FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Delights of Dublin Bay

Posted in Dublin, Ireland by folkestonejack on August 29, 2016

One of the delights of any trip to Dublin for me comes from the chance to escape the city and take the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) to the coast. The seafront at Dún Laoghaire is probably not the first image that springs to mind for the first time visitor, but it has always been one of my favourite stops on a trip to the city when time permits.

Dún Laoghaire as seen from the Forty Foot

Dún Laoghaire as seen from the Forty Foot

On this occasion, we made a visit to the charming Malahide Castle in the morning and then followed this up by a train journey south along the sweep of Dublin Bay to Sandycove. I have always loved the walk along the coast between Sandycove and Dún Laoghaire, but have never been inside the martello tower that houses the museum to James Joyce so it was a pleasure to put this right.

The tower was one of 26 built to the north and south of Dublin in response to the threat of Napoleon’s Grand Army across the Channel. A good number of these still remain and are wonderfully documented on the Irish Martello Towers website.

The Martello Tower at Sandycove

The Martello Tower at Sandycove

In September 1904 a 22 year old James Joyce spent a brief spell living in the first floor of the tower with his friend Oliver St. John Gogarty and Samuel Chenevix Trench. The stay ended on the sixth night after Trench woke from a nightmare of a black panther that seemed so real that he attempted to shoot it with his revolver. Gogarty followed up with a few rounds which shot down the saucepans from a shelf above Joyce’s bed. James Joyce fled immediately and had to arrange for his belongings to be retrieved, not daring to go back himself!

The small museum contains a recreation of the living space, some interesting displays about the tower (including the original copper-sheeted door of the gunpowder magazine) and a variety of exhibits about James Joyce. You can clamber up a narrow set of stone spiral stairs to get a view from the top of the tower.

Below the tower sits the forty foot, a rocky bathing spot said to have been named after the fortieth foot regiment were stationed in the adjacent battery. True or not, there is no doubting that the spot has been in use for centuries and has been immortalised in a number of classic Irish novels spanning from ‘Ulysses’ (1918) to ‘At swim, two boys’ (2001). The spot was once reserved for the sole use of men, but has seen mixed bathing since the 1970s.

Is the Forty Foot Ireland's most famous bathing spot?

Is the Forty Foot the most famous bathing spot in Ireland?

The Forty Foot

The tempting waters of the Forty Foot

The waters at the forty foot looked incredibly inviting on such a hot summer day but signs at the entrance warned against swimming due to an invasion of lions mane jellyfish. This didn’t seem to hve deterred the local population who were happily diving in from the rocks to the accompaniment of the latest dance tracks. I passed up the opportunity this time!

Our walk took us along the seafront, past a sculpture of a sea urchin, up to the derelict Royal Victorian Baths at Scotman’s Bay. The baths first opened in 1843 but the ruins that are visible today are largely the reconstructed baths of 1908 with 1930s extensions. The baths closed in the mid-1990s and have long been mooted for restoration, but many a plan has been announced and fallen by the wayside.

The long derelict Royal Victorian Baths

The long derelict Royal Victorian Baths

The new plans to revive the baths are not as terrible as the proposal to replace the whole site with an apartment block but fall short of what many had hoped for. The latest proposal, approved late last year, should see the site re-open with a gallery, cafe and a jetty for swimmers but sadly will not bring the swimming baths back into use.

We continued on to Dún Laoghaire harbour and took a stroll out to the East Pier Battery which has been restored and opened to the public since my last visit (it had been inacessible to the public from its opening in 1859 until 2009, with the exception of a week in 1991). The sight of a Teddy’s ice cream van inside the battery walls was most welcome and the reward of a 99 helped placate those who had been less impressed by the shade-less walk!

The East Pier Battery

The East Pier Battery

After a short wander through Dún Laoghaire we boarded one of the regular DART trains and were back in the bustle of Dublin city centre just twenty minutes later.


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