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Dublin footsteps of Bono, Michael Collins and Oliver Hardy

I wondered if I had made a huge mistake booking the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin?

The hotel is lovely, but the location is several miles away from the center of Dublin and the main tourist sites. There are loads of reviews for Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin Centre on TripAdvisor. It is currently ranked #6 of 175 hotels in Dublin with 4.5 of 5 circles. Mommy Points reviewed the hotel last year and enjoyed that hotel.

Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel is ranked #26 in Dublin on TripAdvisor with 4 of 5 circles.

Getting from the Dublin Airport to the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s was easy with a 16 EUR return ticket on aircoach.ie. The AirCoach bus stops directly outside the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s.

There were thousands of people crowded on the streets of Dublin for a Saturday night out as the bus passed through city centre. The Christmas Market had numerous small cabin retail booths set up around St. Stephen’s Green. And as the bus traveled south, the people on the streets dwindled to the point that city life appeared to disappear. The bus stopped and the driver said, “Radisson Hotel”. I looked out the window in the dark night of 5:30pm on a late November afternoon and asked, “Where is the hotel?”

The driver said, “The hotel is right there”, as he pointed into the darkness. “Walk through that gate and down the path.”

Rad Blu gate
Gate to Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin at Stillorgan Road

Another passenger on the AirCoach said, “It is a fine hotel. Enjoy your stay.”

My first thought was, “Glad Kelley is not with me.” Not that she would have had a bad impression of the hotel on first sight. The lighted building in the distance looked lovely. The reason I was relieved this was my solo adventure is I don’t know how I could have dragged or carried three pieces of luggage along the wide gravel path 200 meters to the hotel.

Rad St Helens path
Wide gravel path to Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin from road.

I had a backpack and my one carry-on suitcase I carried from the street to the hotel.

Rad St Helens-3
Christmas season lights Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin

I walked into the lobby to find an old world hotel quite different from the three Radisson hotels in London where I had spent the past six nights.

The original property house dates back to 1754. Much of the central hotel’s structural appearance today dates to improvements from 1899 by Sir John Nutting, 1st Baronet of St. Helen’s (1903).

Rad St Helens entry
Entry hallway Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin

My hotel room seemed quite a bit larger than the two Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels in London. The fruit tray was a pleasant welcome amenity to find.

Rad St Helens 207
Radisson Blu St. Helen’s room 207

Despite being tired after rushing around London on foot for three hours earlier in the day, I decided to give Dublin a go and catch the bus back into city centre.

The shock was learning that a bus trip into Dublin was 2.60 EUR each way and exact change required. Even more shocking was learning the bus service ends at 11:30 pm. And today, December 1, 2014, the bus fare increased to 2.80 EUR each way. That is $7.00USD round trip into Dublin City Centre from the hotel.

Dublin Leap Card

The Leap Visitor Card is a pre-paid ticket that allows you unlimited travel for 72 hours (3 days) after first use on:

  • Airlink 747 airport bus service
  • All Dublin Bus scheduled services (not valid on tours)
  • All Luas (tram) services
  • DART and Commuter Rail in the Short Hop Zone (all of Dublin city and county)
  • You can buy a Leap Visitor Card for only €19.50 at the Spar shop in the arrivals hall in T1 or T2, or at the Travel Information desk in Terminal 1.

To make a long introduction to the main story short, I waited 30 minutes for a north bound bus into Dublin that was delayed. When the bus finally arrived, there were three 46A buses literally traveling one behind the other. I rode the bus to Temple Bar, the Dublin equivalent to Las Vegas Strip out-of-control partiers and spent an hour listening to good street music. I bought a burrito from a Temple Bar café where the employee, after giving me the burrito, questioned whether I was the actual customer who made the purchase. The place had about ten seated customers and only one other guy had ordered food after me. The employee demanded to see my food receipt and then he wanted to keep it. I showed him the receipt and put it back in my wallet. What a dickhead.

It might be a cardinal sin to say that I could not wait to get out of Dublin on my last trip to the city in 1997. After the vibrancy and beauty of London, I found Dublin a bit depressing. I had my fill of central Dublin after two hours this trip and caught the bus back to Radisson St. Helen’s.

