Cultural conquistadors – see the best of Ireland in your car – sailing to Dublin with Stena Line

Posted on 14 December 2014
By Pierce King
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Slide off the ferry and you’re in the heart of the city. Cultural conquistadors, at the wheel of your car ready to take on the best that Dublin has to offer.

We we’re pleasantly surprised by how much fun there is to be had on the ferry. There’s a free cinema to help you while away some time, duty free shopping and an amazing offering of food and places to sit back and relax.

After enjoying the smooth passage from Holyhead to Dublin with Stena Line, we drove straight to the heart of the action.

No trip to the Emerald Isle’s capital could possibly be complete, or indeed be properly started without soaking up the sights, sounds and ample supping opportunities on offer in Temple Bar.

You would be troubled to call the shots on a top 5 must visit pub list in Temple Bar, as you literally trip over them every step you take, all equally as welcoming as each other.

But we we’re recommended to try the Porterhouse by a very affable and red-faced local who expressed a fierce fondness for the black stuff. So we made haste to taste their famous range of stouts and porter ales (other drinks are available).

And what a treat The Porterhouse, on Parliament Street, holds in store – namely their award winning stout, The Plain Porter (which was judged the world’s best stout). We can also strongly recommend the Red Ale and Oyster Stout (hic!).

This indie pub also had live music at it’s heart. A house band was playing a heady mix of heavy rock and sing along anthems, on a stage overhanging the main bar and playing to the many happy drinkers, tucked away in little secret spots hidden around corners as well as the party seekers throwing shapes on the dance floor.

We were so intoxicated and impressed by the drinks menu, we went back the next day to sample the food, which was on a par with the ale. Beware the ‘Big’ Porterhouse burger, which ram packs beef, smoked bacon, red cheddar, fried onions and mushrooms all into one bun.

But fermenting yeast and formidable food isn’t the only cultural offering to be found in Temple Bar.

We decided to shake off our over-indulgences and venture out into the cobbled streets again on Saturday and shortly we stumbled across a food market (serving an array of vegetarian fayre and plenty to keep meat eaters happy), which was surrounded by galleries.

The National Photographic Archive is currently playing host to an exhibition of striking images of Limerick from the 1970s called Shaped by History.

Featuring 85 black and white photographs of Limerick Milk Market, by the award winning social documentary photographer, Gerry Andrews. the exhibition captures Limerick Milk Market, which was founded in 1852, as the west of Ireland was emerging from the famines of the 1840’s.

But during the 1970’s, Limerick Milk Market was at a crossroads in its long history, as the region began transforming into a national and international model for development.

Gerry Andrews stunning, evocative and challenging portraits give a unique glimpse into the lives of the merchants, traders and characters of Limerick’s historic quarter at this turbulent time and was definitely a highlight of our exploration of Temple Bar

We also happened across a contemporary dance show at the Project Arts Centre called Casts and Conversations, which proved to be a world away from the live music offerings down the street at The Porterhouse. This intimate theatre plays host to all kind of shows and is worth checking out: http://projectartscentre.ie/

Thankfully, when a rest from the many delights on offer was needed, we were staying right in the middle of the action, in the highly comfortable surroundings of one of Dublin’s top boutique hotels, The Morgan on Fleet Street.

The Morgan is a haven of peaceful serenity away from the maddening crowds in the heart of Temple Bar. The rooms are a stylish, minimalist chic affair, with attention to detail in all the places which really matter. Boasting massive beds and a luxurious shower (with a double head).

We cannot sing the praises of the hotel’s wonderful staff enough, who made our trip all the more relaxed and memorable, with great insider knowledge and suggestions of places to visit.

Their hearty breakfast buffet, with healthy options as well as the full Irish treatment, set us up for full days of exploring the city. But we also enjoyed The Morgan’s cocktail bar during the early evening, their mixologists make an Old Fashioned to rival any you might find in New York.

The hotel is currently running special offers on Christmas shopping breaks. For more details visit: http://www.themorgan.com/

When you need something a little stronger to help combat the after effects of a lingering two day hangover, you should seek out a cappuccino at the nearby INK Factory.

These days no city break is complete without tracking down the best independent coffee shops on offer. But this caffeine bar is home to more than just skilled baristas. You can also get a haircut and even a tattoo while you sip down a proper cup of Joe.

We didn’t go for the ink, but did grab a double espresso before we set off for the return ferry trip – which gave us the luxury of extra time in Dublin as the port is just a fifteen minute drive away.

With no fuss in terms of boarding, we were sat on deck recounting our amazing adventure within the hour and will definitely be making a Stena ferry the way to visit Ireland from now on.

Visit Stena Line’s website www.stenaline.co.uk or call them direct on 08447 707070 and book your trip to Ireland today from as little as £69 single, car and driver.