History buffs and explorers of the world, you’re going to love this one! As scenic and gorgeous as Phoenix Park is, there’s so much more to it than the beauty – its history is filled with insight and intrigue too! The park came to life many moons ago, bringing with it artefacts, historical sites and a fascinating story to match. Today, we’re listing our 5 essential sights to see in Phoenix Park.
Established back in 1840, the People’s Gardens were originally named the Promenade Grounds and were used to demonstrate Victorian horticulture from 1864 onwards. Located close to the Parkgate Street entrance and comprising an area of 22 acres, you’ll discover a statue of Easter Rising leader Sean Heuston and a plaque dedicated to Irish sculptor Jerome Connor on your visit. There’s plenty more where that came from when exploring the People’s Gardens, including Victorian-esque flower beds, a large ornamental lake, a variety of picnic areas and a children’s playground too. Fun for all the family, wouldn’t you agree?
Commemorating Arthur Wellesley’s (the Duke of Wellington, hence the name) victories, the Wellington Monument stands at approximately 203 feet tall in the centre of Phoenix Park. Its shape was inspired by 18th century Egyptian archaeology with its signature pyramid-like design. Fun fact: it’s the largest obelisk in Europe, and it would have been even taller had the funding not run out! Designed by Robert Smirke, one of the leaders of the Greek Revival style, it features four bronze plaques that were cast from cannons from the Battle of Waterloo. Smirke also designed several other structures of note: the façade and main block of the British Museum in London and several ornamental buildings and follies at Brightling Park, East Sussex. The decision to place the Wellington Testimonial near the Battery Salute area was due to its advantageous location and altitude: as it was 74 feet above sea level, it provided authoritative views of Dublin City.
Erected in 1747 by Philip Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield, the Phoenix Column is a Corinthian column carved from Portland Stone. Approximately 30 feet high, it showcases a phoenix gloriously rising from the ashes at the top, hence the name. Looking out for it? You’ll find it conveniently located at the roundabout on Chesterfield Avenue, close to Dublin Zoo and the main entrance of Aras an Uachtarain. Not sure where that is? Here’s a hint: it’s the humble home of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins! Aras an Uachtarian, Deerfield House and Farmleigh House are not usually open to the public for visiting, but they can be seen from various locations throughout the park. See if you can spot them from afar during your next visit!
A fascinating structure despite its decrepit state, the Magazine Fort holds quite the history. Built in 1735, it marks the spot where Phoenix Lodge came to be in 1611, constructed by Sir Edward Fisher. It was originally used as a powder magazine but progressed to housing troops in 1801. From the mid-1900s onwards, it was used to store ammunition. The Christmas Raid of 1939 happened here, and Jonathan Swift immortalised the Magazine Fort forever in a verse he wrote targeting the leading politicians at the time. A glorious spectacle to see in the flesh, we advise against attempting to climb in and explore: the interior is in even worse nick these days and unfortunately isn’t safe for visiting. We’ll just have to make do with reminiscing how it was used over the last 300 years instead, eh?
Constructed in the 17th century, Ashtown House was once a Medieval four-storey tower house owned by John Connell. Since then, it’s luckily been fully restored and fortified for our visiting pleasure! It was re-discovered in 1978 within the walls of a much larger dwelling that was being demolished. Nowadays, it’s become the Phoenix Park visitor centre, which contains information, interpretations and audio-visual presentations of Phoenix Park from year 3500 BC right up until the present day. There’s a coffee shop close by for refuelling and the Victorian walled kitchen gardens are just a stone’s throw away from Ashtown Castle, which are also well-worth a visit! Hot tip: on the second Saturday of each month, the gardeners give a talk to the public on all things past and present at 10:30AM. On a good day during the summertime, count us in!