Fancy heading for a Dublin short break? James Ruddy stays at a cool new hotel and enjoys a glorious winter seaside day out in the fair city.
Milky sunshine made me wonder about my plans for the day on my Dublin short break, as it broke through the breakfast room window just as I was cracking the shell on that unusual hotel buffet offering, a still-hot boiled egg with buttered soda bread toast.
I was sitting under the relaxingly subdued lighting in the newly opened James Joyce Ulysess-themed Motel One, situated in the heart of the city with rainy-or-sunny-day options galore on your doorstep.
Before those warming autumn rays burst through, I was all set for a trip down to Smithfield (just flagged as the world’s second coolest neighborhood in the TimeOut awards) to catch a ‘Secret Street Tour’ followed by an intriguing new Irish film at the ultra-hip Light House cinema and a trad session with a pint of the black stuff at the legendary Cobblestone (oh, and hake and chips at the fish shop too).
But this all-day sunshine had not been forecast, so I put my dilemma to the hotel guy who was organizing the breakfast food and what a revelation he turned out to be.
‘Get yerself out to Bray on the train and ye’ll have a great day, indeed,’ was his definitive advice, followed by a sit-down and a barrage of information on what to do on a visit to Dublin’s ‘Brighton-on-Sea’ resort, with its mile-long beach, rocking bars and spectacular walk up Bray Head cliffs.
This was one of those encounters that you truly wish for when you ask a question of a staff member at an unfamiliar hotel. Here was a proper Dubliner, full of fun and stories and only too happy to share his local knowledge for a few minutes – even on a very busy morning.
And he wasn’t alone. My partner and photographer Sue Mountjoy and I had arrived the previous evening after a rainy drive down from Donegal and were struck immediately by the hotel’s buzzy city centre vibe (it’s directly opposite Ha’penny Bridge and touristy Temple Bar).
Lots of hipster-styled foreign tourists and business types were checking in and out, as others relaxed and tapped phones on the lie-back seats in the spacy entrance and reception, where Ulysees is there for you to read on the bookcase as well as featuring in wall quotes and a portrait of the great novelist himself.
It’s all part of the German-based hotel group’s aim to inject something local into each of its 90 inner-city properties, along with contemporary design and good service at affordable prices. With rapid expansion under way, it has worked across Europe and the UK and, now, it’s getting its first Irish outing.
As a base for our Dublin short break (a city we have visited many times), it was ideal for us, being just a short walk from the Oval Bar, where we sank a welcome Guinness and an Irish Stew, in a place dripping with history – not least its rebuilding after being flattened and left in flames through the British artillery shelling that accompanied the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Of course, it was the next day with that sound local advice we were given at breakfast that gave us an exceptional and totally unplanned trip to the seaside.
After two of those free-range boiled eggs (they are kept warm by an ingenious bowl heater), we headed on the half-mile walk to catch the train to Bray from Connolly Station, in bright autumn sunshine of the kind which you can never guarantee in Dublin – but when it comes it’s a true blessing.
The 12-mile journey south through the city and the countryside should have been straightforward, but the ubiquitous ‘weekend engineering works’ meant we had to get off at Dun Laoghaire and catch a bus (50 minutes and 44 stops!) for the final stretch. Even so, there was time for a snack at the port’s street food market of a bulging Wicklow lamb bap and some Korean kimchi.
Eventually, in autumn temperatures strong enough for some factor 30 to be applied, we wandered Bray’s delightful seafront, which was packed with day-tripping Dublin families and had the air of un spoilt Victorian pleasure, with hardly a tacky gift shop or fast-food joint to be seen.
The walk up 800-foot Bray Head was well worth the rewarding views on a clear blue day which was being enjoyed by crowds, young and surprisingly elderly (they’re a hardy lot in Dublin).
Back down on the promenade again, our reward was a pint of Guiness and cod and chips at the 1872 Harbour Bar, where I tried out the stools where Laurence Olivier, Katherine Hepburn, Bono and Brendan Behan once sat. Best story there, though, belongs to the famous moose head which was donated by Peter O’Toole, who drank there regularly when filming nearby and was grateful to the owners for ensuring he got back to his digs in one piece.
Back on the 45a to Dun Laoghaire was great fun as two elderly ladies told us they had been waiting an hour for its arrival. To make matters worse, when one of them pressed the bell at her stop, we sailed past and she screamed at the driver to stop.
When he did, she trod on a discarded plastic drinks bottle which she kicked, hitting an elderly man on the leg. As the door opened, she stepped off grumbling madly when the old man kicked the bottle and hit her in the back as we sailed away……both of us giggling at the crazy chaos.
Back at Motel One, as we sank a cocktail in the relaxing bar (inspired by Davy Byrne’s Pub from Ulysees – where hero Leopold Bloom enjoyed a gorgonzola sandwich and glass of burgundy), we reflected on a Dublin short break that had been utterly unexpected and, yet, utterly memorable.
Aren’t they the very best?
Tell Me More About this Dublin Short Break.
Motel One Dublin: Located on Middle Abbey Street, rooms have high-end box-spring beds, rain dance showers, and smart TVs, and starting at 109 euros. A wide range of breakfast options are available at 15.90 euros. All major sights, from the Old Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Storehouse to the Castle and Trinity College Library are in easy reach. Dublin Airport is a €25 taxi ride away (or a €10 express coach) and surrounding car parks offer discounts to guests.
T: +353 1 9131 800.
Rail travel: To plan your Dublin short break visit: Irish Rail. Debit and credit card bus travel is due to be introduced in Ireland next year, but a Leap Card or coins are still used. For details go to: Leap Card.
Holiday Extras is the market leader in UK airport parking, hotels and lounges, and offers car hire in hundreds of destinations around Europe. One weeks’ car hire in a Renault Captur or similar from Dublin Airport is available from £144.94. T: 0800 316 5678.