When the Vikings chose this place to establish an important base in around 841/842 AD, it is thought that there were already two small Irish settlements here. One was likely to have been around Áth Cliath (meaning the Ford of the Hurdles), an important crossing point of the Liffey, and the other may have been an early monastic foundation at Dubhlinn, the ‘Black Pool’ formed by the River Poddle, and the place from where Dublin takes its name.
Dublin is steeped in the story of the Vikings, and it was they who turned it into Ireland’s first city, a thriving place of trade and commerce that connected Ireland to far flung places like Scandinavia, Russia and Byzantium. Over time, these Scandinavian warriors and traders combined with the Irish to weave a new identity, that archaeologists call Hiberno-Norse. It was their stories that were unearthed during the excavations at places like Wood Quay, and that fill the National Museum on Kildare Street.
The city was changed forever when the Anglo-Normans attacked in 1170, the Hiberno-Norse systems were replaced by English ones. Strong walls were added to protect the growing town from counter-attack, and the city became the key focus of English rule in Ireland. Grand gothic style churches and cathedrals sprang up under the new regime, only to be converted under a new religion in the Tudor Period. As time passed the once unimaginable trading networks of the Vikings were dwarfed by the trading networks of the British Empire, with Dublin often referred to as the ‘second city of empire’. Industries and companies like Guinness, Jacobs and Jameson helped to shape the city. Dublin became the eye of the storm in 1916 during the struggle for Irish freedom, and you can still see traces of that conflict around the city if you know where to look.
But there is far more to Dublin than the city centre. Just outside the capital you can find yourself in the Dublin Mountains, combined with the Wicklow Mountains it forms the longest upland area on the island of Ireland. The land around tells tales of danger, warfare and borderlands. As a number of castles and towers indicate the threat the mountains posed, as a base for Irish families like the O’Tooles and O’Byrnes who long sought to dislodge the English during the medieval period. The mountains are topped by many prehistoric tombs, evidence of far older cultures that once called this region home. To the north of the city, the fertile plains of Fingal hold tales of Vikings, medieval settlement and grand estates. We’ll explore it all with you.
Dublin is a city that is absolutely soaked in history and stories. Together we’ll discover how it developed from a centre of Viking trade to a medieval powerhouse, and from the elegant Georgian City to a setting for rebellion and uprising. We’ll also explore outside of the city to find ancient tombs in the Dublin Mountains and hidden heritage in the fertile fields of Fingal. We’ll go beyond the usual tourist trail to help you discover the best places to visit in Dublin!