The safe way to staycation in Dublin this mid-term
From family hotel breaks to grown-up treats, outdoor activities to socially distanced culture
A Liffey trip with City Kayaking, Dublin
The usual Halloween great escape won’t happen in 2020; with restrictions in place, this October bank holiday weekend and mid-term break will see people stay put within their counties.
But lest you think that means a week of fractious cooped-up angst, think again. Dubliners alone have options from hill walking to horse riding, architecture to art, family fun and frivolous fabulousness. This is a guide to what to see and do in Ireland’s capital county, while still keeping everyone safe and well.
Remember it’s not just all about following the rules. While all our suggestions here are in line with current recommendations at time of publication, staying safe is also about using your sense and judgment. If a situation or space looks crowded, or if people aren’t wearing masks, just come back another time when you can keep your distance.
Not used to being on holidays in your own home town? Take a tip from the tourists and check out visitdublin.com and dublintown.ie for updates on what’s running and where. After all, as a friend said: “Go for it, it’s going to be an unique winter!”
Taking in a stretch of coastline from Balbriggan and Skerries, all the way south to Dalkey and Killiney, with Howth on the way, you can still hit the beaches for a windy walk. Wrap up warm, bring a ball and get ready to blow the cobwebs away. Check out the very useful website, beaches.ie, where you can search Dublin beaches, including tide times, water quality and more.
Or go inland for a wealth of parks, including the vast open resource that is Phoenix Park – did you know it’s more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park? Stroll, sit and picnic or visit the Zoo, which is open for booked tickets at dublinzoo.ie. Tickets from €13.05, under-threes go free.
For a different kind of wildlife spotting, Dublin City Council has a series of brilliant native tree trails aimed at families, that are free to download for parks including Bushy Park, Herbert Park, St Anne’s Park and Tolka Valley Park. See dublincity.ie.
The lovely Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin are also open, including the café – for takeaway only, and while the glasshouses are currently closed, a one-way system will guide you safely through the autumn colours. Admission free, botanicgardens.ie.
Passionate about ponies? Or maybe you know a smallie who is? Carrickmines Equestrian Centre is handily just off the M50, and in a great spot in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. No experience necessary, and all levels and abilities are catered for. Lessons from €35 (for children) must be booked in advance on 01 2955990, carrickminesequestrian.ie.
Kayak the Liffey (pets optional)
Explore Dublin from the water with City Kayaking on the Liffey. Guided tours run mid week, and at the weekend, you can rent your own kayak to explore the bridges and quays for a two hour trip. From €25. Believe it or not, pets (within reason) go free – dog lifejackets included, citykayaking.com.
Pack a picnic
You’ll need a waterproof groundsheet, or a convenient bench, but with suitable vests and socks, mittens and hats, the arrival of autumn shouldn’t stop play when it comes to al fresco snacks. Browse for treats at swanky spots such as Fallon and Byrne (fallonandbyrne.com), or get takeaway on the Southside from Blackrock’s Fable and Stey on Newtown Park (call 01 561 0382). Click and collect a range of salad bowls, breakfast baps, boxty and eggs, sweet treats and more from Cloud Picker Café on Pearse Street (cloudpickercoffee.ie).
In fact, so many of Dublin’s brilliant restaurants and cafés are keeping themselves going on take aways at the moment, check out your own favourites to see what’s on the menu and support their endeavours. PS: remember to take ALL your rubbish home.
A feast of art
The public cultural institutions may be closed, but Dublin’s private (ie selling) art galleries are classified as retail, so you can still get your fill of art – and buy some too, should you happen to fall in love. All are operating safety protocols, and some may require booking in advance, so check websites before you head off on your art safari. Catch Bridget Flannery at Solomon Fine Art (closes October 24th), and then John Behan (opens October 30th), solomonfineart.ie. Across Grafton Street, Kerlin Gallery on Anne’s Lane have an exhibition of 10 painters, including Nano Reid, Brian Maguire, Merlin James and Isabel Nolan, until November 21st, kerlingallery.com. Then walk over to Molesworth Street, where the Molesworth Gallery is showing Francis Matthews’s atmospheric city paintings, which are like taking a walking tour within the gallery. Until October 30th, molesworthgallery.com.
