The Toddler Tour: Part 3
The National Maritime Museum
Until the recent opening of the Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire, it would have been difficult to find the National Maritime Museum. Not that I had ever tried. Despite living near the sea, I find it difficult to get excited by boats. However, the Lexicon has opened up a network of Dun Laoghaire’s side-streets, and the National Maritime Museum is an undoubted beneficiary; its entrance is directly opposite the library’s and footfall must surely have increased ten-fold.
We went in on a whim one day after returning our library books when the 3 year-old decided to investigate the anchors and cannon outside.
There isn’t anything specifically geared towards families at the museum, which is refreshingly user-led. Explanatory notes are short or absent, so you can sort of wander around through maritime history at your own will. The downside is, if you don’t really know much about boats, you can be pretty stumped by the curious toddler’s incessant questions. The invigilators are well-versed enough and happy to help out. A ship’s wheel is, apparently, called a ship’s wheel.
Items of particular interest to us were: the submarine suit, the radio/intercom, the morse code station, the lighthouse and the ship’s bell, which you could ring. Also, the carnival cut-out pirate that my little boy loved posing in.
There is a worksheet available on request, suitable for 5+.
It is also worth noting that there is an admission fee, though kids under 3 are free.
The museum is housed in the deconsecrated Mariner’s Church on Haigh Terrace, which was built in the 1830s to honour local sailors who had lost their lives at sea. The building was condemned as an ugly monument in its time, but the lens of history is kinder, and it is a stunning setting for a museum. The architectural conundrums of the church, however, present difficulties for accessibility, even on entering the building. There is a lift that needs a key (housed inside with the receptionist) to operate, so you either have to carry your buggy up or get someone to mind it while you go inside to get the key. There is no lift access to the upper floor of the museum, a beautiful balcony that circles the church and offers great views of the full scope of the church’s interior. It is worth taking an infant in arms for it, but the museum is probably better for older children.
There is a small cafe on-site, but it is probably best to head elsewhere for food and a run-around. Next-door to the library (a half-day’s fun in itself) if it is raining or out onto the sea-front if it’s sunny, where you can see maritime history unfolding before your eyes.