Dublin much? Ireland’s Eye

I have saved the best for last in this series from our weekend in Dublin; today we take a look at Ireland’s Eye, a small uninhabited island off the coast of Howth.

There are tourist boats regularly from the West Pier in Howth, and some take you around the island – like we did, and some take you to the island so you can go ashore and hike and explore the island. These boats operate during the summer months.

The most spectacular feature of Ireland’s Eye is the huge freestanding rock called “the Stack”, at the northeastern corner of the island, which plays host to a large variety of seabirds. Grey seals are abundant in the sea around the island.

The island does not really resemble an eye in shape, so to find the reason for the name we just might have to look to the ol’ Vikings again. The Celts called the island Eria’s Island. Eria was a woman’s name and this became confused with Erin, derived from Éireann, the Irish name for Ireland. Then came the Vikings and substituted the word Island with the Norse equivalent, Ey, thus it became known as Erin’s Ey – and ultimately Ireland’s Eye.

On the island you can clearly see the ruins of a Martello tower – a small circular defensive fort. These type of forts typically had a garrison of one officer and 15-25 men. Thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, reaching a complete 360° circle.

Right by the beach, there are also the ruins of an 8th-century church (the Church of the Three Sons of Nessan) – and it functioned as a parish church for Howth until recent centuries. Imagine having to row over in a boat for every service – in all sorts of weather, year round! I’d say you’d have to be rather passionate about your god to do that today. Due to this limitation it was eventually replaced by a church in the village. The church and the Martello tower are the only signs of previous habitation.

Naturally, this island has seen a lil’ action, with Celts, Vikings and Normans and in September 1852 it even saw murder: Sarah Maria Louisa Kirwan was killed on the island, and her husband, William Burke Kirwan, was convicted of the ill doing. Although later sources claim that Sarah had drowned accidentally as a result of a fit.

I will stop rambling now, and this post marks the end of my series from Dublin – a wonderful weekend with lots of fun and interesting sites, and quite a few exquisite views. Ireland comes highly recommended by me and Sir Nerdalot, and we do plan on returning for a longer stay. As tourists with an appetite for city life and the friendly pubs, rural views and historic sites, it becomes clear that Ireland is the island that keeps on giving.

If you are interested, make sure you see my previous posts from Dublin, Ireland, there are lots of pictures and quite a few historic facts:

An Irishman goes into a bar…

Beef and Guinness Stew (English)

Dublin much? Viking legacy

Dublin much? Slainte!

Dublin Much? St. Stephens Green and the Easter Rising

Dublin much? Sightseeing

Dublin much? Howth


Dublin much? Howth

Just a quick train ride away from Dublin (30-40 minutes) on the DART, you find wonderful Howth. This village and outer suburb of Dublin was originally just a small fishing village on the peninsula of Howth Head. To get there is easy enough, just go to the train station, buy a ticket in the kiosk and get on the train.

Did you think we were done with the Vikings yet? Well, wrong you are! The name of this beautiful village, Howth, is thought to be of Norse origin, perhaps derived from the Old Norse Hǫfuð (head in English). The Vikings invaded Howth in 819, and after the Vikings were defeated in 1014 (read more about that HERE), many fled to Howth to regroup and remained a force until their final defeat in the middle of the 11th century.

Being rather isolated, Howth fell to the Normans in 1177 and one of the victorious Normans, Armoricus (or Almeric) Tristam, was granted much of the land in the area. He built a castle near the harbor and he was granted the title Baron of Howth by Henry II of England in 1181, for one Knight’s fee (a piece of land sufficient to support a knight). Although it is not the same castle Almeric built, there is a castle in Howth. I did not get to see Howth Castle, for which I am most sorry, but I will use that as an excuse to return to Howth (Not that anyone really needs an excuse for returning to this gem of a place!)

Now we are getting to the whole point of telling you about a castle I did not get any photos of:

There is a popular tale of the “The Sea Queen of Connacht”, or Gráinne O’Malley (c.1530 – c.1603), who was chieftain of the Ó Máille clan in the west of Ireland. Upon her father’s death, she inherited his large shipping and trading business, and I do not know if this business in reality was piracy, but according to the tale Gráinne O’Malley was a Pirate. In either case, we are not talking about a dainty, fragile little princess here.
Anyhow, the tale is that this female chieftain and pirate were rebuffed in 1576 while attempting a courtesy visit to Howth Castle. This must have ticked her off, as she retaliated by abducting the Earl’s grandson and heir, and as ransom she extracted a promise that unanticipated guests would never be turned away again, and that Deer Park would never be closed to the public again. To this day, the gates to Deer Park remain open, and an extra place is set for unexpected guests at the castle during formal dinners in the dining room.

