As luck would have it, the four days I spent in Ireland in the summer of 2018 saw the Emerald Isle have some of the warmest weather in nearly two decades. Though not nearly long enough to fully explore the country, my two days in Dublin and day trips to the Cliffs of Moher and Northern Ireland were filled with scenery, good food & drink (read: Guinness & whiskey), and good cheer.
Let me just start by saying that Ireland was, in many ways, not what I expected. The food was excellent - almost every meal hearty, savory, and choke full of meat & potatoes, or seafood. The Guinness - best in the world at its point of origin - naturally. The people, incredibly nice and honest folks who are always happy to help anyone out.
The Spire, below, a landmark in the city of Dublin where locals frequently use as a point of meeting. Indeed, it was used as a location to convene my first day in the city.
If you're someone that needs coffee in the mornings, opt to stop by Vice, a popular caffeine haunt with the locals - that occupies a bar within a Brazilian restaurant during the day time. And because its never too early - grab an Irish coffee while you're at it.
Breakfast wise - the country is most famous for its traditional Irish breakfast. Because there are so many components (10!), I took the liberty of labeling the photo for simplicity's sake. My favorite was the black pudding, essentially a sausage containing blood that's patty-like in its consistency. FYI white pudding is the same thing, just without the blood!
If you're less of a breakfast person, however, opt for a pastry at Camerino instead. Locally owned and sourced fresh, this bakery offers up some delicious scones made with that famed Irish butter.
Of course, I couldn't keep away from the whiskey distilleries of this famed isle for long. I started with a tour of the classic - Jameson.
Having arrived early for our tour - we opted for a few drinks at JJ's Bar within the distillery. Left, two classics: an old fashioned and a whiskey sour. Right, one of my favorites sampled during the trip (and I sampled...quite a few), Midleton Very Rare. The description said something about hints of something else - but I tasted vanilla.
We opted for a tour of the distillery and a "cask-draw" experience. The tour itself featured a lot of interactive exhibits that Jameson just spent 15 million dollars renovating, and a tasting at the end.
Exhibit I: History
The distillery was founded in 1810 when John Jameson took over Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, formerly owned by his wife's cousins. Incidentally, she also hailed from one of the great families of whisky distillation in Scotland. You know what they say...behind every great man....
Exhibit II: Distillation Process
Exhibit III: Tasting
Obviously my favorite part of the tour - although the various projections and videos were quite educational in terms of learning about whiskey production.
The cask draw experience was interesting in that it was located in one of the only maturation warehouses (where whiskey is aged in barrels) in the city of Dublin.
Due to its highly flammable nature, this particular warehouse was outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and various sensors.
Below, our guide opening the cask from which we sampled whiskey in the process of maturation.
Tools used in the opening of the cask
Pipettes in the center top of the photo were used to add a few drops of water into the whiskey from cask, diluting it slightly to bring out the rich flavors
Dinner time! In search of traditional Irish cuisine, Boxty House came highly recommended by our local guide.
Though Guinness understandably dominates the beer market in the country, Boxty House makes its own craft brew.
A sample of their own in-house craft beer selection
Seafood is abundant and fresh in Ireland - with oysters in particular offered on menus across the nation. Crisp and smooth, a squeeze of lemon is all you need to bring out the rich flavors of Irish oysters.
Bread - a favorite among the Irish aside from potatoes (hate to say that I found the stereotype true during my time here). Soda bread is a type of 'quick bread' that's leavened with bake soda instead of yeast, giving it a heartier consistency and denser constitution.
Soda bread, top right, is a local staple, and often paired with many types of stews and other main dishes in a meal. The middle slice is a loaf baked with Guinness (hence the color), and has the rich depth of the stout in its flavor. The lighter slice was my personal favorite, and had a flaky, scone-like consistency, pairing perfectly with that famed Irish butter.
When thinking of traditional Irish fare, hearty stews and soups often spring to mind. Left, a tasting of three ubiquitous stews of Ireland: beef & stout stew, traditional Irish stew (mutton, potatoes, onions, parsley), and my personal favorite: coddle (sausage, potatoes, vegetables). Right, Irish seafood chowder.
Now for the namesake dish of the restaurant - boxty - essentially a traditional Irish potato pancake. The dishes below are wrapped in the boxty, and features various meat, vegetable, and sauce concoctions within,
Above right, the Gaelic Boxty, with Irish beef medallions and onions in a Leitrim boxty pancake, drenched in delicious mushroom and whiskey sauce. Very Irish, as its name suggests. Very, very good.
Corned Beef Boxty: diced corned beef and cabbage served in a creamy parsley sauce, wrapped in a boxty pancake.
My second day in Dublin (actually the last day of my trip to Ireland), began with...well...Guinness for breakfast. To be fair, its my understanding that beer has a good amount of carbohydrates in it. And Guinness, I found out, actually has lower alcohol by volume (ABV) than many beers, despite its darker color.
Even today, Guinness is still brewed on-site at the storehouse in Dublin. Below is an aerial shot of (what I think) is their production facilities from its rooftop Gravity Bar, offering panoramic views of the city as well.
To be fair, its my understanding that beer has a good amount of carbohydrates in it. And Guinness, I found out, actually has lower alcohol by volume (ABV) than many beers, despite its darker color.
As with all production tours - it ends with a sample of the product. Did you know that Guinness is actually ruby red when held up to the light, and not the typical dark color we asscoiate with the stout?
One of the exhibits featured past marketing efforts of the brand. This room played many of Guinness' more memorable ads on loop on ultra-wide screen - pretty cool.
The self-guided tour starts from the first level and moves its way upward. Definitely don't forget to redeem your complimentary Guinness that comes with your storehouse ticket at the Gravity Bar on the rooftop of the building, and have your libation with some sweeping views of the Dublin.
