of notable local familie – you’ll come away feeling like you’ve just witnessed a missing season of Game of Thrones. Other key historic attractions include the Christ Church Cathedral and Dublin Castle, but we’d head elsewhere next.
There’s an eccentric corner of this city that feels almost like Hogwarts. It’s called Trinity College, and is the city’s most prestigious university. The complex holds a remarkable 65-metre-long library, rather imaginatively named the Long Room, which would look right at home in one of the Harry Potter films. Here you’ll find all manner of historic treasures, including The Book of Kells, with its 340 pages (made of calf hide) covered in the most dazzling Medieval ornamentation.
Having traipsed around many of the city’s most beautiful old bits, next you should hit up another rather stunning spot: The Bank. As the name suggests, this restaurant is housed within the spectacular surroundings of a former bank. In the middle of the space, there’s a bar which is now perhaps best known for the tree that’s sprouted at its centre. Always busy, and always fun, this timeless jewel served up delicious Irish food and European dishes with a local twist. For a drink afterwards, an obvious pit stop might be the world-renowned Guinness Storehouse, with its spectacular rooftop bar.
Next up, climb aboard the elegant replica of the Jeanie Johnston: a ship that became famous during the Irish Famine in the mid-nineteenth century. Unlike other ships that took thousands of starving Irish people to America, this one only recorded a single death on board. But if you’re done with all this old stuff? Dublin brims with cutting-edge culture, too. Try contemporary galleries like Kerlin, RUA RED or Pallas Project.
And as for dinner? You can’t miss Delahunt. In a former pub, this hidden gem has a menu and wine selection that are both subtle and creative. Once you’ve filled up, head up the stairs and cosy up in the cocktail bar that smacks of the 1950s.
Finally – and it’s a must! – you have to go to an actual pub. You could hit up the ultra-touristy Temple Bar area, but we’d recommend going elsewhere. One of our faves goes by the name Ryan’s of Parkgate Street. Here you’ll find both beers and high-quality whisky – but that’s not all. You’ll also be able to sample local pâtés, oysters and sirloin steaks worthy of a James Joyce novel. If you fancy heading somewhere a bit more modern, try Idlewild. This is one of a new generation of pubs that serve only the coolest artisanal beers and cocktails.