A walking tour of Dublin
“When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.” So said James Joyce, whose most famous novel, Ulysses, tracks a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he walks the length and breadth of the city. Draw inspiration from those footsteps and you’ll discover Dublin in all its glory, from grand Georgian squares and townhouses to peaceful parks and canals, all in 10,000 steps. Nicola Brady leads the way…
Approximately 1,246 steps: Begin your walk on the northern edge of Parnell Square, encircled by red-brick Georgian townhouses. Take a while to wander through the Hugh Lane Gallery and its highlight exhibition – Francis Bacon’s extraordinarily messy studio, which was brought over from London and reassembled piece by piece. Afterwards, do like Bloom and stroll down Parnell Square East, until the townhouses morph into the shop fronts of O’Connell Street. Stop at the Rolling Donut kiosk, a tiny stall that’s been serving hot doughnuts on this spot since 1978, and tuck in on O’Connell Bridge for great views of the River Liffey.
Approximately 2,689 steps: Cross the Liffey and head down Westmoreland Street, past the gates of Trinity College. Stroll around the main square of the campus, where greats such as Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett once studied. Then head out on the Nassau Street exit and follow the road until it curves into Lincoln Place, stopping into Sweny’s Pharmacy, where Bloom popped in for lemon soap. Nowadays, it’s a little shrine to Joyce and other writers, including Oscar Wilde. Walk around the corner towards Merrion Square, where you’ll find a colourful statue depicting Wilde, his green smoking jacket carved from jade and his trousers made from blue granite. His childhood home is just over the road, and is now open for tours after being privately owned for years – his memorial is visible from the old drawing room.
Waterfalls and roses
Approximately 4,708 steps: Continue down Merrion Street Upper until you reach Merrion Row, then turn right and walk towards Stephen’s Green. Walk diagonally through the park, past the ponds where seagulls pretend to be ducks in order to steal breadcrumbs. At the pretty parkkeeper’s cottage on the southwest corner, exit and turn left onto Harcourt Street, then onto Clonmel Street to enter Dublin’s other city centre park, Iveagh Gardens. Generally quieter than Stephen’s Green, this Victorian park is home to a pretty waterfall and a rose garden on the southern edge, with cast-iron benches spread around the fragrant blooms.
Stroll the Grand Canal
Approximately 6,938 steps: Exit the park by the rose garden, and turn left to walk along Hatch Street, before turning right down Earlsfort Terrace. Turn left down Adelaide Terrace and walk along this tree-lined road until you reach the Grand Canal. Make a right and stroll along the edge of the canal, on a path that hugs the still water, the swaying rushes and the lily pads that bob on the surface. Entering Dublin at Grand Canal Dock, this waterway weaves through the southside of the city and out to the midlands of Ireland, where it meets the River Shannon. In Dublin, it’s a meeting point for people who want to sit with a coffee, go for a jog or meet for a pint in one of many waterside pubs, such as The Barge.
Coffee and cathedrals
Approximately 8,644 steps: When you reach Lennox Place, turn right and you’re in Portobello. On Lennox Street, stop for a coffee or a glass of wine in Brindle or Lennox Street Grocer, two neighbourhood favourites with tables and deckchairs laid out on the edge of the quiet road. Afterwards, head up Stamer Street and straight on to Heytesbury Street, home of some of the most sought-after townhouses in Dublin. Turn left on Kevin Street and follow the spire of St Patrick’s Cathedral, burial ground of Jonathan Swift. Behind the cathedral you’ll find the 18th-century Marsh’s Library, which looks exactly as it did 300 years ago, its oak shelves groaning under the weight of thick, leatherbound books. Afterwards, turn right and walk up Patrick Street to Dublin’s other famous spire, Christ Church Cathedral.
Approximately 10,000 steps: After admiring the Viking towers and bridges of Christ Church, turn right and walk along Lord Edward Street, past the striking City Hall and periphery of Dublin Castle. When you reach Great George’s Street, turn right and head towards the turrets and gothic arched windows of George’s Street Arcade, a sprawling building of gleaming red brick that spreads all the way back to Drury Street. Here, you’ll find a collection of independent cafés and boutiques, where people sit at outdoor tables to watch the world go by. Stop into Loose Canon for a toastie dripping with salty butter and artisan cheeses, or walk a few steps to one of the city’s beloved pubs, Grogan’s, for a well-deserved pint.
Where to stay
The Westin Dublin
Book a stay
Once a former bank, this opulent hotel overlooking Trinity College couldn’t get more central if it tried (and it’s perfectly located for trying out the walking route above). Inside, ceilings are high and colour palettes are calming, while down in the basement you’ll find The Mint Bar, an intimate speakeasy-style hideaway inside the bank’s original vaults, serving up cocktails and Irish whiskey – there’s even live music at weekends.
High Life tip: Book into one of the Library Suites, all named after Irish authors. The Samuel Beckett Suite has a balcony that looks out on to Westmoreland Street.
Book a stay
If staying in the centre of town without feeling as if you’re staying in the centre of town is your idea of the perfect bolthole, the Ashling Hotel is for you. Nestled on Parkgate Street overlooking Croppies Memorial Park and in front of the canal, this four-star pad not only boasts Zen-like views but is superbly situated for exploring. Minutes from Heuston train station, the Guinness Distillery, Dublin Zoo and all the major retail hotspots, it’s a first time Dublin-visitor’s dream.
High Life tip: Be sure to sample a dram of Irish whiskey in the Iveagh Bar, which is a sophisticated spot for indulging in one of the country’s favoured pastimes.