Day 8 |
May 21, 2010

Dublin, Ireland

By Chris Cutler, Naturalist

Coordinates: 53° 20'N and 6° 15’W

Weather: Mostly sunny and warm in the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon

Today, guests could enjoy either a half-day tour of Dublin or a full-day tour of the countryside in County Wicklow. The weather was pleasant and warm throughout the day, so much so that jackets were sometimes shed.

The renowned centre of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin was bustling yet somehow quaint, the city centre compact and full of interesting architecture and historical tales. The city’s rich history is full of conflict, trade, and cultural evolution and our guides filled us with insights into the interesting place. We traversed the tidal River Liffey that divides the city and discrete districts such as Temple Bar, Georgian, Docklands, Viking, and others made for a lovely visit. At Trinity College we ogled The Book of Kells, that most resplendent of Celtic illuminated manuscripts that we had learned so much about from our Historian Imogen. The upstairs library, with a fine exhibit of old books on the history of the Irish in India, was breathtaking with its two-story vaulted-arch room full of thousands of volumes – a real storybook sort of scene. At his namesake cathedral we heard of St. Patrick’s baptisms of the pagans as he passed through Dublin. We strolled through the 13th-century edifice, which, due to various destructive elements, the Guinness family had paid for the cathedral’s restoration in the 19th century.

The full-day excursion stopped at the 5th-century monastery of Glendalough where we walked amidst the ruins, saw the magnificent tower and read the epitaphs on many gravestones. We stopped at nearby lakes set in a vast glacial valley with forested hills in the background. After a delicious lunch in the village of Ashford, replete with a Guinness, we proceeded to Powerscourt Estate Gardens.

Begun in the 1740s, the gardens sweep across the landscape with ornamental lakes, woodlands, resplendent flowers and spectacular views across the valley to Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. The Italianate garden was designed in the 1840s by Daniel Robertson who, purported to have loved his sherry, would direct the construction of the garden from a wheelbarrow until he’d had his fill of the elixir for the day. The endearing “pet cemetery” added a touch of the poignant to an otherwise magnificent landscaping effort. In 1974 a fire destroyed the interior of the Georgian mansion though it now has been redesigned with shops and a café.

The ship remained dockside until 23:00, allowing some of us to enjoy more time in Dublin. The city came alive at night with crowded pubs and quaint restaurants and live music emanating from various venues. Our day in the Republic had been splendid.