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Dublin

The joys of Joyce, Dracula and foaming Guinness

Martina Devlin | September/October 2015

DO a pub crawl. It’s the rule: non-compliance leads to social unrest. Try the Brazen Head, officially the oldest pub in Ireland, where Brendan Behan and Jonathan Swift drank. Or Doheny & Nesbitt, haunt of politicians. The IMF often went native there for a few scoops of Guinness.

DON’T expect to sleep if you book into a cheap hotel – it will be full of people initiated into the pub crawl. It’s worth splashing out on the Schoolhouse Hotel on the banks of the Grand Canal. Originally a small local school, it’s now a small local hotel.

DO visit the Joyce Tower in Sandycove, a Martello tower built to repel a Napoleonic invasion which never happened. James Joyce stayed there, smarting because the world hadn’t yet recognised his genius, and immortalised it in “Ulysses”. It houses a museum of Joyce memorabilia, including the tie worn first by Joyce and then by Samuel Beckett.

DON’T expect to impress anyone by saying you’re working on a book. Everyone in Dublin has either written one or knows someone who has.

DO take the DART commuter train to Howth and climb the hill for a view of Dublin, treating yourself to Beshoff’s fish and chips on the way back (low-cal option available). Or catch it in the opposite direction towards Bray, for the breathtaking vista of Dublin Bay.

DON’T expect to meet locals in Temple Bar, the cobblestoned enclave of pubs and restaurants near Dublin Castle. But if you really burn to eat cabbage and bacon or listen to trad music, brave the tourists and go.

DO follow in the footsteps of the local-born author Bram Stoker and visit the crypts under St Michan’s, final resting place of the mummified remains of Dublin’s chief families. You may be standing on the spot where vampiric inspiration struck.

DON’T be afraid to talk to the stranger next to you. Irish people love a chat and have endless stories, some of which are nearly true.

DO visit the National Museum on Kildare Street for the Iron Age bog bodies dating back to 400-200BC. Victims of ritual sacrifice, they are almost perfectly preserved – right down to their fingernails.

DO take the Viking Splash tour if you have children. You’ll be encouraged to wear hats with horns while roaring menacingly at pedestrians from land and sea. The locals usually wave back. They might even quake in fear if they’re feeling particularly obliging.

DON’T claim Oliver Cromwell as your hero, as a recent English visitor did with me. He’s Vlad the Impaler as far as we’re concerned.

DO post your cards (red-haired, Riverdancing colleens are optional) at the General Post Office in O’Connell Street, pausing to find the bullet holes peppering its pillars. It was the HQ of the 1916 Easter Rising, which led ultimately to independence, and every Irish child is taught to mentally genuflect before those pockmarks. Commemorative events are under way for next year’s centenary.

DON’T wear a leprechaun hat or a “kiss me I’m Irish” T-shirt.

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