Insider Tips

Echoes of War

By Visit Dublin

7th April 2016

As you stroll about the city of Dublin, it’s easy to take for granted the significant cultural impact of its streets, buildings and landmarks. Stories from the past are etched into present surroundings, while echoes of a more fraught time speak to the people of modern Ireland. From Ireland’s fight for independence from Britain and the Irish Civil War, to the country’s role in World War II, the remnants of the city’s turbulent past are all around for us to see.

Using our free Discovery Trails app, you can wander through some of Dublin's picturesque green spaces and explore the city's tumultuous military history with a walking tour of key signature spots in the historically rich area of Kilmainham...

‘Echoes of War’ kicks off at Heuston Station. Striking in design, the entrance to the building boasts a series of Corinthian columns, an elegant nod to classic Greek art and architecture.

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

Originally named Kingsbridge Station upon its opening in 1846, the station was renamed in 1966 after Seán Heuston, a hero of the 1916 Rising who led a small group of volunteers in a three-day standoff against an overwhelming force of over 300 British troops. Inside, you will find a commemorative plaque in honour of his bravery.
Across the road you’ll see a large yellow building, Dr. Steeven’s Hospital. A quiet and serene spot, the grounds of the rear garden mark the final resting place of seven men who died in the conflict of 1916. Unusually, two of these men were Irish Volunteers while the other five were British Army soldiers. 

You’ll also visit the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (RHK), a site that celebrates the very best in art and culture to this day, housing the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and fun summer concerts like Forbidden Fruit Festival. During the Rising, the RHK provided the residence of the Commander and Chief of the British Army in Ireland and a retirement home for up to 300 soldiers, serving this function until 1927.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Next, you’ll come to the stone-walled surroundings of Bully’s Acre, Dublin’s oldest cemetery. Used since Viking times, it’s the location for over tens of thousands of burials. The High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, is said to have camped here in 1014 prior to the Battle of Clontarf. There’s a sinister aspect to Bully’s Acre also – many graves were robbed during the 18th and 19th centuries by so-called ‘Resurrectionists’ who sold the bodies to doctors and surgeons for dissection. 

To Kilmainham Gaol [Jail] next, one of the most compelling supporting characters in the Rising narrative. A rather foreboding building, it was built in 1796 as part of a series of prisons at a time when revolution was in the air. Until its closure in 1924, it would hold many insurgents. One of the last prisoners to reside in the cells of Kilmainham Gaol was none other than future President of Ireland; Éamon De Valera. Conditions for inmates were harsh, with glass-less windows and just one small candle per couple of weeks with which to light their cell. Over a nine-day period in May of 1916, 14 revolutionaries were executed by firing squad at the jail, including Patrick Pearse, Seán Heuston, Eamonn Ceannt, Sean MacDiarmada and James Connolly. 

The National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin.

A walk of about 1km now lies between you and the National War Memorial Gardens, a space dedicated to the memory of the tens of thousands of Irish soldiers who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914 – 1918. These pretty gardens are home to terrific design, tasteful decorative sculptures and a solemn air of respect. As you leave, keep an eye on the tall obelisk in the distance. That’s the Wellington Monument, located inside the Phoenix Park, your next stop on the trail. One of Europe’s largest city parks, the Phoenix Park started life in 1662 as a royal deer park for King Charles II. Believe it or not, the herd of fallow deer introduced all the way back then is still going strong today.

Complete your journey by exiting the park’s main gate and walking past the Criminal Courts of Justice, heading straight on to the tram lines which lead to the National Museum of Ireland. This former army barracks known as Collins Barracks takes its name from Michael Collins, first Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army. One of the main exhibitions here explores the period from 1913 to 1923, the most important decade in the long fight for Irish independence.

Once you’ve completed this trail, don’t forget to check out the other options within our Discovery Trails app, which include ‘The Story of Dublin’, ‘Rebellion’ and ‘Empire’.

Visit Dublin

Visit Dublin | Dublin's Official Tourism Site

Tweet us @visitdublin