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This former prison is one of Dublin's most historic buildings. Dating back to 1796, the Kilmainham Gaol is a massive building that housed men, women and even child prisoners. Most notably, the Gaol is known for incarcerating famous rebels and prisoners of war. Today the building serves as a museum with exhibits, artifacts and docent-led tours.
More than 235 species of wild animals and birds inhabit Dublin Zoo, a vast expanse within Phoenix Park. Created in 1830 and later restored and extended, this zoo is one of the oldest in the world. The thirty acres (12.1 hectares) provide lots of treats for the family, including a pet's corner and attractions such as Family Farm and Fringes of the Arctic. The train ride around the zoo is also fun and a welcome rest for weary feet! Refreshments are available in the restaurant and coffee shop, while a variety of cuddly toys can be found in the gift shop.
A short bus ride from the city center, the splendid Botanic Gardens and its many floral wonders are a stunning treat to the senses. Accentuated all the more by the glimmering waters of River Tolka, these Irish gardens uphold an assemblage of hundreds of thousands of plants, and a smattering of botanical specimens. In all their floral glory, the gardens are a wonderland for naturalists and botany aficionados, its verdant course dotted by a string of splendid greenhouses, like the impressive, structural and glass-clad Curvilinear Range and the Palm House. The great glasshouses full of exotica were constructed in the mid 19th century and designed by Richard Turner, who was also the man behind the glasshouses at Kew Gardens. The gardens are divided into distinct areas of interest, featuring long herbaceous beds, a rose garden, alpine houses, a vegetable garden, orchid beds, an arboretum, a yew-clad walkway along the river, and a wonderful area exhibiting the various natural habitats of Ireland. Also sheltering willows plunging gracefully over gleaming waters, the National Botanic Gardens are a luxuriant canvas of natural glory and luminescence.
Official residence of the President of Ireland, this sprawling white edifice sits gracefully on verdant, rolling lawns of the massive Phoenix Park. Built in 1751 as a rather luxurious home for the park ranger, the house became the residence of successive viceroys, who oversaw British rule in Ireland. In 1938, it became home to the president of the newly-independent Ireland and today, welcomes some 15,000 visitors each year. Priding itself on its moniker 'The Irish White House', this residence is home to a massive assemblage of ornate rooms, sprawling quarters and a decadent chapel. A picture-perfect edifice replete with great Irish fervor, Áras an Uachtaráin is beautifully ornamented with columns, a framed pediment, a poised portico and gardens, the flowers of which are enlivened with bursts of color come summer. 'The Áras' has gracefully aged well over 260 years, and is indefinitely one of the most priceless possessions of Dublin.
Sheathed in acres of rolling green expanses, Phoenix Park is one of the largest city parks in Europe. This massive verdant swathe lies nestled in the west of the city, and is a mixture of wilderness and formal landscape gardens. Dotted with tree-cloaked boulevards, pristine tracts of grassland and open recreational spaces, the park is also home to some monumental, nationally significant edifices, too. The Ashtown Castle calls the park home, in addition to the towering Papal Cross which marks the visit of Pope John Paul II back in 1979, the stately Áras an Uachtaráin, the Wellington Monument which is a soaring tribute to the Duke of Wellington, and the teeming Dublin Zoo, are all nestled in its scenic, idyllic expanse. Among the many recreational activities offered here are Gaelic football, polo and cricket. Also enclosed within its viridescent fabric is a vibrant burst of plant life, while a bird sanctuary and a herd of fallow deer coexist in peaceful harmony. Playing host to an array of events, festivals as well as racing events, Phoenix Park is a massive window into the unbridled natural beauty and strategic finesse of Ireland.
Nestled in one of Europe's most splendid parks, the rustic, yet well-preserved Ashtown Castle dates as far back as the 15th Century. This obscure citadel was unearthed inside the walls of a larger Georgian building and was later restored to its original glory. A striking, fortified tower residing in the sprawling Phoenix Park, this medieval, stone-built castle instantly stands out in contrast to its surrounding lawns and buildings. An escape into Ireland's military history, the Ashtown Castle is, indefinitely a stirring piece of historical Dublin that time forgot. Now ornamented with a courtyard, the grounds of the castle have been a favored venue for musical concerts.