I guess it was a big deal to have the British Monarchs visiting, as the footprints of King George IV was recorded for posterity at Howth’s West Pier. This is where he first set foot on Irish soil in August 1821. Supposedly he arrived on his 59th birthday, and was “in very high spirits”. (I am wondering if he needed help to stand upright, as my knowledge of royals in high spirits usually means that they have gotten way down in the happy-juice.)

In my post from St. Stephens Green in Dublin, I wrote about the Easter Rising; many of the rifles the Irish Volunteers used against the British, may have come from a shipment of 900 rifles that were landed at Howth on 26 July 1914.

Even this picturesque little village has seen some action, and I have only referred a little bit of the history above. Today it is a very popular tourist site, and the west Pier is lined with seafood merchants and restaurants. They also have a little market that is fun to visit. When you come to Howth, make sure you bring your camera!

I will end my Dublin much? – series with pictures from Ireland’s eye – so check back later!

And while you wait, make sure you check out my previous posts from Ireland:

An Irishman goes into a bar…

Beef and Guinness Stew (English)

Dublin much? Viking legacy

Dublin much? Slainte!

Dublin Much? St. Stephens Green and the Easter Rising

Dublin much? Sightseeing



Dublin much? Sightseeing

A weekend goes by way too fast, and in the limited time we had – choices had to be made. We absolutely love museums and historic sites, but the weather was nice and we really didn’t want to spend all day standing in lines and touring indoors museums. The only way we could solve this dilemma was by promising ourselves that we will return and see what we opted away this weekend.

So we took a stroll on the sidewalks of Dublin and took in the atmosphere, popping in and out of stores that caught our attention, lunched and dined at pubs and enjoyed the live music, and we took a round on the hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing buses. In short – we had a lovely time without getting deep into any of the sights.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland. Christ Church Cathedral is the elder of Dublin’s two medieval cathedrals. Have to admit, I think I have the pictures of the two all mixed up.

St Audoen’s Roman Catholic Church, built between 1841 and 1847 . The church is now home to the Polish chaplaincy in Ireland.


Just to confuse me, there is another St Audoen’s Church adjacent to the Roman Catholic one above, but this one is in the Church of Ireland.  Erected in 1190, St Audoen’s is the oldest parish church in Dublin and still used as such.

Then you have the John’s Lane Church, opened in 1874 on the site of St. John’s Hospital (founded 1180). This church is served by the Augustinian Order.

St Patrick’s Tower. I must admit I was very curious what this was, I figured it was either  a drying tower or an old windmill in connection with the Guinness brewery, and it turns out I wasn’t too far off.

The next set of pictures speaks for themselves; The Guinness Storehouse:

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Heuston railway station, opened on 4 August 1846


Wellington Testimonial, an obelisk located in the Phoenix Park, built to commemorate the victories of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (“Iron Duke”) The structure is 62 metres (203 ft) tall, making it the largest obelisk in Europe.

“The Floozy in the Jacuzzi” – or (said with a heavy Irish accent) “The Whore in the Sewer”.

The Ha’penny Bridge, or officially the Liffey Bridge, is a pedestrian bridge built in May 1816 over the River Liffey.

The ONLY store Sir Nerdalot enjoyed: Games Workshop

The Spire of Dublin, is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 121.2 meters (398 ft.) in height. Irish humor being great, they have of course given this monument nicknames: The Stiffy at the Liffey, The Erection at the Intersection and The Stiletto in the Ghetto


Of course, no one goes to Dublin without noticing Trinity College! Founded in 1592, it is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, and also Ireland’s oldest university.

This is a statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone (20 June 1763 – 19 November 1798), a leading Irish revolutionary figure and one of the founding members of the United Irishmen. Tone is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism and leader of the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

Now, the semicircular set of pillars surrounding Wolfe Tone, of course sets the Irish mood here – as the place is nicknamed the Tone-Henge.


Temple Bar is the cultural quarter of Dublin and has a very lively nightlife. Actually I found it quite lively at daytime too. Very enjoyable!

Grafton Street was the fifth most expensive main shopping street in the world in 2008.

The Ace with the Base, Phil Lynott, founding member, the principal songwriter, lead vocalist and bassist of Thin Lizzy


The River Liffey flows through the center of Dublin

The Memorial to Daniel O’Connell (6 August 1775 – 15 May 1847), often referred to as The Liberator or The Emancipator. He was a political leader and campaigned for Catholic emancipation and repeal of the Act of Union.

Before I leave you with some random pictures from Dublin, I just have to mention one of my favorite authors; Roddy Doyle. He is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter, and is notable for his heavy use of dialogue written in slang and Irish English dialect. He is super witty! Have you seen the movie The Commitments? Sure you have. He wrote it!

Just some random pictures, looks like I was fascinated with the Georgian houses:

For my next two posts from our Dublin-weekend, we venture out of town. There are some fab photos in store for you, so check back later!