It’s a Beautiful Day

Rad St helens-clear
Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin

I spent time the following morning looking at Google maps to figure out what was around the hotel. The front desk staffer told me there was really nothing around the hotel. I soon learned his information was not exactly accurate.

Radisson Blu St. Helen’s is in a district of South Dublin called Booterstown. The DART, Dublin Area Rapid Transit, runs along the coast of Dublin Bay. Booterstown DART station and the Dublin Bay waterfront is about a kilometer from the hotel and only a 15 minute walk. The 8km trip from Booterstown to Dalkey is 20 minutes by DART.

I decided to walk the coast trail to Dalkey and catch the DART train back to Booterstown.

Google Maps walking routes from Booterstown DART Station to Dalkey DART Station in South Dublin

Dalkey is close to the southern coastal Dublin County border. I read an article sometime ago that Bono lives in Dalkey. Perhaps I’d run into Bono in a pub. Somewhere in my morning reading, I’d read the comment that Dalkey is where the privileged class lives. Wikipedia Dalkey says Van Morrison once lived in Dalkey. Bono and Edge lived there. Author Maeve Binchy  was born in Dalkey. Kelley and I stayed in a B&B in Schull, Ireland in 1998 where the lady of the house proudly told us we were staying in the room Maeve Binchy frequented each year.

Fresh sea air sounded like a good way to spend my day rather than in the crowds of Dublin on a Sunday.

Getting from the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s hotel to Dublin Bay is a little tricky since the area is filled with gated housing estates and dead end roads.

St. Helen's Wood
St. Helen’s Wood housing estate, Booterstown

Once I reached Booterstown Road, the walk was downhill to the sea. Gleeson’s is a fine looking food store with a restaurant and pub only ten minutes walk from the hotel on Booterstown Road. I wish the front desk had mentioned that the night before since all I really wanted was a place to kick back with a pint and order some food in a place less formal than the restaurant at the hotel.

Gleeson’s Food Corner, market, restaurant and pub on Booterstown Road is nearest to Radisson Blu St. Helen’s

Google Maps showed the DART train running along the coast. I had no idea what to expect for walking conditions.

DART train services coastal villages from Greystones in Wicklow County to Malahide, north of Dublin

Turns out there is an extended walking and cycling path running for miles beside the train tracks and through the coastal villages.

Coast path Booterstown and Blackrock
Cycling/Walking coast path in Blackrock.

Being a Sunday, there were lots of people out cycling and walking with dogs and children.

The first town on my path walking south from Booterstown is Blackrock, a lovely village with full service stores.

Park in Blackrock

I left the coast path and walked into the village to see if I could find a bank machine and get some Euros.

Blackrock Market
Blackrock Market open every Saturday & Sunday

The sign for Blackrock Market caught my eye and I entered a doorway to find a variety of sellers in what appeared to be the weekend community flea market.

Besides a beautiful small black cat roaming around the narrow path through the market, what attracted my eye were some rock concert posters in one cubby. Slane Castle Festival Sunday 16th August ‘81 with Thin Lizzy headlining and U2 the second lead band.

U2 poster
Sunday, 16th August 1981 Slane Castle Festival with Thin Lizzy and U2 £8.00Ir. £7.00. Price of poster €22 ($26USD).

Thin Lizzy was a band I knew in 1981 and I had some of their albums, but it was not until the Red Rocks 1983 show that U2 pinged my musical radar.

A musical connection to U2 from this trip is The Ramones. I listened to the Ramones Road to Ruin while driving to San Francisco for my flight to London. Every night in London I had a Ramones tune playing in my head when I woke up in bed for brief moments. I read this Irish Times article yesterday from September 2014, Bono’s Dublin: ‘A long way from where I live’.

When Bono was 17 or 18 he believed he had no hope of being in a band. “That was because I sang like a girl. I was never going to make it as a punk-rock singer or a rock-music singer with my girl’s voice,” he says. “But I found my voice through Joey Ramone, hearing his singing at a gig in Dublin. Joey has a sort of girl’s voice as well when he sang – and that was my way in.”

