City break: Dublin

Eine Golf stu nde,e in en Ir­ish Cof­fee,e in en Tag mit Kun st begei st er ten in den Ga­le­rien und dann Aben­dessen in Dublins äl­testem Pub – so taucht man ein in das gute Leben. Von GUY ARCHER


Dublin knows how to live well: join cor­re­spon­dent Guy Archer for a week­end away in the Ir­ish cap­i­tal to en­joy a golf les­son, a food tour, an in­tro­duc­tion to top art gal­leries and more. You’ll be happy and re­laxed in no time.

Iwas happy that no one could see me, or at least al­most no one. Maybe some peo­ple in the club­house nearby could, and Liam Mccool cer­tainly could. He had to: he was stand­ing be­side me, try­ing to teach me. On a windy af­ter­noon, I was at Deer Park Golf, where Liam, a PGA pro­fes­sional, is direc­tor. Deer Park is lo­cated in Howth, a fish­ing vil­lage just north of Dublin City, and of­fers two tra­di­tional golf cour­ses, a nine-hole, par-three academy course, an 18-hole pitch-and-putt course and more. It’s set on the north­ern bound­ary of Dublin Bay in the grounds of Howth Cas­tle.

It was my first golf les­son ever, and it showed. But Liam was pa­tient and en­cour­ag­ing, gen­uinely nice and con­ver­sa­tional. And I was in­deed im­prov­ing, thanks to him, and very much en­joy­ing my­self. After­wards, he took me into the club­house, where he bought me a Guin­ness and told me about the heath­land golf course and the sur­round­ing area and cas­tle. Only about

a 30-minute train ride from the cen­tre of Dublin, the spot seemed ideal for dif­fer­ent kinds of trav­ellers, even non-golfers What’s more, Liam and his col­leagues are eager to wel­come more vis­i­tors to the area.

He and I took a golf cart to the cas­tle, where the own­ers of Deer Park, the St Lawrences, have lived since 1177. Two St Lawrence sis­ters-in-law opened the Howth Cas­tle Cook­ery School in the cas­tle’s re­stored Ge­or­gian kitchen ten years ago. Through­out the year, hands-on cook­ery classes are of­fered in ev­ery­thing from In­dian street food and Moor­ish veg­e­tar­ian cook­ing, to knife skills and kitchen tips. The kitchen is gor­geous and vast, and guests eat in what was once the ser­vants’ kitchen. One can still see what’s left of the elab­o­rate bell sys­tem by which in­di­vid­ual ser­vants would be called up­stairs. I can’t wait to re­turn for more golf lessons and to take a cook­ing class. That’s a cu­ri­ous thing, as I don’t play golf and am not much in­ter­ested in pre­par­ing food. But any­thing can hap­pen when you visit Ire­land.

Start up, slow down

The pop­u­la­tion of the Greater Dublin area is al­most two mil­lion and grow­ing fast, thanks to eco­nomic ini­tia­tives that have made the city at­trac­tive to multi­na­tional com­pa­nies. This is partly due to the fall­out from Brexit and to projects like the Dig­i­tal Hub and Sil­i­con Docks. But it is also be­cause the city — as well as be­ing a mag­net for tourists from around the world (Ger­mans rank third among its vis­i­tors) — is a busy cen­tre of cul­tural, in­tel­lec­tual, culi­nary and even out­door life. Dublin is a very vi­brant city.

For those vis­it­ing the Ir­ish cap­i­tal for the first time, I rec­om­mend tak­ing a per­son­al­ized, guided walk­ing tour. The city cen­tre is filled with tourists and of­fers some­thing for ev­ery kind of vis­i­tor. There are hop-on/hop-off buses, tour groups — ev­ery­thing you would ex­pect. Walk­ing helps to en­sure that the sight­see­ing does not be­come over­whelm­ing, as does hav­ing a guide to one­self.

Dur­ing my first morn­ing in town, I was for­tu­nate to have a walk­ing tour with Rachael Kum­mert. She is a founder and direc­tor of Walk in Dublin, a com­pany that gives city tours in English and Ger­man. We walked to the City Hall, where she in­tro­duced me to the his­tory of the great Ir­ish paci­fist and lib­er­a­tor, Daniel O’con­nell, who was the driv­ing force be­hind the Catholic Eman­ci­pa­tion of 1829.