With the usually teeming streets of the city centre now relatively quiet, you can actually get a chance to appreciate some of the city’s lovely architecture. It’s just like Sundays used to be. Join up with one of Dublin Decoded’s walking tours – limited to 15 people – to discover the stories behind what’s out there. You can also request a private tour. Or gen up in advance with a Tuesday Zoom session, and then impress the family with your depth of knowledge. The one on October 27th covers the intriguing histories of Blackpitts, the Coombe and Cork Street, taking in medieval ruins and underground rivers, and more. For adults and “interested” teenagers from €14, dublindecoded.com. Stay tuned in December for kid-friendly treasure hunts.
Art in the parks
The parks of Dublin are stuffed full of sculpture, some of it, frankly, better than others. You can download an Art in Parks guide for free from Dublin City Council to see what you’re looking at. Admittedly, it hasn’t been updated since 2014 but, from Fairview Park to the Croppies Acre Memorial Park, the Blessington Street Basin to Sandymount Green, it’s a good primer for those “what is that?!” moments. Dublincity.ie.
The gorgeous ghouls at the Bram Stoker Festival have come up with all sorts of spookily safe ways to enjoy the Halloween weekend, running from October 30th to November 2nd. With frightening thrills for all ages, try Curse Hunters, an interactive adventure game, played through our phone or tablet.
Or what about Warmbloods? A darkly comic audio tour of the National Gallery, from the comfort of your own home. Definitely not for the kids, or for the fainthearted, Eternal is a 20-minute audio experience to “enjoy” while lying in bed, musing on eternal life . . . Ready for your home to be “turned into a house of horror”? Sometimes I think it may already have been. Bramstokerfestival.com.
Wholesome fairy fun and more is on tap at Malahide Castle, where you can explore the grounds, and take in the Fairy Trail, including access to the Walled Garden and Butterfly House. Plus you get an interactive trail booklet so that, presumably, not a single fairy will go untrailed. Booking essential, from €5 for children, with family tickets for two adults and two children at €22. Castle tours are currently suspended, but you can also visit the public park at the castle for free. See malahidecastleandgardens.com.
A trip to a hotel is not to be undertaken lightly, and while rules allow it at time of publication, particular care must be taken here to ensure the safety of yourself, your loved ones and those around you. Levels of vigilance can vary from one establishment to another and even from one staff member to another, so caution is advised in your personal behaviour regarding distancing, hand cleaning and mask wearing.
Avoid bickering when trick or treat is cancelled, by booking the Brooks Hotel Trick or Treat and Movie Magic Package. Stay one night, including dinner and breakfast, bubbly for the grown-ups, and private use of the screening room for your own movie choice. From €245. Children under 12 free. Book your screening time in advance, brookshotel.ie.
Dublin’s Hard Rock Hotel has just been shortlisted as one of the best New Hotels in Europe, and their Dublin for Dubliners package rocks. Share your musical preferences when booking and the hotel’s “vibe manager” (seriously) will have curated a personalised playlist for your room. And if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play guitar or maybe just brush up on your skills, you can select a Fender guitar from the in-house guitar menu and follow the special tutorial on your in-room entertainment system with an amp and headphones to turn it up to eleven. Includes dinner, bed and breakfast. Plus when you book this package you get another room free (room only). From €250, hardrockhotels.com/dublin.
The Clayton Hotel on Cardiff Lane in Dublin’s city centre has a fab 22m swimming pool, and a tasty Family Pizza package. Two adults and two children (under 12) can enjoy pizzas with garlic bread and ice cream (though one assumes not at the same time), soft drinks, and wine for the adults. From €159 per room. If you ditch the under-12s or don’t have them in the first place, €159pps gets you a pamper package, including afternoon tea with bubbles, dinner, plus a spa treatment, claytonhotelcardifflane.com.
Right at the foot of Killiney Hill, Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel has walks galore on your doorstep. Stroll down the hill to Dalkey in one direction, and the sea in the other, or up the hill for a kids’ playground, plus insanely beautiful views. Or just stay in the hotel to enjoy the swimming pool, gym and more (must be booked). Mid-term packages with two or three nights in a family room, with breakfast, and dinner on one evening, from €210 per night. See fitzpatrickcastle.com.
More “movie madness” comes from the Conrad; €399 per night gets you dinner, bed and breakfast in a family room. Kids eat for free, and can join the Free Spooky Cupcake workshop with chef Brizaida. Plus you get a private movie night in the Iveagh Suite (set up as a private cinema), and a treasure hunt. See hilton.com/en/hotels/dubhcci-conrad-dublin.
