Dublin’s party district is also home to 2,500 residents, who love the vibrant culture on their doorstep
Last night, after brushing her teeth and slipping into bed, Aideen McDonald did one last thing before dropping off to sleep — she popped in her ear plugs.
Ear plugs are a necessity for McDonald during the summer on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights because of the noise of Temple Bar revellers in the street below her apartment on Crane Lane.
“It’s not so much the noise of people chatting on the corner while they have a smoke outside the pub nearby,” she says. “It’s the people talking loudly, often on their mobile phones, as they walk down the lane outside, oblivious to the fact that they are in a residential area. I could sleep in one of the two back bedrooms, but I prefer this one, so I just use the ear plugs.”
McDonald lives with her husband and dog at Crane Yard, one of several infill developments built on derelict sites in Temple Bar during the 1990s.
This quarter, between the Liffey and Dame Street, College Green and the Civic Offices, was a centre of trade, craft and commerce during the 18th, 19th and early 20th century but by the 1980s was falling into dereliction.
Harpist Seána Davey played at Temple Bar’s TradFest
CIE started buying up many of the properties in the area with the aim of building a bus depot, and rather than leaving the properties empty leased them out at peppercorn rents to artists, craftspeople and otherwise marginal businesses. Paradoxically, this created a thriving arts community and a campaign was started to conserve this environment and its architectural heritage.
In the 1980s, the then taoiseach Charlie Haughey stepped in with government funding and tax incentives to preserve and revive the area. As a result, Temple Bar with its mix of Georgian, Victorian and modern buildings has become a tourism and cultural hub in Dublin.
Its cobbled streets are trodden on each day by thousands of tourists, and for residents it offers a boho lifestyle, with an eclectic mix of pubs, cafes and cultural facilities, including Ark, a purpose-built cultural centre for children, the Project Arts Centre, for contemporary arts, and Temple Bar Gallery and Studios.
The oldest buildings, such as those in Fownes Street and Eustace Street, date from the middle of the 18th century and are three or four storeys high and two windows wide, with panelled front doors in cut-stone surrounds.
There are also warehouse conversions aplenty and, on once derelict sites, there are some interesting modern buildings, notably the Green Building, an environmentally friendly structure built in 1994, long before the green economy existed, and Blooms Hotel and its Club M nightclub — hugely popular among British stag and hen parties — with its spectacular murals.
The oldest buildings, such as those in Fownes Street and Eustace Street, date from the middle of the 18th century
“When I walk around the area there is nowhere where I say ‘Jaysus, what have they done here’. The standard of architecture is very good,” says Declan O’Brien, secretary of the Temple Bar Residents Association, who has been living in Temple Lane South, with its mixture of residential and office units, for 13 years.
“A lot of visitors spend their time looking at the cobbles on the street, but really they should be looking upwards because there is some amazing architecture.”
Noise is an issue if you live in Temple Bar and the residents’ association is fighting battles on several fronts to curb the almost incessant din. In addition to the noise from bars and clubs open until 2.30am, throughout the day the 60,000 or so daily visitors to Temple Bar generate a constant rumble and this general noise is added to by a chorus of buskers.
The buskers will be less cacophonous from the beginning of August when new bylaws come into effect; Dublin city council voted narrowly to ban on-street entertainers from using electrical amplification and backing tracks. Performers must now have a repertoire that is at least 30 minutes long so those permanently based within earshot do not have to suffer the same one or two songs on endless repeat.
“It is a scandal that the busking amplification ban passed by only one vote,” says Leo Enright, the former head of RTE Radio News, who has been a Temple Bar resident for 25 years.
“It is very easy for a councillor from the likes of Donaghmede to vote in favour of buskers in the city centre, because they forget that there are 2,500 people living in Temple Bar who are affected by this.”
U2’s The Edge owned the Clarence Hotel with Bono in the area
For those who have visited Temple Bar for the night time economy — it has more than 20 pubs and almost 90 cafes and restaurants — or pass through to get to Ha’penny Bridge, it can be difficult to imagine that so many people — a mixture of renters and property owners — want to live there.
