Tag Archives: Dalkey

Dalkey Island – A Short History and Some Memories

Mum stood beside me in the garden on a summer’s day and shouted at my brother, “Your cousin is on the phone.” We could just about make him out passing the church on Dalkey Island. He shouted back, “Tell him where we are.”


We were lucky enough to grow up in a house that backed onto to the sea. Our childhoods moved to the rhythm of the current of Dalkey Sound and standing 300 metres away was Dalkey Island which became an extension of our back garden.

I was in my early teens when I really began to appreciate that where I lived in Ireland was special and that appreciation kept growing until even after I had left the house and past the date when my parents retired and sold our family home.


Last week I counted all of my fingers and five of my toes only to realise that it had been fifteen years since had set foot on the island. A renewed Dalkey Island ferry had recently begun operating again after a three year absence so I decided to do my bit for local tourism. I made the call, bought water and a roll from Thyme Out in Dalkey and headed down to Coliemore Harbour.

We crossed the sound like the mesolithic and neolithic people who first made the trip with the stark difference that Ken Cunningham’s Dalkey Island ferry was not a carved out log nor was it a skin boat. It is sturdy, equipped with fenders and life preservers.


I have made this trip many times, rowing, canoeing, or under the power of an old and tiny seagull engine. I wrote an essay for my final school exams based around the Sound, whose currents are deceptively treacherous.

Before Dalkey was christened the sea levels were not as high as they are today and its early inhabitants would have been able to walk between Dalkey Island and Lamb Island (directly to its North) without fear of getting wet feet.

I spend my childhood summers in soggy sea-salted sneakers slipping with (and sometimes without) skill from rockpool to seaweed covered rock.


We landed on the new concrete jetty. I tried to start arranging my return journey but Ken either vaguely remembered my face or just trusted me.

“I’ll see you”.


I’m back on the Island, I have no claim to it besides the one that is in my heart, my Island. I passed the site of the promontory fort which overlooks the landing pier where Ancient Roman relics were found. But no evidence of the breakfast our family ate sometime in the 1970s remains apart from a few faded photos and crisp memories.

We have the Vikings to thank for the name of the town as it sounds today. The old Irish name for the Island was Deilg Inis meaning Thorn Island, due to its shape. While the meaning remained the same the name was changed to Dalk-Ei by the Vikings but before they arrived Christianity had already taken root evidenced by St. Begnat’s Church (11th century) which now stands stubbornly roofless. There is archaeological evidence that a wooden church may have been erected on the site as far back at the 7th century.


I can see my old house from  here. No joke.

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Once the Viking raiders had taken control they gave the Irish a severe beating.

One of the earliest mentions of the area refers to an incident they were involved in at Dalkey Sound.

“Coibhdeanach, Abbot of Cill-achaidh, was drowned in the sea of

Delginis-cualann while fleeing from the foreigners.”


Throughout most of its history the island remain uninhabited but for a few occasions. It was home to slaves in the Viking era and (twice recorded) used as a refuge, once in 942 when the Vikings fled there after losing a battle in Dublin and again in 1575 when there was an outbreak of The Plague.


My younger self took refuge here on more than one occasion. Slipping over on a Summer’s night armed with the warmth of friendship for our hearts, campfires for our bodies, and alcohol for our veins. We always left the place as clean as nature had intended. 


The deep waters of the Dalkey Sound meant that ships could navigate its waters safely and Dalkey became a point for the unloading of goods. The town prospered in the 15th and 16th centuries.


The Martello Tower crowns the Island in a reminder that the British Army were stood up by Napoleon in the 1800s. I was expecting it to be barred but the spirit of my childhood was working in my favour and the rusty gate lay wide open.


By the time I had heaved myself up to the entrance, on a second attempt, the shadows of my teenage years taunted me and I could almost hear their echoes coming back down the winding stone stairwell.


Two real teenagers followed behind interested in what was currently living in its festering bowels.

I remember that interest. Rat infested, ankle-breaking, and rusty-malodourous-tetanus-territory. I declined to tell them I had explored it in detail when I was their age.

They shuddered and continued up the stairs.


I showed them the design of the tower’s ‘windows’.

One that views the harbour.


The other that looks out on the church.


We continued the short climb.


The best view. Bray, Killiney Bay, Dalkey Sound and the coastline beyond.  Here I brought family, friends and girlfriends (real and a few unsuccessful potentials).





Around a dozen or so British soldiers would have lived here preparing for Napoleon’s no show.  By day during the summer what a wonderful station but it is a different story even standing for a few minutes in the middle of a cold and wet winter’s night. 