And while you wait, make sure you check out my previous posts from Ireland:

An Irishman goes into a bar…

Beef and Guinness Stew (English)

Dublin much? Viking legacy

Dublin much? Slainte!

Dublin Much? St. Stephens Green and the Easter Rising


Dublin Much? St. Stephens Green and the Easter Rising

Remember in my post Dublin much? Viking legacy where I said it would take 7 centuries for Ireland to regain control over their own country? Although defeated by the British, the Easter Rising is still an important part of the path to Irish independence, and in many respects it marks the start of said path. And it happened right here in Dublin, some of it at St. Stephens Green:

St Stephen’s Green (Irish: Faiche Stiabhna) is a public park in the city center of Dublin, adjacent to one of Dublin’s main shopping streets, Grafton Street. It is a beautifully landscaped park, adorned with beautiful works of art and statues.

During the Easter Rising of 1916, a group of insurgents (numbering between 200 and 250 men) established a position in St Stephen’s Green. They established road blocks on the surrounding streets by the use of confiscated motor vehicles, and they dug defensive positions in the park. Elsewhere in the city they would take up positions in buildings, and this different approach in the park would turn out to be not so smart, as elements of the British Army took up positions in a hotel at the northeastern corner of St Stephens Green, from where they could shoot down into the entrenchments. The Irish volunteers withdrew from their weak position in the park to the Royal College of Surgeons on the west side of the Green.

Somewhere, sometime, there just has to be a clever Quiz Master, who poses a question that can be answered with the following bit of information And when he does, you’ll be prepared. You are welcome!

During the Rising, fire was temporarily halted to allow the park’s grounds man to feed the local ducks.

Now, what was the Easter Rising?

The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection in Ireland, and as the name suggests it took place during Easter week, April 1916. Irish republicans launched the Rising to end British Rule in Ireland and to establish an independent Irish Republic while the UK was heavily engaged in WW1. The Easter Rising was the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period.

The Rising began on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, and lasted for six days. Members of the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The British Army brought in thousands of reinforcements as well as artillery and a gunboat. There was fierce street fighting, sniping and long-range gun battles. The main rebel positions were gradually surrounded and bombarded with artillery. Germany sent an arms shipment to the rebels, but the British intercepted it just before the Rising began. (I can’t help but think of how history may have turned out even worse had the rebels succeeded by the aid of Germany – getting too cozy with the Germans in those days might have ended even more catastrophically for the Irish people than the turmoil and terror that followed the Easter Rising) With much greater numbers and heavier weapons, the British Army suppressed the Rising, and after the surrender the country remained under martial law. Following courts-martial, most of the leaders of the Rising were executed.

Two and a half years later, in December 1918, the republican Sinn Féin party won a landslide victory in the general election to the British Parliament. Instead of taking their seats in the British Parliament, they convened the First Dáil and declared the independence of the Irish Republic, which then led to the War of Independence.

I will end this post with one of my favorite Irish bands; the Cranberries. This particular song, Zombie, was inspired by the IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire, England in 1993 where two children were killed. Although this radical bombing was about removing British troops from Northern Ireland, lead singer Dolores O’Riordan claims that the song speaks about “The Irish fight for independence that seems to last forever.” Looking at the lyrics you also see that “It’s the same old theme since 1916.”

It has also been speculated that this song, this call for peace between Ireland and England, is what made the IRA declare a ceasefire just a few weeks after the song was released in 1994 (in order to make sure the Cranberries didn’t release any more songs about them.) I personally have my doubts that such is the case, on the other hand; one should never underestimate the powers in great music and a strong, political message delivered by a fantastic lead singer:

 Make sure you check out my previous posts from Ireland:

An Irishman goes into a bar…

Beef and Guinness Stew (English)

Dublin much? Viking legacy

Dublin much? Slainte!

Dublin much? Viking legacy


Dublin (Irish: Baile Átha Cliath) is the largest city of Ireland with its population of 1345000, and also the capital. Now, we cannot get around the Vikings when visiting Dublin. Nope, we just can’t do it! These pesky Scandinavian pirates were everywhere!


In 795 AD the Vikings descended upon Ireland after crossing the seas in their longships. Who knows, maybe some of the ships from the Viking Ship Museum has been anchored along the beautiful coast of Ireland? The Scandinavian pirates – as they were – attacked monasteries and isolated settlements, burning, looting and pillaging in search of gold and treasure. They killed many locals,  and took captive others to sell as slaves. For nearly 35 years they launched assaults all around the coast of Ireland, and as if that wasn’t enough, around the year 830AD, these smaller raids were replaced by vast assault fleets of 50 ships or more. The fleets appeared at the mouths of Ireland’s great rivers, the shallow draft of their elegant ships allowed them to row into the interior, sacking the great monasteries.

