Guest post by Superbreaker David Haynes…
As tradition now dictates (I think 4 years running now qualifies as a tradition) my wife and I took ourselves on our pre-Christmas touristy, shoppingy, eat-and-drinkathon to properly relax before the madness of the festive period sets in and this year’s destination was Dublin.
With only a single day’s holiday left each we decided to stay in Manchester at the lovely Best Western Pinewood Hotel on the Friday night so we could get the earliest flight over without having a devastating effect on our (my) beauty sleep, and still giving us a full two days to soak up everything Dublin had to offer, and this worked really well for us.
Once at the equally lovely Ardmore Hotel we unpacked and made straight for the big red sightseeing tour-bus to orientate ourselves with the city. I’m notorious for getting lost so this was essential as it really helped orientate us and confirmed all of the attractions we’d thought about visiting on the Sunday. The main tour (Red route) takes about two hours, and the driver was fantastic; even treating us to a few jokes and a very enthusiastic version of The Wild Rover (backing vocals provided expertly by a certain blogger…).
The rest of the day involved plenty of shopping, which Dublin is very good for and then eating and drinking around the lively Temple Bar area. If you’re eating then pre-booking is strongly advised and all the pubs and bars are standing room only. This became a bit of an issue after I’d eaten enough stew to feed a family of four, so we went to the Ha’penny Inn just off of the main street, which had a live band and ample seating; a great way to round off our first day.
Day two was all about the full-on tourist experience, so a Dublin Pass was very worthwhile purchase after getting a few snaps with Oscar Wilde (or Stephen Fry, I forget which) and a trip to the birthplace of our most celebrated foiler of the French: the Duke of Wellington, we paid a visit to the waxworks. This was largely focussed on historical figures so it was a great way to quickly get up to speed on Irish history. That said they also had a house of horrors, with Freddy Krueger and Hannibal Lector narrowly missing out to John Major as the scariest waxwork.
Dublinia was largely more of the same, with a deeper dive into Ireland’s history with the Vikings and educational info about archaeology, so perfect for any budding Tony Robinsons. The Cathedral and St Patrick’s are also in the same place and are beautiful sights to behold.
This all built to my favourite part of the weekend: the Guinness Storehouse. I’ve been of other brewery tours, some good, others a bit dry, but they barely compare to this. It’s more of theme park for grown-ups than a brewery tour. My personal highlight was enjoying the pint I pulled with my own fair hands in the Guinness academy whilst watching the rollercoaster of emotions for the Ireland Vs New Zealand game in the Arthur Guinness bar. Definitely great viewing for a neutral! The view from the 7th floor Gravity Bar is also pretty special.
Rounding things off was the Jameson tour. This is a guided tour so spaces per tour are limited meaning you may have to wait a while as we did, however… this supplied an excellent opportunity to check out Ireland’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head. The tour lasted an hour which was about right, taught me things, and provided a very nice glass of whisky at the end so I thought it was an absolute winner. There is also a ‘with-ginger-and-lime’ equivalent available for non-straight whisky enthusiasts.
A bit of last minute gift buying and a few more glasses of the local brew rounded off our weekend in fantastic style before heading home on the Monday. We had an amazing time, full of great activities, cuisine and people, and we’ll definitely go back to Dublin again.
Do you have a favourite destination for a pre-Christmas break? Let us know where you recommend in the comments below…