Top 10 Places to Visit in Dublin

It’s only a short hop across the Irish Sea, but there’s no lack of adventure in Ireland. It may be small but it can compete with that sense of adventure you would feel heading further afield, and possibly beat it hands down!

Of course, we love Dublin and we’ve all heard about the ‘craic’ to be had. If you’re lucky enough to be heading out on one of our many tours that head into the city, we’ve pulled together our top 10 things to see and do in Dublin for everyone to enjoy.

Visit the Guinness Store House

Guinness Storehouse
Funnily enough, the name Dublin, or Dubh Linn, comes from an Old Irish Gaelic phrase that translates to ‘Black Pool’. And just like the UK’s Blackpool, Dublin comes with a great reputation of being one of the most notorious party places in these isles. So, where better to start off than the Guinness Store House?
There’s no doubt the building is impressive. From the core of it being shaped like a pint glass to the insight into its history, brewing and even a masterclass in pulling the perfect pint, there’s plenty to see and do over its seven spectacular floors.
Head up to the top floor and you’ll find the Gravity Bar. Here, you’ll get a spectacular view over the city and, maybe more impressively, a complimentary pint of the black stuff. After all, after exploring the world of Guinness, you have to do a taste test.

Take a Wander Across Ha’penny Bridge

Take a Wander Across Ha’penny Bridge
The Ha’penny Bride is the most iconic of Dublin’s bridges so it’s definitely worth a visit. Built in 1816 it was the first iron bridge in Ireland and has become the charming symbol of Dublin.
It was originally the Liffey Bridge, after being the only pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey, however, it gained its new name due to the half-penny toll charge to cross the river.
The reason? Before the bridge was built, a ferry was used to take passengers from bank to bank for half a penny. The bridge toll was introduced as soon as it was built, payable to the city alderman, who also happened to be the owner of the ferry. Unsurprisingly, he decided to get rid of the ferries and was compensated with a lease on the bridge for 100 years. Don’t worry if you can’t find a ha’penny though, the charge no longer applies, so you’re free to wander across and get some fantastic photos.

See St. Patrick’s Cathedral

iStock_000061547064_Large
Built in honour of their Patron Saint, the one and only St. Patrick, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in the city and is situated close to the city centre, which is a relief as Dublin covers a land area of 44.5 miles.
Founded in the 12th century, it’s Ireland’s biggest church and it sure packs a punch when it comes to historical significance. In 1649, Oliver Cromwell converted the cathedral into a stable for his army horses during a visit to Ireland, Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, was dean of the church between 1713 and 1745 and due to storm and fire damage, the cathedral has been renovated several times.

Take a Look around Trinity College

Dublin, Ireland - Oct 25, 2014: People at Trinity College yard in Dublin, Ireland on October 25, 2014
Trinity College is Dublin’s ancient University set up by request of Queen Elizabeth I. The famous college boasts some much celebrated graduates including Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker.
The college is also home to the sacred manuscript, ‘The Book of Kells’. The illuminated gold manuscript was made by Celtic Monks around 800 AD and contains the four gospels of the New Testament. It’s said to be the greatest cultural treasures in Ireland and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript so is certainly well worth the visit.

Shop ‘til you drop on Grafton Street

Grafton Street, Dublin
Get your fill of shopping and culture on Dublin’s world famous, Grafton Street. It’s one of the two principal streets in Dublin, with something to suit all tastes amongst its high street to high-end shops and plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars.
If shopping is not your thing, you’ll be glad to know there’s plenty of entertainment on offer to keep a smile on your face too. The street has become renowned for being a launch pad for up and coming artists and has even played host to U2’s Bono and Damien Rice in the past.

Head Down to Temple Bar

Temple Bar, Dublin
The city of Dublin has 666 licenced pubs – now that’s a lot to choose from! The most famous area to visit whilst in Dublin is the Temple Bar area.
With popularity comes the reputation, but Temple Bar is actually one of the city’s most charming neighbourhoods. With its cobbled streets and architectural splendour, there are plenty of bars, cafes and galleries to pick from. It may sound cliché, but, there really is something for everyone.

Visit the Brazen Head

Brazen Head, Dublin
Dublin’s oldest pub, established in 1198, is said to have a number of famous patrons including author James Joyce, who actually mentioned the pub in his novel, Ulysses; author of Gulliver’s Travels; rebel Robert Emmet is said to have planned an uprising in the Brazen Head and it’s also said that Robin Hood might have drunk there.
Today it offers warm fires and traditional music and a fantastic ‘good time’ atmosphere – a great place to enjoy history and culture, and after a long day of sight-seeing, a well-deserved drink.

Take in the delights of St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin
If you’re looking for a bit of heritage, head into St. Stephens Green. The Victorian park has over 3.5km of pathways with waterfalls, an ornamental lake and some beautiful Victorian shelters to see out any passing bad weather.
If you’re around the green in the summer months, there’s some fantastic lunchtime concerts to enjoy whilst you’re there. You can also find some fantastic traditional pubs not far away.