The crumbling Gun Battery (built at the same time as the tower) stands low at the south end of the island. It is an ancient and perilous playground, a perfect gift to my young self who had skirted the exterior trying to get to the highest points with a speed I dared not match today. Interior walls still stand framing its history. There was no fear of the easy eventuality of losing limb or life back then.

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Sadly I saw nothing of the Goats who have been the Island’s longest non avian inhabitants so I carefully picked my way down to the shoreline at the southern end.

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Then I crept up toward where the seagulls hang out. They eyed me suspiciously but I managed not to scare them into the air. I climbed back up to a ridge and found better place to get a shot of the rock that lies to the East the Island, the Muglins, which has had a beacon or a lighthouse on it since 1879 after a recorded thirteen ships had foundered on this stretch of Islands and rocks.

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I returned to the northern end of the Island. The exercise of trying to recapture my youth on a warm and close day had  produced an astonishing effect. It was as if the Island itself had breathed life into my clothes. They seemed to want to to make an intimate inspection of the sand.


I found myself walking into the inviting water of the shallow beach armed only with my boxer shorts to defended my modesty from a bunch of kayakers who had just arrived from the mainland.


It was one of the nicest swims I have ever taken. I left the water refreshed and with only an ill-equipped fleece to dry myself. The garment lived up to those expectations. I dressed damply and found a rock just beneath the church where I sat and ate my roll. The seat of my jeans soaked up the salty sea water. All the while Ken the Ferryman went about his business.


As it turned out the kayakers were from Kayaking.ie and headed by the more than capable Jenny Kilbride (another way to get to the island if you feel like a paddle).

After lunch I took a few more photos from the end of the pier and as I was looking up Ken’s number I was interrupted by a voice.

“Did you call me?”

Ken motored quietly beside me.  He had seen me as promised.


My appreciation of where I grew up will continue to grow past the end of this blog and will only end when the tide makes its last retreat from my life. I will be forever grateful to my parents for choosing such an idyllic place for us to grow up.

I left the Island with a rejuvenated spirit and somewhere deep inside me my younger self smiled.


There is more to learn and about the rich History of Dalkey Island here. I have only included the highlights.

Details of Dalkey Island Ferry.

And Kayaking.ie here

Grab a sandwich at Thyme Out in Dalkey before you go!




Dalkey: Ireland’s First SmartNetTown

In the same week that The Gardaí dispatched undercover and armed units in an attempt to stop a spate of robberies in Dalkey and Killiney, An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, presided over the launch of Smart Net Town, a new Business initiative from Dublin company Value Nation, backed by the Dalkey Business Group.

The Gardaí have stated that their decision was not made on any socio-economic basis. But you can almost be sure that the spate of burglaries they are trying to curb was based on a socio-economic decision.


The decision to make Dalkey the first SmartNetTown has a definite socio-economic core. There is no doubt that Dalkey is an upmarket destination (for Irish citizens and, unfortunately, criminals alike) which welcomes and houses many a famous face. Even though the businesses that populate the attractive, quaint and comfortable Heritage Town strive to maintain this high standard it does not mean that they are immune to the hangover the country is still experiencing from our recent economic disaster.


The Dalkey Business Group were approached by Value Nation with their idea of a loyalty card scheme that covers all the participating businesses in the town. Instead of each business having to run their own loyalty scheme, Value Nation’s LolliPoints Card invites all businesses to share the same card while individual points earned in each shop can only be redeemed in that shop. It is as much a loyalty management system for businesses as it is a loyalty arrangement for the customers. Value Nation has other towns waiting to see how the system works in Dalkey.

Loyalty cards are not a new concept but Value Nation have tapped into the Shop Local idea as well as promoting the reduction of cards that we all have to carry around.

Dalkey Sound: Sea Shore: 2013

This may only be of interest to my family  (including cousins), Coliemore Road neighbours and all our friends who had the pleasure, fun and adventure of  spending time on the stretch of rocks that led from the bottom of our garden and ran all the way up to Dillon’s Park in Dalkey.

From Dillon’s Park this is the run as it looks today (2013)



The New Year would bring a new challenge.



Storms would adjust the shoreline.


Different rocks would move when you landed on them.


While others that moved the year before would be forever jammed tight.


This was the view from the back of my house.


Tide in or out it was always an adventure.


