What to do in Dublin / Wexford / Hay-on-Wye / Hereford / London?
March 1, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Traveling through Ireland, Wales, and England next week, with essentially ONE day each in Dublin, Wexford, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, and London. Anything off the beaten path that we should check out?

We know the generalities -- the bookstores in Hay, the old Viking stuff in Wexford, crusty old pubs in Dublin, etc -- and we have a few travel books that have given us a few idea. But I come to you, AskMeFi, for interesting, non-touristy things that we probably won't find in those books. Whatcha got for us?
posted by D.Billy to Travel & Transportation around Dublin, Ireland (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The biggest reason that non-touristy things are not touristy things is that they don't appeal to as wide of an audience. People tend to either love or hate things like, I dunno, pottery workshops or bars with heads on the walls. What sorts of things are you interested in?
posted by craven_morhead at 2:44 PM on March 1, 2010

If you'll have a car, just south of Hay is the tiny village of Llanigon. It's on a road heading east off the B4350, marked with a sign post. There's nothing particular to do there, but it's the kind of gorgeous little village that you're not likely to see unless you get off the main roads and spend time poking around. But now you don't have to poke around because I told you where it is.

You can leave Hay, soak it all in and be back in an hour or so.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:09 PM on March 1, 2010

About 10 miles south of Llanigon is Llangors, which has a very attractive lake. Worth picnicing there for lunch after you've visited Hay and Llanigon
posted by Petrot at 3:13 PM on March 1, 2010

As a resident, my favourite second string attraction in London is The Monument (monument tube) which has the bonus of taking all of 20 minutes to climb, enjoy the view and leave. I like the Wallace Collection too (sort of mini stately home off oxford st). Oh, and get one of the Clippers down the Thames (use the commuter boats); they're good fun.

For food, The Anchor & Hope near Waterloo is an excellent gastropub and fairly local. If you venture near Brick Lane, eat at Tayyabs (Google for directions) rather than on Brick Lane itself. The St John restaurants are very good too.

If I was touristing, I probably wouldn't bother with Borough Market. I mean, it's great and everything and I shop there. But it's just a food market and probably no more exciting than what you'd find in any French provincial city; it's also rammed with tourists.
posted by rhymer at 3:13 PM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: @craven_morhead (and anyone looking for more guidance in what to recommend)
Well... we're art-and-culture nerds... likers of comics, science fiction, mythology, etc... food-lovers... interested in language, typography, history of things as well as places... we dig funky geography and weirdly-constructed buildings... good old music, good new music...
Heck, if you've got a special-interest recommendation -- whether it sounds like our bag or not -- throw it out there! We might like stuff that we don't even know we like yet!
posted by D.Billy at 3:13 PM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: @Mayor Curley
We won't have a car. We're traveling by just about every imaginable mode of public transit, and are trying to keep from taking cabs when possible, as a money-saver. But if something sounds really worthwhile, we might go for it.
posted by D.Billy at 3:16 PM on March 1, 2010

For culture and buildings, it's worth checking out the Cabinet War Rooms. The attached Churchill museum, which your ticket gets you into, has rightfully won a host of awards.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:16 PM on March 1, 2010

Hay-on-Wye is not too far from the town of Brecon and the Brecon Beacons National Park. My aunt sells her watercolor paintings in Brecon, but a little further south on the A470 is Pan y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. It's about a two-and-a-half hour walk to the summit from Storey Arms, and well worth it if you have the opportunity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on March 1, 2010

The Winding Stair in Dublin is a gorgeous eatery on top of a great, quirky bookstore, overlooking the river. I thoroughly recommend for lunch.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:26 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Petrot's idea ("About 10 miles south of Llanigon is Llangors, which has a very attractive lake. Worth picnicing there for lunch after you've visited Hay and Llanigon") is excellent, Llangorse (with the e) is a lovely place to spend time, even if the weather isn't wonderful. It's about a 30 minute drive from Hay-on-Wye.
posted by ceri richard at 3:27 PM on March 1, 2010

Also, if you wanted to go a little further afield, an hour's drive away is the Big Pit Museum at Blaenavon.
posted by ceri richard at 3:30 PM on March 1, 2010

Sorry, just read your later comment about not having a car.
posted by ceri richard at 3:32 PM on March 1, 2010

My perfect Dublin day a year ago included a self-guided James Joyce tour, Book of Kells, Trinity College Long Room, Chester Beatty Library for illuminated manuscripts, nearby Queen of Tarts tea shop strawberry sponge cake blowout, a Top Shop stop near Grafton, Stag's Head Pub, Leo Burdick's Fish and Chips stand whose offerings were like crack in a brown bag! Fabulous day, despite the fact that I'm usually a very slow, intense traveler.
posted by Elsie at 4:01 PM on March 1, 2010

For Dublin: The Brazen Head. It was established in 1198 and is Ireland's oldest pub.

