Sun and showers by the sea in Dublin


I’ve been working in Ireland again this week. I sailed over on Sunday, the day the Giro was due to arrive in the Dublin. I’d decided that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to arrive in the city in the aftermath of the finish as I was likely to get tangled up in traffic, so instead booked on the fast ferry to Dun Laoghaire, which is well to the south of the city centre. As the boat arrives early afternoon I had some time to explore.


I decided to avoid the city centre and instead explore the coast south of the port, something I’d been intending to do for a while. And despite having got caught in one VERY heavy downpour and dodging a few others, it was a good decision. I parked up about half a mile from the port and walked along the shore over to Sandycove.


On the way the heavens opened and a gale started to blow. I dashed for cover but by then I was almost at my destination – the James Joyce museum, located in an old Martello Tower. So when it eased off I dashed the last hundred yards to the museum. It’s where Joyce lived for a while and where the first chapter of Ulysses is set.


We visited a few years ago when we were holidaying in Ireland. At that time we were charged an entrance fee, but it’s free entry now, which was a pleasant surprise. I did put some Euros in their donations bucket though. It’s an interesting little museum, both from the Joyce perspective but also because it’s interesting to get inside one of these towers which are dotted along the coast round Dublin. And there’s a good view from the top. The Joyce exhibits included a death mask, copies of his books – including a First Edition of Ulysses – photographs and pictures – some very good.


Near to the tower is the Forty Foot – a bathing pool in the sea. Originally men only (with no cozzies) it’s now used by both sexes.



There were some brave souls in the water which is probably never that warm even in the midst of summer.


After that I drove down the coast around Dalkey, stopping off to take photos and managing to avoid the rain. Just off the mainland there’s an island – Dalkey Island – which has another Martello Tower and a ruined building – probably an old chapel.





The weather kept changing – bright sunshine one minute, heavy rain the next.



All all along the coast there were examples of Georgian houses


Driving further down the coast road there were good views of the bay towards Bray head and Sugar Loaf mountain


Looking back towards Dalkey Island


By now it was late afternoon and more rain was coming in


People were abandoning the beach


It was time to get back in my car and head off to my hotel in Naas.

James Joyce Museum Sandycove

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

This is the first line of Ulysses by James Joyce – a great work of fiction that introduced the “stream of consciousness” to English literature – but also a book that many a person has started and never finished.  The opening chapter is set in a Martello tower on the coast at Sandycove, a small seaside resort just outside Dublin (well, its part of the Dublin sprawl these days). The tower is one of a series of small defensive structures that were constructed on the coast in Britain, Ireland and some other parts of the British Empire during the Napoleonic wars. They’re very strong with thick brick walls and would have had a cannon on the top.

Joyce spent six nights in the tower from 9 to 15 September 1904. His friend Oliver St John Gogarty, who the character, Buck Mulligan, is based on, had rented it from the War Office. Another occupant of the tower during Joyce’s stay was an Anglo-Irishman, Samuel Chenevix Trench, who appears as the character Haines in the book.  Joyce fled the tower after he was woken by Trench who was screaming, having had a nightmare involving a panther. Trench picked up a revolver and fired several shots into the fireplace, after which Gogarty grabbed a .22 rifle and fired at a collection of pans above Joyce’s bed.

Entrance to the James Joyce Museum at Sandycove

Today the tower has been converted into a museum celebrating the life of Joyce and his masterpiece. We called in on the morning of our last day in Ireland on the way back to Dublin to catch the mid-afternoon ferry.  On the ground floor there is a small collection of exhibits including a couple of death masks, some letters and portraits and photographs. There are a number of his personal possessions including his guitar , a waistcoat made by his grandmother and his cigar case. Taking pride of place is a first edition of Ulysses, published by Shakespeare & Co in 1922.

The recreated sleeping quarters on the first floor

The first floor the sleeping quarters have been recreated, just as they would have been when Joyce stayed there. From here you can climb up a very narrow staircase up onto the roof where you get a good view out to sea and along the coast as far as the Liffey estuary. You can also make out the nearby “Forty foot” – an open air swimming pool which also features in chapter 1 of Ulysees as its here where Buck Mulligan takes his morning dip. It’s really just a partially enclosed section of the sea and originally was for men only (in the buff!) although today mixed bathing is permitted and “Togs must be worn after 9am.” People swim here all year round – they must be crazy! The “forty foot” is nothing to do with the depth or width of the pool; rather it’s named after the Fortieth Foot Regiment of the British Army who used to be stationed near here.

Looking towards the "Forty Foot"

Rocky coast at Sandycove, looking south from the tower