Heading for Grogan’s

Evening is falling and the lights are flickering on. We make our way from Grafton Street via Johnson’s Court, across Clarendon Street and straight on through Coppinger Row to South William Street. Facing us is the Castle Inn, Grogan’s Castle Lounge. It is a pub like any pub, being only really like itself. A literary pub, a boozer, a haunt of artists, buskers and assorted ne’er-do-wells. There’s an interesting mural on the far wall featuring chancers and characters who have frequented the joint.

Dave O’Hara is in there somewhere. He told me once of this immortality, conferred when he held his stall in the nearby Arcade, peddling ancient books, modern posters and timeless yarns. By the half light he’d be in Grogan’s sinking pints, reciting his poetry. He’d sell it too, his books including Heartstrung, Headstrung and Rainbows and Stone. Dave joined our writers group in Bray and helped flog our collection Wednesday at Eight, though he wasn’t included. One buyer was a columnist at the Evening Press who wrote a very nice review, surmising that we were ‘of tender years’. I suppose we were; raw certainly. Dave stayed in Bray for a while, until he came adrift, and was lost out there in Dublin Bay. A long time gone but too short a time here.

Brian O’Nolan is most famed amongst regulars. He would find his way here from Dublin Castle, and the pub appears in the pages of At Swim Two Birds. There’s an ever changing display of art on the walls too, works by contemporary artists sold commission free. Dating back to 1899, the pub remains mercifully free of television and piped music.

There’s a seating area outside where I like to perch, glowering with menace at passersby. People watching is always a pleasure on William Street, where all the chaotic comings and goings of the crowd provide a continuous performance.

The South Dublin City Markets lie just beyond. The gabled building to the right is an outlier, echoing the style of the main building which is a delightful Victorian Gothic palace from 1881, blood red and topped by swirling turrets. Castle Market, the short street with canopies centre frame, leads to this, Dublin’s first shopping centre. Generally referred to as George’s Street Arcade, the central arcade pushes through the building from Castle Market to emerge onto South Great George’s Street beyond. It is lined with stalls selling jewellery and art, books and vinyl, all the paraphernalia that’s a little bit out there, antique, retro or cutting edge. I might find a stool a counter, grab a burger and chips, proper food with copious sauce and of course, salt, all the better to encourage a return trip to Grogan’s.

So perhaps it’s that time of day, summer or winter at the fulcrum when the sky turns deeper blue and the lights flicker on. There’s a purpose to the human crush again, going home, going out, heading for Grogans.

Wicklow’s Wonderful Playlist

The walk from the Dargle River to Arklow on the Avoca is about 54k, taking in, near enough, the coastline of County Wicklow. After Arklow, there is a short stretch to Clogga Beach after which Kilmichael Point marks the border with Wexford. I haven’t done that yet, but it’s on my list.

All the way to Wicklow Town we kept to the coast, though after that access was restricted to select entry points. It’s been an epic in seventeen parts. The first seven were in Bray which certainly offers plenty, though we had barely covered a mile of our journey before embarking on the cliff walk to Greystones. That’s about a 7k stretch and you’d do it easily in ninety minutes. If you want to do it via Bray Head and Summit, it will take a bit longer with a climb to 240 metres. You can make it a loop walk or go station to station and take DART in one direction. 

Greystones all the way to Wicklow is along the beach for a little over 20k. Detours to Newcastle and the East Coast Bird Sanctuary were taken. The Bird Sanctuary is a good outing of itself. Greystones to Newcastle is around 8k, and it’s another 13k to Wicklow.

Wicklow was good for a bit of exploration. South of the town you can navigate the headland by way of the Black Castle and join the Glen Beach Cliff Walk as far as the Lighthouses. Wicklow to Arklow is a distance of about 25k, but there’s no one coastal path. We drove it and dropped into Magheramore Beach and Brittas Bay, the latter a splendid walk end to end of about 5k. After Mizen Head, the road runs close to the sea for 12k all the way into Arklow.

And of course, what kept us going was the travellers tales, the myths and legends, and the songs playing in our heads. Much of the playlist is provided by local artists, some a bit further afield. 

Double Cross, (Fintan Coughlan), Tired and Emotional/Mary Coughlan (1985)

Telstar, (Joe Meek) The Original Telstar – The Sounds of the Tornados/The Tornados (1962)

The Wanderer, (Ernie Maresca ), Dion (1961)

Mr Tambourine Man, (Bob Dylan), Mr Tambourine Man/The Byrds (1965)

Teenage Kicks, (John O’Neill), Teenage Kicks/The Undertones (1978)

Nothing Compares 2U, (Prince), I do not want what I haven’t got/Sinead O’Connor (1990)

Meetings of the Waters (Fionn Regan), Meetings of the Waters/Fionn Regan (2017)

Sloop John B, (Trad,. Arr. Brian Wilson), Pet Sounds/The Beachboys (1966)

Candle in the Wind, (John/Taupin), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Elton John (1973)

Wish You Were Here, (Gilmour/Waters), Wish You were Here/Pink Floyd (1975)

Holy Moses (Slattery/McCabe), The Cujo Family/The Cujo Family (2010)

The Herring (Trad), Drinkin’ and Courtin’/The Dubliners (1968)

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Robert Hazzard), She’s So Unusual/Cyndi Lauper (1983)

Zephyr Song (Balzary/Fruscianti/Kiedis/Smith), By the Way/Red Hot Chilli Peppers (2002)

Come Fly With Me (Cahn/Van Heusen), In the Wee Small Hours/Frank Sinatra (1955)

The Parting Glass (Trad), Hozier (2021)

Anchorage (Michelle Shocked), Short, Sharp, Shocked/Michelle Shocked (1988)

Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) Songs of Leonard Cohen/Leonard Cohen (1967)

Follow Me Up to Carlow (P.J. McCall), Planxty/Planxty (1973)

Do It Again (Brian Wilson/Mike Love), The Beachboys (1968)

The Meeting of the Waters (Thomas Moore), John McCormack.

The Streets of Arklow (Van Morrison), Veedon Fleece/Van Morrison (1974)