Pop in for a pint at the president's local

MY ROUGH GUIDE
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The Independent Travel
First impressions

Dublin is human-sized and visitor friendly. The Georgian inner city is easily explored on foot, with most of its attractions within 10 minutes' walk of Trinity College or Dublin Castle. While its pubs are justly famous - celebrated by Joyce, Behan, U2 and The Cranberries to name but a few - word has yet to get out that Dublin is also gastronomically rewarding, since a culinary revolution overthrew the tyranny of fried breakfasts, Irish stew and fish 'n' chips. As for the people, it's hard to find a chattier, more helpful bunch - even club bouncers are polite.

Worst mistake

Travelling from London to Dublin by coach and ferry, instead of flying. You might save pounds 20, but enduring nine hours on the motorway to Holyhead and up to five hours crossing the Irish Sea leaves you shattered. The only consolation for ferry passengers is that the bars stay open all night.

Essential advice

Reserve accommodation, whatever time of year you go. Most hotels, B&Bs and hostels are full from Friday-Sunday year round, and on weekdays too over summer, or around Easter or major sporting events. While booking a fortnight ahead is okay in February or October, one or two months is more appropriate for peak times. If you arrive without a reservation, one can book at any Dublin tourism office.

Favourite Hotel

If money were no object, The Clarence in Temple Bar would be my first choice. Owned by U2 and popular with celebs, its post-modern design is cool yet sensuous. Candles, Egyptian linen and videos are provided in all the rooms, while the penthouse suites used by the likes of Bjork and Simon Le Bon overlook the River Liffey. Realistically, however, I'll settle for a bed in a hostel. My favourite is Ashfield House, around the corner from Trinity College; en-suite throughout, and spacious.

Best Guinness

There are three serious contenders for the honour of pouring the best Guinness in town. Mulligan's of Poolbeg Street, a smokey, spartan journalists' pub that hasn't altered for decades, is wildly rated the winner, but the claim is fiercely disputed by regulars at Ryan's of Parkgate Street, who point out that the notoriously sensitive liquid has less far to travel, since Ryan's is just across the river from the Guinness Brewery (though by that logic the the winner should be the brewery's own museum in the former Hop Store on Crane Street). I prefer Ryan's, if only for its glorious oak-panelled snugs. It is also the Irish president's local.

Most ghoulish relic

Petrified corpses aren't to everyone's taste, but St Michan's Church has been subsidising its upkeep for as long as anybody can recall by charging visitors to see the cobwebbed stiffs in its crypt. The "best" ones are 300-700 years old: a man thought to have been a Crusader, a woman who may have been a nun, and a man missing a hand.

Best museum

The most memorable for me was Kilmainham Jail, where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were shot by the British. A thought-provoking exhibition on capital punishment precedes the tour of the chillingly bleak cell blocks and execution yards. Ironically, Kilmainham continued to be used by the Irish Free State during the 1921-24 civil war against the IRA "Irregulars".

Wittiest remark by a Dubliner

Where do you start? Oscar Wilde alone was responsible for more drollery than any stand-up comedian. My personal favourite is Oliver St John Gogarty's riposte to a member of the Dail who demanded the felling of the trees beside the Grand Canal, which provided cover for prostitutes and their clients. He defended the trees as "more sinned against than sinning".

Dan Richardson wrote 'The Mini-Rough Guide to Dublin'. Keep up with the latest developments in travel by subscribing to the free newsletter 'Rough News', published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.

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Getting there

There are numerous daily flights from London to Dublin. Low-season fares and special offers are available from many airlines, but Ryan Air (tel: 0541 569569) offers return flights to Dublin from Gatwick, Stansted or Luton from pounds 59+ pounds 10 tax. For coach and ferry tickets, call Slattery's on 0171 482 1604.

Where to stay

The Clarence (tel: 00 353 1 670 9000) has ordinary rooms for around IRpounds 100, and suites from IRpounds 400-IRpounds 450. At Ashfield House (tel: 00 3531 679 7734) a bunk in a dormitory costs as little as IRpounds 7.50 and a double room IRpounds 18.

In Dublin you can book into a hotel, B&B or hostel by phone (tel: 605 7777), or at the tourist offices at the airport, Dun Laoghaire terminal, or Suffolk Street, near Trinity College. There's a booking fee of IRpounds 3.

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