See the Famous Old Jameson Distillery

Famous Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin
A great attraction for anyone who is devoted to the devoted to uisce beatha, ‘the water of life’.
Set in a recreated distillery scene, the Old Jameson Distillery gives all visitors the chance to learn how three ingredients make the world’s favourite Irish whiskey! Enjoy a whisky tasting experience, have a spot of lunch in the restaurant and treat yourself or your loved ones to some authentic souvenirs from the gift shop.

Enjoy Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow Mountains, Ireland
If you fancy something different, a quick escape away from the city might be just up your street. On our St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin tour we head off for a drive into the Wicklow Mountains.
The National Park is the largest continuous upland area in the whole of Ireland and it stretches into Counties Carlow, Wexford and Dublin. It’s a great way to blow off the cobwebs if you’ve had one too many Guinness over the weekend, but if you do fancy hair of the dog, we even stop off at a country pub before heading back to Dublin for your last night.
Fancy the craic? Find out more about our tours to Ireland on our tours page, here.

Remembering Sgt Vic Bettle: A Story From the Battlefields

On a Battlefield tour, it’s not unusual to come across group members with personal connections to the tour they are on. Whether it be through a distant relative, great-grandparents or even a parent.

On one of our recent Battlefield tours, D-Day Landings in Normandy, a passenger of ours had set out on a truly personal trip. Ruth Bettle was on the tour following the footsteps of her late husband, Sergeant Vic Bettle.
Sgt Vic Bettleimg044
Sergeant Bettle was part of the 7th Parachute Battalion, would have jumped in or around the Pegasus Bridge area of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June, 1944, as part of Operation Tonga. The Parachute Battalion were tasked with giving support to the D Coy of 2nd (Airborne) Battalion Ox & Bucks Light Infantry led by Major John Howard.
What we know is that 7 Para Bn advanced to the area of Putot-en-Auge in August 1944.
Ruth had received correspondence from a French national several years ago who had been staying in a château in the town of Putot-en-Auge. The grounds of the château played host to a barn, it was in this barn that he had come across something special.
Ruth Bettle at the Barn
He had found an inscription signed ‘Sgt Vic Bettle, 7th parachute Batallion, 19 August 1944’. The inscription simply read ‘We chased them out this morning’.
The tour was led by our Battlefield Guide, Fred Greenhow, who after speaking to Ruth, arranged for our drivers, Chris and Brenda, to take a drive out to the château in the early evening of Sunday 5th April.
The owners were away at the time, however, with much persuasion and the use of Fred’s ‘Geordie Charm’, the young girl who lived in the ‘gate-keepers’ house allowed them access to the barn.
Ruth Bettle_The Inscription_5 Apr 2015The Inscription_19 Aug 1944
“It was an absolute ‘Condor Moment’” Said Fred. “When I was able to take the wife (Ruth Bettle) of a Veteran back to the place where her late husband wrote an inscription on the wall of a barn in the grounds of a Chateau / Manor House, and the inscription is still there and as clear as the day it was written over 70 years ago.”
“Ruth was absolutely overwhelmed when we found the Chateau in the village of Putot-en-Auge, approximately 30 km’s to the East of Caen. Her husband Sgt Vic Bettle who served with 7 Para Bn, wrote his message on the 19th August 1944, it was discovered by a Frenchman in 1998, who tracked down Vic by writing to Gen Napier Crockenden, 6 Airborne Division Association.”
On a Battlefield tour, you’re heading off on a journey of learning, understanding and appreciation, when we can reunite family and friends with a sense of their past, it’s something we are very proud of. Thanks to Fred, and to Ruth and her daughter Karen, we can share this story and keep the memory of Sgt Vic Bettle alive.
Sgt Vic Bettle on a previous trip to Pegasus Bridge after Operation Tongaimg047
 
Interesting Fact: ‘The Longest Day’, a war film from 1962 featuring John Wayne, Richard Burton and Sean Connery, covers Operation Tonga.  The actor Richard Todd OBE, who appeared in the film, served alongside Sgt Bettle in the 7 Para Bn and also played the role of Major John Howard. Another actor played Richard in the film.
 
 

Easter in Lake Garda, Venice and Verona by Linda McKeown

Linda McKeown and her family took one of our Italian Tours over the Easter holidays, visiting Lake Garda, Venice and Verona, here’s how she found her first coach trip to Italy.

I have just returned from a wonderful holiday to Italy this Easter; the Lake Garda, Venice & Verona Tour. I had wanted to visit Italy by road for some while and was dreading the driving, as there is plenty of it! However, I persuaded my husband and 2 teenage children to accompany me on the tour – and we had a fabulous time!