But O’Brien says it is a great place to live. “You are right in the middle of everything. We’ve got great markets, a huge range of shops within walking distance and some unique venues like the Button Factory, the Ark and the IFI (Irish Film Institute). I am involved with the Icon Factory, which is an artists’ collective on Aston Place, and Temple Bar is full of galleries and quirky shops. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
Not all residents dislike the music. The annual TradFest, a showcase of the country’s talent in traditional and folk music, is held there each year.
“There is a really good music scene and I love that. I manage a band called the Pale,” says O’Brien. “When I go out for a drink I stay away from the touristy pubs, I use the Ha’penny Inn and the Palace.”
The Irish Film Centre, home to the IFI, was an important element in Temple Bar’s regeneration, when Meeting House on Eustace Street was refurbished in 1992. It has helped to transform Temple Bar in to a cultural hub, and holds film festivals and exhibitions.
McDonald, who has lived in a three-bedroom apartment in in Temple Bar for 15 years, is downsizing to a one-bed in the area. She plans to divide her time between Sligo and Dublin, and likes that by living in Temple Bar she avoids the capital’s traffic.
“It’s fabulous down here, because there is so much going on. I love the market in Meeting House Square. I know all the market traders. On a hot day, we grab a coffee from Chez Max and go to the park beside the Chester Beatty. We go to the Stage Door for breakfast.”
The Temple Bar Company was set up in 2003 to provide a “democratic voice” for local businesses, residents and cultural sectors in the area .
“It’s not a residential area, it’s not a commercial area, it’s mixed use and that is what gives it its edginess and its vibe,” says its chief Martin Harte. He says there’s a good community spirit in the area. “So many of the business premises are owned by families and owner occupiers — I personally know most of the building owners, whereas in O’Connell Street, Henry Street and Grafton Street the premises are owned by property funds and vulture capitalists.”
O’Brien says Harte and the company have done a good job at organising cultural events on Meeting House Square.
“They’ve included the open air cinema, and the night market on Wednesdays is a real success, with loads of the local businesses running their own stalls on the street.”
Temple Bar pubs have a reputation for overcharging tourists, but the establishment that serves the cheapest pint is Rory’s Tackle, the angling equipment specialists on the corner of Adsil’s Row. Owner Mary Harkin will sell you a pint of maggots for a fiver.
She wishes the area had a higher proportion of independent retailers that weren’t pubs or restaurants. “We’ve been here since 1959 and it’s a great location because of the tourist footfall,” she says. “We have passersby from all over the world calling in and making purchases.”
Another long-standing resident is Carol Walsh, owner of The Chameleon, an Indonesian restaurant on Fownes Street Lower. “I am here since before Temple Bar was a glint in a developer’s eye, I am here since before they put in the cobble stones,” she says.
Walsh signed a 35-year lease on the three-storey building in 1989, and ran a coffee shop, Celery, initially with a dance studio on the first floor and a flat on the top floor.
“It was damp, it was smelly and it hadn’t been used for years but there was something about it. A lot of my customers were musicians from the nearby Paul Barrett Studios, so I had U2 and The Frames and Sean Bean coming in.”
After a break travelling around Asia, Walsh returned to open the restaurant. “We still have the flat upstairs and we stay there if we are working late, but the family home is now in Newbridge. I have weathered two recessions and austerity in that building and have employed many people who remain good friends to this day. I met my husband in Temple Bar and love being part of the vibrant community and hope I remain part of it for a long time to come.”
No 22 Crane Yard, €440,000
Aideen McDonald’s three-bedroom, second-floor apartment at No 22 Crane Yard in Temple Bar, is a good-sized 77 sq metres. A bright, loft-style unit, it has an open plan living/ dining room – which looks at out at the exposed brick walls of Parliament Street. Sliding doors make the best of the space leading to a separate kitchen. In the far corner of the room another sliding door pulls back to reveal a master with an en suite bathroom. Both this and the main bathroom were renovated recently. The apartment has lots of room for storage, and there’s also a private parking space included.
No 8 Aston Place, €360,000
For penthouse living in the heart of the city, head to Aston House at Aston Place in Temple Bar where No 8, its two-bedroom penthouse unit, is on the market. The apartment, which has a floor area of 53 sq m, has two-doubled bedrooms, an en suite to the master and an open plan kitchen and living space. Long floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out over the chimney tops of Dublin, allow light to flood the main living space. The apartment also has its own south-facing private roof terrace.