Still a long way from Dalkey, I hit the trail again through the village of Blackrock.

Blackrock market-2
Blackrock Market

From Blackrock walking south, I came across more people walking as it was now about noon. I had seen commercials several times on Irish TV encouraging people to walk as a means of avoiding diabetes.

Another interesting little alteration is the TV shows run warnings when there are going to be flashing lights imagery. Apparently there are lots of epileptics too. I guess photosensitive epilepsy rules out going to see U2 perform live.

Irish walking sign
Irish sign promoting walking

I continued past the Seaport DART station and came to a Martello Tower at Monkstown. The Defence Act of 1804 authorized the construction of 15 Martello Towers as fortified defense towers to protect the Dublin Bay coastline from an attack by Napoleon’s forces. There were 26 Martello Towers constructed north and south of Dublin.

Monkstown Martello
Martello Tower at Monkstown

The beach at Monkstown is a major swimming area of Dublin Bay.

Monkstown Tower
View of Howth (northside Dublin Bay) from Monkstown (southside Dublin Bay)

Dozens of sailboats had come out of Dun Laoghaire harbour as sunlight reflected off Howth, the northern peninsula of Dublin Bay.

sails and Howth
Blue heron, Dun Loaghaire sailing boats and Howth

A blue heron stood in the shallow water off the beach at low tide.

A plaque posted on the stone wall beneath the Monkstown Martello Tower states the Prince of Wales and the Rochdale were wrecked on the rocks near this spot on November 19, 1807, with the loss of nearly 400 lives. These were troop ships departing Dublin. This tragedy led to the construction of Dun Laoghaire harbour.

In 1816, legislation was authorized to construct the west pier in Dun Laoghaire, named Kingstown at the time, until the name was changed in 1920 during the Irish War of Independence.

Dun Laoghaire harbour-1
Dun Laoghaire West Pier built 1817-1859 as sheltered harbor for Dublin Bay

The construction of the harbour brought development to the region with Ireland’s first railway constructed between Dublin and Kingstown in 1834. Easy access from Dublin turned the area into a Victorian seaside resort.

West Pier
Dun Laoghaire west pier

The construction of the West Pier and East Pier took 42 years from 1817 to 1859. These are massive stone walls protruding into the sea.

harbour entrance
Dun Laoghaire harbor entrance

Walking the west pier of Dun Laoghaire added about 2 km to my 8 km walking trek to Dalkey.

Harbour lights
Dun Laoghaire harbor lighthouses of west pier and east pier.

Dun Laoghaire looked like a happening town with a Christmas Market and shops.

Dun Laoghaire Town Hall
Dun Laoghaire Town Hall

When I was searching Dublin hotels this past month for places to stay, I repeatedly saw low room rates at Royal Marine Hotel. I figured there must be something substandard with the place, so I was amazed when I sighted the hotel building. The hotel has 4 of 5 circles on TripAdvisor and received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014.

Royal Marine Hotel
Royal Marine Hotel (1865) and refurbished 2007 in Dun Laoghaire

Royal Marine Hotel is a modernized historic hotel with loads of character inside. This site has had a hotel since 1828. William Dargan, builder of the Kingstown railway, bought the hotel property in 1863 and built the Royal Marine Hotel, opened in 1865.

Many heads of state have stayed at the hotel. Irish freedom fighter Michael Collins is said to have taken refuge in the hotel in Room 210 with his partner Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts character in the movie Michael Collins).

Royal Marine-2
Entry Hall to Royal Marine Hotel

The hotel closed for three years for refurbishment and reopened in June 2007.

I dropped in for a pint at Hardy’s Bar. From the bar menu, I learned the bar is named for Oliver Hardy of Laurel & Hardy. They stayed at the hotel for one month in 1953.

Hardy's Bar
Hardy’s Bar, Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire is named for comedian Oliver Hardy who stayed at hotel for one month in 1953.

I checked with the Front Desk staff who told me I still had about 45 minutes walking time to reach Dalkey.

I’d certainly found what I was looking for in a visit to Dublin. A cold pint of beer and a respite for my legs motivated me to continue my Dublin footsteps walking journey onward to Dalkey.

End of Part 1


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