Dublin’s Final Hour(s)

The time has nearly come for the road to take us back home. We’ve had a great time on this trip, but we’ve definitely reached the point where we’re ready to just be back home, in our own space, and with our own stuff (and not living out of suitcases). But that’s tomorrow! We’ve still got today’s experiences to talk about (well, I get to talk and you get to read). 🙂

Every last full day on these longer trips seems to have the same vibe – we want to do stuff and still make the most our time, but we’re also ready to be home. This last full day definitely had that vibe, but we still saw some neat stuff! In fact, one of the things we did today was one of my favorites of the whole trip! Here’s the rundown of today:

  • Grafton Street – one of those streets with lots of shops that’s good for walking and people-watching (and, you know, shopping, if that’s your thing).
  • The Old Library – this library at Trinity College is well-known for housing the Book of Kells as well as The Long Room (which is exactly what it sounds like).
  • St. Ann’s Church – this wasn’t a planned stop, but we saw this random church and decided to stop in.
  • Iveagh Gardens – a nice, green space in the city that we just spent time walking around in.
  • Kilmainham Gaol Museum – this is the place that ranked so high for me! It’s a 300-year-old prison (gaol = jail) and the whole experience was just really fun.

I’m sad to (once again) report that the sleep gods weren’t kind to me AGAIN last night, which is a real drag. I do know I got some sleep, which is good, and we didn’t get up until about 830, also good, but it took foreeeeeeeever for me to fall asleep. This isn’t normal traveling sleep behavior for me! I’m looking forward to getting back to normal, for sure. Anyway! All that goes to say that I was tired this morning when we started making plans for our day. We had talked about visiting Grafton Street, so we knew we would do that. Since neither of us are big shoppers, we figured it would just be an opportunity to people-watch, which is mostly what it was. Hence why I don’t have a lot to say about it. Suffice it to say that it’s a place to add to your Dublin itinerary, but it’s not one you’ll probably spend a lot of time on.

The first “real” thing we did today was The Old Library at Trinity College. This is something that I wanted to do when I was here nine years ago, but didn’t for some reason, so I suggested it to Scott earlier this week. It wasn’t on his radar, but when he looked into it, he agreed it would be a good place to visit, so we booked! This is another one of those places where booking online ahead of time is a VERY good decision because you can buy tickets at the door, but there’s no telling how long the line will be. When we showed up, there was a very short line for online ticket-holders, but it moved very quickly (like, someone was already outside scanning tickets, so we were in the door within a minute or two). To buy tickets though, the line was longer and moved much more slowly and it was even longer when we left, so do the right thing with your time and book online.

So why go to this library? Because it’s famous! It’s famous for a book and a room. The book is the Book of Kells, which is an illustrated manuscript of the four gospels that dates back to sometime around 800 AD. Both the age of the book (though it’s actually a collection of folios that are currently bound into four volumes) and the quality of the illustrations and calligraphy inside it is what makes it such a prized possession. At any given time though, all four volumes aren’t on display together, presumably for security reasons, so we saw two volumes today. Well, I say that we “saw” them, but they were in a case, behind glass (naturally) and we couldn’t take any photos of them (naturally) and there were a LOT of people there, making it hard to even get a glance at the books. The same was also true in the Long Room, which is a well-known room in the school’s Old Library that houses 200,000 of the school’s oldest books. Again, there were a lot of people milling around, making it hard to get any good photos or to even take in the space, but it was still neat to see. I can’t say it was my favorite experience because of all those people (the crowd continued to be an issue even in the gift shop!), but you should add it to your to-visit list regardless. The entrance fee varies based on when you see it – we paid €14/$16 USD, but if you see it off-peak (the earliest and latest times, I assume), the price is as low as €11/$12 USD. Either way, it’s not a huge investment! Oh, and in case you were wondering about the name (as we were), it comes from the manuscript’s former home, at the Abbey of Kells. Mystery solved!

Kells-tastic photos below.

Taking a stroll down Grafton Street.

Outside the Old Library.

A photo from the small exhibition you walk through before getting to the Book of Kells.

They don’t call it the Long Room for nothin’!

This anatomy book in the Long Room caught my eye.

Another photo of the Long Room from the other side of it.

The Brian Boru Harp (didn’t actually belong to Brian Boru) became the inspiration for the national symbol for Ireland.

A replica of the Book of Kells in the Long Room.

The Sfera con Sfera (Sphere Within a Sphere) sculpture outside the Old Library.

