One of Dublin’s finest attractions has nothing to do with beer or bullets, but bulbs. In one of the city’s near-north suburbs, the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin are a sprawling, quiet oasis with trees, flowers, and other plants from Ireland and around the world. Best of all, access to this forty-eight acre wonderland is free.
From City Centre (specifically the Four Courts building), the gardens are a pleasant two-mile walk. If forty minutes (each way) of walking isn’t in the cards, several Dublin Bus lines connect Glasnevin and nearby Phibsboro to City Centre throughout the day.
Just like Mother Nature herself, the gardens are always changing, and something is always blooming. Now, as spring has fully sprung in Ireland, the daffodils and tulips are the stars of the show. Later, the rose garden will be the draw of the many photographers and artists who swarm the park every day.
Not everything can thrive in Ireland’s climate, of course. The famous Victorian-era wrought-iron hothouses provide the conditions needed for orchids, tropical palms, cacti and succulents, and my favorite carnivorous pitcher plants and fly traps.
The park is bordered on the northeast by the River Tolka, one of Dublin’s three main urban rivers. Native brown trout thrive in the river—even in this urban stretch—thanks to careful management and ongoing pollution-control from the local authorities.
Providing more than just a shady garden for an afternoon stroll, the Gardens are committed to education and outreach—promoting a healthy and safe relationship with plants and the environment. A large home vegetable garden, tended and managed with strict organic composting, fertilizing, and pest-control methods, shows just how productive a small piece of Irish suburban land can be. A hands-on labeled compost system and vermiculture (worm-composting) box demonstrate the value of garden and kitchen waste as a healthy fertilizer and mulch for the home garden.
Connected to the gardens by a (semi-secret) gate is Glasnevin Cemetery, permanent resting place of many of Ireland’s revolutionary heroes, celebrities, and everyday residents. Entrance to the cemetery is free, but tours and admission to the museums and exhibits is not. As a side note, Ireland’s national television broadcaster RTE recently aired a fantastic documentary film about the cemetery and its colorful history, One Million Dubliners. Watch the trailer here.
A number of events, tours, talks, and temporary displays are on every week at the gardens—although not all of them are free. Check the events page in advance to see if anything is of interest. Of course, the gardens are open and free every day, so a trip to Glasnevin and the gardens is well worth the trip from City Centre.