Moments Missed is a lovely idea from the Castleknock Hotel, where you can celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, date nights or other special occasions that may have passed you by in all the calamity. Packages start at €195 for two, including dinner, bed and breakfast, plus celebratory treats such as balloons, bubbles and cake. And they’ve a swimming pool too. Castleknockhotel.com.
Stay coastal at The Grand Hotel in Malahide, where the Fall into Winter mid-week dining special gives you bed, breakfast and €50 towards your dinner, from just €65 pps. Upgrade to a sea view from just €20. Or, opt for the midweek family breaks form just €110 and kids go free. See thegrand.ie.
The Shoreline Hotel in Donabate has a midterm dinner, bed and breakfast family getaway for two adults and two children sharing a family room, and includes an hour’s bowling session (must be booked). From €219, shorelinehotel.ie.
While you’re there, check out lovely Newbridge Family Farm, which despite the name is not in Kildare. Meet the animals including Shetland and Connemara ponies, pigs, goats, rabbits and more, and wander the gardens and paddocks until its time for tea. From €5 children, €8 adults. Booking essential. Newbridgehouseandfarm.com.
A different Dublin for Dubliners package comes from Clontarf Castle, where you can enjoy the delights of the 12th century castle, with chocolates on arrival, plus dinner, bed and breakfast from €160. You’re in the perfect spot to explore the walk along the pier to Bull Island and Dollymount Strand. See clontarfcastle.ie.
Walk the pier in Dun Laoghaire, nose around the shops, and enjoy the stroll along Sandycove seafront from the Royal Marine Hotel. The Fall into Winter package starts at €99 for two sharing, with full breakfast, plus a dining credit of €10, and use of the swimming pool (must be booked). Available midweek. Or take a two-night family stay, for two adults and two children under eight in a family room, with breakfast and dinner for the grown ups on one night. From €270 total stay. Royalmarine.ie.
Super handy for the shops, the very charming Trinity Townhouse is just a stroll from Grafton Street, and starts at €120 per night. During midterm, if you book two nights, you get a third for free. Trinitytownhousehotel.com.
I once didn’t recognise Brad Pitt at The Clarence. Since then, the hotel has had quite the makeover, and if candy coloured retro is your thing, check into a deluxe double, where €125 pps includes afternoon tea with a cocktail on arrival, and breakfast (in the morning, obviously). See theclarence.ie.
Say what you like about his Dublin Corporation Offices on Wood Quay, architect Sam Stephenson made a very tasty gaff for himself at No 31, just off Leeson Street. Enjoy an overnight stay and breakfast for €144 per night, or upgrade to sleep in Sam’s Room itself (I think the bed has been changed since his day), with a cocktail cart sent to your room, plus a Voya seaweed soak in the mosaic tiled bath. From €280 bed and breakfast, number31.ie.
Fall on The Wilder Side at The Wilder includes bed, breakfast and seasonal cocktails on arrival – either in the Gin and Tea Rooms or brought to your room if preferred. Close to the Iveagh Gardens and St Stephen’s Green, it’s a super spot to get away from it all in the heart of everything. From €150 per room, thewilder.ie.
Just off Merrion Square, and round the corner from St Stephen’s Green, The Merrion is gorgeous year-round. The Five Star Steal includes one night in a luxurious double room, a bottle of champagne on arrival, dinner, and breakfast for €175 pps. Or opt for the Seven Star Steal, which includes dinner in Ireland’s first ever two-Michelin-star restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud’s, for €225pps. Merrionhotel.com.
Get into pure pampering at Eden One. You can book spa treatments from €75, or go north, price-wise, for full-day packages. Want to access the infinity pool, or the “vitality pool separated by a ribbon of dancing fire”? Apply for membership at edenone.ie.
If date night seems impossible right now, and if he or she is really worth it, go super-luxe at The Shelbourne with their Chauffeur and Champagne Stay. If you live within the M50, you’ll get a limo pick-up, with two snipes of champagne waiting for you in the car. At the hotel, have dinner for two, with wine, do whatever inspires upstairs, and then come down for breakfast the next morning. You’ll even get brought back home again. From €499 per room. Call the hotel directly on 01 6634500.