Im­por­tant for me was that the tour of­fered a broad his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive of the com­plex and rich his­tory of Ire­land, with great at­ten­tion paid to ar­chi­tec­tural and cul­tural de­tails. It was en­tirely en­gross­ing. Rachael ad­vised me on what books to read, es­pe­cially A His­tory of Ire­land in 250 Episodes by Jonathan Bar­don — a great in­tro­duc­tion to Ir­ish his­tory. She also rec­om­mended the­atres, gal­leries and li­braries to visit, as well as where to go to learn about Ir­ish whiskeys — at the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Daw­son Street, and the Ir­ish Whiskey Mu­seum on Grafton Street. Her sto­ry­telling and tips gave me a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the city and its fas­ci­nat­ing so­cial and po­lit­i­cal his­tory than a large tour group would have done, and it cer­tainly helped to shape the rest of my stay. As part of the tour, we took in Christ Church Cathe­dral, Trin­ity Col­lege, the Tem­ple Bar area and Dublin Cas­tle — each one on its own worth a trip to the Ir­ish cap­i­tal.

Food for the soul

To get a feel­ing for an­other of Dublin’s fa­mous as­pects, food and drink, I rec­om­mend a dif­fer­ent kind of tour. I met with a small group led by a guide from the Ir­ish Food Trail, which or­ga­nizes vis­its to some of the city’s best pubs and restau­rants. This tour was im­mensely in­for­ma­tive,

but af­ter three restau­rants and pubs, I nearly re­quired a nap. Dur­ing the tour and amidst my painstak­ing jour­nal­is­tic fact-find­ing, I en­joyed Dublin cod­dle, a “left­over break­fast”, a kind of stew con­sist­ing of what­ever’s around, though usu­ally with pork sausages, ba­con, po­ta­toes and onion. And although I had bar­tended many years ago, I also learned that I had never made or en­joyed a proper Ir­ish cof­fee. I didn’t know that the drink was a mod­ern in­ven­tion, and our guide demon­strated the art of mak­ing it. Be­lieve it or not, a proper Ir­ish cof­fee looks a bit like a pint of Guin­ness. It is very strong (thanks to the whiskey in it) and de­li­cious, and the peo­ple at Os­cars cafe and bar, di­rectly op­po­site Christ Church, can show you how it should be made.

Af­ter a rest fol­low­ing my Dublin cod­dle and Ir­ish cof­fee, I set out for Dublin’s old­est pub, the Brazen Head, which dates from 1198. This is a pop­u­lar place among vis­i­tors, so a reser­va­tion is a must. The pub serves tra­di­tional Ir­ish fare, which is ac­com­pa­nied by sto­ry­telling and mu­sic. It’s good fun.

Art­ful di­ver­sions

In ad­di­tion to pubs, which are a cliché of all that’s warm and wel­com­ing in Dublin, con­tem­po­rary cul­ture plays a big part in defin­ing the city. The James Joyce Cen­tre is lo­cated in a town­house built in 1784 that was once home to a dance academy run by a char­ac­ter who ap­pears sev­eral times in Joyce’s Ulysses. The cen­tre hosts lec­tures, per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions, in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tions and films. Amaz­ingly, it is an in­ter­est­ing and in­for­ma­tive re­source for the ini­ti­ated and unini­ti­ated alike. I ad­mit that I never had the read­ing stamina to make it through Ulysses. Yet, the cen­tre of­fers fas­ci­nat­ing glimpses into this lead­ing Ir­ish writer’s life, how he lived and the cen­sor­ship bat­tles sur­round­ing his great­est novel. Mean­while, in­ter­ac­tive com­puter in­stal­la­tions en­able more rig­or­ous schol­ars to ex­am­ine his life year by year, and the novel episode by episode.

The Dublin City Gallery, aka The Hugh Lane, is a four-minute walk from the Joyce cen­tre. It’s also lo­cated in a town­house — the Charlemont House — con­structed in 1763. In 1929, the build­ing was cho­sen as the home of the Mu­nic­i­pal Gallery of Mod­ern Art, which was founded by Sir Hugh Lane in 1908. Lane had been one of the lead­ing col­lec­tors of Im­pres­sion­ist art in Europe, and ac­quired works by De­gas, Vuil­lard, Renoir and Manet.

Af­ter decades of ne­go­ti­a­tions, most of this col­lec­tion is now shared between the Dublin City Gallery and the Na­tional Gallery in Lon­don. When I vis­ited, I had the op­por­tu­nity to see Manet’s Por­trait of Eva Gon­za­lès and Renoir’s The Um­brel­las. The gallery also has a sec­tion ded­i­cated to the works of Sean Scully, a re­con­struc­tion of the stu­dio of Ir­ish-born Bri­tish artist Fran­cis Ba­con and rooms filled with works by many of Ire­land’s other lead­ing mod­ern artists.

