Exploring Dublin, Ireland – Part 2

Trinity College, Library and The Book of Kells

Trinity College was, for me, the “central location” when I was orientating myself with Dublin. The college seemed to be a good place to get my bearings.

Trinity College is Ireland’s most prestigious college. It was originally founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I for Protestant males to “establish a way of thinking about God.” In the begining, the student body was only for well-to-do Protestant males. In 1903, women were allowed entrance.  Although, the Catholics were allowed entrance much earlier, it became official in the 1970s!img_2480

To enter the college campus, you walk through this wooden door and come immediately to this plaza area. It is like night and day, from the hustle and bustle of the city streets into the quiet and reflective atmosphere of the college.


Students from the school offer 30 minute tours of the college. We opted not to take the tour but we did make our way to the Book of Kells exhibit and Old Library, which is all in the same building. This building is the only building on campus that allows public access.

*Just a side note here, if you are interested in visiting the Book of Kells exhibit you can purchase tickets online at the college website. By doing this, you will avoid waiting in a long line. The day we were there, the wait was about a half-hour. The line moved quickly but it was quite long. Those who had bought their tickets online, walked right into the exhibit.*

Over a thousand years ago, the meager population of Ireland lived along the coast of the country and on inland waterways. Monasteries were the primary church for Ireland. Men devoted their lives to the study of God’s word, fasting and daily work, all of which built character. In order to teach God’s word to the masses, scribes wrote and artist illustrated books of the gospel. These books are true works of art that were created in what was considered the “Dark Ages” in Europe. I was told on one tour, that the “Dark Ages” of Europe were more the “Golden Ages” for Ireland. They were not affected by the attacks of the Huns who destroyed the Roman Empire.  With the demise of the Roman Empire, Europe sank into the Dark Ages. Ireland was an island that was “protected” from these attacks and continued to prosper during the 5th – 9th Century.

The Book of Kells is four books of the gospel that was written in Latin and beautifully illustrated by Irish monks on the Scottish island of Iona in the 9th century. It is believed that the book of Kells was started in Iona. In 806 AD, Vinkings attacked the Iona monestary, killing 68 monks. Shortly, after this attack, the monks relocated to Kells, Ireland and where the Books of Kells were completed.

No photography was allowed in the exhibit so I took a photo from the website of thefairytaletraveler.com to give you an idea of the decorative artwork. It really is beautiful and a work of art!the-book-of-kells-8

There are four separate books. Two books are always on display in a glass case. Before seeing the actual books, there is an exhibit called “Turning Darkness into Light.” This informative exhibit prepares you on what to look for when you actually see the Book of Kells. The exhibit explains how vellum (baby calfskin) was used for the pages, the bookbinding and the various symbols used by the monks to create the art.

It is interesting that whenever we mentioned that we were going to see the manuscripts, every person said, “Be certain not to miss the “Old Library” that is almost better than the Book of Kells!” I found that comment very interesting and wondered why people would say such a thing.

After going through the “Darkness into Light” exhibit, seeing the Book of Kells and then the Old Library, I understand! The Darkness into Light exhibit was a wonderful 30 minute introduction for the Kell Manuscripts. However, seeing the actual books was chaotic. I do not feel that they are displayed in the best manner to allow a large group of people to see them.

They are in a square display case in the center of a room. People are crowded 4 and 5 deep to get close enough to see the books. You really have to be aggressive and “claim your spot” if you want to have a good view. I am so surprised that this is the way they are presented. I think that having the books open in a display case against the wall would allow people to form a line and move pass them slowly to see them. Sadly, it really put a damper on the whole experience for me. Whenever I think about seeing the books, I automatically think about having to be more aggressive than I normally like and how rude some of the other people actually were.

