A knowledge of Dublin’s long and varied history will not only help you to understand the modern city that you are on holiday in, it will also help you to navigate your way round the city and make the whole experience a lot more rich and enjoyable. South of the River Liffey there are three fairly distinct districts which arose during different periods in Dublin’s history: the oldest is the Medieval Area; next to and to the east of the Medieval Area is Temple Bar (which developed as a distinct area during the 16 and 17 hundreds); then, to the east of Temple Bar is the area encompassing St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and Merrion Square (this is often labelled Georgian Dublin)- Georgian referring to a period between 1714 to 1811. Whilst Temple Bar has lost most of the spirit and most of the buildings that hint at its long history; The Medieval Area and Georgian Dublin have retained much of the spirit and many of the buildings that make them so distinct. The are both must-sees for anyone who takes a holiday in Dublin.
A short history of the Medieval area
Before the Norman invasion (more commonly called the ‘English invasion’ by the Irish) of Dublin and even before the Viking invasion (in 841), the area that makes up the modern Medieval Area was already a place of great importance. In fact the name Dublin derives from a monastic settlement that sat next to a large natural black pool. The name Dublin actually means means black pool. It is rare for anyone, who is on holiday in Dublin from the UK, not to raise an eyebrow when they learn they are in fact holidaying in Blackpool.
The Viking invasion in 841 would mark a turning point in the area’s history. The importance of the Viking invasions for Dublin’s and Ireland’s history would only be overshadowed 300 years later with even more significant Norman invasion. From 841 AD right through to early 1020’s this small area of Dublin would be the seat of power for foreign nations over Dublin, and later all of Ireland, more or less constantly. The Viking’s first action was to seize the monastery and then build a series of fortifications- which would later be replaced by the city walls, some of which are still standing. If you wish to find out more about the Viking settlements then you should take a trip to Dublinia during your holiday. Dublinia is a series of exhibits that outline life for locals and vikings within Medieval Dublin. The exhibition is situated in a small museum that is connected to Christ Church Cathedral by a Medieval Bridge.
Before the Norman invasion in 1170 the Medieval Dublin area that lay within the city walls was already pretty impressive: the wonderful and still completely intact Christ Church Cathedral was built in 1030; and a huge Viking fortification also inhabited the land that Dublin Castle now stands on. However, the two centuries that followed the Norman invasion would see a huge increase in building and fortification. Many of the buildings that were built in this period still stand and are just as delightful in 2013 as they were in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Whether you are taking a short break to Dublin or an extended holiday you should make sure you find time for Christ Church Cathedral (1030), the City Walls on Bridge Street (1225), The Brazen Head Pub (1198), Isolde’s Tower (13th Century), Dublin Castle (1205) St. Audeon’s Gate (1275), St. Patrick’s Cathedral 1192. All of the buildings mentioned-with the exception of St. Patrick’s Cathedral- lie within the old Medieval City Walls. These walls were no more than 1 square mile, therefore you could probably manage to dedicate just one day of your trip to Medieval Dublin, but still get round most of the attractions that are on offer. However, if you are taking an extended holiday in Dublin it would be better to take your time and try and take in all the history and beauty that is on offer within such a small area. For history buffs a trip to Dublinia is an absolute must!
How do I get to the Medieval Area?
From the Northside of the River.
If you are staying on the Northside of Dublin during your holiday, then the easiest way to get to the Medieval Dublin Area is to cross the O’Connell Bridge, then turn right and follow the Quays in a westerly direction. This walk will take you past Ha’penny bridge, the Millenium Bridge and Gratton Bridge. The next Bridge is the O’ Donavon Rossa Bridge. If you are standing on the South bank of the river and look across the bridge towards the North bank and beyond, you will see a beautiful vista which encompasses this beautiful old bridge -which dates from 1816 – with the imposing Four Courts in the background.
After you have enjoyed the view to the North you will need to turn to the South and you will see the entrance to Whitetavern Street. This street will take you right into the heart of Medieval Dublin. On your right will be St. Aoden’s gate, whilst further on and to the left Christ Church Cathedral will very quickly loom large. At the end of Winetavern Street you will see a crossroads. If you carry on going straight you will arrive on Nicholas and then Patrick Street. At the end of Patrick Street is St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Getting to the Medieval Area from Temple Bar
If you are staying in Temple Bar during your holiday then getting to the Medieval Area couldn’t be easier. Essex Street East lies within Temple Bar and Essex Street West lies withing Medieval Dublin. Parliament street intersects and divides the two. Just cross this wide road and enter the road ahead, you will find yourself passing between two of Dublin’s most famous and impressive areas.
Getting to the Medieval Area from Saint Stephen’s Green
If you are staying in a hotel near St. Stephen’s Green, then it is also fairly easy to get to the Medieval Area. Anyone on holiday around St. Stephen’s Green should be able to find Grafton Street. Walk North along this street and, at the end, turn left onto Suffolk Street (you will see the statue of Molly Malone ahead of you). Follow Suffolk Street until it ends on College Green. Turn left here and walk along College Green onto Dame Street. Folow Dame Street until it’s end (thus passing the Olympia Theatre and City Hall). Ahead of you will be a right turn onto Parliament Street. Or you can turn left onto Lord Edward Street. The imposing structure of Dublin Castle will be within view long before you take the the left turn onto Castle Street.