In Part 2 of Great Dublin Places to Visit, we go no further than the same field as the Cemetery to find the Botanic Gardens. One field concerned with growth, the other with deat … enough of that! The Bots were also a large part of my youth. A great place to mitch, to hide and to court.
In recent times the opening of a gate between the Cemetery and Gardens has help to offer a unique visitor experience and with good weather there is probably no better way to spend a day in Dublin than visiting both places.
The Gardens too have had serious investment in recent times with the restoration of the magnificent curvilinear range of glasshouses. The first of these structures started four years before the famine - the work of famous Dublin ironmaster RIchard Turner. Their longevity is a testament to his craftsmanship and that one was opened in 1849 with a visit by none other than Queen Victoria herself. Anthony Kavanagh, current proprietor of the Diggers said she called in for a pint of the plain but we have no video evidence of same.
Recent years has also brought a visitor centre and cafe and extra parking for visitors. But many of the original features are still prominent not least the open shelter inside the gate on the right. I could tell you stories … but I’d be arrested.
As someone who thought a Hibiscus Border was a chap who came to Dublin from abroad to study English and that Selectively Impermeable Membrane was something that the wife suffers from, I can honestly say that a visit never disappoints. If you like pottering in the garden better still - there is an encyclopaedia of things to learn - but at your leisure and first hand experience. What does it for me though, is the diversity of the place.
Glasshouses, greenhouses (are they the same?), manicured lawns, rockeries, the Rose Garden, river walks, vegetables, floral displays, the pond, old trees that whisper to the grass, the band stand - just everything makes for a pleasant time. You might see a squirrel, a frog or even a rat. And as with anything nature based, the landscape will change completely depending on the time of your visit. You could visit 4/5 times a year and have a completely different experience every time!
There is fun stuff for the kids, thousands of photo opps, food, a glass of wine and the feeling of being at one with nature with it’s finest clothes on. It is also still free!! And so the home of a cheap date to thousands of hormonal teenagers over the years. I probably got my first snog there … leaving the altar boys shortly after. No really - Mary’s was up the Washerwoman’s Hill and it was always a good place to hook up and be romantic in. All long since gone …
But I would highly recommend a visit. It was always a great place from my early youth, right up through the years and is now an even better experience thanks to shrewd and clever management, investment and a staff that know what the visitor wants and who give it to them - and how.