Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin

Farmleigh house facade

Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin was one of the illustrious addresses of the Guinness family from 1847 until 1992.

The particular Guinness was the great grandson of brewery founder, Arthur Guinness. The family sold the house to the Irish State in 1999 for the €29.2 million. €23million and two years were spent on its restoration by the wonderful people at the Office of Public Works. And, by 2001, the house was opened to the public.

The house has been adapted for State visits so that it can accommodate visiting heads of State from other countries. At other times it is open to the public for guided tours, concerts and other events.

It really thrills me to see such places opened so highly accessible now to all of us in the country. I`ve been to many events there, including their wonderful Christmas markets, their summer markets, concerts and art exhibitions. Yes, you can tell I`m a big fan of the OPW and I`m glad, given our history, that we are reclaiming, restoring and repurposing these places rather than have them fall to rack and ruin.

The tour of the house is free and just half an hour long. I`d hoped yesterday to enjoy my third tour of the place but when I rocked up at the Farmleigh front door, it seemed there was no one at home at all.

Courtyard Farmleigh

The Courtyard at Farmleigh

So, I rambled around to the courtyard for a bit. Usually a hive of activity in summer, this too was deserted. The gallery too, was empty.

And then, I found the side entrance. Ah yes, I had forgotten. This is where you queue up for your free guided tour folks. So don`t let the silent house and absence of signage put you off.
Side Entrance

Side Entrance

Only there was no queue. Just me, and six other people for the guided tour.

farmleigh dining room

The Diningroom

We trooped up from the basement to the diningroom. Panelled in Irish oak and hung with three hundred year old Italian silk tapestries, I could easily imagine a scene from Downton Abbey in there.

This, our guide told us, was where Queen Elizabeth and President Obama were welcomed on their recent visits to Ireland. The table is original to the room, while the china bears harp insignia of Irish state china. The cutlery is from Newbridge and the crystal is also Irish, coming from the Waterford.


The Hall

The entrance hall in Farmleigh is something of a piece de resistance. I wish I had a better picture of it here. Yes, you can see the fine Italian fireplace and the view of the mahogany staircase running to the upper floors. The mahogany for this stairway is from San Domingo mahogany, from Central America.

But  I`d love you to see the doorway.  There are magnificent Connemara marble pillars and Greek styled statues either side of it.  And then, a step up towards the grandeur of the hall itself. There is lots of glass incorporated into the design beautifully dressed windows all around the door.  Light also floods through the glassed roof above the stairway, so that initial effect upon entering Farmleigh  is of space, light and grandeur.

I wondered if the Guinness kids came charging through the front door and plonk their mucky trainers and cricket bats there for the servants to clean up?

But onwards then to the lady`s boudoir…

The Boudoir

Oh, I wouldn`t mind having a room in which to take tea with my pals. I`m not sure I`d be having it in here though. Yes, it`s all very pretty with it`s delicate plaster work, light colours and curved walls. But there is nothing to do in it. Except talk and take tea and well, um, I think I`d rather join the guys in the library. I really want to climb the nifty staircase there and spend some time in the gallery browsing through the rare books.

Frmleigh library

The Library

The Guinness family bequeathed the library to the Irish State on condition that they mind the collection there. There`s a letter from Daniel O`Connell to his wife there which he wrote after the Catholic Emancipation Bill was passed. And a primer in the Irish language which was used by Queen Elizabeth 1. Along with thousands of other rare books. A rainy afternoon in there would be just heaven!

But we must dance onwards to the ballroom.

farmleigh ballroom

The Ballroom

Lighting is a particular feature of Farmleigh as it was one of the first houses in the country to use electricity. There are three chandeliers in the ballroom-a magnificent French one, flanked by two from Waterford. The finely plastered walls are another feature as they are not plastered at all. In fact its wood panelling, with fine carvings added, and the whole painted off white to resemble plaster.

We were taken to the conservatory then. It reminded me of the glass houses in the Botanical gardens, complete with pots filled with the kind of greenery of which Victorian lords and ladies were so fond of.

We didn`t get a peek at the state bedrooms upstairs. There are fourteen in all with bathrooms en suite. Some are decorated in the 19th century and others in the upper floor, in modern style. Or so the guide told us. I don`t believe her though and really think we could have slipped up there for just the tiniest little peek.

But no, it was time to go. Our guide shepherded us out through the front door.

Farmleigh Estate

And, with the views of Farmleigh estate and the Phoenix Park beyond, it was time to go running.

Further information on

Pictures of Farmleigh interior here are all from

Farmleigh exterior photos are my own.

Glasnevin Cemetery

Connecting Gate

Our National Botanic Gardens, in Dublin, and Glasnevin Cemetery are neighbours along the city`s northside. Both have seen massive investment from the Office of Public Works since the 1990s. Though, of course, they express different aspects of our heritage, they are each in different ways, oasis in the city:one is an escape through nature and colour, the other an escape through time into our nation`s past.

Although they shared wall, the visiting public could not access one centre from the other. All that changed this year with the addition of a new gateway, linking both places.

I accessed the cemetery from the National Botanic Gardens side. Much though the low winter sun suited my enjoyment of the winter gardens, it was also imminently suited to the atmosphere of the cemetery. The low light created long shadows on the serried rows of headstones, while the winter chill and quiet added to the sombre tone of the place.