From the Book of Kells exhibit, we were directed to continue up the stairs and that is where the “Old Library” is located. Oh my!!! I certainly can appreciate what everyone was saying. It is quite impressive. The Old Library was built between 1712 and 1732 but there has been a library at Trinity College since it was founded in 1592. Today, it is considered one of the world’s largest research libraries and since 1801 has had the right to claim a free copy of all British and Irish publications under the copyright acts. There are almost three million books housed in eight different buildings. img_2106

This is the Long Room. It is almost 215 ft long (65 meters) and is filled with approximately 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. The original building had a flat plaster and shelves on the lower level only. Those shelves quickly became full and a renovation in 1850 raised the roof to the current vaulted ceiling. This allowed room for more shelves to be installed.

The marble bust collection was started in 1743 and placed on either side of the room.  You will notice the collection of marble bust on either side of the library.  This was started when 14 bust by the famous sculptor, Pieter Scheemakers, were donated to the college.  The bust are of great philosophers, writers and other men who supported the college.  img_2473

Also on display, is the oldest harp to survive in Ireland. It dates back to the 1400s and is made from oak, willow and brass strings. It is connected to Brian Boru, the high king of Ireland,  from 1002 to 1014. img_2105

Today, the harp is the emblem of Ireland representing the long history of bards who passed along the history and legends of Ireland in their poems.



You must, must, must make certain to put this museum on your “definite places to visit in Dublin” when you go! There are not enough positive adjectives in the English language to sing the praises this place deserves!! As you can tell, I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this gem of a museum! The brochure that they handed out as you arrived says it is the “greatest collections of Irish heritage, culture and history in the world” and it truly lived up to this declaration!

I loved this museum because the displays were well organized, it was small enough so not to be overwhelming and big enough to give the visitor an education of Irish history.

In this post, I will share some of the items on display that I really enjoyed seeing.img_2577

This is an unfinished dugout canoe from 2,500 BC!!! In 1902, it was found in a bog in Lurgan downland which is in Galway County. Made from oak and measuring 50 ft (15.25 meters) it is the longest dugout canoes in Europe.

The peat bogs in Ireland are for “treasure hunters”. Many objects from this museum have been discovered in bogs because bogs do not have oxygen, it is a natural preservative. During the early years, it was the belief of the people that various gods had control over their lives and destiny. In order to appease the gods, they offered gifts and sacrifices. These bogs actually preserve the item which is why people were able to discover this dugout canoe and other amazing artifacts from several thousands of years earlier.


In the Later Bronze Age (1200-650 BC). Through a variety of twisting strips or bars of gold, artisans created anything from earrings to belts (shown above).
Here is another example of new twist design from 3rd century BC:img_2603

In many bogs, rivers and lakes, “hoards” of metal objects have been found. There is no real explanation for this but plenty of speculation. Some believe that they were put there for safe keeping or as an offering to the gods. Other ideas are consecrating a vow or possibly they were lost. Since it was difficult to retrieve items from water, the theory is that the items were never intended to be recovered.

This is an example of a hoard of bronze and gold items, as well as an amber necklace from 800-700 BC. They were found near Offaly County.


Hoard of Gold and Bronze Discovery


Amber Necklace

This item is a bullae which is a tin or lead based object covered in gold foil. No one really knows what these items were used for but possibly they were used as charms. Bullae, which have been found, have been elaborately decorated and either in a purse shaped like this one or an unclosed ring form.img_2594

Look at these gold collars from 800-700 BC!img_2581

This Viking Ship made of gold has to be my all-time favorite item from the museum. Look at the details – the mast, the rudder, the oars, the seats and the anchor. This exquisite piece was made in 1 century BC….100 years before Christ. I am gobsmacked that something that was made 2,100 years ago and appears to be so delicate, is in such good condition!!img_2601

There was a whole section on brooches which were used in early medieval times by men and women to fasten their cloaks. The initial brooches were made from iron and bronze were rather plain but over time, they became more elaborate with animal designs and decorated with enamel and colored glass.  The most superior example of an exceptionally decorated brooch is from the 8th century (700 AD) and is called the Tara Brooch.

This shows the intricate design and details on the brooch.img_2624

During the 9th century, there seemed to be in influx of silver into Ireland. It must have come from the Viking trade routes. Most of the brooches from this era were made of silver.

