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O'Connell Street, towards the Post OfficeIf you need a good excuse for a few pints of Guinness - or half-pints for ladies - pop across to Dublin for a weekend dedicated to literature, music and architecture.

Even if you're a bit shaky on the works of James Joyce, Brendan Behan, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and other notorious literary characters associated with Dublin, an evening's crash course can help quench your thirst for literature and the spirit of Ireland.

The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl costs 12 euros and starts 7.30 p.m. every night during summer at Duke's Pub on Duke Street; or Thursday to Sunday in winter. Also at 12 noon every Sunday. Two professional actors lead you around the best-known literary pubs, with tongue-in-cheek stories at each location. 

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Getting there: good choice of flights from 18 airports around Britain. By sea, go with Irish Ferries from Holyhead to Dublin Port, and take bus 53 or express coach to centre. Ryanair offers lowest-cost flights.

Or try the high-speed Stena Lines, also from Holyhead, to Dun Laoghaire and then by train in 30 mins. 

Ask your travel agent about weekend packages.

Remember that the Irish Republic uses Euros.  But most shopkeepers and hoteliers will still recognise and accept the UK pound.

Dublin Tourism Centre is located in the converted St Andrew's Church at Suffolk Street near Trinity College and Dame Street.

More information: Ireland Tourism, Nations House, 103 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QS. Tel: 0800 039 7000;  Website:

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Brief scenes are performed, well chosen for their humour. You get double value for your money: an introduction to the great names of Irish literature, and a taster of their favourite pubs.

A similar educational programme is offered on the Musical Pub Crawl in the Temple Bar area, starting from Oliver St. John Gogarty's pub. Led by a professional musician from musical pub to pub, you can singalong in traditional Irish style, taking good care to stop your throat drying out.

The tours operate every night April to October inclusive, price 12 euros, though only Thursday, Friday & Saturday from November to March. But there's nothing to stop you wandering round the selected bars on your own - The Ha'penny Bridge Inn, Palace Bar, Isoldes Tower, The Chancery and The Legal Eagle.

For dedicated students of music, Dublin can claim to be the world's Rock Music Capital, thanks to the local talent of U2, The Hothouse Flowers, Thin Lizzy, Moving Hearts and singers like Bob Geldof and Chris de Burgh.

Much of this hothouse talent flowered in the warm and friendly pub atmosphere, just like The Chieftains and The Dubliners in the 1960s. 

You can follow a Rock 'n Stroll Trail that zig-zags from pub to pub across the cityThe Custom House centre. Drop in and listen at any of the music pubs, and maybe you can boast in a few years' time that you first heard the latest hit band during your Dublin this year.

Some of these pubs are wildly popular, jam-packed every night. Just try to squeeze into O'Donoghues in Merrion Row, where The Dubliners made their name during the folk revival of the sixties. It's still a centre for traditional Irish music.

Thee are several variations of guided walking tours that cover Literary and Georgian Dublin. They operate very frequently in summer, but less often in winter. The Tourist Office can advise what's on, and make reservations.

You can also download a series of free podcast iwalks and load them into your ipod or MP3 player.

During the 18th century fashionable Dublin was laid out with superbly designed streets and squares and public buildings. On the River Liffey waterfront, the Custom House is one of the finest buildings in Dublin.

A winged Victory Leinster House was the grandest of stately mansions, now used by the Irish parliament. Facing Leinster House is Merrion Square, rated as the world's best-preserved stretch of Georgian architecture.

Here Oscar Wilde spent his boyhood. Numerous wall plaques around the Square commemorate other literary and political giants such as Sheridan the playwright, W.B. Yeats who won the Nobel Prize for Poetry, and Daniel O'Connell the 19th-century politician.

The nationalist leader is honoured in more substantial style with a major monument that faces O'Connell Bridge at the beginning of O'Connell Street. One of the winged victories around the base is pitted with shrapnel holes, dating from the Easter Rising of 1916 which centred on the General Post Office just up the street.

The Irish view of that trauma is well displayed in the National Museum, now re-housed in Collins Barracks - a complex dating from 1702 and used by armed forces until 1988.  A gallery called The Road to Independence covers the period from 1900-1923.

Most of the key sightseeing of Dublin is central and within easy walking range. Next bridge along from O'Connell is the pedestrian Ha'penny Bridge which leads direct into the Temple Bar area. This former derelict zone has been restored. The cobbled streets are now lined with craft shops, galleries and art exhibitions, while the traditional pubs, cafes and restaurants stay lively until late.

For sightseeing beyond the central area, the best city-transport buy is a Dublin Rambler bus ticket for one or three days. Another good choice is a Hop-on/Hop-off tour service with live commentary which follows around a 25-stop circuit of the city's tourist highlights.  Cost for 24 hours is 13 euros, with entry discounts for leading attractions.

Molly Malone - Dublin's most popular statueAmong the most popular Hop-off stages is the Guinness Storehouse - a highly creative conversion which illustrates the brewing process. At the rooftop Gravity Bar you can absorb a 'free' pint and a superb all-over view of Dublin, included in the regular entry price of 13.50 euros. 

Apart from traditional thirst-quenching, most visitors also want to sample the old-time Irish cuisine.  But Dublin has now gone international, offering fullest ethnic choice from across Europe and Asia. Irish stew is harder to find on the local menus. You won't hear Molly Malone crying "Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh," though  Dublin still has a good reputation for seafood dishes. 

Molly Malone may have died from a fever, but her memory lives on, with the song that's almost like the Dublin National Anthem. In more solid form, Molly and her barrow are immortalised in a bronze statue facing Grafton Street. Dubliners tend to refer to the statue as 'The Tart With The Cart','The Dish With The Fish,' or 'The Trollop With The Scallops'. Most of her "streets broad and narrow" are still in place, unspoilt by the 20th century.

Read about these other areas of Ireland

BLARNEY - enjoying the talk in Counties Cork and Kerry

DUBLIN - Take a new look

IRELAND WEST COAST - Coach-touring the west


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

"Festival of Irish Music" - a two-disc collection of tracks by varied artists, including The Dubliners. A good memento of evenings out in Dublin's favourite taverns.

"Lonely Planet: Dublin"  - a detailed guide to the city, including a good selection of walking tours; and where to go for all the lively evening enjoyment.

"Literary Guide to Dublin" by Vivien Igoe - describes the association of so many famed writers with Dublin, from Jonathan Swift to modern times. Helpful in following --their literary trail around the city.

Dublin by Edward Rutherford - A massive but very readable account, 1215 pages, stretching back into history in great detail.

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