Next to Glasnevin cemetery on Dublin's north side, you can find the National Botanic Gardens, established in 1795 by the Royal Dublin Society. This Georgian-era park is FREE to enter (although there is a small fee for the car park) and is especially pleasant on a clear day. The gardens feature over 20,000 varieties of plants, flowers and trees, notably including a vegetable garden and a rose garden. Local wildlife -- ducks, squirrels and rabbits -- are also fond visitors. Located about 3km from Dublin city centre, the gardens are approximately 50 acres / 20 hectares (equivalent to 50 soccer fields) in total size. A walkway leads directly in to the adjoining Glasnevin Cemetery -- you may also enter directly via the cemetery. You don't need to walk through all of the gardens -- cris-crossing, tree-lined paths allow you to create different walking routes. There are large maps of the gardens at various points along the paths to help re-orient the visitor.
Nice overview of the National Botanic Gardens
The Gardens contain a set of large and distinctive glasshouses, built in the 19th century by Dubliner Richard Turner, an innovator in the use of wrought iron and curved glass. Today, the Great Palm House features a huge dome and contains orchids, tropical water plants, palm trees and succulents. The Victoria House was built later, in 1854, specifically for the giant Amazon Water Lily, a wondrous new species at that time.
Some other popular features include:
- The Australian Tree Fern brought here from Trinity College in 1969 is rumoured to be 400 years old
- A vegetable garden -- good for teaching kids about growing vegetables
- The Last Rose of Summer, grown from a cutting taken in County Kilkenny, inspired by an old Irish ballad
- The double line of yew trees known as Addison's Walk, planted in the early days of the gardens in memory of the writer Joseph Addison
- A duck pond
The National Botanic Gardens regularly holds exhibits and different events, often appealing to children and families, throughout the year -- particularly around events like Halloween and Easter.
Cafe / Restaurant
There is a nice cafe and restaurant in the gardens, near the entrance/exit.
The National Botanic Gardens have long been a centre for Irish horticulture, and several new varieties of plants have been developed here. They are recognised as the first place where orchids -- today cultivated around the world -- were grown from seeds to flowers for the first time. In the 1840s, Dundee-born David Moore, a respected botanist, was curator of the Gardens. Under his guidance, the orchids were successfully grown. His son, Sir Frederick Moore, continued his work, and succeeded in making Dublin's orchid collection one of the finest in the world, where many new species of orchids were sent when discovered to be identified and named. The Gardens still holds a collection of almost 1300 portraits of the orchid that were in the collection, painted at the time by resident artist Lydia Shackleton, and later Alice Jacob. The paintings are held in the Herbarium / Library, and exhibitions are usually held once a year, in June.
Botanic Gardens. Image by Michael Foley.