Marlay Park to the Wicklow Way

Marlay Park is a great place to walk, to bring the kids for a run around or to catch up with friends over coffee and cake in the Market. It’s also the starting point of the Wicklow Way, one of the best known long-distance walking routes in Ireland (127km).  Usually done in stages, the first stage to Knockree (21km) can take up to 7hrs. We opted for a shorter hike, setting off early at around 9.30am – I’d never seen the car park so empty!

The weather was perfect, a real Spring feel in the air. We made our way to the top of the park (not a buggy in sight), out onto College road and passed under the M50 motorway towards Kilmashogue. It wasn’t long before we were away from the traffic.  From here, it was uphill all the way but I was glad for the exercise. It was a beautiful walk through Tibradden woods, reaching Barnacullia two hours after setting off. We had somehow taken a wrong turn earlier adding half an hour or so. Too much yapping!

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The views of the city were spectacular, the Poolbeg Chimneys clearly visible. A perfect place to rest and refuel.

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Although we could have kept going, we were happy to turn back. I was looking forward to coffee and some treats in the Market.

We arrived back to the top of Marlay Park around 1pm, it was much busier than earlier. Lots of buggies! Families and friends out walking, young ones playing football.

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I was craving coffee and a vanilla chocolate éclair from the Armelle’s Kitchen stall – hands down the best éclairs I’ve ever tasted. Delighted to hear they’ve just opened a new shop in Dalkey. Check it out.

IMG_1375A lovely Sunday walk. The Wicklow Way is definitely up there on my list!

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The Open Gate Brewery

If you like Guinness and craft beer this is definitely a place to visit. For over 100 years, The Open Gate Brewery has been an experiential brewery at St James’s Gate where Guinness brewers have explored their recipes. Now open to the public for the first time ever, visitors can try examples of experimental beers and brewers project beers created for other markets around the world, but not currently available in Ireland.

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Located on Thomas Street, just past the famous St James’s black Gates, this brewery is open to the public on Thursday and Friday evenings from 5.30pm to 10.30pm via bookings in advance.

I got the chance to check it out recently following a tour of St James’s Gate by invitation from Diageo (handy when your sister owns a pub!) A couple of the brewers greeted us on arrival and shared information about the experimental brewery and their job. A lovely, enthusiastic bunch, it was obvious they were passionate about their work!

We sampled Guinness Nitro IPA, Milk Stout and Vienna Common Lager. My favourite was the Guinness Nitro IPA, full of flavour, yet very easy to drink.  We were also treated to some gourmet snack food that complemented each beer and equally delicious.

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After the tastings, I wanted to check out some more beers so I went for the Guinness Golden Ale. I found it quite sweet and a little fizzier than I expected, but happy I tried it.  I’m not going to pretend to be a craft beer connoisseur and I like my Guinness so after that I stuck to the black stuff  – no better place than at St James’s Gate!

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All the staff were really friendly and answered questions about the beers and the brewery. (They also charged my iPhone). I asked if Guinness tasters really existed and I was told that up to 22 tasters come together every morning to do their work – mostly women too because apparently women taste things better!

The Open Gate Brewery is a great place to visit and good value too given its exclusivity. Tickets are €6 per person and include a beer tasting board. You can check availability and book your tickets here

Enjoy!

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St James’s Gate Brewery

Every second, 26 pints of Guinness are consumed in Ireland!

Growing up in a family pub business in Dublin, Ireland surrounded by pints of the black stuff, I always had an interest in the story behind Arthur Guinness and the incredible success of his legendary stout spanning over 255 years. So when my fabulous sister, who now owns the pub, invited me to join her on an exclusive tour of St James’s Gate Brewery courtesy of Diageo, I was delighted!

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The tour group was mostly made up of representatives of several pubs from around the city so it was great to have the opportunity to meet other pub owners. We met at St James’s Gate reception where we were warmly greeted by the lovely Diageo rep, Harry. Brand ambassador, Padraig was our super guide for the day and he walked and talked us through the massive historical site, starting off at Brewhouse No.1 where it began in 1759. If you look closely in the pic above you’ll see the Brewhouse with the clock on the exterior.

So Arthur Guinness was Born in Celbridge, Co Kildare in 1725. When he was 27 years old he received inheritance of £100 from his godfather, which he used to set up his own ale brewery in Leixlip, Co Kildare. A few years later, in 1759 he signed a 9,000-year-old lease on a small, disused and ill-equipped property at St. James’s Gate. Ten years later Arthur was exporting six and a half barrels of Guinness beer to England. However in  1799, a dark beer from London was becoming popular in Dublin so Arthur made the bold decision to stop brewing ales and perfected his black beer instead (thank goodness)!

