Generations of people have been taking a ‘walk on the pier’ and it is something that I have always enjoyed. Whether the day is warm and a gentle breeze blowing or you are wrapped up against a bracing wind, ‘taking the air’ is a real pleasure. The sharp, salty air never fails to clear a stuffy head, and the long walk is a favourite for thousands.
The waters in Dublin Bay often silted up making it difficult for ships to land and they would have to stay moored off-shore for days. A small pier was opened in 1767 (Coal Harbour Pier) but it soon became useless. After two disasters in November 1807 when the HMS Prince of Wales and The Rochdale sank with the loss of 400 people there was an outcry for ‘something to be done.’ In 1815 an Act of Parliament was passed for the construction of ‘a harbour for ships to the eastward of Dunleary’, and the foundation stone (East Pier) was laid in May 1817 by Earl Whitworth, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The granite was quarried in Dalkey and transported by a funicular railway that later became the Atmospheric Railway. By 1820 the original plan was amended by engineer John Rennie to add a second pier, and the West Pier was completed in 1827.
The East Pier (red for port) is 2.6 K (out & back) while the West Pier (green for starboard) is slightly longer at 3.01 K. They enclose a 250 acre harbour and the gap between them is 232 metres. The East Pier is the more popular with walkers and has a bandstand (built 1890s) where, weather permitting, music concerts take place. There is also a memorial to Captain Boyd and his crew who drowned in 1861 during a rescue. And you can see a plaque in honour of Samuel Beckett who also liked to ‘walk the pier’ – Happy Days!