Dalkey, Co. Dublin – Free WiFi – Pubs – Bars & Cafes

You may be aware that I grew up in the sleepy little town of Dalkey, in South Co. Dublin and since I grew into what they call adulthood Dalkey has grown with me. It has become a Heritage town and turned from sleepy to bustling while always remaining fashionable. I make it my business to visit at least once a week if not more. Like a cat surveying its territory I check for any changes and note them.

My work on line means that I cannot be too far away from an internet connection and so here is a tour of the Free WiFi you can avail of in the town.

Finnegans or The Sorrento Lounge


My home away from my various homes, Finnegans has always been there for me and my thirst. Also it has been visited by various celebrities through the years but the reason they go there is not to be swamped by fans but to enjoy the peace and quiet that they get when they visit. Serves great food.

WiFi: No Password and a great connection, don’t be put off by the ‘home’ page that opens when your laptop or tablet does connect, just open a new page and roam away.

The Magpie


Standing on one end of Castle Street, grab a window seat and watch the Dalkey life pass by, lovely food, and have yourself a pint as well!!

WiFi: Password Dalk3y1NN and you’re in.

The Club


Famous for its three cosies and mural of the coast opposite Dalkey Island!! You will get nice lunch buffet here and a great pint at anytime of the day.

WiFi: Ask for Password at the bar.

The Corner Note Café


Open from Tuesday to Sunday, The Corner Note had delicious food and a speedy connection.

WiFi: No Password.

Idlewilde Cafe


Just off the main street with a brave Mediterranean-style outdoor area Idlewilde does a lovely bowl of soup.

WiFi: Ask for Password from the staff.

King’s Inn


A pub that it smack bang in the centre of the town.

WiFi: No Password

Tramyard Café


The new Tramyard area in Dalkey bustles, especially on the weekend, the Cafe regularly has live music and definitely has a buzz about it.

WiFi: No Password

The Queens


The Queens dates back to 1860 and sits right beside Goat or Dalkey Castle/Town Hall. Good food and pints to be had.

WiFi: Uses a free version of Bitbuzz though you have to login again every 20 minutes

Mugs Café


Mugs started off as an internet café and moved with the times, it is now a traditional café with WiFi and ample seating for you and your laptop.

WiFi: The complicated password is made easier by being displayed behind the counter.



Every pub had its share of Dalkey locals, McDonaghs is no different, and it has some kicking live music on the weekends with great Wifi.

WiFi: No Password

Dalkey Library


Admittedly it is not a pub or a Café but it is quiet and does have lots of books.

WiFi: With a library or reference card can log in but some devices have trouble so ask staff for assistance.

For those of you who haven’t visited Dalkey yet here is a handy link from somebody called Google.

You’ll most likely find me in Finnegans, The Corner Note or McDonaghs where I personally find the best combination of speed, comfort and fine pots of tea. 


Dalkey gets Obama’d

The news that Michelle, Malia and Sascha Obama were going to visit Dalkey, the village responsible for my idyllic childhood, in South Co. Dublin hit the media the day before it happened and they ran with it for the next 48 hours. They were not just visiting Dalkey either, they were going to have a bite to eat in my local pub, Finnegans, at 12.30, the papers said. I realised that I’d have to find somewhere else to have lunch.

Finnegans of Dalkey

I arrived at the Dart Station at about 12pm and was greeted by a heavy GardaI presence and a couple of barriers blocking the run from Castle Street (Dalkey’s main thoroughfare) up Railway Road and around to Sorrento Road on whose corner Finnegans sits, this day adorned with “Old Glory” swaying playfully in the Irish breeze.

I knew that I hadn’t missed the First family of the U.S. quite yet so I strolled into the village and soaked up my Dalkey. There was a loose crowd filling and milling about Castle Street as if roads, paths, or cars hadn’t been invented yet, the Gardai seemed at the same time oblivious and attentive. Select Stores served me a cup of black tea (I felt bad as they are a reputable health food shop). I perched myself comfortably and this was my view.


It seemed that the minute I settled down there was a stirring among the Gardai. People were pushed off the road to the pavements and the crowd looked much thicker. I wondered how many plainclothes secret service people were among them. For the next few minutes the only movement was the further thickening of the crowd as classes of local primary schools, families and passers-by stopped to wonder.

Hand held flags fluttered, strangers chatted, and camera phones were at the ready. Some local children had made welcoming signs.

A Dalkey Welcome

As the time wore on their enthusiasm waned.

The Welcome Settling.

Another commotion arrived with a ripple of murmurings and almost synchronised symphony of craned necks swept along the crowded streets, a false alarm as a child-minder armed with a child in a buggy, eager to get across the road, broke ranks and was quickly shepherded to the other side.

