With Ireland just an hour’s flight away from the UK, and with low airfares and frequent flights, it’s the perfect destination for a short weekend city break. PinkNews.co.uk’s food and travel writer Sam Feller travelled to Dublin to see what the city has to offer gay tourists, and how attitudes to homosexuality are evolving in amongst an ever changing political landscape.

Dublin is a quaint, vibrant city situated at the mouth of the River Liffey at the midpoint of the east coast in the Republic of Ireland. With a population of a little over 1 million, it is Ireland’s biggest city, the hub of gay life and an obvious choice for gay couples looking for a short weekend break from the UK.

The Fitzwilliam Hotel, a luxury 5-star hotel boasting the one Michelin-starred Thornton’s Restaurant on the first floor, is an ideal choice for accommodation. Right next to Grafton Street – the city’s main shopping street – in the centre of the city, the hotel also hosts Citron, an upmarket restaurant on the mezzanine level, led by head chef Matt Fuller who serves up an excellent seasonal menu of Irish-fusion dishes including nose, cheek and tail of pork with sautéed pineapple and fennel purée, and sirloin beef steak with oxtail croquette and bread mousse. For those on a tighter budget, try The Gibson Hotel, to the west of the city centre opposite the O2 centre. This excellent contemporary hotel opened just under 3 years ago and boasts 252 spacious rooms, a 24 hour gym, sauna and steam room and a Pan-Asian 130-seater restaurant with an exceptional breakfast buffet.

During our stay, we visited the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction and a must on every tourist’s wish-list (even if you’re not a fan of the black stuff!). We also visited Dublinia, a child-friendly exhibition charting the rise of the Vikings in Ireland and re-examining Dublin’s medieval history. To the east of the city, we explored the recently developed Grand Canal Square, home to many of the world’s most innovative companies such as Google, O2 and Facebook, and showcasing the Daniel Libeskind-designed Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, a touring theatre for ballet, opera, musicals and concerts.  For somewhere to eat in this district, try the fabulous Ely Gastropub, which boasts fantastic wines, beers and ales and some of Dublin’s best pub food such as crumbed Tipperary brie with tea-smoked apricots and Kildare chicken with roast butternut squash and colcannon mash.

The gay scene is well developed and varied. We visited the Front Lounge on Parliament Street, a pleasant, popular bar with a mixed crowd before hitting F.A.G. in Andrews Lane theatre, a night geared towards the young student crowd which was dark, dingy, smoky and largely unappealing. Other popular venues include the long-established The George and The Dragon. Pantibar, a long, narrow bar just north of the river, caters for a slightly older crowd and is run by the drag queen Panti, featuring regular drag shows to a busy and receptive audience.

Throughout Dublin, prices are not cheap, with a pint of beer costing on average around €5, and spirits costing upwards of €8. There is also a gritty underside to Dublin: on our nights out, it seemed that every street we went down, there was antisocial behaviour after dark, with drunks in doorways and rowdy teens playfighting or shouting their mouths off at scantily dressed women in Temple Bar. On more than one occasion, this made us feel threatened.

Ireland’s political consensus has changed at an alarming pace. The Civil Partnership Act in 2010 was successful in extending a number of rights to same-sex couples including taxation, succession and immigration; but it was greeted by some criticism among citizens, who say it fell short of granting people the same rights as they would have enjoyed under legislation enabling same-sex marriage.

During my trip I met with Anna McCarthy of LGBT Noise, an independent non-affiliated political group that campaigns for the provision of equal marriage, parenting and reproductive rights, gender recognition and bullying.  She told me about the work they had done campaigning to repeal Section 37 (1) (b) of Ireland’s Employment Equality Act, under which an institution with a religious ethos can legitimately fire or not hire LGBT employees, and the progress they continue to make.

Due to the ongoing advocacy work of LGBT Noise, marriage equality and others, social and political consensus has swung firmly on the side of equality, with successive polling showing that anywhere between 66% and 73% of the population are in favour of equal marriage, with the majority of all major political parties supporting marriage equality. If and when equal marriage does take effect, no one is certain whether it will be written into law by legislation or by a referendum. But there’s no doubting the country’s mood, which certainly suggests that it’s on its way.

Rooms at The Fitzwilliam Hotel start at €175 per night.

Rooms at The Gibson Hotel start at €98 per night. 

British Airways operates a service from Heathrow to Dublin fifty-four times
a week.

The lead-in fare is from £100.40 return including taxes/fees/carrier
charges.

To book or for more information visit www.ba.com/Dublin or call 0844 4930787.