Southend Airport, rated by Which? as best London Airport for four
consecutive years, was certainly a good place to start my trip to Dublin. With
hardly a person in sight, not even at the security check, it was in total
contrast to the mayhem of airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick.
My base in Dublin was the Dylan, a relaxed
five-star boutique hotel. Accommodation consisted of a hallway, bedroom,
sitting room and bathroom and there were TVs in all three rooms, including the
bathroom, presumably for watching the soaps!
After a delicious dinner in the hotel
and a good night’s sleep I set off to explore Dublin on foot. The city has many
green spaces and Merrion Park is home to a well-known statue of Oscar Wilde,
incongruously reclining on a large rock. A few minutes later I arrived at the
National Gallery of Ireland which has been the subject of extensive
refurbishment, completed in June 2017. The result is a light and airy Gallery
which complements the lovely exhibits. Paintings on show include works by Titian,
Monet and Picasso.
A totally different experience awaited
me at the Little Dublin Museum, crammed with more modern artefacts including
author Maeve Binchy’s typewriter and a room dedicated to the pop band U2.
After a morning’s walking it was time
for lunch. On the way I passed the statue of Molly Malone who 'wheeled her
wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow'.
I was on my way to Fallon & Byrne. On the ground
floor there what it describes as a ‘proper grocer’, offering fresh fruit and
vegetables, meat, coffees, just-caught fish and much more. Just strolling round
made me feel hungry so I went downstairs to the wine bar to enjoy a great lunch
of cold meats, cheeses, patés, oysters and smoked salmon canapés, washed down
with excellent red and white wines.
refreshed I walked across town to EPIC, housed in the CHQ building, which tells
the story of Irish emigration. Over time some ten million people left Ireland,
driven out by starvation, religious intolerance and more. Outside the
exhibition centre in the docklands area there are statues of people heading for
the ships that would hopefully take them to a better life, a truly poignant
piece of street art.
CHQ I joined the Vintage Tea Tour, afternoon tea served on the upper deck of an
old London Routemaster, a unique way of seeing the Dublin.
has a lot to offer but a few miles away there are attractions of a very different
nature. Next morning a short drive north took me along the coast. This is a
great area for golfers with St Anne’s, Royal Dublin and famous Portmarnock in
visited Howth and its castle, originating
from 1177 and the home
of the Gaisford-St Lawrence family. One of the family
dogs met us inside the castle and was happy to have his tummy rubbed as long as
anyone was available, giving the castle a lived-in family feel. The castle’s current
appearance dates back to 1738 and it was renovated and extended in 1911 by Sir
After a brief tour I went down to the huge
Georgian kitchen to sample the Cookery School. The classes on offer range in
length from one day to a week including a one day ‘catch and cook’ course where
you are taken a few miles off-shore and taught how to catch your fish before
returning to the kitchen to prepare it and cook it as part of a delicious
three-course meal. I and other guests were given a cookery demonstration by
Sarah and John which was both instructive and great fun.
It was a short drive to the pretty
harbour at Howth and the many yachts moored there. After a bracing walk along
the harbour wall I popped in to the Oar House for lunch. Fish doesn’t come any
fresher than this and the queues waiting to be seated showed just how popular
Another short drive took me to the
pretty town of Malahide and its marina, stretched out along Dublin Bay and
overlooked by the Grand Hotel. It’s just fifteen minutes from the airport and
around twenty minutes to the city so it makes a great alternative centre for
visitors to Dublin. Finds at nearby Paddy’s Hill indicate that the area was
inhabited as long ago as 6,000 B.C. and tradition has it that St Patrick
visited in 423 A.D. He was followed by the Vikings and the Danes, the last
Danish King of Dublin retired to Malahide in 1171.
I visited Malahide Castle, one of Ireland’s
oldest, whose links to the Talbot family date back to 1175, and enjoyed an
entertaining guided tour of the castle, complete with stories of its five
After another lovely meal it was time
for the short drive back to the airport and my flight home, with lasting
memories of friendly people, good humour, great hospitality and fine food, both
in the city and outside.
For more information on Ireland to go www.ireland.com You can fly to Dublin from
London Southend Airport up to three times daily through Stobart Air’s
franchise partnership with Flybe. Tickets start from £29.99 per
person one way (including taxes and charges). Book now at www.flybe.com