Half-hidden in the trees below Muck Rock, between the 19th century rhododendron gardens and the world’s first Poc Fada Golf course, is a collapsed dolmen known locally as Aideen’s Grave. In the legends of the Fianna, Aideen was the wife of the warrior Oscar, son of Oisín and Niamh of Tír na nÓg, and grandson of Fionn MacCumhaill. She is said to have died of grief on hearing of her husband’s death in battle, and was buried here by Oisín in a tomb of the sort normally reserved for warriors and kings.
Before this version of events was popularised by the poem The Cromlech on Howth, the tomb was known as Fionn MacCumhaill’s Quoit, the capstone (or quoit) having been tossed from the Bog of Allen almost into the Bog of Frogs by the legendary giant who is held responsible for quite a few of Ireland’s geographic features.
The structure in fact predates Aideen, Fionn and the Fianna by several thousand years, as dolmens or portal tombs typically date from the Neolithic period, 4000BC to 2500BC. Despite the 75-ton capstone having slipped off the 2.5-metre portal stones, it remains an imposing monument. Like most portal tombs, it was likely covered with stones or earth when originally constructed, with only the capstone visible. But as to who built it, how, and why, we’ll never know for sure.
Albert College Park is a public park adjoining the main campus of Dublin City University, on lands formerly owned by the Albert Agricultural College and then University College Dublin, before being transferred to Dublin Corporation in the 1960s. Sometimes called Hampstead Park, the park contains several stands of native and non-native trees, as well as individual specimen trees dotted around the open spaces and pathways.
The Glasnevin Model Farm was established in 1838 for the training of National School teachers in the teaching of agriculture, and was renamed after a visit by Prince Albert in 1853. The Albert College Building is now part of the DCU Glasnevin campus; with the establishment of the DCU Institute of Education, the circle will be complete.
Looking like a concrete battleship in a sea of grass, the Magazine Fort was built in 1734 on the site of the Phoenix Lodge, which dated from 1611 and was named for a spring of clear water (fionn uisce) nearby. With commanding views from its elevated position, the Fort was used as a powder magazine and munitions store well into the 20th century.
Wellesley, that is. The Wellington Monument (officially the Wellington Testimonial, as construction began while he was alive) commemorates the Dublin-born 1st Duke of Wellington’s military and political achievements. At 62 metres, it is the tallest obelisk in Europe, although it was originally intended to be taller.
A statue of the Duke on horseback was also planned, but a lack of funds reined that idea in, as well as delaying completion of the obelisk until 1861, after the Duke’s death.
The bronze panels on each side of the base were cast from cannons captured at Waterloo. Those aren’t wellies though.
Over a hundred years of tropical heat and daily misting eventually took its toll on the iron structure of the Great Palm House at the National Botanic Gardens, built in 1884, requiring it to be dismantled and completely restored in the early 2000s.
Completion of this 7000-piece jigsaw (not counting the glass) earned a Europa Nostra Heritage Award for Conservation in 2005.
The 1990s restoration of the Curvilinear Range, dating from 1843, employed innovative techniques that allowed most of the original wrought iron to be reused. This was supplemented by wrought iron from Turner’s Palm House at Kew Gardens, where it had been replaced with steel in the 1980s.
There are over 8000 panes of glass in the Curvilinear Range to be kept clean, inside and out. It’s a wonder they have time to do any gardening at all.
Named for one of the primary materials used in its construction in 1945, the Teak House at the National Botanic Gardens was reconstructed in recent years. Thankfully the original name was kept: ‘the stainless steel and iroko house’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Whether or not the iroko came from one of the specimen trees in the Gardens is not mentioned, though waiting for it to grow would likely have jeopardised the project timeline.
The award-winning Father Collins Park is Ireland’s first wholly sustainable park, capable of generating all of its own energy needs onsite thanks to 250kW of wind turbine capacity. The playgrounds, skate park, running track, and playing pitches are enjoyed year round.
All the same, there’s something slightly unnerving about seeing tall powerful machines left to their own devices as it gets dark.
Formerly inhabited by the native red squirrel, St. Anne’s Park now has a large population of the invasive grey squirrel instead, an increasingly common problem in most of Ireland. At least one novel approach to reducing the number of grey squirrels has been proposed.
In the middle of winter, finding food is a full-time occupation for all of Dublin’s wildlife, whether native, introduced or recently arrived.