Back in 2015, I was stuck in a job I hated. Frequently the timing of my arrival at the office coincided with a Viking Splash Tour roaring past. The uninhibited laughter and freedom of the tour jarred depressingly with the slow trudge to my desk.
Since then, my kids have gotten older and VST is back on my radar. The tour group was quietened to silence over the pandemic but came flying out of retirement in June.
And so, it came to be that I took my first Viking Splash Tour this past Saturday afternoon.
The tour of Dublin city is done in an amphibious vehicle, made in the US known as a DUKW (pronounced “Duck”) while wearing plastic Viking hats.
The tour guide is a Viking, in our case, he was named Keith and was both knowledgeable and funny in equal measure.
Taking off from Stephens Green, heading to Christchurch and back along the quays, over O’Connell bridge, past Trinity and out to Beggars Bush, the tour culminates in the ‘splash’ part where you go into the water. This is deeply undramatic. It’s a sort of ‘plop’ into the water once the wheels go up. The dukw chugs along from the dock to the bridge at Boland’s Mills and back, taking about ten minutes in the water. Once out of the water, it’s back to St Stephen’s Green.
This is a tour for people who want to have some fun sprinkled with light facts and history. You won’t get an in-depth history about Dublin, but you will find yourself saying something like: ‘Huh, I never knew Doyle was the most popular name in Dublin’. I was blown away by the fact that people suffering from leprosy were kept locked up on Misery Hill when the leper hospital was full. Maybe the morbid name should have been a hint, though to see it now, it’s a hive of young and restless Frappuccino and Aperol drinkers.
The tour is encouraged to roar at passers-by which is amusing, or at least it was last Saturday when every other person sitting outside the pub was wearing a Stetson on their way to Garth Brooks!
Keith was incredibly in tune with the group, responding to the collective mood. He kept things light and funny but if someone had a further question about a particular fact or subject, he was happy to indulge and disclose more information before deftly returning to the script. In my case, I was curious about Windmill Lane Studios which was pointed out as we sailed past. Keith was telling us that U2 own the unassuming building and has recorded nearly all their albums there over the years. No doubt U2 information goes down a storm with the non-Dublin tourists but I wanted to know about Kate Bush who recorded Hounds of Love there in 1985 and Keith knew every detail about that too.
The tour runs rain or shine but we were lucky enough to get a bright day and Dublin looked beautiful. It’s rare to see the city in this way; Georgian Dublin looked so elegant while Grand Canal Dock was gleaming and cool. It’s a great afternoon for tourists but I would say for Irish people alike. There were a few kids on board my trip, including my own and they absolutely loved it but it’s fun for all ages.
The whole thing takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes but that’s likely traffic-dependent too.
We hopped off the dukw in time for lunch in Doheny and Nesbitts- also mentioned on the tour as James Joyce had name-checked it frequently in Ulysses. I can highly recommend the toasted special in Doheny & Nesbitts with a pint post the Viking Splash Tour while I’m at it!