No matter the weather, Dublin offers a warm welcome
By Marilyn Loeser
wind tugs at my hat
as my husband Mark and I walk along a Dublin Street. Winter
in Ireland —
the sun rise is tardy and
sets before 5 p.m.
like this day,
air is often
mixed with a fine
Our destination is Dublin Castle, a complex representing some of
the oldest surviving architecture in the city. The castle served as the center
of English power in Ireland for more than 700 years until 1922 when Dublin and
26 of the 32 Irish counties became the Irish Free State, now the Irish Republic.
as we entered
the historic building,
the rain and chill-filled day disappeared as we closed the massive
doors behind us and entered the
warmth of an ornate hall.
Our small tour group assembled, we followed our guide up a
grand staircase and into the history of the
castle, the city and the Republic of Ireland.
The castle and city get their name from the Dubh Linn or Black Pool. Situated on
the high ground,
the castle was built at the junction of the River Liffey and its
tributary — the now underground Black Pool — which formed a natural boundary. A
Danish Viking Fortress stood on the site in the 930s and was used as a military
base and trading
center in Ireland.
The Vikings were conquered by an Irish army
in 1014, but the victory was short-lived. The Normans invaded in
1169 and strengthened and expanded Dublin.
In 1204, King John of England took command of the castle to
defend the city, administer the government and protect its treasures.
Record Tower is the only remaining medieval tower,” our guide said. “It was used
as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in the time
of Henry VIII.”
Other towers, long gone, served as guard posts and
excellent vantage points for archers defending the castle. With time, the castle
changed and so did its many functions.
It was, however, always the center of the English colonial
administration and the official residence of royal representatives throughout
the ages. In 1565 — 30 years after Henry VIII brought the Reformation to Ireland
— Lord Deputy
Sidney moved his household into Dublin Castle. From then on the castle became
the control center of wars and religious persecution against the Irish
Chieftains and the Old English Catholics, many of Norman decent.
By the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign in 1603, all of
Ireland had been conquered and new English landholding, political and social
It would be more than 300 years before rebellion and war
would place power back in Irish hands.
The castle still plays its part in hosting heads of state
and leaders of business, industry and government. Ireland’s presidential
inaugurations have taken place here since 1945.
Building on centuries of information, our guide showed us
through state apartments, renovated in 1746. These rooms were once used by
members of the royal family and other dignitaries. The last person to stay in
the royal bedrooms was
Margaret Thatcher during the 1979
Another imposing room open for viewing is
Hall, a vast ballroom in which the presidential inaugurations take place.
The Throne Room, containing a throne from the reign of King
William III is
another beautifully adorned room.
I found the last part of the tour one of the most
interesting. Our guide took us underground to see first-hand the earliest
foundations of the castle where the city walls join the castle.
Here you can see an archway that allowed small boats
carrying provisions from larger boats moored on the river to bring supplies into
If you go:
The complex of buildings is open to the public, except
during state functions.
Dublin Castle is currently maintained by the
Office of Public Works
and houses the Revenue
For more information, check the website at
An excellent hotel, located in the heart of the city, near
major attractions and bus lines is The Merrion Hotel.
Just as you’ll feel like you’re being whisked away back in
time when you visit Dublin Castle, so too will you feel like royalty when you
stay at this 5 star hotel.
Ingeniously created by connecting four Georgian town
houses, the hotel is surrounded by ornate period gardens. Even during our winter
visit, the gardens were beautiful in their geometric and traditional designs.
Rooms and suites include the contemporary as well as
original rooms and suites capturing the grandeur of the Georgian Era with
delicate roccoco plasterwork and original marble fireplaces.
The hotel’s dining options include The Cellar Restaurant.
Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves traditional Irish cuisine
beneath its beautifully vaulted ceiling.
One of Ireland’s most award-winning restaurants, Restaurant
Patrick Guilbaud overlooks the hotel’s gardens.
The Merrion Hotel is close to several historic buildings
and public parks. From the hotel, it’s a short walk to The Royal Hibernian
Academy of Art in Ely Place and the adjacent St Stephen's Green with its lively
pubs, shops and restaurants. Grafton Street is close-by and offers the latest
For more information check the website at
For more information on additional attractions,
accommodations and restaurants, check the website at
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