Castle Street Surge.

Why did she choose Dalkey? I ran through a potted history of my old village as I knew it. It’s history dates back to the 700s. St. Begnet founded a church on the main land and another on the striking Dalkey Island before the Vikings took over and used the natural depths of Dalkey Sound and to their advantage making the village a busy trading hub which resulted in Coliemore Harbour, at one stage, being named as Dublin’s 3rd port.  Dalkey Island also holds a Martello tower and the ruins of a fort and is currently inhabited by goats. Jump forward many centuries and Dalkey was the end of the line for the first experimental Atmospheric Railway. George Bernard Shaw was the first writer to take up residence in Dalkey and has been followed to this day by a litany of other writers and celebrities from many fields.

Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey Sound & Island

But none of this really explained why Michelle Obama and her children had chosen to lunch in the village. By now the Gardai had been joined by a generous helping of obvious secret service representatives, who were making the crowd even tighter. Another commotion, people surges and flags were on the go once more while murmurings became more animated and suddenly it became a little bit clearer as to why they were here…

Mr. and Mrs Hewson

Mr. (Bono) & Mrs. Hewson were joining them.

The whole length of Castle Street was flanked with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Obamas as they made their way from Glendalough. False alarm followed false alarm as my tea’s heat and volume diminished.


And then….

As they arrived

They zipped passed…

On their way by

and were gone as fast as they had arrived.

In the aftermath of the excitement I floated through the crowds happy to see the local businesses profiting from the lofty visitors. Though may people still didn’t actually know what had occurred. I retreated to The Corner Note Café for a late lunch.

Lunch at The Corner Note

My thanks goes to the Obamas for not only visiting but pouring the spotlight of the world on Dalkey for one afternoon, I thank them and even though he seems to garner so much criticism I thank Bono for his part as well.

To find out more about Dalkey here are a few links.

Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre

I Love Dalkey on Facebook

Dalkey On Wikipedia

Dalkey Island On Wikipedia

If you use twitter check out my own list of Dalkey related accounts here.

Culture in Dublin – Summer 2012: 3 of 3: Music

Dalkey Jazz & Lobster Festival

I thought my weekend was full already with a wedding on a Saturday (that’s a full one for me anyway) until I heard about the New Dalkey Lobster & Jazz festival.

I grew up Dalkey, still live close by and I visit it at least once a week for a business meeting or an evening pint with friends…  sometimes I jump off the train and stroll through for the sake of it.

So even though it made my weekend now bulging at the seams, I planned to sandwich the Saturday wedding with the opening and closing events of this new festival.

The Discovery Gospel Choir

I sat in the Church looking at the familiar altar and remembered the dusty transformation from it’s predecessor.  My faith used to lurk in a dark and empty room but was exposed by Catholicism which shone through a chunk  of my teenage years as an Altar Boy. When that light shone into the room, it was bright and empty, the only shadows held the doorknob and sat on the window ledge, they didn’t hang about either.

Ollie McCabe of Select Stores introduced The Discovery Gospel Choir who arrived into the church and danced their way on to the altar. Instantly the mood of the audience was lifted. The hour sped by as they chose a mixture of African rhythyms, classic soul tracks and their own original rap prayers which reverberated so energetically I was afraid that the Church was going to need to build another Altar. While the building stayed together, it was the pews that had difficulty keeping the audience sitting down.

They sung and danced. Their colourful costumes filled the altar and mesmerised the people who watched with awe.

It did nothing to make me want to believe in God again but intricate and positive sensation certainly reinforced my belief in music.

Then it was time to go to the lovely wedding in Wicklow where I witnessed (for the first time) a marriage take place in front of a massive stone hearth and burning log fire.

Sunday proved to be seedy. I was armed to the teeth with tea and a dog as my companion when I made it back to Dalkey to see The Camembert Quartet play in the same Church Car Park.

The Camembert Quartet

I had seen them on television but never live. They are an incredibly tight band and played familiar tunes with professional ease, the sharp dialogue they had with the crowd  consisted of the lead singer not letting a gap between songs pass without taking a swipe at the affluence of Dalkey and the people who lived there. As good as they were the only time people started dancing to them was with the addition of Catriona O’Sullivan as she joined them and belted out a rocking rendition of “Proud Mary”.

Dalkey was packed and the Lobster Festival seemed to be a huge success.

Congratulations to The Dalkey Business Group who spearhead the obviously attractive event.

The Discovery Gospel Choir.

The Camembert Quartet

Caitriona O’Sullivan

The Dalkey Business Group

Select Stores

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