Our next stop was a random church that we saw walking down the street. St Ann’s is a small parish church very near Trinity College, so we paid it a visit. There wasn’t anything hugely notable about this church, but it’s always fun to check random places like this out. We continued walking roughly in the direction of our apartment until the entrance to Iveagh Gardens caught my eye, so I pulled Scott in for a stroll. Being such a nice, green space in the city, it reminded me of both Hyde Park in London and Central Park in NYC, especially given all the birds around. Not nice birds though – pigeons and seagulls. They sure make a lot of noise and want a lot of food. Ugh! But we still had a nice walk around the gardens despite them.

Check out a selection of the photos below.

I liked this arch/entrance outside St Teresa’s Church.

Outside St Ann’s.

It’s not especially big, but I found the altar interesting.

Not a big organ.

A nice little stained glass window right next to the pews.

One of the entrances to Iveagh Gardens, which reminded me of Marble Arch in London.

Still plenty of beautiful colors to see at this time of year.

This sculpture inspired by the Great Famine seemed to be called simply Famine.

After our garden walk, we opted to head back to the apartment for a bit because we had a couple of hours free until our visit to the jail. This was one place that wasn’t super close to us (less than two miles, so still walkable), so we decided to take a taxi there when our pre-booked time started getting close. This is another one that you should pre-book! We booked this morning and there were only a couple of open slots available, which is how we ended up booking for 330 PM. When we arrived, we saw a Sold Out sign at the entrance, but I’m not sure if that meant for the rest of the day or just for the tour we were about to go on (this is another place you can only see via guided tour). Either way, pre-book to avoid disappointment!

The jail itself has a really fascinating history. Built in the late 1700s, it’s over 300 years old, and it was used as a jail up until 1924, after which it fell into disrepair. The city was actually toying with the idea of tearing it down, but thankfully, some volunteers stepped in to rehab it, allowing it to be turned into a museum around 1966. It was so interesting to be taken through the jail’s history, starting with its modern (for the time) foundations of silence, separation, and supervision for its prisoners. They ate in cells, not in common areas, their “rec time” consisted of one hour of walking in a circle in the yard (chained to their peers, no less), and the youngest prisoner was five years old (yes, really!). It was originally built with 100 cells, with each 10 x 5-foot cell meant to hold only one prisoner, but it was over-capacity from almost the day it opened because there were too many prisoners rotating in and out of the jail. It was also a place of execution, with many condemned prisoners drawing their last breaths in front of firing squads or a handman’s noose there.

Our tour guide, Denise, was excellent – very knowledgeable! The tour was only about an hour long and ended in the small museum, which houses some artifacts and more information about the jail’s history. I had never heard of this place before Scott mentioned it, but I’m really glad we went! The price was very reasonable, too (€8/$9 USD), so you’ll do well to add this to your must-visit list.

Hopefully these photos won’t land me in jail!

Starting the tour with our group.

There’s a Catholic chapel where prisoners would attend mass. Today, it’s where visitors get their introduction to the jail’s history.

This is an original door from when the jail opened in 1796. The unique look of the door is due to the wood of the door melding with the leather that was hung on the front of them.

Peeping into a cell.

This peep hole is in the cell for condemned prisoners. The executioner would use it to get a look at the prisoner so he knew how much rope would be needed to hang him (based on his size).

This part of the jail is from the mid-1800s.

While guards got to use the direct staircase you can see above, prisoners had to use this twisty-turny one.

The cells didn’t get any bigger in this era.

This cell was occupied for a short time by the wife of a man who was executed in the jail.

She had a talent for art, so she painted this mural on her cell wall.

I really liked the look of this staircase.

It was in this yard that prisoners got their one hour/day of “rec time.”

This plaque is dedicated to the last four men to be executed at the jail.

Love a good door.

The names of the leaders of the Easter Rising, who were all executed at the jail.

Examples of spoons used in the jail. They were made from animal horns so they couldn’t be sharpened into weapons.

This is nothing to do with the jail, but it is across the street from it.

We decided to have dinner at a little Italian place across the street from the jail before catching a taxi home. The food was really good and we were able to use the last of our euros there, so I guess this really is the end of our trip. Our stuff is packed up, so we just need to get to the airport on time tomorrow! Thankfully, our flight isn’t until just after 2 PM, so we don’t have to wake up early. And I’m putting it out there now that tonight’s sleep will be my best of the trip! Cross your fingers for me. 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest two-week adventure! This may be the last “look what we did today” post of this trip, but I may have another post or two up my sleeve. And of course, I’ll have more adventures to come, like London in November. So stay tuned!

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey!