Destination Report: The Liberties, Dublin’s Oldest Area

The Liberties is an area of Dublin that was originally outside the city walls to the south west and not subject to the same laws as the original city, hence the name. It is one of Dublin’s oldest areas and evidence of the passage history is at every turn. Parts of the original more than 1,000-year-old city walls still exist in places

Cut stone walls and old mill buildings are now elbowed by the modern office and hotel constructions. The old city is still here, it is the cobbles under your feet, the arched keystone doorways, and narrow lanes. Every nook and cranny is packed with life. Tiny courtyards house families who have worked here all their lives and can trace their ancestors back hundreds of years.

A street scene in the Liberties in the 19th century

Down lanes there are still horses and carriages, street art commemorates local heroes, and overall the smell of brewing. For the Liberties is the home of Guinness and it was the biggest employer in the area since 1759. It was also the benevolence of Guinness that provided streets of houses and flats for their workers, many in a distinctive redbrick style.t was

I was not just Guinness, that was a big employer, at one time there were dozens of breweries and distilleries in this area. The former Powers Distillery is now the National College of Art and Design. The original copper still has pride of place in the college yard. Recently there has been a revival and now the area boasts four new distilleries.

One area of the Liberties is known as the Tenters. It was here linen was pegged out on tenterhooks to dry in the sun. Linen weaving was a big industry during 17th – 19th century. A new park on Cork Street remembers this heritage in its name, Weavers Park. 

Churches

Religion is so important in the Liberties that this small area has seven churches.  They are the Church of the Immaculate Conception (‘Adam & Eve’), St Michael’s, St John’s, John’s Lane Church also known as the Priory, St Nicolas of Myra, St James’ and St Audoen’s. 

The Grotto beside the church on Meath Street is a welcome stop on busy daylight a candle for a loved ones.  The church of St. James on St. James Street is the beginning of the Irish pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  Here you can obtain your Pilgrim’s Passport.  You can also get a stamp on it in the Pearse Lyons Distillery across the road, which was the original St. James Church.

St Nicolas of Myra, Francis Street

Distilleries

All of the distilleries will be doing visitor tours and are an interesting way to explore the history of the city and the renaissance of the “Water of Life”, or “Uisce Beatha” in the Irish language. 

The first newcomer in the distilleries was the Teeling Distillery in Newmarket Square.  This building houses the first revival in the distilling tradition in the Liberties. Visit Teeling Whiskey for more information.

Teeling Distillery

Next, to arrive on the scene was the Pearse Lyons Distillery located in the former St. James Church.  The church and its grounds have been beautifully restored with a glass spire, and stunning stained-glass windows.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

The most recent distillery to arrive in the Liberties is Roe & Co, owned by Diageo. It is also in a landmark building, this time it is in the former power house of the Guinness brewery on St. James Street. The red brick geometric building has been given a considered makeover and is surrounded by a lovely garden planted by the local garden centre, Urban Plant Life

On Mill Street, the Dublin Liberties Whiskey Company had barely opened when it was closed again due to Covid_19 restrictions.  However, the business has gone behind closed doors and online sales are strong. It will reopen again soon to visitors.

The Old Library

Marsh’s Library is the oldest public library in Ireland and opened in 1707.  It is still open to the public on Tuesdays to Fridays. It is on St. Patrick’s Close beside the cathedral. You can combine a ticket to see the cathedral and the library. 

Marsh’s Library

The Guinness Storehouse

Located at St James’s Gate,  the Guinness Storehouse building was once the fermentation plant of the brewery. As you make your way through the space, explore the ingredients, history, and culture that tell the Guinness story.

There are outstanding views of Dublin from the Gravity Bar at the top. Here you can enjoy a pint of Guinness, which is included in admission. 

Opening hours are 1-7 pm from Monday-Thursday and Sunday, while it stays open from 1-8pm on Friday and Saturdays. 

The Guinness Gate on Crane Street – a photo opportunity

Shopping

Francis Street

The antique quarter of Dublin is here, and you will find everything from a silver teaspoon to a massive marble fireplace. Ireland is a treasure trove for antiques due to the many grand houses that were built in the country.  The peripatetic nature of Irish people also means that treasures were brought home from far and wide travels.

Johnston Antiques in the Antiques Quarter of the Liberties

Bojangles on Thomas Street 

This vintage shop is full of vintage and retro clothes and accessories. Check out their Facebook and Instagram pages for new arrivals.

Bojangles on Thomas Street

Where to Eat and Drink

Tenters Gastro Pub

The Tenters Bar has stood on the same corner of Mill Street and Blackpitts since the 1920s. It was previously set among an area of renowned for linen makers, breweries, and malthouses.  Now the venue has been stylishly reimagined as the Tenters Gastropub serving tasty food and fabulous cocktails in the heart of a revitalised Newmarket.

The Liberty Belle on Francis Street

A traditional Irish pub in The Liberties, in the heart of Dublin City. Sit back and relax with a pint and enjoy some live music and sports, as well as meeting the locals.

Fallon’s

This pub has existed in one form or another since the 1600s and continues to be regarded as one of the top spots in the city for a pint of plain.

John Fallons, The Capstan Bar

Fumbally Cafe

A community cafe serving an eclectic menu of health-conscious dishes and locally roasted coffee. Fumbally offers trend dining while still catering to treat vegetarian and vegan options, Fumbally Lane.

Dinetown at Iveagh Market

Dinetown is a great spot to taste some of the nicest food around the city. It is a new food truck space beside the old Iveagh Market at the top of Francis St. There are plans to convert the area into a food and specialty shopping market by owner Lord Iveagh, a Guinness heir. Here you will find food trucks selling takeaway pizza, Italian pastries, toasted sandwiches, and Ireland’s only Ethiopian food outlet.

The Iveagh Market

Open Gate at Guinness

Open Gate Brewery at Guinness on St. James Street, is a beer garden which is not to be missed. They are offering table service across the taproom and beer garden, meaning you can enjoy a burger and a beer from the comfort of your booth.

As it is located at the brewery, it means that there are plenty of opportunities to try some delightful and surprising beers that you wouldn’t get the chance to try otherwise. Check out last weeks report for more details: Guinness Open Gate Brewery – ITTN Ireland

Beer Garden at Guinness Open Gate Brewery

Where to Stay

Hyatt Centric

There has been a flurry of hotel buildings in the Liberties in the past few years and some big international brands have appeared. The Hyatt Centric commands a space at the bottom of the Dublin Antique Quarter, on the Coombe. This big addition has more than 240 rooms and is become part of the community. Unusually for a city hotel, they have a fine big courtyard for outdoor dining and drinking.  The hotel commissioned local historian Liz to make some Youtube videos of the Liberties.

 Aloft Hotel

Another international name is Aloft. Modern travelers choose Aloft Dublin City. With unbeatable placement in the heart of The Liberties and a range of 4-star perks, the hotel is ideal for both business and leisure travelers to Ireland. This quirky modern hotel sits over the famous Tenters Pub. It’s a conjunction of old and modern on the one corner.

Aloft Hotel towering over the Tenters pub

The Maldron, Kevin Street

An Irish brand of four-star hotels – recently opened on the corner of Kevin Street and New Street. It has the best value afternoon tea in Dublin at €12.50 and €16 with a glass of Prosecco. It is 200 meters from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

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