But Glasnevin is a place of exhultation too.

Daniel O`Connell Monument, Glasnevin

Daniel O`Connell tower

Look at the Round Tower, for instance. Fashioned on the old architecture of the monastery towers, it was built in memory of one of Ireland`s great heroes, Daniel O`Connell. O`Connell witnessed the bloodshed of the French Revolution in 1798 and it turned him off violence for life. He determined to find peaceful ways of negotiating through the turmoil Anglo Irish politics in his time and, in doing so, also inspired other pacifists, such as Mahatma Gandhi.

As part of his work towards Catholic Emancipation in 19th century Ireland, O`Connell was instrumental in setting up Glasnevin Cemetery. Before the Cemetery was established, Irish Catholics were only allowed bury their dead in Protestant graveyards and without the benefit of Catholic funeral rites. O`Connell changed all that with the establishment of this non-denominational cemetery.

It is fitting that O`Connell`s monument looms large over very many other fallen heroes now interred in Glasnevin.

Michael Collins

Collins O Connell

The Grave Of Michael Collins

Michael Collins was an ardent nationalist who led thousands of Irish through a bloody campaign to end English rule in Ireland. He was-and still remains-a hero to very many Irish people. He did not find favour with others, however. Particularly after he helped negotiate the Treaty of 1922 between Ireland and England. He was castigated by many, including the then President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, for accepting the terms of the Treaty. This led to a massive split in this country between pro and anti-Treaty fans. And, to this day there are very many people in Ireland who have grown up favouring either the De Valera or Collins side.

Collins also exuded a certain charisma which added to his popularity. He was shot dead in an ambush in County Cork in 1922. His body lay in state for three days before a massive funeral party proceeded out to Glasnevin cemetery. His graveside is the most visited graveside in the cemetery.

Michael Collins

Éamon de Valera

De Valeras

Éamon de Valera loomed large, both metaphorically and physically, over Ireland from the 1917 to 1973. And yet, his gravestone is exceedingly modest. Though frequently at loggerheads with Michael Collins during his lifetime, he lies in death, within spitting distance of his one time opponent.

Charles Stewart Parnell


Isn`t that gravestone wonderful? It belongs to another hero of mine, Charles Stewart Parnell. That pitches me firmly back in the 1880s-1890s era. I like Parnell for his courage and compassion for leading the peasant Irish through to a better chance of establishing the right to manage their own affairs. He could have retreated into his Wicklow mining and farming interests and enjoyed a pleasant and relatively prosperous life. But instead, he took up the cause of the poor and oppressed in Ireland.

He also took up with the separated wife of a fellow MP, Captain O`Shea. That didn`t bother O`Shea until he realised he would stand to lose out on his wife`s aunt`s inheritance. After the aunt died, O`Shea filed for divorce and, in the process outed the Parnell and Mrs O`Shea`s affair. This led to public castigation of Parnell and eventually, his political downfall. After fathering three children with Katherine O`Shea, they married in 1891. But, with his health under considerable strain, Parnell died in his wife`s arms just a few short months later, aged 45.

He was mourned deeply by the people of Ireland as the 200,000 funeral throng to Glasnevin Cemetery attested.

Heroes to Some

There are other heroes too. Heroes to some people, at any rate. In fact the whole place teemed with famous names from history.
Maud Gonne McBride

The muse of our popular poet William Butler Yeats is interred here, with her equally famous son, and founder of Amnesty International, Seán MacBride.

Kevin Barry

Anyone growing up in Ireland in the seventies remembers

“In Mountjoy Jail one Sunday morning, High upon the gallows tree, Kevin Barry gave his young life, In the cause of liberty”

A nationalist from a previous generation is buried here:
James Stephens

James Stephens founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the 1850s.

And  republican hunger strikers from older and more modern times are remembered here

Hunger Strikers

More heroes from the history books…

Devoy Gifford Brugha

Devoy, Gifford, Brugha…


… Margaret Skinnider…

Maud Gonne McBride

McBrides-Maud Gonne, muse to the poet Yeats, and her son Amnesty International founder, Seán McBride

O`Donovan Rossa

O`Donovan Rossa of whom Padraig Pearse spoke so eloquently…
Countess Markievicz
Formerly Constance Gore-Booth of Sligo, later Constance Markievicz, a strong and rare female presence in the early years of the Irish Republic.

There are many, many more. In fact you`ll be tripping over heroes in Glasnevin.

And I`ll finish in the shadow of the giant again, Daniel O`Connell.

Glasnevin is full of the working people of Dublin. James Larkin upheld these people by forming trade unions improve their lot. I`ll finish with the man who was a hero to those people, a man who left his mark on Dublin as he leaves his shadow on the graves of the working classes in Glasnevin.

So, in the shadow of two great heroes in history, Daniel O`Connell and James Larkin, we bid farewell to Glasnevin Cemetery.

In the Shadow of Greatness O Connell and Larkin

Further Research:

Terrific clip of the Michael Collins` funeral procession to Glasnevin

Further information on Glasnevin Cemetery

Padraig Pearse`s Graveside Oration to O`Donovan Rossa