Top Ten Things To Do If You’re a Postgrad In Dublin

First written for postgrad.com 2016

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Recently I have written a few pieces about being a postgraduate student for postgrad.com. Here is my second offering: a top 10 of things to do in Dublin. Hopefully there are a few things that you haven’t previously thought of and there are many ideas for tourists and residents in search of something new!

So you’re going to be a postgraduate student in Dublin. The Irish capital is thriving and has a unique take between new and old. Explore Ireland’s world famous arts and heritage and enjoy the sights and sounds of this ideal postgraduate city.

1. Stroll Around Phoenix Park

This beautiful urban park is one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. It is so big it includes a zoo, Aras an Uachtaráin (the official residence of the President of Ireland), a visitor centre and Ashtown Castle. It’s particularly lovely in springtime when you can lie among the bluebells and wait to spot some of the wild deer that live there.

2. Visit Kilmainham Gaol

First built in 1796, this former prison hosted some of the most infamous and momentous events of twentieth century Irish history. Visit this museum to see where revolutionaries such as Patrick Pearse and James Connolly were held after their attempt to overthrow the British administration in Ireland with the 1916 Easter Rising. The site where they were summarily tried and executed will send shivers down your spine.

3. Eat Murphy’s Ice Cream

Now is your chance to indulge in the legendary caramelised brown bread ice cream that Murphy’s parlour is famous for. Often voted the best in Ireland, no stay in Dublin is complete without a trip to this Donegal import. Sample every flavour under the sun when relaxing between seminars.

4. Catch A Game At Croke Park

Although rugby is the nation’s game, at Croke Park you can also see the very best of Gaelic football and hurling. For the uninitiated hurling looks like a cross between football and quidditch, but is unfailingly exhilarating and entertaining. One weekend take to the stands and cheer on the Dubs!

5. Enjoy Seafood In Howth

Howth is a picturesque fishing village on the North side of Dublin. Work up an appetite walking along the cliffs before taking your pick of the dozens of fish restaurants. Where else can you look out over the harbour while eating Dublin bay prawns fresh from the sea?

6. Trawl Temple Bar

Usually the first stop for tourists Temple Bar is still well worth a visit. If possible go in spring or autumn when you can enjoy the live music, daytime book markets and food markets. Take the time to explore the record shops selling vinyl classics at bargain prices. Visit one of the many theatre or galleries that pepper the area and enjoy a pint of the black stuff as the sun goes down.

7. Indulge In Historical Drinking

An alternative to Temple Bar, visit the oldest pub in the city. Established in 1198 the Brazen Head is a chance to step back in time. Each night there is something different from Irish storytellers, live music and extensive food and drink menus. When you have settled in this is the perfect place to bring visitors and impress them with your local knowledge.

8. Check Out Trinity College Dublin

The official guided tour of the Elizabethan college includes entry to the Books of Kells and Old Library – which is also home to the first printing of the Irish Proclamation. Starting at the front gate, which took pride of place in the Oscar winning film Educating Rita, take a trip through the interesting, bizarre and unique world of Ireland’s oldest university.

9. Spend Christmas Eve On Grafton Street

The main shopping throughway in Dublin attracts people from all over the country to do their Christmas shopping. The Christmas lights are beautiful with a large tree lit up before the entrance of Stephens Green Park. Grafton Street is also famous for its buskers. Wandering along you can hear Irish chart toppers, classical choirs and acoustic love songs. On December 24th each year a celebrity busking session for charity frequently includes Bono, Hozier, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard.

10. Enjoy Festivals

One of the lesser known facts about Dublin is that there is a festival for everything. At almost any time of the year you can attend a festival. One of the highlights of the calendar is the annual Drac Fest which pays homage to Dracula, written by one of the cities famous sons: Bram Stoker. October Fest is always great fun, as are the Christmas markets found on the Docklands and in theatre and Cathedral crypts.

 

Top 10 Things To Do If You’re A Postgrad In Oxford

First written for postgrad.com blog 2016

Recently I have written a few pieces about being a postgraduate student for postgrad.com. Here is my first offering: a top 10 of things to do in Oxford, UK. Hopefully there are a few things that you haven’t previously thought of and there are many ideas for tourists and residents in search of something new!

