Story of the Irish, Smithfield

If visiting Ireland for the first time, this is a must-see and #1 stop for the ‘sightseeing in Dublin’ list. This clever, visual guided tour explores Ireland’s origin and deep culture of the celtic Irish going back as far as 10,000 years showing Ireland separated from the rest of the world by geography, genetics and culture.

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The tour is made up of a series of six small theatres of audio visual displays showcasing the significant times in Ireland’s history accompanied by an excellent actor telling the story of the Irish along the way and guiding visitors through each theatre. What I like most about this tour is that it demonstrates the essence of what it means to be Irish with an enlightened, entertaining yet at times harrowing, factual summary of Ireland’s history in 60 minutes.

The tour will leave visitors with a greater understanding of Ireland, its culture, heritage, struggles and triumphs.

I managed to get the last tour of the day. There were only a few people in the group. While returning my headset at the end of the tour, one of the visitors asked me where I was from. I explained I was Irish. They told me they were living in Ireland since the beginning of the year and wanted to learn more about the country’s history. When I asked what they thought of the tour, they said they felt emotional and that they felt they understood the Irish more. I felt proud. I wanted to ask the other visitors what they thought but unfortunately didn’t get the chance.

While there is a multimedia digital element to this tour with special effects, essentially it’s an easy and interesting narrated tour. I only wish it had been around when I was in school learning about the Newgrange Winter Solstice, Ireland’s saints and scholars, the Book of Kells, the Chieftains, the Famine, the 1916 Rebellion and the war of Independence and civil war. I’m not surprised to learn that it’s very popular among school tours.

The Story of the Irish centre is conveniently located in Dublin’s northside area of Smithfield, just around the corner from the Old Jameson Distillery. The staff are very welcoming, friendly and helpful. Ticket prices vary and discounts are available for bookings online and early bird shows. Keep an eye out for occasional special offers such as, ‘Fiver Friday’ deals. See ticket prices here and opening hours here.

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Rejuvenated in the late 90s, Smithfield has been transformed into a hip, buzzing part of Dublin’s northside city with cool places to eat and stay such as, Proper Order Coffee Co., Urbanity CoffeeCinnamon Café, Oscars Bar and the Generator Hostel. There’s also the funky Light House Cinema just around the corner for movie buffs on holidays! Other Dublin Northside Attractions close by include the Guinness Storehouse, Croke Park and Glasnevin Cemetery Museum.

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Wedding bells and day-tripping in Galway

So my brother married a fabulous Galway girl and the wedding took us to the Raheen Woods Hotel in Athenry – a deserved winner of an Irish Accommodation Services Institute (IASI) Gold Award and conveniently located, just a 10-minute drive from the church (in Maree), Galway City, and access to the Wild Atlantic Way.

We enjoyed a fabulous celebration with the stunning bride and groom and a big up to the fantastic staff at the hotel.

With a few hours to spare the next day, we explore Galway city with our very cool niece, Sadhbh.

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We only have a couple of hours to spend in the city, so we park near Eyre Square and head towards the city’s pedestrianised Latin Quarter to check out some of the best-known shops, bars and restaurants.

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One of the things I love most about Galway is its music and busking tradition.  Several buskers line the streets, singing and playing music of all sorts. Sadhbh is a budding musician and loves the vibe. 

Next on the list is a stroll through the bustling Galway Market in Church Lane by St Nicholas’ Church that is full of stalls selling locally produced art, crafts and food.

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Making our way to Quay street we happen upon Cofferwerk + Press, a cool coffee and craft shop – combining two things I love (and another reason to love Galway). As soon as we step inside, good vibes surround us.  It feels like we could be anywhere in Europe, like Amsterdam or Berlin, which I understand are the cities that influence the owners. The ground floor serves coffee and teas while the second and third floors display quirky art and crafts from Galway and other European cities. There is also a funky record player with a brilliant selection of vinyl records to play.

Next stop is Tigh Neachtain’s for a pint (minerals for Sadhbh and designated driver). We grew up in a family pub business and we like to check out other traditional pubs in the places we visit.  Tigh Neachtain’s is one of those pubs, oozing with character. Over 120 years old, it’s situated on the corner of Quay Street and Cross Street.  The interior is made up of several small snugs along short corridors leading into the main bar, which stocks a large and varied selection of drinks, including its own home brewed beers.

We find a spot in the corner to sit and watch the comings and goings.  An elderly gentleman at the bar counter is chatting with staff and looks like a real character, dressed in an old tweed jacket with elbow pads, a funky man scarf and a trilby hat. Then a little bit of Irish magic happens. He takes a seat at the old piano in the corner beside us, lifts the lid and delves into a beautiful rendition of ‘Moon River’ and for the next 20 minutes we are serenaded. In true Irish form, and just as we were settling in, our piano player answers a call on his mobile – a call to let him know his dinner is ready so he has to leave…only in Ireland!

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Sadhbh’s phone dies (#Catastrophe) and it’s time to go. Dinner and our final night in the hotel awaits. There is so much more to see and do in Galway city but it will have to wait until the next time.

Galway won the European Region of Gastronomy destination for 2018, an award that recognises innovation and integration in gastronomy, culture, tourism and economy. Galway certainly deserves this accolade. The city and country also hosts the European Capital of Culture in 2020 on behalf of the Irish nation. See more details here.

A successful yet brief day-trip to this wonderful, cultural city! Sadhbh loves it. I love it. What’s not to love about Galway, a city for all ages!