OUR DUBLIN-DUBLIN CASTLE AND CHESTER BEATTY LIBRARY
This week we are looking at Dublin Castle, located right in the centre and the site of some of the most significant events in the history of our wonderful city. Indeed, by definition, Dublin Castle is Dublin!! Let me explain..
Dublin Castle was built in 1209 on a site previously settled on by the Vikings.The River Poddle ran as a tributary from The River Liffey and ended at Dublin Castle in a black pool of water. The Irish word for black is Dubh and the Irish word for pool is Linn. So Black pool is Dubhlinn or Dublin, giving the city it’s name. The location of Dubhlinn is now the site of the castle gardens and Coach House. The Castle was built by Anglo-Normans who had invaded Ireland in 1170 and established Dublin as their power base. The Normans had already held the throne of England since 1066. In 1204 King John commanded the building of a more secure fortress and what followed was the building of the Castle and City Walls to keep the nasty Irish natives out!!
The original site of Dubh Linn or black Pool. You can see the State Rooms and the old Medieval Records Tower in the back right of the picture
The State Apartments, Undercroft, Chapel Royal, Craft Shop, Heritage Centre and Restaurant are all open to visitors. (€4.50/3.50 for students) Your tour of the castle will begin with the beauitifully luxurious State apartments which date mostly from the Georgian period following a destructive fire in 1684 and a big restoration in 1746.( The south-east Record Tower is the only surviving structure from the earlier castle still intact and is the last medieval tower, not only of Dublin Castle but also of Dublin itself!). Since then, they have been used as the stately home of the Royal viceroy (the King’s representative in Ireland), the army, the police and Government departments as well as the location for many lavish social occasions. Since the transferral of power from the British government over to the new Irish free State in 1922 all the historic buildings have been restored and the Castle is fully integrated into Irish society. They now play host to European Union Presidencies, Heads of State, and leaders of business, industry and government.
However, my personal favourite part of the tour is the undercroft. Here, the guide will bring you under the castle and show you the foundations of the Powder tower(no longer standing) and also the old city wall which the Normans built to secure their holdings. Here, the archway allowed small feeder boats to land provisions at the postern gate, from larger boats moored on the Liffey. The double archway and postern gate are still visible. Also on view here is the Viking defence bank, within the butt of the Norman Powder Tower. It is very dark and mysterious down under the ground in the heart of the old city and you get a real sense of what was like in Medieval Dublin..
Courtyard of Dublin Castle
On top of all that, there are also three museums in the grounds of Dublin Castle which you can visit. Firstly, The Revenue Museum, situated in the Crypt of the Chapel Royal, offers interesting and often amusing insights into the long history of the collection of taxes and duties in Ireland. Exhibits include inter-active smuggling games, video footage of alcohol duty assessment, and counterfeit goods and stamping equipment. Secondly, there is The Garda Museum. Here visitors will find an interesting exhibition about the history of An Garda Síochána, the police service for the Republic of Ireland( or guards as we like to call them) and information on policing in Ireland before 1922. However, it is the Chester Beatty Library which is the real prize and in my opinion, simply unmissable. As the only museum in Ireland to win ‘European Museum of the Year’, the library’s rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe open a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts complete this amazing collection – all the result of the collecting activities of one man – Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). Egyptian papyrus texts, beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights on display. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day. The information and collections are beautifully and simply displayed giving you a wonderful insight into the History of major world religions.You will really impress your friends by taking them here, the library is not as known in Ireland as it should be and is truly Dublin’s ‘hidden gem’. Perhaps the reason for this is that the museum is not about Ireland itself. Whatever the reason, the Chester Beatty Library is one of the finest museums you will ever see-do not go home without visiting it!!!
Dave’s Tip- Lunch in the Chester Beatty Library. Finish your trip with delicious and wholesome food( perhaps with a sneaky glass of wine!!!) in the beautiful surrounds of the Chester Beatty library ground floor. If you are feeling particularly plush treat yourself to one of their beautiful desserts or pay a visit to the adjoining bookshop. Can’t get much better than that, can it???