The Ireland Diaries – Spending My Birthday In Dublin

When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart – James Joyce.

Oh Ireland, how I love and miss you. This trip had been a long time coming, and after a slight hiccup, we finally got there! It was everything I had hoped for and more. And because it was such a special trip, I will probably write a few more blog posts than I usually do about a destination, hence the title The Ireland Diaries. I cannot express how perfect the time was too… the days went at the perfect pace, and it is hard to believe how much we did, how much we saw, how much we ate. Everything about the holiday was utter bliss, and a much needed escape.

The first port of call was Dublin where we spent the first two nights of our week. Dublin is a city that boasts colour, vibrancy, history, good times and a lot of heritage. It also directly faces Liverpool, which is a cheeky bonus. I have visited Dublin before, so I knew what to expect, but it was Warren’s first time and I couldn’t wait to show him what I loved so much about Ireland’s capital. In total we spent 48 hours in this glorious city, doing more than just drinking Guinness and pink gin… promise!

WHERE WE STAYED

Ballsbridge Hotel was my number one choice because it was the place we stayed at for my mum’s sixtieth. I had such a fabulous time there last time that I had to stay there again. Located in Dublin 4, it is a short bus journey to the city centre. The hotel itself is glamorous with dark woods, white sheets, glass chandeliers, plush couches and a pub attached to make sure that its guests enjoy themselves thoroughly for the duration of their stay. In hindsight (and a lot poorer after the trip), we could have probably found something a lot cheaper closer to the centre i.e. an Ibis, or something similar. However, I am glad we stayed there for my birthday because it meant that I could wake up in a little bit of luxury for my twenty-seventh birthday.

Ballsbridge Hotel, Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, D04 D687

WHAT WE ATE

More like what didn’t we eat on this holiday! Our very first restaurant experience in Dublin was at Hard Rock Café. It had to be done, especially after our visit to the one in Amsterdam. We had been talking about BBQ ribs since 6am that morning, so of course we both got the rack of ribs and it did not disappoint. I don’t think they touched the sides if I’m honest. For dessert, we shared a hot fudge brownie and oh, my, word… it was doubly delicious, especially as I was slightly tipsy from my wine and chocolate brownie makes everything better. The best thing was that when I thought the brownie had all gone, there was a load more underneath! Endless chocolate brownie.

Hard Rock Café, 12 Fleet Street, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 NW56 D

For my birthday, Warren and I were umming and ahhing about where to eat, what type of food we wanted, and the budget we had to stick to. We stumbled across Millstone Restaurant, or more importantly, their menu deal of two courses for twenty-six euros. For Dublin, that is pretty decent. The quality of the food was on another level. I had tomato soup to start – not any tomato soup. Home-made, with cream cheese and celery on rustic baguette on the side too. For the main, we both had the slow roast lamb belly complete with crushed minted potato, parsnip and carrot mash with a red wine and thyme sauce. If any of that doesn’t make your mouth water, there has to be something wrong with you. For the price of twenty-six euros for all of that, plus an incredibly attentive service from the staff should push the Millstone Restaurant to the top of any foodie’s list for Dublin. It specialises in steaks – with seven cuts of meat to choose from – and has an extensive gluten-free menu alongside many other options to suit your taste bud’s needs.

Millstone Restaurant, 39 Dame Street, Dublin 2, D

Breakfast in bed is what every girl deserves on her birthday, especially if that bed is comfy with white sheets, and it just so happens to be a Sunday morning. After my lovely coffee, opening presents and cards, Warren turns to me and says “do you want breakfast in bed?” Well, there is only one answer to that question… Yes. Not only did I have breakfast in bed, it was a glorious breakfast in bed. A full Irish breakfast complete with all the trimmings, including black and white pudding. Not only that, but about eight – eight – rounds of toast and a croissant each with a bowl of jams, butters and marmalades. It is safe to say I gave it my absolute best shot. One full Irish breakfast cost sixteen euros on the morning of order (it would have been thirteen if it was ordered the night before) which is very steep f0r a breakfast but worth every morsel on my birthday.

