Ireland is famous for its writers and its pints, and whether you’re a tourist or a local there are few better ways to get a sense of this interesting and lively city than the Dublin literary pub crawl. On the go since 1988, this trip through the capital’s literary heritage can be done on weekend nights or any night during the summer.
The Duke pub on Duke Street is the first stop on this jaunt, where the guides begin with rousing performances of ballad and drama. For two hours, ‘crawlers’ walk through the heart of the city, stopping at various points to hear of famous writers and their observations on capital and country, as well as the history of some of Dublin’s oldest institutions. You can almost sense the ghosts of Ireland’s greatest writers hovering over your shoulder as you stand in the cool Dublin air to hear about those who dedicated their lives, from here and afar, to encapsulate Ireland through their writing. The recitals are gripping, the narrative witty and there’s an entertaining game throughout the evening.
In Dublin, as with everything in Ireland, all things connect. In 1904, The Duke was bought by the mother of Kitty Kiernan, fiancée of Michael Collins, a leader in Ireland’s War of Independence. The pub was one of many ‘safe houses’ for Collins. The Old Stand, the penultimate pub on the crawl, was also frequented by Collins, to gather information about members of the British Secret Service. The final pub on the tour, Davy Byrne’s, was also part of his world, as a member of Ireland’s Provisional Government between 1919 and 1922. Writers such as Beckett and Joyce also frequented this now famous pub. It is easy to see how the worlds of power and the pen overlapped.
I’ve done the tour twice recently, during the colder darker months. On both nights it was comfortably packed. For tourists, it has stood the test of time, offering a glimpse into Dublin’s personalities and its past. For the denizen, it gives insight into our history and culture – knowledge we assume, often complacently, that we have.