Heritage hot spots History, nature, art, environment

Sat, Jan 14, 2012, 00:00

Dublin Castle

What is it?Originally a Norman fort, Dublin Castle sits at the southeastern corner of the medieval city walls. Today it consists mainly of buildings from the 17th century onwards.

Why visit?Standing on the highest ground in the area, at the junction of the River Liffey and the (now underground) River Poddle, a tributary, Dublin Castle offers visitors a broad sweep of historic interest.

Guided tours include the medieval undercroft, which shows the early city walls, Viking defence banks and the Gunpowder Tower, one of the last medieval towers in Dublin.

The State Apartments, which dominate the south range of the Great Courtyard, were built as the residential and public quarters of the viceregal court. They are now the venue for presidential inaugurations, EU events and other prestigious public functions.

The apartments feature ceiling paintings by Vincenzo Valdre in St Patrick’s Hall and 18th-century plasterwork ceilings by Bartholomew Cramillion that were removed from Mespil House before its demolition, in the 1950s.

You can seen see Waterford glass, Venetian glass and brass chandeliers, and famous paintings and sculptures, including Anthony Van Dyck’s portrait of Elizabeth Leigh, countess of Southampton, and a bust of Lord Chesterfield by Louis François Roubiliac.

The Chapel Royal (Francis Johnson’s Church of the Most Holy Trinity) and the Chester Beatty Library, in the former clock tower, are also well worth a visit.

Why now?This year is the 90th anniversary of the handover of Dublin Castle to the Irish people. A series of commemorative events begins on Monday at 6.15pm with a tour and a talk about the final years of British rule in Dublin. (This is booked out: extra tours are being arranged.)

The castle was officially handed over to the provisional Irish government on January 16th, 1922, by the last viceroy, Lord FitzAlan. Visitors to the castle on Monday will gain free admission to tours if they say they are “birthday guests”.

A tour of the artworks in historic collections will take place on Sunday, January 22nd, at noon; you can hear a talk about the secret service in Dublin Castle on Tuesday, January 24th, at 6.15pm.

William Derham will lead an architectural tour of Dublin Castle on Sunday, January 29th, at 11am.

To book any of these events, telephone 01-6458812 or email dublincastle@opw.ie.

How do I get there?Dublin Castle is in the heart of the city, through the gates just off Dame Street or Cork Hill. Guided tours of the State Apartments and the medieval undercroft take place regularly from 10am to 4.45pm from Mondays to Saturdays and from noon to 4.45pm on Sundays and public holidays.

Specialist tours focusing on architecture, art or various historic periods can be arranged in advance.

Admission costs €4.50, €3.50 and €2, with children under six free. To book, telephone 01-6458813 or email dublincastle.ie.