Catch a bus that goes past the Guin­ness store­houses, and in a few min­utes,

you will ar­rive at the Ir­ish Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, or IMMA, as it’s known. This is home to more than 3,000 works of art, and it fea­tures ex­hi­bi­tions and projects by top Ir­ish and in­ter­na­tional artists. It has an ex­ten­sive com­mu­nity out­reach pro­gramme which works to en­gage peo­ple of di­verse back­grounds, in­ter­ests and ages in the in­sti­tu­tion’s ac­tiv­i­ties and ed­u­ca­tional projects. IMMA makes bril­liant and imag­i­na­tive use of its old space: it is sit­u­ated in the grounds of the Royal Hos­pi­tal Kil­main­ham, one of the finest 17th-cen­tury build­ings in Ire­land. A home for re­tired soldiers, it was in­spired in its de­sign and func­tion by Les In­valides in Paris.

The Kil­main­ham grounds area is rich in his­tory. It was the lo­ca­tion of an­cient burial grounds, early Chris­tian mon­u­ments, a Vik­ing set­tle­ment and a me­dieval monastery. Its great size al­lows for many fas­ci­nat­ing ex­hi­bi­tions: IMMA is in the mid­dle of a five-year show fo­cus­ing on Lu­cian Freud, with 52 of his works on loan, but also fea­tur­ing work by Emily Dick­in­son, Sig­mund Freud, Mar­lene Du­mas and John Berger.

Coun­try in­ter­lude

It is re­mark­able how lit­tle time it takes to get from the cen­tre of Dublin to small vil­lages that feel far re­moved from the city. Go­ing out to where my jour­ney be­gan, I met Shane O’do­herty of Shane’s Howth Hikes. He took me and five other peo­ple for a cou­ple of hours of trekking along the hills near the vil­lage. Shane is an ef­fu­sive guy who wants you to en­joy and learn about his vil­lage and, in­deed, the whole area — a lover of his­tory and na­ture. He care­fully gauged our walk­ing abil­i­ties and made sure that we went at a speed we could all man­age, in­clud­ing your in­trepid cor­re­spon­dent.

We walked along the hilly Howth Head Penin­sula, which over­looks Dublin Bay. The scents of this nat­u­ral set­ting were re­fresh­ing and mag­i­cal. Gorse — a na­tive shrub with a yel­low pea flower that smells like co­conut — was bloom­ing ev­ery­where. Wild gar­lic was also grow­ing all round, blend­ing with the sea air, and it was a plea­sure to nib­ble on the gar­lic leaves as we walked. The hills are cov­ered with old beech trees, although they are not na­tive to Ire­land. They were first planted on the is­land in the 18th cen­tury, to the detri­ment of na­tive plants that with­ered in the shadow of the larger trees. Like the rest of Ire­land, this area is a bird­watcher’s par­adise. We ob­served seag­ulls bathing in a lake to wash off the salt. We saw oys­ter­catch­ers and cor­morants (also known as shags); and one is likely to find herons, gan­nets and many other birds here as well.

Un­for­tu­nately, on this visit, I didn’t have time to go fish­ing, but Shane told me that the most com­mon catches in the area are mack­erel, mul­let and codling (or “lit­tle cod”). And of course, this is the home of the fa­mous and suc­cu­lent Dublin Bay prawn.

A fine farewell

That night back in Dublin, I had din­ner at De­lahunt, a restau­rant near my ho­tel and St Stephen’s Green. It was my last night in town, and I was think­ing of the ex­tra­or­di­nary rich­ness and di­ver­sity of my three days there. I had so gen­uinely en­joyed my time with Rachael, Liam, Shane and the oth­ers who had shown me around the city and its sights, mu­se­ums and other cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions.

Peo­ple here work very hard to share their knowl­edge of the things they love — Trin­ity Col­lege, golf, IMMA, The Um­brel­las, cod­dle, the beauty and na­ture of Howth — so that oth­ers will love them, too. I felt sad to leave, but eager to plan my next visit. I or­dered short ribs — a won­der­ful choice — with toasted bar­ley risotto and lo­cal gar­lic. Af­ter all, there’s noth­ing like a lit­tle more Ir­ish wild gar­lic to round off the day.

The pedes­trian Lif­fey Bridge, named for the river it crosses in the heart of Dublin

Ex­plor­ing Grafton Street, a pop­u­lar place to shop and try whiskey in Dublin

A bi­b­lio­phile’s dream: the im­pres­sive Long Room in Trin­ity Col­lege Li­brary

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