The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland in Glasnevin in North Dublin is a true jewel of the city. The horticultural wonderland stretches over 48 acres of lush greenery, including woodlands, rose gardens, flower beds, and greenhouses. Circled by a tall stone wall, the Botanic Gardens are an oasis away from the noise and rush of the city. The quiet, calm paths of the gardens take you on a journey through the wonders and beauty of the natural world.
While a botanic garden generally grows plants for scientific purposes, such as for use as reference plants to identify others, or for conservation purposes, the Botanic Gardens take pride in the innate beauty of the plants and flowers that they cultivate.
In this post we share the complete guide to The National Botanic Gardens.
The long history of the Botanic Gardens stretches back to 1790, when the Royal Dublin Society were granted funds to open a public botanic garden in Dublin. An estate that once belonged to the poet Thomas Tickell in Glasnevin was purchased in 1790. A double line of yew trees called Addison’s Walk dates back to the time of Tickell’s estate. The yew trees were planted in the 1720s and still stand to this day. Another remnant of Tickell’s estate is his former home, which was turned into the director’s residence. With a site secured, the gardens were opened to the public in 1795.
The first iteration of the gardens focused on a scientific approach to the study of agriculture, with food crops, medicinal plants, and flowers for use in dyeing primarily grown and studied. However, by the 1830s the focus of the gardens had shifted to the pursuit of botanical knowledge. It was during this time that the current shape of the gardens was set, with separate zones connected by paths criss-crossing the entire gardens. The botanical collection rapidly expanded during this period and came to include plants from all over the world.
In order to properly maintain the growing number of tropical plants, the famous Dublin iron-master Richard Turner was commissioned to build the great glass greenhouses that still stand in the centre of the gardens to this day. By the late 20th century some of the original structures in the gardens, including the greenhouses, had fallen into disrepair. In 1992, an ambitious program of redevelopment was embarked upon, and the greenhouses were fully restored for their former glory.
The main greenhouse, The Great Palm House, stands pride of place in the centre of the gardens. The hot, humid atmosphere sustained inside the greenhouse is the perfect environment for a wide range of tropical plants, including cavernous ferns, palms, and bamboo plants, as well as a range of tropical flowers. Stepping inside the greenhouse instantly transports you to a steaming, wild jungle full of colour and lush greenery.
The second largest greenhouse is The Curvilinear Range, located next to The Great Palm House at the heart of the gardens. This greenhouse is separated into three parts; the Western Wing, the Central House, and the Eastern Wing. The Western Wing is home to plants from the mountainous areas of South-East Asia, while the Western Wing houses plants from the Southern Hemisphere.
Alongside the two large greenhouses, there are several smaller greenhouses dotted around the gardens. These include the Alpine House, the Teak House, the Cactus and Succulent House, the Orchid House, and the Victoria Waterlily House. However, several of the smaller greenhouses are currently undergoing restoration and may be empty for periods. Each active greenhouse is perfectly calibrated to allow its resident plants to thrive, safe from the cold winters of Ireland.
Apart from the great greenhouses, one of the other undoubted jewels of the Botanic Gardens is the rose garden, located in the north-east of the gardens by the Tolka river. The rose garden is accessed by crossing a bridge over the river, and is at its most spectacular from mid-spring to the beginning of autumn.
The Herbaceous Border is another unmissable part of the gardens. The long path is flanked on either side by a riot of colourful plants and flowers that are at their best from spring to autumn. The path is an excellent spot for a photo when the sun is out.
Finally, make sure to take in the stretch of gardens along the Tolka river to the north. The gently flowing river is flanked on both sides by weeping willows and is usually abuzz with the sounds of birds, squirrels, and dragonflies.
As part of the redevelopment of the gardens in the 1990s, a modern visitor centre was created with a large cafe serving tea, coffee, and lunch items. There are also toilets available to the public in the visitor centre.
There is paid parking available in a small carpark onsite, and the gardens are also easily reachable by bus from the city centre, with a stop located right outside the entrance.
Entry to the Botanic Gardens is free of charge.
Location: National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin