Guinness’ Goodness to Dublin: Discover the Guinness Legacy
That smell is a silent reminder that Guinness still operates a brewery right here in Dublin city. Founded by Arthur Guinness more than 250 years ago, the Guinness Brewery is a success story like no other. It brought fame, wealth and titles to a family whose name would be forever associated with Dublin.
A pint of plain is your only man.
Flann O’Brien, Writer
The Guinness Brewery, Birthplace of the World's Best Known Irish Beer
I started my self-guided tour staring at a copy of the lease that marked the foundation of the Guinness Brewery. Like a divine relic that demanded protection at all cost, the document bearing Arthur Guinness’s famous signature was enshrined in the ground under a thick layer of glass. Arthur Guinness founded his brewery in 1759 when he purchased a lease on a small brewery at St James’s Gate. Confident in its success, the lease was to be an astonishing 9 000 years long.
Renowned philanthropists and deeply religious, the Guinnesses were generous with their employees. At a time where the state social welfare was non-existent, workers at the Brewery received sick pay and – a thing unheard of before – paid holidays, while widows were entitled to a pension. Medical officers were hired to staff a Dispensary looking after the workers but also their families, all together a community of around 20 000 people in the 1950’s.
THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSEfrom €18.50
Address: St James's Gate, Dublin
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9:30am to 7pm. Expect to spend 2 hours there.
How to get there: Walk! The Guinness Storehouse is just a 10 minute stroll from St Patrick's Cathedral.
Tip: Avoid peak time to have a chance to enjoy the view from the Gravity Bar as it can get very crowded.
Guinness and the Saving of St Patrick's Cathedral
Benjamin Lee Guinness, grandson of Arthur Guinness and the richest man in Ireland, proposed then to finance, on his own money, the restoration of St Patrick’s Cathedral. The catch: he requested no interference from the Cathedral board while the work was ongoing. £150 000 (an absolute fortune!) was to be spent on the renovation from 1860 to 1865.
Benjamin Lee Guinness was made a Baronet in recognition of his service and generosity. His sons Arthur and Edward continued to support St Patrick’s after their father’s death. The magnificent eye-catching yellow, red and blue tiles throughout the Cathedral were paid for by Arthur. They were inspired by surviving medieval tiles found in the baptistry. Edward would later donate a new set of bells.
SAINT PATRICK'S CATHEDRALfrom €7
Address: Patrick's Street, Dublin.
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 9:30am to 7pm. More restricted opening hours on Sunday.
How to get there: The cathedral is only a 15 minute walk from Temple Bar.
Tip: After your visit, drop by the Marsh's Library next door, a stunning 18th century library.
St Stephen's Green, a Gift from Guinness to the People of Dublin
Arthur Edward Guinness had inherited the brewery together with his younger brother Edward Cecil. But he later sold his share in the business to his sibling to pursue his real interests: public life and philanthropy.
He completed the renovation of the Marsh’s Library located beside St Patrick’s Cathedral. But Arthur Edward Guinness would be best remembered for giving St Stephen’s Green to the people of Dublin.
October was unusually warm this year and Dubliners were enjoying their lunch on the benches and grass of St Stephen’s Green. A tourist shouted in her American accent her incredulity at the flowers’ bright colours laid in front of her, wondering if they had been dyed. The pond attracted young children eager to feed the sociable ducks and cranky swans while parents were taking on the task of keeping the greedy seagulls at bay.
Since its reopening in 1880 St Stephen’s Green has become one of Dublin’s most important features, a recurring character in Dubliners’ social life. In St Stephen’s Green, office workers bask in the sun during lunch time, teenagers sit on the edge of the fountain comparing their latest purchase from their shopping spree in nearby Grafton Street, language exchange students buzzing with excitement regroup as bees under the leafy canopy. If you’re lucky enough you might even catch a small orchestra playing under the roof of the old bandstand.
SAINT STEPHEN'S GREENfree
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 7:30am till dusk, on Sunday from 9:30an till dusk.
Where to find it: Main entrance is at the top of Grafton Street in Dublin city centre.
