Dublin might seem a surprising choice for a day trip from London, until you realise just how quick and easy it actually is. I was fortunate to try out the new Aer Lingus London Heathrow to Dublin route recently, as well as The Merrion Hotel’s innovative Art Tea, enjoying Dublin in a day.
I met my fellow travellers at Heathrow‘s spanking new Terminal 2, which really is a pleasure to travel through. Bright and airy, it’s invested in the latest technology. There was no queue at the electronic ticket gate and we swiftly passed through into Departures and made our way to the Aer Lingus lounge. It’s a spacious and well designed place with separate quiet zones and great views over the runway. The buffet was well stocked, though no hot dishes were on offer. In no time at all, we were boarding – in fact there are flights almost every hour. All the cabin crew were Irish and very friendly, plus the seats were a reasonable size. I admired the exceptional weather conditions and the fluffiest of clouds.
Flights to Dublin are only 1 hour and 15 minutes long, howeve we actually arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule, also at Terminal 2. We only queued for a few minutes at Customs and then it was a speedy
transfer to the centre of Dublin. It’s changed a lot since I was last here, and they’re extending the Luas tram system so some of the roads have been dug up. What sets Dublin apart is the number of attractive Georgian buildings. Our first port of call, Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen, is housed in one of these, below The Little Museum of Dublin on St Stephen’s Green. We tucked into some really tasty sandwiches, washed down with Irish tea.
We then headed to the Little Museum, named the best museum in Ireland by The Irish Times and the number 1 museum in Ireland on TripAdvisor. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in character and there are over 5,000 pieces in the collection. It boasts of telling you the story of Dublin in 29 minutes.
I like the fact that it focuses on the lives of Irish people rather than on dry historical details. For example, Alfie Byrne, elected Lord Mayor of Dublin a record 10 times! He was known as the Shaking Hand of Dublin for his people skills.
There’s an exhibition at the moment about Brendan Bracken, who was Winston Churchill’s right hand man. He claimed to be from Australia but was actually of Irish descent.
Although my favourite room was probably the one dedicated to U2. Bono and The Edge visited the museum in secret and signed the guest book, apparently they really enjoyed it!
From the museum it was a short distance to The Merrion Hotel, located in four stunning Georgian townhouses.
This 5 star hotel is still privately owned and is known for its art collection. Assembled with great taste by the owners, it includes over 90 works by W Yeats, Louis Le Brocquy and many more.
All patrons of the hotel can take a complimentary audio tour of the collection. We were treated to a tour of the artworks by a specialist from the National Gallery of Ireland. He showed us some really striking pieces like this Homage to Fernand Leger by Robert Ballagh.
One of my favourite paintings was this one, Path Moorea by Pauline Bewick.
And this one whose title says it all: Futile Defense (Fabricated Evidence) by John Boyd.
I also liked the sculpture of James Joyce in the Merrion’s courtyard garden. By Rowan Gillespie, it’s a clever sundial with inscriptions from his most famous work, Ulysses. When the sun falls on an area of the sculpture, you can read what happened to Leopold Bloom, the main character of the book, at any particular time of day.
After our tour we headed through to No. 23 for our Art Tea. Executive Chef Ed Cooney explained that they were keen to create a themed tea, and hit upon art as it’s so prominent in the hotel.
We started with a chilled glass of R de Ruinart Brut Champagne. With a wonderful biscuity taste, it was the perfect accompaniment for our afternoon tea.
Next we enjoyed a selection of three specialty teas, including my favourite, the unusual Irish Malt tea. It’s an Assam blend, flavored with whiskey and a hint of cacao and was surprisingly drinkable!
One of our group preferred to try the Matcha Magic, an enticing combination of pineapple, orange juice and green tea.
But now it was time for the main event, the Art Tea…Our waitress brought out pretty trays of savoury goodies to share. I particularly enjoyed the gazpacho and the freshly made sandwiches, particularly the oak smoked Irish salmon with horseradish on brown bread. There were also chicken and pesto sandwiches on sunflower bread, bridge rolls with egg mayonnaise and cress, rare Irish roast beef on white bread and the obligatory cucumber sandwiches.
The plain and fruit scones were tasty though would have benefited from being warm. The lemon curd was absolutely delicious, as was the raspberry jam and Glenillen clotted cream. They were served with some rather vivid blue Battenberg cakes, in keeping with the art theme, as well as lemon bread and traditional Irish portercake.
For the pastries we were in for a treat, an individual tray of three cakes. Paul Kelly, the Executive Pastry Chef, has taken inspiration from three of the hotel’s iconic artworks which also happen to be my favourites. From the left, a raspberry and passion fruit tart representing Futile Defense (Fabricated Evidence) by John Boyd…In the middle, a lime sponge, orange chiboust and lemon jelly curd, inspired by Self Portrait 1912 by Saurin Elizabeth Leech, and to the right, a chocolate trinity representing Path Moorea by Pauline Bewick.
The Merrion Hotel Art Tea costs €39.00 per person or €55.00 per person with a glass of Champagne R de Ruinart. Before leaving, I admired the Self Portrait of Saurin Elizabeth Leech, hanging in the lobby…
As well as more artworks gracing the main staircase. After a wonderful tea, we had time for a walk around the centre. I’ll be sharing details of what else to see in Dublin in an upcoming post but for now it’s time to leave the Emerald Isle and to head home to London. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily accessible Ireland is for a short business or leisure trip with Aer Lingus and would definitely visit Dublin in a day again. If you have a little longer to spend, here’s our suggestions on what to do with 48 hours in Dublin.
Have you ever flown somewhere just for the day?