London, Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol… There’s a temptation to disregard anywhere outside England when booking an LGBTQ+ friendly getaway, but you could be missing out on the perfect break just a train ride away. Dublin Pride has its roots in a 1974 protest which saw just 10 people marching from the Department of Justice to the British Embassy and Edinburgh Pride was born on 17 June 1995, led by students from Edinburgh university. Both Edinburgh and Dublin have come on in leaps, bounds, highland flings and hornpipes in the meantime, and boast an LGBTQ+ nightlife and cultural capital to be reckoned with.
By the time you read this, both Dublin and Edinburgh will have had their Pride celebrations. Dublin ran with a “green” theme, looking at how the LGBTQ+ community can help the environment, and Edinburgh belatedly celebrated its 25th anniversary, two years after Covid put a hold on festivities. Fear not, however, for the party goes on all year round, with something for everyone to shake a sláinte at.
Bairy, fairy…or beery?
Dublin-goers can schedule a trip to coincide with the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, Gaze Film Festival or Béar Féile. The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival took place at the end of May this year, and next year promises to be bigger and better with a freshly announced round of funding from Ireland’s Department of Culture. The 30th anniversary Gaze festival takes place on 28 September to 2 October 2022, showcasing a range of full-length films and shorts and offering attendee workshops. Visiting in March? Beary, fairy or just a bit beery: look no further than the Béar Féile for some fun, frolics, fetish fash and the much-anticipated crowning ceremony of Mr Bear Ireland.
Nothing special on? No problem. You can wander off at the end of the Oscar Wilde walking tour (check the website for running dates) or totter out of a whisky distillery to find a choice of LGBTQ+ pubs and clubs. Dublin’s LGBTQ+ hotspots are mostly situated in the Temple Bar LGBTQ+ district and the Old Town, with The George being perhaps the place steeped in the most LGBTQ+ history! For 25 years the pub has been a queer hangout, and today it runs a full schedule of drag nights, bingo, glitter balls and much more.
After a pint or so at the George, there’s plenty more to do. Street 66 offers a more alternative vibe, a well-stocked cocktail menu and a generally friendly “house party” atmosphere. The cheekily-named PantiBar is run by the most famous drag queen in Ireland, Panti, who along with being a top party hostess is also a much-admired activist. Other LGBTQ+ evening hotspots in Dublin include techno wonderland Euphoria, men-only daddy/bear/otter/admirers pit DADDi, Mother, and bank holiday special Bukkake.
Edinburgh’s “Pink Triangle”, from the pinnacle of Leith Walk and into Broughton Street, is the place to be for LGBTQ+ venues. The most famous of these is CC Blooms, which opened in 1994. CC Blooms offers an impressive cocktail menu, good food and themed cabaret and drag nights alongside their regular nightly club. Right next door you’ll find Planet, a club night which is also heavily involved in Edinburgh-based LGBTQ+ activism.
If you fancy a more traditional pub outing, The Regent Bar serves good, solid pub grub and ales. And Victoria Bar is the place to be for the LGBTQ+ beer, wine and spirit connoisseur, with ever-changing selections available for its discerning customers. If you want some vinyl with your vino, check out Paradise Palms, where LGBTQ+ folk and their allies can enjoy food and live music before popping downstairs to check out the records, clothes and ‘zines.
After all that, you’ll want to be sure of a good rest. Enter Hilton Hotels. Already a byword in elegant affordability, with a flexible bookings system, rewarding “points” system, pet-friendly rooms and other perks, the Hilton is also proud of its reputation as an LGBTQ+ friendly hotel chain. In Dublin you’ll find the Conrad Hotel and on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, The Caledonian. Get up refreshed and visit Dublin’s Oscar’s Café or The Street in Edinburgh – both specifically aimed at an LGBTQ+ clientele – and share last night’s memories over a latte and a croissant.