The Phoenix Park

Now that the days are getting longer and the weather is getting hotter and sunnier, there is no better time to get out and about and explore some of Dublin’s outdoor attractions! One of the most notable of these is Phoenix Park, which really ought to be your next destination when you take a break from studying English in Dublin.

The Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed public park in all of Europe, spanning some 7.07 square kilometers. It was formed originally by the Duke of Ormond as a royal hunting Park in 1662 and has been operating as a public park since 1747. It’s a perfect place for a long hike, a jog or a picnic – you can both relax and exercise, kick a ball around or sunbathe.

The Phoenix Park
Some of our students at the Phoenix Park.

The Phoenix Park also has many literary associations, having been the setting for many famous Irish novels, such as The House By The Churchyard by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu, and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. There are also many sites of cultural and historic interest dotted around the park. We’ll take a quick look at a few of them:

The Wellington Monument

Not far from the Park’s main entrance, you may see the Wellington Monument, a massive obelisk erected to the memory of the Duke of Wellington. He famously defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in the battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was of Irish descent, but did not speak very respectfully of his origins, saying: ‘Just because you were born in a stable doesn’t mean you’re a horse.’

The Wellington Monument

The Aras an Uachtarain

The Aras an Uachtarain is the residence and main workplace of the Irish President. It was formerly the Viceregal Lodge when Ireland was still under British rule and was first opened in 1751. Every Irish President has lived there since 1922. The current occupant is President Michael D. Higgins, who recently celebrated his 80thbirthday. The Aras an Uachtarain is open to the public every Saturday. Opposite from this building stands the residence of the American Ambassador to Dublin – the proximity suggests the ‘special relationship’ Ireland has with the USA.

The Aras an Uachtarain

The Magazine Fort

The Magazine Fort is a dramatic-looking military building located on top of a hill near the Park’s Islandbridge entrance. It was built in 1735 and originally occupied by the British Armed Forces. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922, it was handed over to the Irish Defense Forces.

The Magazine Fort was also the subject of the famous satirist Jonathan Swift’s final poem in 1737. He apparently improvised these mocking lines which go as follows:

Now here’s proof of Irish sense
Here Irish wit is seen
When nothing’s left that’s worth defense,
We build a Magazine.

The Magazine Fort

The Papal Cross

The Papal Cross was erected in 1979 in honour of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Dublin. He gave mass at the cross, and over 1 million people attended the event. Pope Francis came to the same place in 2018, and also celebrated mass beneath the Papal Cross. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, attendance at this more recent event was considerably lower than attendance at the previous event.

The Papal Cross

The deer

Phoenix Park is also home to a large herd of deer. Many of these deer are descendants of the original herd who were introduced to the park when it first opened in the 1660s. In springtime, one may see the does with their young fauns, and the young stags butting each other with their antlers. Visitors love to take pictures with the deer– however, it is recommended by the park rangers that people keep their distance from the deer(at least 50m) and do not feed them. After all, these are wild animals so let’s try and keep them wild!

The deer

This is just to start with – we have not even mentioned Dublin Zoo and Farmleigh Estate! So all in all, next time you have a few hours to spare from studying English in Dublin, why not spend them in Phoenix Park? It’s one of Dublin’s true gems and an absolute must to visit.