We had a day in Dublin after my mom left before we had to head back to England for our next house sit. Though we had seen much of Dublin while studying abroad, we decided to go back to some sights for a good second look at them. We first stopped at the two cathedrals in Dublin, St. Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals, both of which are beautiful in their own rights, though we opted not to go inside either in an effort to save some money even though I have heard it is definitely worth it.
Dublin is one of the few cities in the world with multiple cathedrals, Christ Church Cathedral built first in 1030 and St.Patrick’s following more than a hundred years later in 1191. Though it is now outside of central Dublin, the Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest building in Dublin with the rest of the city built around it. St.Patrick’s Cathedral, in comparison, is the larger of the two and the tallest and largest church in all of Ireland.
There was no way I was going to miss my favorite statue in all of Dublin so next we stopped at the statue of Molly Malone, the well-endowed fishmonger and title character in Dublin’s unofficial anthem, “Molly Malone.” The statue sits just outside of Grafton Street, the main shopping street in Dublin and place Ed Sheeran met his Galway Girl outside of a bar. After quickly admiring her goods and snapping a borderline not safe for work picture of her, we stopped for a beer at a local brewery and a bite to eat at a Chipotle clone – and a very good one at that – called Tolteca.
Being nearby, we made a quick stop at Trinity College, though we did not want to pay to go inside and view the Book of Kells or the Trinity College Library since we had seen them before. For first-timers, however, I fully recommend going to see both, especially for those like me who have a thing for beautiful libraries and dusty old books. The library itself is the largest in Ireland with its Long Room being full of over 200,000 of the libraries oldest books. The Book of Kells is inside the library and is a large illuminated manuscript – essentially an illustrated bible – which is full of extravagant and complex illustrations. It is less breathtaking than the Long Room as it sits in a glass case surrounded by other tourists, all cramming in to get a look at it, but is included in the price and is beautiful in its own right.
Though we did not see it on this trip either, another sight in Dublin that is a must see in my opinion is Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”). Kilmainham Gaol was a prison that held many Irish revolutionaries who fought and eventually succeeded in gaining independence for Ireland from the British, at the cost of most of their lives. Prisoners from five separate Irish rebellions spanning hundreds of years were held in the prison, making it one of the most important modern Irish monuments. The tour of the prison is very interesting and extremely informative, providing visitors with insights into the jail itself, the revolution(s), and the political prisoners that were held there. If you are only able to see one sight in Dublin, Kilmainham Gaol, in my opinion, is definitely the one to see.
The next day we flew back to England for another house sit, this time in a small village in the west of England called Wedmore. The village has less than 3,500 residents and has not much to do, but it is within ten miles of several interesting tourist sights, including Cheddar, the village where cheddar cheese was named after and home to the beautiful Cheddar Gorge. Other nearby places of interest are the city of Wells, the smallest city in England, and Glastonbury, home to the world-famous Glastonbury Music Festival. We spent a couple weeks in Wedmore, relaxing while watching a couple of old cats. Unfortunately, we did not have a car and the busses don’t run on weekends so we were unable to go see some of the surrounding villages. On top of that, it rained probably 90% of the time we were there so by the time we left we had both gotten a bad case of cabin fever. Not that we didn’t like staying there, but given different circumstances, it may have been more enjoyable. Oh well.
After our period of relaxation, we got to explore some of West England and chose the neighboring town of Glastonbury as our next destination. Like I mentioned earlier, Glastonbury is home to the Glastonbury Music Festival, held since 1970 which brings millions of visitors to the town every year. The town itself is an extremely unique town for both the history and mythology surrounding the place. It is also well-known for the alternative lifestyle led by many of its inhabitants with 70 unique faith groups calling it home, hitting every point on the religious/spiritual spectrum. Evidence of this alternative lifestyle can be seen in the many different witchcraft, pagan, and goddess shops that litter Glastonbury high street.
Another thing Glastonbury is known for is the Glastonbury Tor, a nearby hill that is visible from several miles away which is topped by the ruins of St. Michael’s Church. In medieval times, the Tor was called The Isle of Avalon where legend has it that King Arthur had his sword, Excalibur forged. It is also said that the foot of the Tor was where the Holy Grail was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. We stayed within walking distance of the Tor and made the trek up the hill to see the beautiful countryside around the hill and of course, the ruins of the church. Even for someone who is afraid of heights, the Tor was well-worth visiting, especially as it was free, though visitors should definitely be prepared to walk.
From the Tor, we headed down the hill to the city center and the Glastonbury Abbey. The abbey was supposedly founded by Joseph of Arimathea who, according to all four canonical Gospels, was the man who assumed responsibility for the burial of Jesus after His crucifixion. The abbey is also the rumored resting place of King Arthur and his wife, Guinevere. These claims, however, arose directly after the abbey was completely destroyed in a fire in the 12th century, providing the abbey with enough money to rebuild and enough fame to keep it popular forever. Along with this, there is an abundance of evidence that poke holes in these claims. Regardless, visiting the Abbey and reading of its history is still a great way to spend time while visiting the city.
From Glastonbury, we have planned visits to several nearby cities including Wells, Bath, and Oxford. Stay tuned for more from these beautiful and unique English cities!
- Two large churches dominate the cityscape of Glastonbury, both of which are several hundreds of years old. Neither, sadly, is very interesting to go into, though a very friendly man who works in St. John’s gave us a quick tour of the building which told us several facts about the church that we previously did not know.
- It is rumored that some of the shops on Glastonbury’s high street price some of their items based on how you are dressed, not necessarily on how much they are worth, however, I would still recommend going into at least one to look around.
- When in Dublin, go to Kilmainham Gaol! Seriously, I cannot recommend it enough.