A Visit to Ireland, Favourite Holiday Resort of the Vikings.
The Vikings, or Ostmen as they called themselves, ruled Dublin for almost three centuries, though they were defeated and expelled by the Irish High King Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. The last Norse King of Dublin, Hasculf Thorgillsson, tried recapture the city with a Scottish / Norse army, but the reconquest failed and Thorgillsson was killed.
Evidence of the Viking rule lasted a long time, especially the Thingmote, a huge mound near Dublin Castle. It was the site where the Norsemen assembled and made their laws and held courts, though it was flattened years later in 1685. Viking Dublin also had a large slave market where slaves or Thralls, as they called them, were sold by the Norse and the Irish chiefs.
I have decided that as soon as I retire, or The Last Viking becomes an overwhelming, out-of-control bestseller, whichever comes first, I am out of here and off to Viking Ireland to live. Last time I visited I came across a castle-like fortress that I fancy. It is a derelict Church of the Knights Templar dating from 1187 and sits on the edge of small cliff overlooking the Irish Sea. Although it needs a little work; it has no doors, windows, running water, electricity, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, floorboards or roof, and unfortunately, there are a large bunch of dead folks buried in the front lawn, it does have plenty of character and would just suit me as a bolthole from the madding crowd. (You can tell I had just been to visit Thomas Hardy’s house.) I can just imagine myself on up on the battlements of my private castle-ette spitting in ze general direction and pouring boiling oil down on any children’s book critics who come to visit … and firing arrows of scorn at them.
And speaking of arrows, while we were in St Davids in Southern Wales, Jan and I both had plenty of practice at a medieval fair with original yew longbows, as you would have found at Agincourt or Crecy, or any Robin Hood movie, so if any nobles, knights, peasants or librarians attack my castle in their multitudes, we could rain down on their number arrows from a great height, causing great anguish and misery and a gnashing of teeth.
My castle is located not that far from a small village with more pubs than houses and not that far from the other 10,999 pubs dotted across the Emerald Isle. And although there are no cinemas, bookshops, restaurants, Bunnings or shoe stores located nearby, it has other compensations. Other than the scenery, Jan can’t actually think of any – but I’m working on her.
Like all tourists arriving in Dublin, after we had been to see the statue of the hugely busted Molly Malone, the Tart with the Cart or the Trollop with the Scollops as the locals lovingly and cleverly call her, we went immediately to Temple Bar, a cobblestone street and site of more pubs per square inch that anywhere in the world, and what a great place it turned out to be too. Smoking has recently been banned in pubs, so all the patrons spill out into the streets to puff away and socialise while doing that. The folks in the streets seemed to be having more fun than those inside, not that the others seem too upset by it.
We lined up to see the famous medieval Book of Kells and the even more famous Long Room Library at Trinity College, as well as several tourist traps, like the Guinness Brewery, where the tour of the old factory was underwhelming and the ‘free Guinness’ (included in the price of the crappy tour) was the worst tasting pint in all Ireland. And we did a have a good few to compare. It sort of reminded me of the Cadbury factory in Hobart. The idea sounds fantastic; the reality was a hot, dull, one-way passage where you are herded past a load of big green machines that made a lot of noise and regurgitated out chocolates at one end like the chicken pie machine in Chicken Run. They gave you plenty of freebies but as it was so hot you either had to eat them there and then, or watch them melt through your fingers. After half an hour, when you are dying of thirst, you are bored rigid, the air stinks of something sweet and fermenting and you still have another hour to go with no escape, chocolate turns very unappetising – and remember this is me talking here, a seriously addicted sweetaholic.
Anyway, back in Guinness, after watching a lot of black coloured water swirl about, we climb seven scary staircases of industrial age ironwork to the crowded, glass walled Gravity Bar, hundreds of metres above Dublin, where you would think you had earned a decent pint. Pity they didn’t think so as well. The Guinness in the factory is not half as good as that in every village pub across the country. The view from the Gravity Bar , however, was great, even if it didn’t include an invasion fleet of Viking Longships on the horizon.