Guest Blog
In DestinationsEurope on 07/08/17
The Temple Bar at night. A busy street scene with crowds passing a red fronted pub covered in hanging baskets. It looks welcoming and atmospheric

Dublin, Ireland

A city of breweries and distilleries. And a rich literary history. Featuring writers, many of whom liked to drink back in the day.

Before water was safe to drink, Dublin women brewed beer in their homes. The better brews could be sold and so their houses became pubs. This meant several pubs were established on every street and over a thousand remain today.

The Guinness brewery is a dominant landmark to the west of the city. Within a ten minute walk of those famous black gates is a hospital entirely for the treatment of alcoholism. But how good is that Guinness?!

Trinity College, an old building made of light coloured large stones with a huge arched wooden doorway. In the foreground are large wrought iron gates

And so it was when my grandmother lived in the Coombe area of the Liberties. This is the ‘true’ Dublin. The heart of the city, south west of the city centre. Not the most salubrious area but the focus of this trip, to find the house where she was born.

Searching for her street, I passed Coombe Hospital for Women – a Liberties landmark. Women living south of the river Liffey – which cuts the city in two – were often unable to get north of the river to reach the only available natal care. After the hospital opened in the 1800s, high mortality rates in maternity reduced dramatically.

Despite Coombe ‘Lying-In Hospital’ being long established, my grandmother was born across the street from where she lived in two rooms for seven people.

Angling my umbrella at a tilt against rain, a map in my other hand, the street name suddenly jumped into view – white lettering on a green metal sign against a dirty, cream-coloured wall, in Gaelic and in English as are all street signs.

Turning into the narrow lane with its walled off dead end, ten tiny one storey houses lined either side. Debris swept up by the wind, brushed against vehicles parked tight against the linked Lilliputian bungalows. Each dwelling identical with a front door and, to the left of it, a slit of a window. Latterly, most had been extended into the rooves to accommodate their twenty-first century tenants.

Grey and unremarkable, number twenty had me holding my breath knowing my grandmother drew her first in this house. I knew her well but only from stories and photographs and, touching the rough, dull wall, it was as if my fingers were reaching to her childhood hand where it might once have rested.

Dublin Castle, a large turret and chapel set against a blue sky

I had bought a 48 hour bus tour ticket at the airport but the route did not pass anywhere near here so I began the hike back to the city centre. Following Cork Street took me past one of Dublin’s cathedrals of the Church of Ireland on the site of an ancient well, twelfth century St. Patrick’s. The tallest and largest in Ireland.

In his teens, Irish pirates captured St. Patrick and took him to Ireland where he was enslaved. He escaped years later and, ordained a Bishop, returned to Ireland bringing the Gospel, using shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity. Irish paganism eventually capitulated to Christianity.

Near the ninth century site of the first Viking settlement is the heart of medieval Dublin. Adjacent to the city’s other medieval cathedral, Christ Church (ten minutes north of St. Patrick’s) is nineteenth century Dublinia. This now houses one of Dublin’s top tourist attractions focusing on Viking and medieval history.

Heading west into the city and south side of the river Liffey is Temple Bar – an area regenerated in the eighties and now a bohemian blend of bars, restaurants and galleries, promoted as Dublin’s cultural quarter.

Creating an intricate weaving of styles, the city centre is a lattice work of ornamental architecture from different periods in its history. Akin to the imposing architecture of England’s northern towns, the grandeur is predominantly Georgian with the embellishment of wrought iron work from a later period.

Trinity College Library, two floors of rows and rows of old books, with a passageway in the middle over which is a huge arched ceiling. The library is made of old dark wood, you can almost smell the books!

Irish melodies emanate from pubs and bars across the city, day and night, adding a tunefulness through which experience of the city seems filtered. Perhaps this is the reason Dublin seems surprisingly harmonious for a city. Particularly for anyone used to loud, twenty-first century London and its cacophony of clashing cultures. Even children (there were few) seem to show none of the usual European tension their cousins exhibit across the Celtic sea.

Iconography from Dublin’s literary past is commonplace – the city is dependent for its tourist income by selling its artistic heritage to the hoards of predominantly American and Canadian visitors continually passing through. Many looking for their Irish ancestors in between tours of the breweries and distilleries or taking in literary talks and slower paced pub crawls.

And in the many historic references and associations on the tourist trail – in the poetry and plays, in the paintings or musical performances – sparkling stories pour out from Dublin’s liquid history.

Guest bio

Lyn Shear works in the creative sector; drawing, writing, thinking. Helps others to draw better, write better, think better. And to create more of what they want in life.
St. Martin’s graduate with a Master’s from Winchester.  Client list has included Deluxe Media, IOD, BBC, Meridian Broadcasting, Central Television, innumerable print and publishing companies, private commissions and consultations.
Email for upcoming talks, workshops and projects.


The Ashling Hotel is comfortable and staff are friendly and helpful – my room was upgraded when the original allocation fell short and could not be fixed. The hotel is conveniently located very near Heuston station and a twenty minute walk into the city centre. There is a permanent display on genealogy on the second floor, to aid the hotel’s predominantly American guests delving into their Irish descent.

Getting around

Tickets for Dublin’s ‘hop-on-hop-off’ buses can be purchased in the airport arrivals hall. Tickets include bus transfers between the airport and the city which is an excellent service, running every twenty minutes. However, once in the city centre, bus stops for the ‘hoff’ are difficult to find. Searching for one, I asked two garde on a couple of occasions for the nearest stop but neither had any idea.

Heuston station serves the south and west of the country and is a pick up point for the airport bus. Connolly station serves the north, north west and south east of the country.

Ancestry research

The Public City Archives in Pearse Street (near the birthplace of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde) is geared up to assist visitors looking for lost generations from their Irish ancestry.