I stayed in Ranelagh, Dublin for about a week and a half a few years back and absolutely loved it. I frequented a small pub called The Hill, which was where the locals told us to go "for a nice quiet time", though it was anything but; it was also the best New Years Eve ever. Aside from that you need to hit up The Temple Bar, which always has live music.
posted by zombieApoc at 4:20 PM on March 1, 2010

Me again. Here was an perfect Mefi-planned day in London:

posted by Elsie at 4:25 PM on March 1, 2010

It's certainly not off the beaten tourist path, but in Dublin I would make time to see Kilmainham Gaol. In my life I've spent a grand total of a single day in Dublin, and that was the one non-negotiable item on my itinerary. If you've read any amount of modern Irish history or accounts of the Easter Rising it is a powerful place to visit. The tour I had was low-key and thoroughly respectful. Even if you're ordinarily tempted to avoid the tour-book "don't-miss" sites (an excellent strategy in the case of, say, the Tower of London), Kilmainham Gaol is a different order of experience.
posted by Creosote at 6:03 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding Creosote, Kilmainham Gaol has wonderful, really knowledgeable tour guides with a wealth of information about Irish war for independence and civil war. It's the best touristy tourist site in Dublin, and you'll learn a lot whether you're already familiar with Irish history or not. It's a bit out of central Dublin, but it's near Phoenix Park (Europe's largest urban park, definitely worth strolling in if you have time), and also on the same side of town as the Jameson Distillery tour, which is a nice alternative to the Guinness Factory tour (quicker and free whiskey at the end).

If you go to Kilmainham, not far away is Arbour Hill prison: in the prison cemetery is a memorial to and the burial place of the 15 leaders of the Rebellion who were executed at Kilmainham. It's adjacent to a working prison and not in the best neighborhood, but the memorial is incredibly moving, especially following a tour at the Gaol. They definitely don't advertise this to tourists (and probably with good reason), and please be wary of the neighborhood if you decide to go. The tour guides at the Gaol can tell you where to go and give you more information if you're interested.

People will tell you to avoid Temple Bar, and it is a tourist mecca, but I say at least wander through in the afternoon to see what it's all about. On the weekends they have a farmer's market and used book and music vendors, and plenty of buskers. I would avoid at night, though; there are lots of study abroad students looking for the opportunity to vom on your shoes. Otherwise, duck into any pub, dusty or modern, that appeals to you! Dame Tavern (Dame Court, south side of the river) is a personal favorite.

I am also a fan of St Patrick's Cathedral and Marsh's Library -- the Library still has the old cages where they used to lock up students to study in the 18th century. And Jonathan Swift is buried in the floor of St Patrick's.

Memail me if you want and I'll brainstorm some more; I'm pretty good at off-the-beaten track in Dublin.
posted by katopotato at 8:02 PM on March 1, 2010

Here is Elsie's link from her comment above:

London in a day

The British library is showing an original Alice as well as Lewis Carroll's diary in their Treasures room. Worth a quick visit.
posted by vacapinta at 1:15 AM on March 2, 2010

I second Kilmainham Gaol and the Stag's Head pub in Dublin. I visited Kilmainham on Easter when I was there, and witnessed the very moving site of an Irish army vet, who was on the tour with us, saluting the crosses in the prison yard that mark where the leaders of the 1916 Rising were executed.

The best way to find the Stag's Head is to walk west on Dame Street (away from Trinity College) on the south side of the street while looking at your feet. When you find the Stag's Head mosaic (keep looking at your feet!) turn left down the the tiny covered alley. That will spit you out at the Stag's Head.

If you're looking for vegetarian / interesting / delicious food in Dublin, try Cornucopia, on Wicklow St., just off of Grafton. The dinning area is always crowded, meaning it's a great place to make new friends.

In London you should try to visit at least one Samual Smith's pub. They have great beer, and the cheapest prices in all London. The real ale, Old Brewery Bitter, is excellent if the governor takes good care of his casks. They also serve bottles of Oatmeal Stout and Taddy Porter (you can find both of those in America as well). My favorite is The Princess Louis on High Holborn street (south side, just west of Kingsway). It's broken up into several small rooms that all look out into a central bar, and it's filled with gorgeous examples of cut glass, tiles, carved wood, and brass. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, on Fleet Street, is another great pub, and one of the oldest in London. Tennyson, Johnson, and Dickens all use to drink here. Make sure you visit every floor.

I also second the British Library. They have several great permanent exhibits, including a copy of the Magna Carta, and, as vacapinta noted, the British love their Lewis Carroll.

I've lived in both Dublin and London, and I don't mind telling people what I think they should do there. Feel free to memail me if you want more advice.
posted by Hoenikker at 9:11 AM on March 2, 2010

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