Nathan Overlock is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A professional writing and information design major at Cedarville University, he is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Nathan tells us the 6 places he recommends in Dublin that are off the beaten path.
Dublin is like many other large European cities: an exciting center, radiating out from the most exciting attractions, vibrant shopping areas, and historically significant sights. And then suburbs. Miles of sprawling suburbs. My first few weeks, I was amazed by how easily walkable the city is, and how I could go from one sight to the next in 5 minutes. In fact, I managed to check almost every spot off of my “must see in Dublin” list during my first weekend in Ireland. That’s not to say Dublin is small, or doesn’t have enough to see and do to fill all the time I’ve had here. However, with half a semester behind me, some of my favorite Dublin experience haven’t been crossing the Ha’Penny bridge, or visiting the Guinness Storehouse; they’ve been taking the time to branch out and experience the locations and events that aren’t just for tourists, but are embedded in the city’s culture. While it might be intimidating to venture off onto the side streets, or hop on a city bus for the first time, Dublin’s a city that’s hard to get truly lost in, with almost everyone ready and happy to offer directions, or point you in the right direction. And trust me, these 6 Dublin spots are worth the detour.
1. Glasnevin Cemetery
If the Irish cheer and charm around St Paddy’s day in America is what’s inspired you to travel to, or study abroad in Dublin, the last place you might think to go is a cemetery. Personally, I think of cemeteries as gloomy places full of grim reminders. However, Glasnevin cemetery was constructed as a victorian garden to serve as a peaceful place of reflection. While Glasnevin has its fair share of notable residents, including my college’s namesake, Arthur Griffith, the real draw is the physical location and the history behind it. Services in this cemetery served as precursors to vital moments in Irish history, such as the 1916 rebellion, and the countless sculptures and monuments to Irish heroes across the globe wouldn’t be out of place in an art gallery or museum.
2. Hodges & Figgis
Hodge & Figgis makes an imposing impression. The wide, five-story Georgian brick building towers over everything else on Dawson street, to the point that I wouldn’t blame you for assuming the two book-filled windows along the street are just a small shop within the bigger building. But no, Hodges Figgis is all books, including the levels tucked away below street-level. So what, apart from its sheer size, makes a bookstore a destination? Well, Dublin’s oldest bookstore, turning 250 next year, is a maze of literature, fiction, information, and every other type of book that will suck you in for hours if you’re not careful. Admittedly, the books aren’t the cheapest in the city. But with the biggest collection, and tables stuffed with recommendations, it’s been impossible for me to leave without buying anything.
3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral Services
Unless you truly confine yourself to Grafton and O’Connell street, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is hard to miss. The stunning building is always swarming with visitors waiting to tour, or simply enjoying the park outside. For a different experience, though, try attending an afternoon service to experience a Dublin—although not always Irish—tradition that has continued since the 12th century. While you wont have to pay the small entry fee, this isn’t just an excuse to see the inside of the cathedral for free. Instead, it provides a glimpse into Irish culture and history, and the chance to witness another side of Dublin’s unbeatable music, the famous Cathedral choir.
4. EPIC Ireland
Epic Ireland isn’t far from the city center. In fact, if you take a stroll down the river Liffey you might even wander past it. But even if you find yourself in the historic CHQ building--likely to grab a snack from one of the great sushi or noodle restaurants--, the Irish Emigration museum tucked into the corner is probably still a hard sell. However, this isn’t just a few rooms full of glass cases and plaques telling you why people left Ireland; it’s a gallery of 20 interactive experiences allowing you to, in a few minutes, walk through the emigrant experience and see where they went next. For a taste of Ireland’s influence across the world, or to learn more about the surprising heritage behind American icons like Barack Obama and Rihanna, finding a better museum would impossible.
5. Marley Park
Deep within the Rathfarmines suburbs, a 40 minute city bus ride past Rathfarnum castle, what makes Marley park worth the trip when the city center is sprinkled with beautiful public parks, and there are more alluring site along the way? For me, it’s the quick access to Dublin’s mountains. Marley Park marks the beginning of the Wicklow way, an 80 mile long-distance hiking trail. Don’t worry though: after weaving your way through the parks peaceful wood’s, it only takes 30 minutes to find a stunning view of Dublin bay, where you can sit and gaze at the city over rolling farmland, or hike further into the mountain forest.
6. The Great South Wall
If there were a convenient way of getting to the Great South Wall, I guarantee it would be a destination for every Dublin visitor. But, despite being at the very center of the Dublin coastline, it can take a 2 hours walk, or $7 train ticket to Grand Canal Station just to find The Great South Wall. So what makes it worth the visit? Well, after you walk through the beautiful park and along the stunning sandy beach that stretches for miles out into the bay, you’ll find yourself at the head of a stone walkway that stretches 2.5 miles out from the Dublin coast, protecting the harbor from the worst of open ocean weather. If you finished your leisurely hike into the Dublin mountains, and thought it could’ve used a few more crashing waves and seaspray, this is the walk for you. One of my favorite hikes along the coast of Maine is the Rockland breakwater, with stunning views of the Maine coast and harbors, and this puts it entirely to shame. When you reach the end, you can sit at the base of the striking red Poolbeg Lighthouse, dry off in the sun as the ships go past, and wonder why you ever walked two and a half miles out into the ocean without stopping to think about the trip back.
Nathan's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.