Located off the beaten tourist trail on the Dublin's northside, Casino Marino is one of Ireland's best examples of neoclassical architecture. The Italian name means "little house by the sea" -- this is not a gambling establishment!
Built between the late 1750s and 1775, it stands in the gardens of Marino House and was commissioned as a summerhouse. Casino Marino was designed by Sir William Chambers, a Scottish architect, as a Georgian folly for James Caulfield, the first Earl of Charlemont.
One of this attraction's charms is its use of trompe l'oil architectural techniques -- designs that literally trick the eye. For example, the exterior of the 50-foot square structure surprises viewers because it appears so small from the outside, and appears as a single roomed building. However, the interior contains 16 finely decorated rooms on three floors.
Casino Marino is often compared to the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The basement level contains a kitchen and related rooms, and the main floor has reception rooms. Servants' rooms and a state bedroom occupy the top storey. Exquisite plasterwork ceilings and hardwood parquet floors can be seen throughout the building. The highlights of the furnishings include a china closet boudoir, a golden sunset in the ceiling of the main drawing room, and signs of the zodiac in the ceiling of the Bijou Library.
The Folly that Bankrupted the Lord
Lord Caulfeild was preoccupied with astrology and the occult, and the Casino contains many a raft of symbols that reflect his obsession. The house itself, nicknamed “the temple”, was built in the shape of a Greek cross, and was rumoured to be used as a masonic lodge. Caulfield's endless pouring of money into the Casino eventually bankrupted him. Upon his death, Caulfield's son was forced the sell off most of the expensive items his father had spent years collecting. Nevertheless, Echoes of Caulfield's obsession remain. Imagery in the building include goat’s heads, lions and zodiac signs. Eight tunnels were built below the structure, and their purpose remains unknown.
Casino Marino is located off the Malahide Road, three miles (5 km) north of the centre of Dublin, after the junction with Griffin Avenue. The best way to get to there from the city centre, is to take any of the following buses from Eden Quay to Malahide Road. 14, 15, 27, 27A, 42, 43, 128 Buses leave frequently from the Eden Quay stop. See the Dublin Bus website for up-to-date timetables. Ask the driver to let you out at the nearest stop to Casino Marino, the stop for Mount Temple School -- which, incidentally, is the school where rock band U2 was formed! The bus journey takes around 15 minutes. From Malahide Road, turn left onto Casino Park to find the entrance to the attraction. The walk from the bus stop to the building takes less than 10 minutes.
Only guided tours are available, which cost a small fee. Tours last approximately 45 minutes, so you may have to wait a bit on arrival for the next tour. There are not too many other tourist attractions in the vicinity of the Casino, so it is advisable to plan about two to three hours to get to the Casino Marino, take the tour, then return to the city centre. Note: The Casino Marino is occasionally closed for marriage ceremonies. Check the website for details.