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Phoenix Park

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One of the largest urban parks in Europe, the Phoenix Park is spread over 707 hectares of land only 2 kilometres from Dublin city centre. When you enter through its gates you feel the paradox of feeling as though you have stepped out of the city and into the countryside. With no end in sight the park stretches on and on, grass, fields and open land laid out before you.

The park was originally opened in the 17 th century by James Butler, Duke of Ormond, on behalf of King Charles II and established originally as a Royal deer park. Even today as you stroll down its wide chestnut tree lined avenues, herds of Irish Fallow deer frolic and play free to roam the park. The park is a sanctuary for birds and wildlife and flora. Over 30% of the park is covered by trees, and in Spring, a carpet of daffodils emerges along the avenues and fields.

The home of every Irish President, known as Aras an Uachtarain, is located inside the park. It was established in 1750 and is adjacent to the United State's Irish Ambassador's residence. Free tours of Aras an Uachtarain are available on Saturday's only, and tickets can be picked up at the park's Visitor Centre - Ashtown Castle. This includes tours of the Aras's gardens during the summer season, weather permitting.

The Visitor Centre encompasses a café, a two and a half acre Victorian walled garden, picnic area and children's playground.

Another prominent attraction inside the Phoenix Park is Dublin Zoo, a 28 hectare park with lakes, gardens and natural habitats. A great family attraction, the Zoo houses over 600 animals, including gorillas, tigers, leopards, giraffes, zebras and elephants among many more. Many are rare species and their survival in the wild is under threat so many of the animals are part of international breeding programmes for endangered species. Dublin Zoo is home to animals from all around the globe.

Also within the Phoenix Park are Farmleigh House and Estate. It was purchased from the Guinness family in 1999 by the Irish Government. Originally built as a small Georgian house in the late 18 th century it was expanded over the centuries to its current architecture. The house is well worth a tour if you are interested in period décor and design, it is decorated in the style of Louis XIV of France, mixed with heavy dark wood Victorian furniture. The beautiful ballroom, boudoir and dining room are sure to impress and delight, as is the rest of the house including the Clock Tower and conservatory. The walled garden and boat house are perfect for a stroll in the sunshine.

If interested in war history, be sure to check out the Wellington Testimonial, a 62 metre tall obelisk, and the tallest within Europe. The Testimonial is a tribute to Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, who is reputed to have been born in Dublin. On the base of the obelisk are four bronze plaques forged from four captured cannons at the battle of Waterloo.

If you are would like to see the park from a different perspective there are segway tours of the park run by Glide Tours. A segway is a two wheeled self balancing mode of transport popular throughout many countries. This is a brilliant way to see the sights across this gigantic park which is twice the size of New York's Central Park. Tours last 2 hours and have regular breaks and opportunities for questions and photographs.

The Phoenix Park is free to enter and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year although the attractions within may have their own entrances fees and have individual opening and closing hours that you should check out in advance. The two main gates of the Park at Castleknock Gate and Parkgate Street are open 24 hours.    

 

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