During the 11th century, Scandinavian art was very influential to Irish art. The artisans in Ireland began to incorporate the Scandinavian style of Ringerike using animals’ heads interlaced with mustaches and manes and snakes bodies intertwined into a “figure 8” design.img_2611Later on, the Scandinavian style of Urnes was incorporated. This is a similar pattern but the animals are not as tightly woven. The Scandinavian Urnes style is seen on the Cross of Cong. It is a relic holder made in 1122 AD for the High King of Ireland, Toirrdelbach Ua Conchobair, who had come into possession of a piece of the True Cross that Jesus was crucified on.img_2614

Here is a close up to let you see the intricate detail


Here are a couple of other examples of how bogs preserved items. These shoes, one made completely of leather and another, more of a boot style, made of wood and leather are from the medieval era. They have not deteriorated in the least for having been buried so long in the bog. img_2633img_2631

In closing, I wanted to share the “graffiti” found on several ships from the 11th and 12th centuries. This sample is a replica as I think the original might be to fragile to be on display. It just made me smile that they had “graffiti” from as early as the 11th century! Most of the drawings are of Viking ships, like this one below, have the low sides and high stem and stern post. The sails hanging from the mast and this has a person sitting on top on lookout, maybe?img_2637


I must mention Temple Bar. When I was looking online for an apartment in Dublin, most of the descriptions and reviews of the apartments said, “close to Temple Bar” or “within walking distance to Temple Bar”. I wondered what Temple Bar was. It is the true “tourist area” where the pubs, restaurants, souvenir shops and galleries are. img_2467

For me, it was too touristy. I didn’t spend much time there at all but David and I did pop into a pub one afternoon to hear some Irish music. In the neighborhood that we were staying in, the pubs didn’t offer music until 10:00 PM and honestly, I don’t think either one of us could have stayed awake until then.

We enjoyed listening to Dave Browne sing some popular Irish jigs at a pub called the “Temple Bar”! img_2112

There was a sign in the pub saying that in 2011 from June 12 – 17th, he broke the Guinness’s World Record for the longest marathon guitar playing. img_2483

This is the bar at the Temple Bar where we heard Dave Browne singing. It looks just about like any other bar, anywhere in the world, don’t you think? img_2713


Live poetry reading…..

This was a unique “find” in the Temple Bar area. It was the Saturday morning that David was returning to Saudi and I had a day to explore before I left the next morning. I was walking towards St Patrick’s Cathedral and cutting through Temple Bar when I happened upon this “Live Poetry Reading and Performance”. This woman was reading a short story to the few people standing there to listen to her. Maybe I should have read Brave Nellie to the crowd 🙂img_2708

It was on Aston Place, a small side street. The Irish Rock ’N Roll Museum experience is around the corner. These murals on Aston Place show you some of the famous rock bands from Ireland.img_2711

This bike was across the street being used for advertising….I love the colors!  img_2709

River Liffey

This is a view of the River Liffey. The building with the Green Dome is the customs building.

The ship in the foreground is a replica of the Jeanie Johnston Tallship. This ship is the Famine Museum. I went to go through it on my last day in Dublin but arrived too early for the tour. I was under the impression that it explained about the famine that afflicted Ireland from 1845 to 1852. This museum actually shows a voyage of the Irish immigrants fleeing Ireland during the famine on the Jeanie Johnston and the story of what happened on that journey.img_2337


The Custom House

Nearby the Jeanie Johnston is this very moving Famine Memorial showing people and animals gaunt faces and bodies as they suffer from starvation. img_2701


O’Connell Street

The guidebook describes O’Connell Street as “Dublin’s grandest street.” It has statues that honor prominent people who were influential in Ireland’s independence.


Major construction project happening on O’Connell Street. They are putting the light rail tram system, Luas, along the street.

