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East Pier – A Walk On The Windy Side!

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 with 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 of people.

East Pier, across to Howth, in all its glory

East Pier, with Howth beyond, in all its glory

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 obsolete. After two disasters in November 1807 when the HMS Prince of Wales and The Rochdale sank just off shore, 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 (East Pier) foundation stone was laid in May 1817 by Earl Whitworth, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The granite used in building the pier was quarried in nearby 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, four years after the East Pier.

Samuel Beckett's plaque

Samuel Beckett’s plaque

The East Pier Lighthouse (red for port) is 1.3 KM from the road, while a walk to the West Pier Lighthouse (green for starboard) is slightly longer at 1.5 KM. The area enclosed between the piers is a 250 acre harbour and the gap between the lighthouses 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 brave crew who drowned in 1861 during a rescue. And below it you can see a plaque in honour of Samuel Beckett who often cycled down from his home in Foxrock as he liked to ‘walk the pier’. He, no doubt, had many Happy Days doing just that.

Analemmatic Sundial

Analemmatic Sundial

The council have carried out much work on the pier in recent times and the smooth surface is now certainly safer and more enjoyable to walk. The ice cream van is a popular attraction and, if the weather is nice,  you’ll have to join a long queue. Close-by is the new Analemmatic Sundial that, sadly, without some sunshine wasn’t very useful. But I look forward to going back on a sunny day and finding out how it works!

King George IV obelisk

King George IV obelisk

Royal footmarks

Royal footmarks

President Michael D O’Higgins attended the 200th anniversary of the opening of the East Pier (31st May), held  in the shadow of the King George IV obelisk. This was erected opposite the point where the king embarked on 3rd September 1821 for his return to London. (Note: There is also a memorial to his arrival, at Howth on the 12th August. The royal footmarks were measured by local stonemason Robert Campbell who then captured them in a giant granite stone at the end of the West Pier.)

President O'Higgins - opening ceremony

President O’Higgins – opening ceremony

After the speeches there was a noisy and well-received  21-gun salute from the roof of the East Pier lighthouse. And even the sun made  brief appearance as it joined in the festivities!

Salute from East Pier lighthouse

Salute from East Pier lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Howth – Steeped in History

Howth Lighthouse

Howth Lighthouse

Howth is situated at the northern tip of Dublin Bay with commanding views that made it a perfect stronghold for the Vikings who first invaded in 819. The name is derived from Old Norse ‘Hofuth’ (meaning ‘head’) and it is where many fighters fled after their defeat in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. The Norse maintained a presence there until they were eventually defeated by the Normans in 1177.

Howth Martello Tower

Martello Tower

The original Howth Castle was situated atop Tower Hill which affords a wonderful view of Howth harbour, marina and the islands – Ireland’s Eye and Lambay to the north. You can visit Ireland’s Eye (best in the summer) but Lambay is privately owned. There are Martello Towers on both, and that on Tower Hill is now home to Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Vintage Radio Museum.

Across from Tower Hill is St Mary’s Church. The original was built by Sitric, King of Dublin, in 1042. This was replaced in 1235 and the current building was erected in the following century. Again, the views of the modern marina from the medieval building are superb.

Royal Footprints

Royal Footprints

The harbour has plenty of history associated with it, as it was where King George IV first set foot in Ireland on 12th August 1821. This event has been commemorated with ‘his footprints’ (cut by stonemason Robert Campbell) at the end of the West Pier. Check them out and see if you could ‘fill the royal shoes’. And on the 26th July 1914 Erskine Childers and his crew (it included his wife Molly) of the Asgard  landed 900 rifles and almost 30,000 rounds of ammunition that Irish Volunteers used in the Easter Rising 1916 and the War of Independence 1919-1921. The harbour is a busy commercial hub and supplies seafood to many of the local shops and restaurants. Wrights of Howth and Beshoffs of Howth, both at the start of the West Pier, are long established and perennial favourites.

A walk around the marina and a bracing stroll on the East Pier is a particular pleasure and not to be missed.

Howth Marina & The Islands

Howth Marina & The Islands

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Martello Towers – A Defensive Line

James Joyce Tower

James Joyce Tower

Although it is the most famous of them all, the Martello Tower in Sandycove that houses the James Joyce Tower & Museum, is one of about fifty built to repulse a possible invasion by Napoleon’s navy. After the passage of the National Defence Act 1804, towers were erected along the East Coast from Bray to Balbriggan, with others on the south coast and Cork harbour.