DSCF1777
All we had to do was turn up at the convenient meeting point (just 7 miles from home) with our passports, and everything else was taken care of! The first holiday I have ever experienced when I am not constantly juggling tickets, passports, hotel details and a map! We were able to relax in the knowledge that everything was organised.
The drivers (Stuart and Gareth) were absolutely excellent – they got us from one place to another in good time, their driving was faultless and their knowledge of the area unsurpassed. We were not hurried, there were plenty of comfort stops and they made sure we were always looked after.
My husband and children dreaded the journey to Italy (boredom and leg room were the perceived issues) but we had plenty of leg room (we upgraded to Silver Service) and there was so much to look at on the way, that no one was bored! There was even a DVD to watch on the homeward journey. The hotel in Belgium for the first and last nights was excellent quality and the Lake Garda hotel offered an outdoor pool which the children braved during our stay!
DSCF1693
We found Venice an absolute gem, we were there in good time in the morning to enjoy it before it became too crowded, and the children took the optional cruise which they really enjoyed. Verona was completely different, and a beautiful city to spend the day in and enjoy – we had lunch in one of the squares and enjoyed people-watching after walking around the arena, the church and the Roman ruins.
DSCF1699
We did a spot of shopping after lunch (credit card beware, the shops are very tempting!) and then returned to the tranquillity of Lake Garda. We did the optional boat tour of Lake Garda on Easter Monday, and despite the holiday traffic, we arrived in Malcesine in good time to enjoy the sights and the ice cream – we also had a wonderful boat ride to see the sights from the Lake.
DSCF1813
We spent the day before departure walking around the Lake, having lunch at Riva del Garda enjoying the views and the sunshine, and sitting around the hotel pool – how fabulous!
We won’t forget our wonderful holiday in Italy, and not only have we recommended this holiday to friends and family, we will definitely do it again! Thank you Leger Holidays team! Linda, Dave, Rowan & Millie
DSCF1676
 
 

7 of the Strangest Easter Traditions around Europe

We’ve hit the time of the year that we’re bombarded with chicks, Easter bunnies and enough chocolate eggs to keep even the most indulgent chocoholic happy for a few years.

It’s something that we’ve become accustomed to, with most of us expecting Easter eggs in the shops as soon as the Christmas decorations have come down, but it’s not the same across the globe. Even our European neighbours have their own ways of celebrating Easter. So, while we’re tucking into our Easter eggs this weekend, here’s what our European friends will be doing to celebrate.
little girl standing by Easter tree

Germany

Germans prefer to use their eggs to decorate trees as part of the Sommertagszug festival. Although it’s held three weeks before Easter Sunday, Sommertagszug is still deemed an Easter celebration and is probably one of the most important holidays of the year in Germany.
Locals come out in their droves to officially welcome summer and tell winter that it’s time to take a hike. As well as the Easter tree, the festival also uses an Easter bonfire for a ceremonial burning of a specially made winter tree and a snowman. Not only is it a unique start to Easter celebrations, it’s certainly an extravagant way of welcoming the summer months in.
iStock_000058623844_Large

Switzerland

The Franconian Swiss, the people of Franconia in Northern Bavaria, focus their celebrations around water. Water, as we know, is a life source and since Easter is about celebrating life, they decorate their wells with Easter eggs, spring flowers and ribbons to celebrate the gift of life that the well provides them with.
They’re said to be not so fond the Easter Bunny too, however, the children don’t miss out. The Easter Cuckoo delivers Easter eggs instead.
Scrambled eggs for a big omelet

France

Now, forget about the chocolate egg, the French stick to the usual kind. In a tradition that supposedly goes all the way back to Napoleon.
In Haux, France, the residents celebrate Easter Monday by making an omelette of epic proportions. We’re talking 4,500 eggs in this recipe, several chefs armed with wooden paddles to make it and a giant skillet to cook it in.
Once cooked, the hungry residents can tuck in and enjoy their Easter omelette. It’s certainly a way to avoid a subsequent chocolate sugar rush.
Buckets of water for drinking horses

Poland

You may not have heard of it, but Smigus-Dyngus is a Polish Easter tradition you won’t forget in a hurry.
On Easter Monday, young boys gather with the intention of soaking girls in water. Buckets, water pistols and just about any other vessel can be used to partake in this game.
Although it may sound like an over the top water fights, the tradition had its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Miezko on Easter Monday 966 AD.
Legend has it that if a girl gets soaked during Smigus-Dyngus, she will be married within the year. Let’s hope it’s a warm Easter in Poland this year.
Lamb cake

Russia

Come Easter time, shops in the UK are filled with arrays on chocolate treats in many shapes and sizes so a chocolate bunny certainly wouldn’t look out of place. Russians, however, prefer to have their treats to look like lambs. And they hold back on the chocolate too.
Yes, their Easter lamb treat is made out of butter. Russians believe that lambs are lucky as they’re the only animal that the devil couldn’t transform into. It certainly sounds calorific, but possibly not as tempting as a chocolate egg.
Screenplay close-up 2 (generic film text written by photographer

Norway

In Norway, Easter is a popular time for people to divulge in a little crime fiction. So much so that publishers actually bring out Easter Thriller Specials.
Known locally as Paaskekrimmen, the tradition is said to have begun in 1923 when a book publisher promoted their new crime thriller on the front pages of the newspapers over Easter. It’s said that the adverts resembled news stories so much, people didn’t realise it was a publicity stunt. Ever since the taste for Crime Fiction has stood firm over this holiday in Norway.
So, how will you be spending your Easter bank holiday?