We continued to the next Brewhouse on the tour but unfortunately it wasn’t open to view. By 1838, St James’s Gate had become the largest brewery in Ireland and the largest in the WORLD in 1886, with an annual output of 1.2 million barrels! Today it is still the largest brewer of stout in the world.

The Brewery had doubled in size, accommodating its own railway system, cooperage and barley maltings. It was known as ‘a city within a city’ and had its own medical department, fire brigade and canteen for its staff.

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We made our way to the third Brewhouse (pictured above) where a number of large portraits and photographs are on display along the walls of the staircase leading to the vats. Impressive but nothing compared to what we were about to see next on the tour – the newest and mother of all Brewhouses, Brewhouse No.4, which opened in 2014.

To get to Brewhouse No.4 we took the underground pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath St. James’s Street. Long and narrow, it reminded me of London’s Tube and we later learned that the man who designed the London Underground also designed this tunnel.

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As we came out of the tunnel it was like stepping into the future. The only reminder of the past was the distinctive smell of the hops and malted barley wafting through the air. We approached the massive Brewhouse No.4 facility, which looked like something out of NASA. The new brewhouse is 10,000 square metres and one of the most technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable in the world. It produces 27 million pints a week and has the capability to produce four million pints a day!

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Brewhouse 4

Impressed and thirsty, we didn’t think it could get much better until Harry (our friend from Diageo) announced our final destination, The Open Gate Brewery for some beer and food tasting. Read about it here

Yey to Harry and Diageo – great tour!

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Bray to Greystones cliff walk

Itching to get out for a hike after a long, wet January, my good friend Jane suggested the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones, “if the weather picks up at the end of the week”, she said. Three weeks later, it was looking good!  Although it was still raining when I woke, I was confident it would clear. I dressed in layers, grabbed my (almost) waterproof jacket and set off to Bray. *Note to self buy new hiking gear.*

Low and behold, as I drove through Dublin city centre the rain cleared and the sun’s silhouette was visible through grey clouds. In fairness, it would have been totally jammy if I saw blue in the sky and sure, I hadn’t prepared for actual sun! I arrived to Jane’s just before noon and we headed off without delay so we’d beat the rain. Every Irish person will understand this.

As we meandered through the cliffs, we shared each other’s news and woes.  Slowly, and looking out at the stunning views, my shoulders began to feel much lighter. We even gave the DART a wave when it beeped as it passed beneath us. Convinced it was beeping at us, we laughed and I of course took a pic – bless Jane’s patience.

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The cliff walk is one of the most popular walks in Bray for locals and tourists. We were only two of a few people who had ventured out in the cold that day but it was totally worth it. The walk itself is not challenging. It’s about 6.5km to Greystones Harbour from the bandstand in Bray and fairly even throughout. The rain was our only challenge and it had held off at that stage.

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On our approach to Greystones the hunger was on me. I saw road works ahead of us, which were part of the massive harbour development. I was glad Jane was familiar with the detour, although it was only slight and it didn’t make much of an impact on our walk. I managed to get a pic down at the beach looking back on our journey we had made. We’d been walking for almost an hour but it hadn’t felt like it thanks to the amazing scenery and great company.

 

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We made it to our destination, The Happy Pear  – the perfect pit stop to refuel with hearty, wholesome goodness. I went for the delicious, chunky Moroccan soup and a selection of healthy breads and Jane went for a plate of salads bursting with flavour and colour. We didn’t want to feel too full for the return journey so we reluctantly abstained from the tempting array of desserts. Instead, I had a good, strong Americano and Jane had tea infused with fresh mint leaves – she’s always really healthy!  The place was buzzing and it was difficult to leave our warm, comfy seats but eventually we gathered our coats, gloves and scarves and set off for our return journey home.

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Rain threatened, it was spitting down on us so we quickened the pace. With bellies full, the struggle was real. Looking back towards Wicklow, the views were striking. I stopped to take a few more pics. Knowing that the walk ahead of us was going to be kind made the hike more pleasing. I managed to quickly take a couple more photos before the rain started to come down a little heavier.

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Towards the end of our lovely hike we spotted a lone ranger in the distance, enjoying the views. I wondered where he was from and what he was thinking about. By this stage I was at total peace and completely mindful of just how good a walk in the fresh air surrounded by beauty truly is for the soul.

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Thank you Jane, the Bray to Greystones walk in Wicklow is always beautiful, whatever the weather.

Wicklow, also known as The Garden of Ireland, is at the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East. To find out more check out Visit Wicklow