At the beginning of this wide boulevard is this statue of Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), who the street is named after. O’Connell is called “the Liberator” as he demanded, in the British Parliament, that Irish Catholics are given rights.img_2705

This is the Millennium Spire that was completed in 2003. It is 300 feet tall made out of stainless steel. It replaces the statue of Admiral Nelson, the British hero at the Battle of Trafalgar. This statue was blown up in 1966 by the Irish Republican Army on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Interesting that while we were in Dublin, they were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising.img_2126

The Easter Rising happened on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. It was a revolt by the Irish rebels for Irish independence from Britain. It was during the time that Britain was fighting WW I….an uprising by the Irish was not appreciated. The British fought intensely and by the end of the week, 300 had died, Dublin was in rubbles from the intense shelling from British planes. Interestingly, this uprising was not even popular among the people.

The British government made the mistake of quickly executing 16 of the ringleaders. From that point on, the Irish saw the rebels as martyrs and not troublemakers. The ringleaders didn’t die in vain. The Irish Republican Army carried on the fight for independence and eventually, Britain granted Irish independence in 1920. With a vote, Northern Ireland stayed part of Britain and the lower part of Ireland became independent.

img_2458This is the Garden of Remembrance at the other end of O’Connell Street. It honors those who gave their lives for Ireland’s independence. It was dedicated in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. The pool is cross-shaped and at the bottom is a mosaic of a Celtic weapon. It is a symbol of how the early Irish would declare peace by throwing their weapons into a lake or river. There are three flags flying over the garden. The green represents the Catholics, the orange for the Protestants and the white is for hope that they will all be able to live in peace.

This pedestrian street is right off of O’Connell. There are a couple of streets that have major shops, restaurants and coffee shops on this street. Walking through the streets, heading towards to river brings you out to Ha’Penny Bridge.img_2459

It is for pedestrians only and is called Ha’Penny because of the halfpence toll that people were charged to cross it.  Crossing over the Ha-Penny Bridge takes you into the Temple Bar area.img_2464

Another market area off of O’Connell Street is Moore Street Market. A farmer’s market area that has been in existence for over 30 years. We wandered around and bought some fresh vegetables for salads. If this market was closer to our apartment, I would have been shopping there on a regular basis.img_2125

Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green

Near Trinity College is Grafton Street, another pedestrian shopping area.  At the end of Grafton is St Stephen’s Square.  I took this photo from the window in the nearby Stephen’s Green Shopping Center.


St Stephen’s Green with Fusiliers’ Arch

This is Stephen’s Green Shopping Center.  I with Fusiliers’ Arch in the foreground.  I love the glass ceiling and how it let the natural light in.  img_2751


Inside Stephen’s Green Shopping Center

It was rather a dreary day when I walked through the park!


You never quite know what you will see walking around the streets of Dublin.  Here are some creative souls trying to earn a shilling or two on Grafton Street!  img_2281

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the famous Molly Malone statue on a side street from Grafton!  img_2282

Molly Malone is a character in a famous Irish song of the same name.  The song tells of the life of Molly, a fishmonger, who died of fever at a young age.  You can hear it sung often in the pubs!

And Finally……

On George St is the George St Arcade. I love the architecture of this building.  It had over 40 shops inside. I bought a great print of St Kevin’s Monastery there. It was an interesting and fun place to wander around.img_2718

Dublin seemed to be a popular destination for bachelorette parties or as they call them over there “hen parties”. Here are is one group that we met while walking in Dublin.img_2311

This was another “hen party”.  They were starting out near Trinity College and peddling towards Temple Bar to continue the festivities.img_2326

2 thoughts on “Exploring Dublin, Ireland – Part 2

  1. Beautiful!    What an adventure you are having.    Fall is in the air — Leaves are turning and are so pretty.Have a great time!

    • Thank you, Auntie….this was from the last trip…LOL! I was a little behind. These postings take much time! Anyway, I am now in Croatia. It rained all day today, so my blog is caught up….until we explore tomorrow! Safe travels to FL to you and Uncle Buster. Hope we see each other again soon.

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