Within a decade, these invaders began to build permanent bases on the island in fortified harbors, called longphorts, allowing them to protect their ships and ride out the dangerous winterstorms that made sailing risky. Over time, the longphorts became places of trade and commerce, and the first true towns in Ireland. Soon goods from all over Europe made their way into Viking towns like Dublin.

By the end of the tenth century, Viking powers were on the wane. In 1014 a large Viking army was defeated at the battle of Clontarf, an event often used to mark the end of the Viking era in Ireland. The true Irish legacy of the Vikings was their establishment of the great coastal towns that would grow to be major cities, but it is their image as vicious raiders from the sea that has captured the popular imagination.

Ireland now reverted to a state of near constant warfare between the various territorial kings. Into this power struggle came the infamous Diarmait Mac Murchada, who were driven out of Ireland by his rivals, one whose wife Diarmait had kidnapped (and returned unharmed) 15 years earlier. In a decision that would have drastic consequences for the future of the island, Diarmait sought aid from Henry II, King of England. Henry was busy fighting in Aquitaine, France, and had no men to spare, so he authorized Diarmait to recruit allies among his Anglo-Norman nobility. That was a bad move! Over the next few years, Diarmait and his Norman allies invaded Ireland in waves. And what do you know, the Normans were also descendants of the fierce Vikings. (Told you – they were everywhere!) 

After Diarmaits death in 1171, via a joint allied, the control of Ireland now lay with Henry II. It would be seven centuries before control of Ireland was even partially recovered. How the Irish regained control of their own country will be covered in a later post. So check back for more!


While you wait for my next post from Ireland, check out these prevous posts:

An Irishman goes into a bar…

Beef and Guinness Stew (English)


Beef and Guinness Stew (English)

(Click the link for the Norwegian version of this recipe: Beef and Guinness Stew (Norsk) )

As some of you may have read in An Irishman goes into a bar…, Sir Nerdalot and I gifted each other a weekend in Dublin, Ireland, and I promised pictures and posts from said trip.


Beef and Guinness Pie at the East Side Tavern

We left Denmark on the year’s warmest day, 32 ºC, and arrived in Dublin in nice and sunny weather and 10 º C less. Quite pleasant. After checking in at the hotel, we went for a walk towards town and found a great place to have dinner, the East Side Tavern, where we had the most delicious Beef and Guinness Pie, a dish that I just had to try to recreate. Mind you, Old Mamasan has great technical difficulties with piecrust, so I opted for a stew instead.

The Beef and Guinness stew is so delicious that it will knock yer socks off and leave a twinkle in your eyes! The Guinness adds an incredible depth to the dish. And what could be easier then to plop all ingredients in one pot and stick in in the oven to cook for 3 hours? Now that leaves you three hours to do something else – like reading my blog.

eclectic-prints-and-postersBeef and Guinness Stew

  • 4 bay leaves
  • 500 g quality diced stewing beef
  • 1,5 tins Guinness (1/2 tin for the cook)
  • 4 sticks celery
  • 2 large onions
  • 5-6  carrots
  • olive oil
  • 2 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sugar to taste (might not be necessary at all)

Jamie Oliver does not brown his meat before cooking this dish, but I chose to do so. I guess that is just an old habit of mine. So the first thing I did was turn the oven on at 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Then I browned my meat in a large, oven safe casserole in some oil – while preparing the vegetables; peel and roughly chop the onions and carrots.

With the casserole pan on medium heat, add the vegetables and the bay leaves with 2 lugs of olive oil and fry for about 10 minutes.

Add the flour and pour in the Guinness and tinned tomatoes. Give it a good stir and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil, put the lid on and either let it simmer slowly on your hob or – as I did – cook it in the oven for 2,5 hours.

After 2,5 hours, take the lid off and taste. If it is too acidic from the tomatoes, then you add a little sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Also if the gravy is too runny for your taste then you leave the lid off for the last 30 minutes of cooking. If it is just perfect, then put the lid back on and let it continue to simmer for 30 minutes more.

Remember to take the bay leaves out before you serve. Serve with mashed potatoes, or eat it as is. You can also add some delish dumplings, if that is to your liking. This pot of yumm is surprisingly healthy, especially if you refrain from adding large quantities of double cream to your mashed potatoes.

Now, there IS alcohol in this dish. Many believe that the alcohol disappears when cooked, but that is a myth. The percentage of alcohol retained in the finished dish varies depending on cooking method and time. As this dish has been slow cooked for 3 hours, about 5 % of the alcohol remains in the dish. So very little of the alcohol you put in remains, and you didn’t put much into the stew in the first place, Guinness contains 4,2 % alcohol. Then this gets mixed with the other ingredients and you do not eat this whole thing by yourself in one go. We are three big eaters in this household, and we had two full dinners from this one pot of goodness. Eat yourself drunk on this stew? Nah, not gonna happen.