I’ve been living next to the Phoenix Park in Dublin for almost two years now and although I’ve visited the park frequently, I don’t know much about it. So, I decided to do some research and share my findings! Here are some fun facts about Phoenix Park.
1. The size of Phoenix Park
At 1,752 acres (700 hectares), Phoenix Park is five times bigger than London’s Hyde Park. It’s the largest enclosed park in any capital city in Europe and the 8th biggest park in Europe overall. The perimeter wall is eleven kilometres in length.
2. Dublin Zoo
Founded in 1830, Dublin Zoo in the Phoenix Park is the 4th oldest zoo in Europe. It was opened to the public on 1 September 1831 and now has more than 600 animals and tropical birds from around the world. Also, bonus fact, the lion that roars at the end of the MGM movies came from Dublin Zoo.
3. Deer in Phoenix Park
The park was established in the 1660s by the Duke of Ormond, the Viceroy in Ireland at the time. It was originally a royal deer hunting park. It contained pheasants and wild deer. As a result, it was necessary to enclose the entire area with a wall. 400+ Fallow Deer still roam the grounds freely, descending from the original herd.
4. The Viking cemetery
40 graves were discovered during excavations conducted at Kilmainham and Islandbridge along the banks of the Liffey in the 1840s, 1850s, and once more in the 1930s. It is the largest Viking cemetery outside of Scandinavia.
5. Ashtown Castle
The park’s oldest structure is Ashtown Castle, which dates back to the 1430s. It is next to the visitor centre, which offers details on the 5,500 years of park history of the park. In 1989, this 15th-century mediaeval tower house was renovated.
6. Winston Churchill lived in the park
Between the ages of two and six, Winston Churchill resided in the Vice Regal Lodge, which is now the Aras. Later on, the former British Prime Minister revealed that Phoenix Park was where he had his “first coherent memory”.
7. The Wellington Monument
The biggest obelisk in Europe, the Wellington Monument, is 203 feet tall. If the public funding didn’t run out, it would have been even taller! It honours Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and his triumphs.
8. Nature in Phoenix Park
Oak, ash, beech, sycamore, and horse chestnut trees cover 30% of the park. In fact, Phoenix Park contains 351 different plant species, three of which are rare and protected. Nearly all of the park’s original forests and meadows still exist.
9. Phoenix Park is the odd one out
Despite being on the Northside, where the postal codes are typically odd numbers, Phoenix Park is the outlier among Dublin’s postal districts since it has an even number.
10. The name, Phoenix Park
The English name, Phoenix Park is derived from the Irish phrase ‘fionn uisce’ which means calm or clear water.
11. Phoenix Park used to be bigger
Although Phoenix park is very big, it was originally substantially larger and extended over the Liffey and into Kilmainham. However, in 1680 it was reduced in size to make room for the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham.
12. The President of Ireland lives here
The Irish name “Áras an Uachtaráin” means ‘the house of the President’. It was built in 1754 and the President of Ireland lives here. It was first called the Viceregal Lodge, as it was where the English Lord Lieutenant of Ireland lived.
13. The Great Ireland Run
Since April 2003, The Great Ireland Run, a 10km race has taken place in Phoenix Park every year. Irish running legend Sonia O’Sullivan is among the previous winners. Why not give it a go? There is a medal for all finishers on the day!
14. The Papal Cross
The Papal Cross, a huge cross, was placed in the park in preparation for Pope John Paul II’s arrival on September 29, 1979. At the time, a mass held outdoors in the park was attended by more than a million people. The tall, white cross is made of steel and stands 35 metres (115 feet) tall.
15. Phoenix Cricket Club
The Phoenix Cricket Club can be found in the heart of Phoenix Park. John Parnell, the father of Charles Stewart Parnell, created it in 1830. It is Ireland’s oldest cricket club.
16. The Chief Secretary's Lodge
The Chief Secretary’s Lodge was the former house of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Since 1927, it has served as the ambassador of the United States to Ireland’s official residence.
Ireland’s largest gardening festival, Bloom, is held in the Phoenix Park each year.
18. The Magazine Fort
One of the major sites in the park is the Magazine Fort which is located in the south east. It marks the spot where Sir Edward Fisher built Phoenix Lodge in 1611. When the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland ordered that a powder magazine be made available for Dublin, the Lodge was destroyed.
Here’s a list of Irish words, phrases and slang that you might hear Irish people use in conversation. If you learn a few of these