Dublin Top 10 – Parks and Gardensmaire
Ireland’s damp climate is a great advantage to gardeners and many Irish people are proud of their green fingers. The country has lots of public gardens which are a huge draw for garden lovers or just for recreation. Dublin has no shortage of beautiful public gardens, mainly a legacy of the past 270 years. In the Georgian era houses were built around squares with private gardens which only the residents could enjoy. Merrion Square is an example of this type of garden which is now open to the public while nearby St Stephen’s Green was planned as a gift to the city in 1880. Dublin also boasts the largest city park in Europe in the form of the Phoenix Park with a number of important buildings and institutions.
1. National Botanic Gardens
The National Botanic Gardens are located in Glasnevin, 3km north of the city centre and right beside Glasnevin Cemetery. The gardens were founded in 1795 and house about 20,000 living plants and millions of dried plant specimens. There are a number of glasshouses with the Curvilinear Range and the Palm House by Richard Turner being of architectural significance. The latter was the inspiration for the one he designed for Kew Gardens in London.
2. St Stephen’s Green
The Green, as Dubliners call it, is a city centre 22-acre park gifted to the people of Dublin by Lord Ardilaun of the Guinness family and opened in 1880. It has fountains and a lake which is home to waterfowl, many flower beds, a braille garden for the blind and a number of busts and statues including Constance Markiewicz and Robert Emmet. It’s a place where Dubliners love to relax on a sunny day.
3. National War Memorial Gardens of Ireland
The Irish National War Memorial Gardens are located in Islandbridge 4km to the west of the city centre. The gardens opened in 1939 to commemorate Irish men who gave their lives in WW1 and now also remember those who died in WW2. They cover a 60-acre site and comprise terraces, pergolas, lawns and avenues. The Circular Rose Garden Pond at the centre and the attendant monuments were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
4. Garden of Remembrance
The Garden of Remembrance is on Parnell Square in the north city centre. It was opened at Easter 1966 to commemorate “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom” from 1798 to 1921 and is on the site where some leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held overnight. It is not a standard style garden but consists of grassed areas enclosing a sunken water feature in the shape of a cross with flowers around it in season. Its most striking element is the Children of Lir sculpture at the western side which draws the eye as you enter at the eastern side.
5. Phoenix Park, Dublin
Phoenix Park, 3.5 km from the centre, is Europe’s largest enclosed urban park at 1,750 acres and is bisected by busy Chesterfield Avenue. It’s a hugely popular recreation spot for Dubliners for walking, jogging, cycling and picnicking. Dublin Zoo is within the park, which is also home to a large herd of free-roaming fallow deer. The President’s residence, Aras an Uachtarán, is just up the road from the Zoo, and the US Ambassador’s residence is across the road from that. Farmleigh House, once home to the Guinness family, is now the official accommodation for foreign dignitaries visiting Dublin and is open for guided visits. The story of the area is told at the visitor centre near the northern end of the park.
In 1979 Pope John Paul 2 concelebrated mass in front of over 1.25 million people in the park – the site is now marked by a large metal cross. Other monuments include the Wellington Testimonial commemorating the Iron Duke who was born in Dublin and the Phoenix Monument on Chesterfield Avenue near Aras an Uachtarain. A cricket ground and polo ground and many other facilities lie within Phoenix Park.
6. Merrion Square
Merrion Square garden is 7 minute walk east of Grafton Street, and beside the National Gallery and Natural History Museum. This 12-acre park sits at the centre of Merrion Square, one of Dublin’s grandest Georgian squares, in the city centre. It started out as a private garden for residents of the fine houses which surrounded the park from 1762 but was opened to the public in the 1960s. The layout has a natural appearance with extensive grassed areas with tree clumps, curved paths and perimeter planting. It has many sculptures including a fine reclining statue of Oscar Wilde who lived at No 1 Merrion Square as a young man. The Joker’s Chair remembers Dermot Morgan of Fr Ted fame. It’s a lovely spot for a stroll to escape the bustle of the city. The park railings are the venue for the weekend Art Market.
7. Iveagh Gardens
Harcourt St, Dublin 2.
The Iveagh Gardens is among the hidden gems of Dublin, a five-minute walk south from St Stephen’s Green. It has a history of aristocratic ownership and takes its name from the Guinness family. It was laid out in 1865 when it hosted the Dublin Exhibition Palace. It’s a little harder to find than other city-centre parks which earn it the nickname the Secret Garden. Features include a sunken lawn known as the Archery Field, a cascade with rocks from each of Ireland’s 32 counties and a small maze. It’s an idyllic spot to enjoy a quiet stroll away from the crowds. It has also been the venue for summer rock concerts in recent years.
8. Dubh Linn Garden
Dame St, Dublin 2.
This small garden is located behind Dublin Castle and beside the Chester Beatty Gallery in the city centre. It’s formal in style but with the addition of Celtic symbolism. The central garden is a circular lawn with narrow swirling pathways representing sea serpents while the smaller gardens in the corner are more densely planted and contain sculpture pieces including a bust of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin.
9. St Anne’s Park.
Clontarf East, Raheny, Dublin 5. Bus 496.
The 240 acre St Anne’s Park lies 6km to the northeast of the city centre between Raheny and Clontarf. It’s called after St Anne’s holy well and was originally part of the estate of the Guinness family. It’s a great resource for local residents and is bisected by the Naniken River which feeds its pond. Other features include a rose garden, a collection of trees with an arboretum, many walkways and sports grounds and about 10 follies including a Herculaneum Temple
10. Marlay Park
Grange Rd, Rathfarnham. Bus 16.
This 300-acre suburban public park is nine kilometres south of the city centre at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. It is centred on Marlay House which dates from 1794 and is available for guided visits. The grounds are a great resource for locals and features include the Dargle River with a small waterfall, mature woodland, acres of informal lawns and recreational areas including playing pitches and a nine-hole golf course. Each year the park plays host to concerts that have featured both Irish and international acts.