Top 10 Things To Do If You’re A Postgraduate Student In Oxford

So you have made it to the city of the dreaming spires and are about to embark on the most fulfilling academic projects to date – a postgrad program at the University of Oxford or Oxford Brookes University. But in amongst the hustle and bustle of student life in this glorious city you need to make sure you have time to relax and explore the historic streets of Oxford.

Here are our top 10 things to do in Oxford.

1. Punting

Hire a traditional punt for you and your friends, then lie back and enjoy the feeling of floating down the river without a care in the world. You could even treat yourself with a chauffeured punt and tuck into a picnic, keep going until the sun is about to set. This is the most relaxing day you can possibly have in Oxford.

2. The Divinity School

With your university pass you will have a rare opportunity to visit some of the most extraordinary places in the country. The Divinity School, a part of the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre and All Souls College Chapel are some of the highlights. For fans of gothic architecture these are not to be missed.

3. The Covered Market

The Covered Market is, as the title suggests, an indoor market. Located just off Market Street, it has been open since 1774, although it’s image has changed somewhat over the years. This is where Nigella Lawson stocked up on basics when she was a student at Oxford, but now it is home to more boutique stalls offering vintage clothing, jewellery, artwork and flowers. However, there is still a smattering of food stalls and gentle surprises that make sure this becomes a regular haunt for all those staying in the city.

4. C S Lewis Nature Reserve

Oxford is one of those rare UK cities with ample green spaces. Nearly all of the colleges have their own gardens, but it’s outside of the centre that you’ll find one of the city’s secret treasures. The woodland that once belonged to writer and scholar C S Lewis is now open to the public. This urban wilderness is indescribably beautiful and includes a tranquil pond and many unusual plants and wildlife. It is said that CS Lewis wandered around this woodland while writing his beloved Narnia novels. Hopefully inspiration will find you too.

5. Blenheim Palace

Blenheim is still home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family. The palace was originally intended to reward the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, for his military triumphs against the French and Bavarians in the War of the Spanish Succession. Embedded deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, Blenheim Palace and grounds provide the perfect backdrop for any celebration or even a relaxing evening wandering through the park and gardens, stopping off at the variety of cafes on the way. The UNESCO world heritage site is also of note as the birthplace and final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill.

6. Christ Church College

Christ Church is the only college that is also a Cathedral. Home of the patron saint of Oxford Saint Frideswide, the main hall, which was used in the Harry Potter films, will take your breath away. Paintings and artworks that defined the Tudor era adorn the walls. This is a rare chance to get up close and personal to history. It is incredible to think that over the centuries students have dined in this place, under the watchful gaze of Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth I.

7. Oxford Castle and Castle Mount

Oxford Castle is the one of the top tourist spots. The old gaol and castle have been converted into a museum that includes tales of darkness, daring do and ghosts! The mount outside is free to explore. If you climb to the top it gives you one of the best views of the city from all sides. Here you can look out over not just the centre and the dreaming spires, but also the south and west of the city that has developed and changed drastically over the centuries.

8. Christmas Markets and Vintage Fairs

Oxford attracts some of the country’s best fairs and markets. From the annual chocolate fair and Christmas market, held in Gloucester Green bus station, to multiple food markets throughout the year. At Oxford’s many markets you will be able to taste foods from all over the world, including Italian delicacies, crocodile burgers and boutique chocolates that melt in the mouth. Bon appetite. Follow this up by rummaging around one of the vintage fairs held regularly in the remarkable Town Hall.

9. Historic Drinking Dens

A Top 10 list wouldn’t be complete without a pub recommendation or two and Oxford has much to offer the casual drinker or pub-crawler, with its historic drinking dens offering a unique drinking experience. You can go to the Turf Tavern where Morse and Lewis pondered their mysteries before moving on to 13th century pub The Bear, one of the oldest pubs in the city, before finishing at The Eagle and Child a favourite haunt of C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien.

10. Make use of the great transport links

If you feel the need to get out of Oxford for the day it’s really quick and easy to jump on a bus or train to London or Reading. If it’s shopping you’re after, or even a trip to London’s West End they are all in easy reach with the added benefit that you will be able to make it back in time for morning tutorials.