Admittedly the pint of Guinness this morning was supposed to be breakfast...but let's just say certain beverages seem more potent when consumed on an empty stomach. Luckily, the food at the Guinness Storehouse was some one of the best meals I had in the city.
The 1873 Bar and Brasserie is definitely worth a stop if one is hungry at the storehouse. Although an entire floor of the museum is dedicated to bars and restaurants that feature Guinness on its menu, this eatery starts serving food at 12PM and had a wonderful mix of local cuisine infused with the country's signature stout.
So if you need a bite to eat after a few pints of beer, grab a table near a window and set down to order a few hearty dishes. Perhaps ironically, each dish earns you another sample of the brewhouse's craft, but it's small, so don't worry!
Above right, creamy vegetable soup with the ubiquitous Guinness brown bread, constantly making an appearance alongside the soups and stews of the Ireland, it seems.
Unbelievably satisfying grilled patty melt with layers of melted cheese, bits of Irish ham, and Guinness infused caramelized onions. Maybe it was the beer, or maybe it was just that good.
Signature beef and Guinness stew topped with a flaky pastry. Like most Irish stews - flavorful, hearty, and deeply statisfying.
So, an admission - the reason for the aforementioned hearty meal wasn't so much as we were feeling the Guinness as...well we had another whiskey distillery to visit coming up. As the first distillery to open up in Dublin in 125 years, Teeling is a brand founded by two brothers that come from a long line of whiskey producers.
Tickets to the distillery come with a tour, which starts off in an exhibition area and then moves into a seated space for a brief video.
Personally, I found this tour to be more interesting than that of Jameson's because Teeling allowed us a unadulterated look at their distillation process.
From milling to fermentation to distillation, we could pretty much see the whole process in this room. Pretty fascinating.
These are the large casks in which Teeling whiskey is fermented...or at least, I THINK this is the fermentation part...
The tour concludes with a tasting of the good stuff, and depending on which tickets you purchased you may be sampling 2, 3, or 4 different whiskeys. Guess which one I went for.
<- That quote = 'nuff said.
Established by Elizabeth I in 1592, Trinity College was modeled after Oxford and Cambridge.
The court yard of the college.
The Book of Kells are located within the Old Library of the college, an incredibly majestic space seen in the video below. I don't have any photographs of the books themselves, on display in a chamber before entering the old library.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, the highest church in Dublin, seen from its court yard below.
The church was established by the Church of England in 1191, making it more than 800 years old.
No, this church doesn't have any ties with the crazy celebrations in March around the world. Assuming, however, that this church is named after the same Saint of the holiday in question.
After sightseeing, we opted for a detour to one of the most popular ice-cream shops in the city, and a pit-stop to buy some souvenirs (aka mini-bottles of whiskey).
Made with Irish milk sourced from Dingle, Kerry County, this is seriously some of the best ice-cream I've ever had. And in case you haven't guessed it, I love ice-cream, so I've had a lot of it. Flavors range from Dingle Sea Salt to Irish Garden (fennel), to Dingle Gin - the storefronts allow unlimited tastings, so go crazy and try them all (or maybe not).
Some of my favorites are the Dingle Sea Salt, Caramelized Brown Bread (an Irish staple), Buttermilk, Irish Coffee (whiskey included).
Located in the Market Arcade in the city-center (seen above), Lolly and Cooks has a stand in the middle of the hall here.
These sausage rolls are truly delicious - with mustard seeds (or some kind of mustard-y ingredient) giving minced meat that fills the pastry to the brim a savory, satisfying kick. (We opted to share one of the original sausage rolls - a good choice if one isn't terribly hungry, as these are quite dense).
By the way...Gravedigger's next to the Botanical Gardens in Dublin pours an multi-award winning Guinness. So if you're a true connoisseur, be sure to stop by! Note that they only accept cash and don't serve food on Sundays, however - we tried to come here for dinner on a Sunday T.T and found out the hard way.
This place is a bit outside of the city (but only slightly) - so we decided to try the double decker buses (not for tourism, even their normal transport buses are double decker). Fun experience - like a true child I made straight for the front seat of the second floor on that bus.
Two things I'd have liked to see in the city that I didn't get a chance for are the Kilmainham Gaol, or the Kilmainham Jail. Tickets for this attraction are quite sought after (think Alcatraz in SF), so book online a few days in advance! Finally, there is Phoenix Park, supposedly the largest park in Europe, next to the jail (and close to the Teeling Brewery), where you can find randomly roaming deer and even feed them (or so I hear!).
A few final thoughts on Dublin...as a city, I found it had tons to do and there was never a dull moment. Below is a shot from the area surrounding the Jameson Distillery.
The main tourist / pub area in Dublin is known as Temple Bar - named for the replica of the bar below.
Good food and drink can be found, but it isn't an area necessarily oft frequented by locals due to its inflated prices and preponderage of 'hen' and 'stag' parties (aka what the Europeans call Bachelor and Bachelorette parties > <
I leave you with a fun souvenir stop discovered in the city. You guessed it (probably not) but its a liquor store: the oldest in Dublin, in fact. Celtic Whiskey Shop has walls of smaller bottled samples for you to take with, and distribute to friends, loved ones, or keep for yourself to sample. Or at least, that was my excuse for picking out a bunch...
Word of advice...if you're taking these on a carry-on make sure they fit in the clear zip-lock at the airport along with the rest of your toiletries. Ireland is rather strict about liquids/gels/aerosols onboard and I had to sacrifice a few of my cosmetic bottles to bring back those goodies to the left...WORTH IT
P.S. I made a few more stops for dinner and bars in addition to the above after my day tours to outside the city, including the best seafood at the KLAW in the Temple Bar area. Click HERE to see them!