I always say make a plan but be open to changes. We scheduled a free walking tour for our first morning in Dublin to orient us to the city and provide background information on the sights. As luck would have it, it was raining that first morning so a walking tour was thoroughly unappealing. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend this activity when the weather cooperates. You can check the website for Sandemans New Europe Dublin free walking tours here.
We opted instead to do the Hop On Hop Off bus tour. Tickets cost $22.50 for adults but only $20.50 for seniors over 60 and for about $10 more, you can get a combination ticket that includes admission to the Guinness Storehouse. The ticket was good for 2 consecutive days and accomplished our purpose, plus we stayed dry and it was more relaxing in our jet-lagged state. The narrated bus ride identified and provided details about all the main tourist attractions and we could get off at any of 28 stops. Buses came along about every 15 minutes so we could re-board.
In addition, our ticket entitled us to a free Irish coffee at O’Sullivan’s Pub which was just the thing to warm us up on a chilly wet day.
We had planned to visit the Book of Kells first thing the following morning to beat the crowd, but when we saw the ticket line was short, probably due to the rain, we decided to alter our plan again. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript in Latin of the four gospels from the New Testament created by monks during the early middle ages (circa 800 A.D.) and housed in the old library at Trinity College. Photography is not allowed in the exhibit but you can now view the manuscript online for free here. (When you click the link, be patient and wait a minute for the images to load. I promise it’s worth the wait.) Ireland’s most precious and famous artistic and religious treasure was definitely on my must-see list even though I saw it 10 years ago when we were last in Dublin. The exhibit consists of 2 of the 4 volumes on display, one to a double page or folio of text and the other to a decorated page. The displayed pages change periodically but I’m unsure of the frequency. The room is dimly lit with special lighting on the manuscript to prevent fading.
A substantial amount of informational material about the history of the manuscript is also displayed from which I learned several interesting facts. The pages of the manuscript are made of vellum, that is calfskin, and some of the pages have holes because the skin actually contained flaws in some places. Three artists and 4 scribes probably completed the manuscript and while words appeared more than once, no design was repeated. Although the subject of much scholarly debate, current opinion holds that the book was created on Iona, an island off western Scotland but possibly completed at Kells in Ireland where the monastery was relocated after a Viking raid. Some reviews I’ve seen called the exhibit disappointing but to me it is incredibly beautiful and fascinating.
The Long Room is located upstairs directly above the Book of Kells exhibit in the Old Library. For book lovers like myself, this repository is how we imagine heaven. Books line the walls in each alcove, 2 stories high. It has a somewhat musty library odor, with that old paper and binding scent that evokes memories of many other libraries for me. The Copyright Act of 1801 established Trinity College as the official repository entitled to a copy of every book published in Ireland and Britain to this day. Two hundred thousand of the oldest books are held here.
You may have also noticed the marble busts lining the Long Room in the photo. The 48 busts are of great western philosophers and writers such as Socrates, Plato, Shakespeare, and Jonathan Swift along with men (alas, no women) associated with Trinity College.
The Brian Boru harp, made of oak and willow in the 15th century, is the oldest of its kind and was used as the model for the emblem of Ireland. It is also on display in the Long Room.
The historic front gate at Trinity College was damaged a year ago when a 68 year old driver plowed into it, for reasons unknown. The new refurbished gate is what you see here.
The other major attraction that we visited that day was the National Museum of Ireland which is my number 1 favorite sight in Dublin. I’ll tell you more about it and other sights including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin Castle, and the Guinness Storehouse in upcoming posts.
The Book of Kells Exhibit, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
The Long Room, the Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Based on events of April, 2015.