Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
Our lockdown continues and the good news is that the restrictions are working and infection rates are falling. Its been tough on all of us coping with the 5 kilometre restriction and the shut down of retail and hospitality. Dublin city is like a ghost town. As I live less than 5 Kilometres from the city center I can stroll around the deserted streets, so come with me today to Dublin’s famous Temple Bar area.
Before we start , lets clear up any misunderstanding of the name : Its named after a sand bar that occurred long ago in the shallows of the nearby river Liffey , and not to be confused with the vast number of bars and cafe’s that now are located here !! Usually this place is heaving with tourists and visitors who enjoy coming to soak up the atmosphere in the narrow cobbled streets. In reality its one long narrow street that runs parallel to the river Liffey and the quays on one side and Dame Street on the other.
Lets walk the length , starting at Essex street and moving eastwards through Fleet street , and as we go along I will share some of the history and information with you .
Lets begin with the history … In medieval times, the name of the district was St. Andrews Parish. It was a suburb, located outside the city walls. But the area fell into disuse beginning in the 14th century because it was exposed to attacks by the native Irish.
The land was redeveloped again in the 17th century, to create gardens for the houses of wealthy English families. At that time the shoreline of the river Liffey ran further inland of where it lies today, along the line formed by Essex Street, Temple Bar and Fleet Street. Marshy land to the river side of this line was progressively walled in and reclaimed, allowing houses to be built upon what had been the shoreline.
The first mention of Temple Bar as the name of this street is in 1673, which shows the reclaimed land and new buildings. Other street names given nearby are Dammas Street ,now Dame Street, and Dirty Lane ,now Temple Lane South.
It is generally thought that the street known as Temple Bar got its name from the Temple family, whose progenitor Sir William Temple built a house and gardens there in the early 1600 and at one time was provost of nearby Trinity College . For years the neighbourhood was quite run down, and its only in the last 20 or so years that its undergone urban regeneration and has become one of the most popular places to visit in Dublin.
A narrow lane off Dame street will bring us to Essex street and the back door of the Clarence Hotel. As you may already know this property is owned by members of the band U2 ; so this is the spot that you might see one of the stars making a sneak getaway !! Lets stop at the brightly painted Snug bar … traditionally in old Ireland the pub stood as a general store, a bar and a meeting place. The Snug was usually a small room at the front of the building where the ladies could gather and have a quiet drink and social catch up. There was a discrete hatch connecting to the main bar so a drink or two could be easily obtained . Nowadays its the most sought after spot as you can often have the place to yourself and your friends!
Passing Smoking bones and Fitzsimons, lets stop outside the Norseman, established since 1696 and have a look at the well that was once the source of fresh water for the neighbourhood.
The area is the location of a number of cultural institutions, including the Irish Photography Centre incorporating the Dublin Institute of Photography, the Ark Children’s Cultural Centre, the Irish film institute incorporating the Irish film archive
the Button Factory, the Arthouse Multimedia Centre, Art galleries, and dance studio, the Project Arts centre , acting schools , bookshops and even the Irish stock exchange .
The next landmark is the Temple bar ; you will have seen this iconic image on postcards of Dublin. What a pity to see it closed and still decorated with Christmas ornaments .
The Quays bar has a lovely tiled façade and overlooks Temple Bar Square – now deserted . There are lots and lots of interesting restaurants including the Elephant and Castle, the Bad Ass café and the Quays . and for those of you feeling homesick there’s even one of those fast food outlets who’s name begins with “M”….
Let’s stroll past the merchants lane, that leads down to the Liffey , and next we will discover one of Temple Bars gems.. Rory’s fishing shop !! This is one of the fun things about Dublin. Rory’s has stood here long before the neighbourhood was popular , and will stay standing long afterwards . It has been known for years as a haven for anglers and fishermen and you can buy live bait , lures and all kinds of fishing paraphernalia !!
Lets have a look at brightly painted Brick Alley, The Auld Dubliner , and the Oliver St John Gogarty pubs, and imagine better days ahead when these places will be packed to the doors with music and laughter spilling out onto the streets .
This now brings us to Fleet street, and the end of our visit. Todays walk has been quite surreal; I have never before walked through temple bar to such emptiness and deafening silence . Its really strange to be able to hear our footsteps against the cobbled street . Let’s look forward to coming back when its in full swing ; but in the meantime I hope that you enjoyed coming along with me today.
With best wishes from Ireland, Stephen