Ballsbridge Hotel, Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, D04 D687

During our final morning in Dublin, we popped to two cafés: one in Ballsbridge, one opposite Kilmainham Gaol. The first – Roly’s Bistro – was bustling with its mid-morning customers: the Monday businessmen and women, the friendly locals… and us, the tourists. The baguettes were incredibly delicious, and so filling. I had the tuna mayo complete with sweetcorn, lettuce and red onion, whilst Warren had the teriyaki chicken. A full breakfast could be bought for less than ten euros! Plus, there was a takeaway café section as well as a seating area for the restaurant. The best thing was the location; we sat on a piece of lawn just across the road and soaked up the sun, ready for a brand new day of our Irish adventure. The second café, Lime Tree Café, was far quieter in comparison. Located in prime position opposite Kilmainham Gaol, it is a great – albeit the only – choice for a quite coffee and bite to eat after your visit to the jail. It had less of a choice and zero gourmet feels, so much so that we decided to wait out our lunch until we were on the road, but the muffins were so moist and incredible that it more than made up for it.

Roly’s Bistro, 7 Ballsbridge Terrace, Dublin 4

Lime Tree Café, Kilmainham Square, Inchicore Road, Dublin 8, D08 EAY9

WHAT WE DID

What is the first thing you do when you get to Ireland? Get yourself into a local pub and dance to the live music playing. Especially if it happens to be a Saturday night. After our stomachs were overflowing with ribs and chocolate from Hard Rock Café, we wandered a few steps into the most bustling part of the city: Temple Bar. It is notorious for the best Irish atmosphere, the most fun, and shocking prices. Prepare yourself and your purse for a night here because one round of two drinks cost eighteen euros. Perhaps we made the mistake of drinking spirits, because I’ll bet beer cost significantly less. The Oliver St. John Gogarty is where we spent the majority of our night. You can’t miss it. It’s the yellow building with all the flags. There, an Irish duo was playing: an older man and a younger – the younger was the quieter of the group, the older was the one with all that Irish craic that everyone loves. Plus, they played a load of Irish songs that had the entire pub stomping and dancing. An absolute highlight of the entire road trip for us, although we might have to pre-drink a bit more next time!

Fleet Street and Anglesea Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

One of the first things I said when we finally booked our trip to Ireland was that for my birthday, I wanted to visit Dublin Castle. I didn’t see it the first time I visited the city, despite it being the centre of it, historically and culturally. It is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. You don’t have to take part in the guided tour if you want to just visit the magnificent grounds, but I highly recommend that you do pay the extra four euros to be guided (twelve euros for guided tour, eight euros for self-guided) by one of the team members at the castle. You have more access to the historical sites, and gain so much knowledge from them in a communicative and insightful way, that you just don’t get from a glossy brochure.

Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin 2

I genuinely thought the tour of the castle grounds would be longer than an hour but this worked out in our favour because it meant we had time to have a little explore of parts of the city away from Temple Bar and the high street. Plus, I was adamant to find the local Waterstones in the form of the oldest bookshop in Dublin… founded in 1766 and under its original name Hodges Figgis & Co. Unfortunately, due to the exchange rate and it being euros, I didn’t buy a book from there, but it was fascinating to walk around, and I got my usual book fix. We also went to a couple of pubs en route back to the hotel. The Duke was the first one, with a suntrap right outside it. It was lovely to just sit and watch the world go by on a Sunday afternoon with a goblet of pink gin and lemonade. We made our way closer to the river for the second pub stop (a run for the loo) at The Ha’penny Bridge Inn. Again, pink gin was consumed… I’m pretty sure Ireland is to blame for my new pink gin obsession.

Hodges Figgis & Co., 56-58 Dawson Street, Dublin, D02 XE81

Our last stop in Dublin before we began our road trip was Kilmainham Gaol. It was a completely different experience to when I visited the last time. My family and I visited during the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising, so you can imagine the queues and the excitement of being a part of something so monumental to Irish history. This time, there were zero queues, and to see the entire gaol without tourists waiting outside was a little shocking. Our tour guide was informative with a hint of humour. She told us about iconic people who took part in the rebellions, their family’s reactions (some you might not expect), and how it was better to be inside the gaol – despite its horrendous conditions – than to be outside suffering the famine. Details are linked between Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol which make the entire history so much more fascinating.

Kilmainham Gaol, Inchicore Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, D08 RK28

It really was the best start to our week in Ireland, and the most expensive way to begin. We lived the high life because it was my birthday, and our excuse was – as it always is when it comes to travel and holidays – we’re here to enjoy ourselves! There are things that we could have done cheaper, but I wouldn’t change any of that first part of our journey for anything.

Have you visited Dublin? What were your highlights? Would you do anything differently?

Love, Faye xo

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