St Patrick's Park and Guinness's Most Extraordinary Urban Redevelopment
His father saved St Patrick’s Cathedral from the brink of collapse. But in the late 19th century, the Cathedral’s bell tower overlooked filthy tenements and dirty alleys that were developed without proper planning. With more than 40% of the population under the poverty line, the living conditions of Dublin’s working class were dreadful.
Here I was sitting in a century-old park created yet again by a member of the Guinness family, sheltered for a moment from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. I watched the weeping hollow bent over the neatly cut grass, listened to the clattering of the fountain as the water dropped in the circular bassin. St Patrick’s Park gave the Cathedral a picturesque setting where visitors could sit down and admire quietly the architectural achievement standing in front of them.
The clearance didn’t stop there though. Edward Cecil Guinness, founder of the philanthropic trust called the Iveagh Trust, made it his mission to provide affordable housing and amenities to Dublin’s poor working class.
As I investigated further the area north of St Patrick’s Park, the name “Iveagh” kept popping up on facades. Bride Road was flanked by buildings bearing the names “Iveagh Baths” and “Iveagh House”. The “Iveagh Trust” name showed up again on the impressive exterior of the building fronting St Patrick’s Park on its north side.
SAINT PATRICK'S PARKfree
Where to find it: Next to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, on Patrick Street.
The Guinness Family: Catching the Glimpse of a Lifestyle
I was still hoping to catch a glimpse of the wealth and opulence of the Guinness family when they still lived full time in Dublin. My first clue came once again from the name “Iveagh”.
Guinness's Sumptuous Family Home and the Iveagh Gardens
Afraid to disrupt the agreed-upon silence, book reading, sunbathing and whispering were everyone’s favourite activities. Hidden behind walls of thorn and flowers, those looking to meditate favoured the more intimate setting of the rosary. At the far end of an alley, the refreshing sound of a cascade surrounded by exotic ferns made sure I forgot for a time I was right in the middle of Dublin city.
THE IVEAGH GARDENSfree
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 8am to 6pm, Sunday from 10m (park closes earlier during Winter time).
Where to find it: Main entrance through Harcourt Street.
Farmleigh House, Guinness's Rustic Retreat
In the west wing was the chandelier-clad ballroom where the wooden walls had been skilfully painted to look like marble while its floor wore the signs of thousands of stabbing high heels. We finally left the house through the warmth of the spacious conservatory, hanging out for a moment with the house’s only permanent residents: the tropical plants.
Address: Farmleigh House and Estate, Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
How to get there: Bus 37 to Castleknock Gate then walk around 15 minutes.
Tip: Gardens are free to visit. Check online for opening times, Farmleigh House can sometimes be closed for special events.
Guinness is not just a beer though.
Self-made entrepreneurs, the Guinnesses left their mark on the Irish capital like no other family, spending vast amounts of their wealth to better the life of ordinary Dubliners. As I walk around the city streets and the aroma of barley catches my nose once again, I don’t look up for the invisible smoke anymore. I look around, knowing Guinness is everywhere in Dublin.
Essential Tips for Visiting Dublin
- Getting There | Find flight deals with Skyscanner. It also has a great tool to help you plan the best route to reach Dublin, especially when departing from an airport with no direct flight to Ireland. You can also sail to Dublin from the UK or France with Irish Ferries.
- Where to Stay | Dublin has accommodation for every budget. I would recommend staying in the city centre so you won’t have to rely on public transport late at night. Avoid Temple Bar if you are a light sleeper. Check the latest prices and reviews.
- Getting Around | AirCoach is my favourite bus company to travel from Dublin Airport to the city centre and also the fastest. Dublin Bus website and its free app will help you navigate the city transport network if you ever need a bus. Read How To Get Around Dublin by Public Transport for more tips.
- Planning | Lonely Planet Dublin city guide is one of my favourite guides when it comes to researching and planning a trip to Dublin. Buy a copy online and take it with you, it always makes for a great travelling companion! Rick Steves Snapshot Dublin is another guide worth having, its pocket size is ideal when travelling light.
- Travel Insurance | Don’t forget to buy travel insurance before visiting the Irish capital. Heymondo has a nifty app to help you get the assistance you need while on the go.