Is it an insider secret if everyone knows?
The Secret Sites groups on Facebook promises to give the sort of insider tips a regular travel guide can’t deliver, writes FIONOLA MEREDITHWHETHER IT’S the best place to eat dim sum in Dublin, or where to find a beekeeping course in Belfast, two new online groups offer a place for people to share the hidden gems of their native cities.
Secret Dublin and Secret Belfast have popped up on Facebook recently and have already attracted thousands of members, keenly swapping details about their favourite haunts. New arrivals Secret Cork and Secret Galway are now up and running too.
In the Dublin group, a debate is raging about the best pints on offer, with the Goblet in Artane, Hogan’s in Fade Street and the Gravediggers in Glasnevin all up for consideration. Other requests for insider knowledge are remarkably specific: one subscriber is keen to find an Italian restaurant that offers both authentically thin-crust Neapolitan pizza and a decent caprese salad (Ciao Bella Roma on Parliament Street is worth a try, apparently).
Although food and drink feature heavily, there are other, more tantalisingly obscure recommendations. One person describes a laneway across from George’s Street Arcade in the city centre where “you can climb up on top of buildings and walk down George’s Street along the rooftops. It’s a little bit dangerous but worth it,” he says, before adding (rather superfluously), “don’t tell anyone”.
Phil Riordan (26), creator of the Secret Dublin group, says that while there are plenty of tourist or event guides around, “they are all written by someone who is trying to sell you something. But with Secret Dublin, there is no vested interest. It’s a community kind of approach, it’s all about sharing, which seems especially appropriate at the minute during the times we’re in.”
The groups take their inspiration from the original Secret London Facebook group, set up two months ago by 21-year-old Tiffany Philippou, as part of a competition for summer placements with advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi.
It’s easy to see why these sites are so popular. Everyone loves to share secrets about places they love, and there’s a definite satisfaction in tipping people off about that perfect little backstreet pub frequented only by a handful of those “in the know”. But therein lies the flaw. As Secret Dublin member Michael Lemass asks, “is it still a secret with 4,800 members?”
Publicising some events may scupper them altogether. Clare Palmer, who has successfully run fire-dancing gatherings in Crescent Park, south Belfast for the last five years, has now been informed by the city council that she must desist, after the event was highlighted on Secret Belfast.
Sometimes, it seems, hidden gems are better kept that way.
SECRET DUBLIN:St Werburgh’s Church, Werburgh Street. This often overlooked 12th century church is the 1798 burial place of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, commander in chief of the United Irishmen. Jonathan Swift was baptised here.
SECRET BELFAST: Craft Workshop, 29 Wellington Place. The brainchild of local woman Emma Gilles, you can get your hair done, listen to up-and-coming bands and DJs, have a bowl of stew, and browse all kinds of unusual crafts
SECRET CORK: Kayak at Night. Tours that gives a different perspective on the lit-up city, as you glide beneath the bridges over the River Lee.