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During our girls’ UK trip in 2017, one of the places on my “must see” list was St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. The gardener in me, fascinated with all growing things, longed to explore there.
Happily the rest of the group agreed to a leisurely stroll through the 22 acre green, located in central Dublin, Ireland.
History of St Stephen’s Green
Until the mid 1660s, a marsh occupied this area outside of Dublin. A leper colony existed here at that time, named for the nearby St Stephen’s Church.
In 1663 the land went into development with plots sold for houses. A wall surrounded the green as Georgian style homes went up around the perimeter.
By the end of the 1770s, the green provided a private park for the wealthy residents of the city. Access to the park remained restricted until 1877 when Parliament opened the green to the public.
Sir A.E. Guinness, a member of the Guinness brewing family, paid for the structuring of the green into its current form.
During the Easter Rising of 1916, a group of insurgents took up defensive positions within the green. More than 200 armed men in the park, and many more scattered throughout the city, attempted to end British rule and establish an independent Irish Republic. They failed, after six days, and almost 500 people died. However their actions led to an increase in support for Irish independence.
Bullets holes are still visible in the Fusilier’s Arch, at the entrance to the park.
Sights to see in St Stephen’s Green
While strolling through this gorgeous park, the largest green space in Dublin, check out these interesting sights.
In the northwest corner of the park, find the Braille Garden. This little garden, filled with fragrant plants that tolerate handling, makes use of braille signs to identify the flowers.
The Fusilier’s Arch
Mentioned above, the arch commemorates the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who fought during the Second Boer War. Erected in 1907, the arch forms the entrance to the park, at Grafton Street. The structure is modeled on the Arch of Titus, in Rome.
Three Fates Fountain
This fountain inside the Leeson Street Gate was a gift from the Germans. The statue within the fountain is a thank you for Irish help to refugee children during WWII. At least 500 children found foster homes in Ireland, in a project called Operation Shamrock.
The Green Lake
Spanning the length of the green is an ornamental lake. A gazebo rests at one end and the O’Connell Bridge provides a great vantage point at the other end. The lake is home to a variety of water fowl, including beautiful swans.
Bandstand and Playground
On the south side of the main garden circle is the bandstand. Workers and students gather here for lunch. During the summer music entertains park visitors as they picnic. A playground nearby entertains children of all ages.
There are many statues and works of art throughout the green. One of the most touching is the Famine Memorial. Created by Edward Delaney, in 1967, the haunting abstract sculptures memorialize the Great Famine of 1845 – 1850. Eventually referred to as the Irish Potato Famine, during this time of mass starvation one million people died and another two million immigrated. Ireland’s population fell by 20% – 25%, creating a century long decline that the country never completely recovered from.
Places to Visit Near St Stephen’s Green
While in the area, check out these nearby attractions:
Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, located on the west side of the green, is one of Ireland’s largest shopping centers. Built in 1988, the style resembles a conservatory.
Little Museum of Dublin, on the north side of the green, is housed in a restored Georgian townhouse. The museum chronicles Dublin’s history during the 20th century, including the Easter Rising. Enjoy a meal in the famous cafe, Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen, located in the basement.
And the historic Shelbourne Hotel is on the north side as well. Currently operating as a Marriot International Hotel, the Shelbourne has been at the center of Dublin’s social and cultural life for 200 years. Enjoy an elegant afternoon tea here.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in St Stephen’s Green. Tree lined pathways circle the park, making it easy to navigate. I loved this vibrant green space with its flower gardens, sculptures, play areas and lake.
The green is well worth a visit, for a change of pace from the bustling city and for its natural setting, art and historical value.
Months before our girls’ trip, I planned out a visit to this park, studying maps and reviews and reading articles. That’s part of the fun of traveling, planning and anticipation.
The reality of visiting the park surpassed my expectations. St Stephen’s is a true gem in Dublin, and a green one at that!
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