From Kells to the Celt
Take a Dublin walking tour: An easy stroll from a visit to the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin will take you from the university campus across the River Liffey, preferably via the O’Connell Bridge. (If you would like to take a more scenic route, go over the Talbot Memorial Bridge and view the Famine Memorial and the Custom House before making your way up to O’Connell Street.)
From O’Connell Street, a visitor will get a glimpse of high and low, starting with the fast-food joints that buttress the O’Connell Monument. The monument, with winged figures—standing for courage, eloquence, fidelity, and patriotism—is topped with a likeness of ‘Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell. Born in County Kerry in 1775, he was in college in France when that country’s revolution took place. He headed to London to study law before returning to Ireland.
With others, O’Connell founded the Catholic Association and helped gain passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, which allowed Catholics (he was one) to hold seats in the British Parliament. In 1841, he became the mayor of Dublin. In later years, O’Connell was arrested for seditious conspiracy after advocating for the repeal of the merger of the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland and was imprisoned for several months in 1844. His health suffered from his imprisonment, and he died in Genoa, Italy in 1847 while on a pilgrimage to Rome.
Getting the sense that Irish history is complicated? Keep walking from the O’Connell Memorial on O’Connell Street toward the City Spire, that big, tall, needle-like thing that is hard to avoid. In case you did not pick up enough books in the gift shop following a visit to the Book of Kells, duck into Book Bargains on Abbey Street Middle. On my visit to this used-and-new bookstore, I pick up Brian J. Showers’s Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin and David Slattery’s Poet, Madman, Scoundrel: 189 Unusual Irish Lives.
Otherwise, stroll further down O’Connell Street and take in the statue of William Smith O’Brien, a contemporary of O’Connell. Smith O’Brien, born in 1803, was deported to Tasmania in Australia for his participation in the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. Released in 1854, he was pardoned two years later and returned to Ireland. He died in Wales in 1864.
Then move on to the General Post Office, which is not just an impressive post office but also one that plays a direct part in Ireland’s history. The Proclamation of Independence was read on its steps here during the Easter Rising of 1916. Apparently, that announcement of independence did not go over so well, as proven by the bullet marks on the building’s exterior. An exhibit about the events of 1916 is on the right when you enter. The building remains a working post office.
From there, keep walking to the 120-meter-tall stainless steel Dublin Spire, erected in the early aughts. Form your own opinions of its value as an attraction or its meaning as a piece of art.
Next, turn briefly down Earl Street North and take in the James Joyce statue while testing your literary knowledge. Which of his works have you read? Seen the movie version of? I like The Dead starring Anjelica Huston.
As time allows, double back to O’Connell Street and head one more block north toward Cathedral Street. Take a right onto Cathedral and visit St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral at the corner of Cathedral and Marlborough. It’s a Catholic church the history of which seems, at least to this novice, in some measure to mirror the history of Ireland itself, although the current building only dates to 1825.
General Post Office, O’Connell Street, Dublin
Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Corner of Cathedral and Marlborough Streets, Dublin
Le Bon Crubeen, 81-82 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
The Celt, 81-82 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
Planning a trip to Ireland? You might like these posts:
- The Book of Kells: Worth a Visit?
- Dining in Dublin at Le Bon Crubeen
- Staying Centered at the Dublin Central Inn
- Driving in Ireland