Trinity College Long Room

when I visited Ireland previously, I hadn’t any particular interest in queuing up to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. it seemed too much like trying to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre — lots of craning and waiting to discover that, while impressive, it really is much smaller than you’d think and the crowds prevent you from spending any satisfying length of time studying it. upon reflection (and after viewing the animated film of the same name), however, I rather regretted that decision and put it on my list of sights for any future trip to Dublin.

and adding it to my list was worth it if for no other reason than it granted me access to see the Long Room situated above. a byproduct of my love of history, I am also partial to unique or interesting libraries that have some interesting artifacts or stories behind them (I always loved Seymour Library for that very reason). both the space and the exhibit in the Old Library at Trinity did not disappoint.

stretching some 65 meters long and originally constructed between 1712 and 1732, the Old Library at Trinity started out with a boring plaster ceiling and books filling only the lower shelves. in 1801, however, it became the “copyright library” (or legal repository, like the Library of Congress) for all materials published in Ireland (and , uniquely, the United Kingdom) and it quickly exhausted its existing space. in 1860 the roof was raised to allow for constructed of the vaulted ceiling and second level of shelving.

the Old Library now holds some 200,000 books, some of the oldest held by the university, including some on display when we visited for an exhibition on preservation and conservation techniques. on display were books bound in leather and with wood; written on clay, papyrus, paper, vellum; texts in ancient languages, modern languages; illuminated manuscripts (like their more famous cousins downstairs) and hand-written scientific observations, or notes scribbled in a random on-hand journal; some decades old, some centuries old. just beside the entry door is one of the few remaining copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic read out by Pádraig Pearse in front of the General Post Office in 24 April 1916, something it seemed most people brushed past, just as a fair number trundled down the Long Room without looking at the rare manuscripts on display, their mission of seeing the Book of Kells accomplished.

the only downside to such an historic and impressive building — it was not built to compensate for the weather on the day we visited. as with each day on the Dingle Peninsula, our day out in Dublin proved unseasonably warm and without air conditioning or the ability to open any of the windows on the first floor to get a cross-breeze going, the informative exhibit on the Book of Kells was a trifle stuffy. the room housing the Book was, understandably, closely climate controlled and a welcome change after reading all the informational material.


after quickly passing through the tiny town of San Juan de Ortega we came to the slightly-less-tiny town of Agés — sporting nearly twice as man residents (a whopping 60 people!) and five times the lodging options (um, five — all albergues). we spent the last kilometer or two lagging behind a somewhat clique-y group of mostly French peregrinos and when we saw them heading into one of the private albergues on the main street we headed one door beyond and ended up in the municipal albergue. a middle-aged man and his wife ran the place and had pressed their teenage son into service behind the bar and in the dining room.

this albergue was the third we stayed in and the first run by a “municipality” — the church administered the first in Roncesvalles and the one in Zubiri was private. at the one in Agés, some 36 bunks occupied space above bar and dining room and, as usually occurred in the albergues, we had to leave our dusty boots at the door to minimize the amount of dirt we might track upstairs.

one perk to staying in albergues: our fee often included a menu de peregrino and, sometimes, an adequate breakfast. once we got our showers in and had our catchup naps we headed down to the bar for a beer and to wait until all the peregrinos filtered in for the day, the dinner count firmed up, and the patrons began serving dinner. after a brief, distracting stint inside where we caught our first glimpse of a telenovela centered around a military family and set in 1957. attention for that withered quickly and we headed outside to keep company with town dogs, wasps, and other peregrinos.

sitting outside, it became increasingly clear that the books downloaded on the Kindle went much faster than my somewhat hefty paperback (Wizard’s First Rule). my tendency to “dawdle” and write about the day in my journal certainly didn’t help my reading speed, either. but then, if I hadn’t done that, how could I look back and jog my memory about the day-to-day trivialities to share with all of you?