When war broke out between Britain and France in 1793 two British ships, the Fortitude and Juno, attacked  a round tower at Cape Mortella in Corsica in February 1794. After hours of heavy bombardment by the two ships the tower was finally taken with little damage to the structure. However, the Fortitude had been set on fire and lost 62 men in the fight. Impressed by the strong defensive nature of the tower, engineers used the design when building the line of towers in 1804.

Howth Tower

Howth Tower

Around Dublin 28 towers were erected: 16 stretching southwards from Sandymount to Bray, and 12 northwards from Red Rock, Sutton  to Balbriggan. Seven of those to the south have been demolished while all to the north are standing. Many are in private ownership with Howth tower, now the Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio, the only one open to the public on the northside. Apart from Sandycove, Seapoint tower is the only other open to the public (during the summer) on the southside. There you can see the equipment used for loading the 18-pounder gun (there is a replica on the roof), and feel what it was like to have lived there. The towers were usually 40feet tall with eight-foot thick walls and housed an officer and 10-15 soldiers. Although built in time of war they, thankfully, never saw any action as the French invasion never materialised.

Seapoint Tower

Seapoint Tower

It is somewhat ironic that towers designed in Corsica, where Napoleon was born, were the blueprint for a defence against him!

 

 

 

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To the sea

To the sea - the walk ahead

To the sea – the walk ahead

The air was warm, the breeze gentle, and the tang of the salty air invigorating. It felt that summer had definitely arrived, as I slung my camera over my shoulder and headed for the Great South Wall.

It was my first visit here since the autumn when the day was bright and the breeze blustery. Today, thankfully, was totally inviting, and my arrival in mid-morning meant that there were only a few walkers enjoying the beautiful weather. And, of course, the unique scene and images of Dublin.

The building of the Great South Wall began in 1715 when it was authorised by the Dublin City assembly. It was built in response to the problems caused by silting at the mouth of the River Liffey, which prevented large ships from landing. Most of the wall is constructed from large granite blocks brought from the quarries in Dalkey, and it was, for a time, the world’s longest sea-wall. Building took many years, and the red-painted Poolbeg Lighthouse at the tip of the wall was constructed in 1820.

Poolbeg Lighthouse - looking great

Poolbeg Lighthouse – looking great

The view from the lighthouse – 360 degrees – of Dublin, is fascinating, especially for those who have never stood there before. You are in the middle of the bay, almost equi-distant from Howth and Killiney, with only ships travelling in and out of Dublin Port for company. It is a new way of looking at the city, and one not to be missed, especially on a bright, sunny day. 

Fantastic sky over Clontarf  (pic taken from Great South Wall)

Fantastic sky over Clontarf (pic taken from Great South Wall)

At the start of the wall is the Pigeon House, which was named after John Pigeon who ran a small hotel (built between 1793-95) that catered for travellers who had to be ferried to and from their ships. Sadly, it has nothing to do with the myriad of pigeons about the place! However, there are plenty of birds and animals to be seen as the GSW is now a Special Protection Area (SPA), and the adjacent Irishtown Nature Park is popular.

Being out on the water, and you do feel that you are floating on Dublin Bay, is a wonderful feeling and something that this hidden gem always delivers.

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Sail On!

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Dun Laoghaire harbour

There’s nothing better than a heat wave to get people to the seaside, and the last few days Dublin has experienced just such glorious weather. With temperatures regularly touching 30 degrees I spent a few hours in sun drenched Dun Laoghaire catching some rays and enjoying the regatta. Organisers could not have hoped for better conditions with Dublin Bay a riot  of colourful sails billowing in the warm breeze, and  not a puffy cloud in sight. It was a splendid image – postcard stuff! From early morning to late afternoon boats came and went from the different clubs in the harbour, in what was the most successful regatta in years.

Many people watched the racing from the East Pier which was, not surprisingly, crowded with walkers and sun worshippers. The ice cream seller at the top of the pier was doing a roaring trade, no doubt hoping like the rest of us, for the weather to hang around for a few more days. The weather up until now had been so hit and miss, more miss I would suggest, and the smiling faces everywhere really did lift the soul. Shine on!

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Across the bay to Howth

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