THERE IS NO shortage of things to fill your day in Dublin. You could spend a week there and amuse yourself. We had a day-and-a-half and that meant we had to prioritise.
The city centre is around 35 mins on the x69 bus from Camac Valley campsite. We were five minutes late getting to the stop, but the bus was another ten minutes behind that. After conversing with our fellow bus buddies, we began to understand that bus timetables are something best treated with scepticism. One bus driver was, in fact, surprised to hear there was a timetable...
Once in town, we had two attractions on our minds. I was very keen to visit the Guinness Storehouse and Mrs D was certain that the National Leprechaun Museum was to be the highlight of the day. We decided to do both.
Bouyed by the black stuff
The Guinness Storehouse is a great tourist attraction. Inside, it's like stepping onto the set of the X-Factor, with bright lights, big screens and all manner of flash presentation. Nowhere in Dublin was the mix of nationalities more evident than standing at the start of the tour where a short introduction to the seven-floor facility is read out.
They lay on the history pretty thick at Guinness Storehouse. I loved it.
Visitors make their way, at their own pace through the storeys of stories about the company. Your pace depends on how keen you are to claim your free pint at the end. One group of lads literally ran up the escalators to get to the panoramic Gravity Bar on the top floor. Mrs D stopped me joining them, and we took a leisurely stroll through the building, learning about roasted barley, ale and how the Liffey is integral to the flavour of the three million pints per day which are then ferried from the factory gates.
On the sixth floor you are given an option. You can use your free pint voucher to learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, before drinking it. Alternatively, you can go upstairs and get it poured for you in the posh bar. And then you can drink it. We opted for the former, took instruction from a genial chap called Domhnull. Instructed, we were both issued with a certificate declaring us capable of pouring a perfect pint. Whether or not it was perfectly poured, it tasted alright. Even Mrs D managed half-a-pint, saying that learning about it beforehand did make it taste better than normal. I ensured the rest was not wasted.
Officially a Guinness expert after tuition at the Storehouse
We hopped on the bus to the National Leprechaun Museum, sitting at the end of Dublin's main shopping area. We arrived just in time for the last tour of the day, but my hopes weren't high. Before the tour starts, various items to whet your appetite for the stories yet to be told are displayed. A tiny suit, a few film posters and a copy of the oldest book to commit the term Leprechaun to print did not excite me. Even after a pint and a half of Guinness.
With that, a hidden door swung open and our guide, Etta, announced herself and explained that we were going to be taken through a tunnel into the world filled with giant furniture. Asked why, she explained that Leprechauns are one-third human size, and humans are one-third giant scale. Obviously, it was easier for us to appreciate the problems faced by the Leprechaun community living in a human world.
I felt quite stupid for asking.
Guinness meant I didn't mind standing in the Leprechaun tunnel with my arms above my head
The tour starts by walking through a tunnel in which you 'grow'. At the start of the tunnel, you can't touch the ceiling but by the end, you can. From here, you are straight into the giant's front room and beyond that, into a dimly lit map room where a projected map explains about the Leprechaun's passion for shoes and how clever they are at protecting their money. So, that's tight to you and me – dressed up in a lovely pair of loafers.
Still pondering whether I'd married a Leprechaun, we walked through a rainbow, past a pot of gold, with our guide telling stories all the way. A short spell in a fairy hill was punctuated with a pretty little ditty on the penny whistle designed to weed out whether Mrs D or I were in fact Irish fairies. If so, we would not have been able to resist dancing.
"Irish fairies aren't like Disney fairies" our guide explained. "They are human sized and steal babies. They are kick-ass fairies".
Certainly the walk back to the bus was conducted quickly in case Dublin twilight bought any out into the open.
I know he doesn't look very scary, but if you'd heard what I've heard...
Two attractions, but which was best? The easy charm of the Leprechaun Museum is hard to dislike. Our guide bought the story to life using the most traditional Irish tools - a penny whistle, a tall tale and a twinkle in the eye. She brought colourful Irish folklore into vivid focus and you came out convinced you would get mugged by an Irish fairy. It was a uniquely warm experience.
But the decision as to which attraction was best was made easier by one simple fact.
Only one ended with a free pint of Guinness.
Follow previous instalments of Nigel's 'Eire on a shoestring' blog:
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