Dublin is home to some of the most spacious and green parks in Europe. From the calm flowing water of Bushy Park in the southside to the vibrant skating culture of Fairview Park in the northside, Dubliners are spoilt for choice. Any mention of parks, however, must begin with the only park to host a Pope, the largest walled park in Europe: Phoenix Park. The park of choice for Leo to enjoy some topless cans has plenty of character, history, and exotic animals. From a hunting ground for Earl Chesterfield to the haunting ground for plenty of sunny cans, the Phoenix Park is a mainstay of Dublin life.
The sheer size makes it a popular and accessible site for runners of all ages, running from early in the morning into the increasingly early darkness. The beauty in the park is seasonal; we are now at the end of the glorious autumnal colours and the leaves have covered large areas of the park, nestling in for the winter. The green will return in the spring and with it the longer evenings. Crowds gather in their droves for coffee on frosty Sunday mornings, and memories are made every evening as parents and children alike enjoy a kick around on one of the countless pitches. Runners and cyclists know the winding road on the western side of the park leaves a breath-taking view of the city and is also the best side for catching the setting sun.
The park is home to the annual Bloom flower festival, with huge crowds flocking in early summer to enjoy the stunning flower and garden displays. The Phoenix Park is also home to the president of Ireland. Michael D. Higgins has now lived in Áras an Uactarán for nine years and has delighted everyone with his larger than life dogs and mild-mannered approach. Before President Higgins, Áras an Uachtaráin housed the first female President, Mary Robinson. The park has a real sense of history to it, with monuments, gardens and the furry glen all visited by Dubliners and from some famous exceptions from beyond the Pale.
Parks in Dublin create and represent a sense of pride in the city. They also offer an escape in a space that is at times frantic. The roaming deer add personality to the Phoenix Park and their relative tameness and responsiveness to food makes for a friendly addition. Overall, the park offers something for everyone, whether its a local sports team, a family or just looking for a quiet moment, the park is big enough to accommodate everyone.
A park that is criminally underrated is Eamonn Ceannt Park in Kimmage. Situated just up the road from the main (and only) street in Kimmage, Ceannt Park is a hidden gem in Dublin. The 83 will take you right out there from town and you will not be disappointed. Ceannt Park has Ireland’s only outdoor velodrome, a basketball court, a tennis court, two or three soccer pitches as well as a children’s playground. Come in the morning and work up a sweat in the courts and then call into Matt the Rashers for the best breakfast for under a tenner in Dublin, or come in the evening for a stroll around the grassy embankments and take in the flower displays and then quench your thirst in the Stoneboat.
Kimmage is a quintessentially Dublin village and Ceannt Park embodies this. The personalities are on show daily with anyone joining in for pick up games in the basketball court or the local presence tending to the upkeep of the park. It is a place that prides itself on community, and Ceannt park is the hub of the community. It is something physical to protect and to be proud of. This can be said for all of the parks in Dublin. You can walk around every park and there is a sense of safety, with each park having its unique selling point. They all offer a momentary breath of fresh air and somewhere to go and be present outdoors. Somewhere to soak up the beauty Dublin has to offer.
Ringsend Park is situated right in the heart of Ringsend on the south side of the Liffey. Take a walk along the Docklands and find the one of the little entrances to this hidden enclave, tucked away behind the rows of red brick houses. The park has a path running throughout so it’s ideal for a quiet stroll and a chat with a friend, or a chance to pop in the earphones and escape for a little while. The park is full of facilities with football and GAA pitches, artificial surfaces for a casual kickabout or serious five-a-side, tennis and basketball courts, an athletics track as well as a children’s playground. You can guarantee that the grass will be neatly trimmed, with a fresh smell and sight of verdant green. Finishing up a slightly more competitive session of five-a-side than anyone had anticipated, the orange glow of the Aviva stadium in view as the sun sets is one to soothe the pain of those grazed knees, as well as being a sight for sore eyes.
Fairview Park in Clontarf is another gem. The park boasts GAA and football pitches, a children’s playground, a skatepark and seasonal floral displays. The park was developed in the 1920s and refurbished in 2012. Crossing the Fairview Road is Bram Stoker park, named after the eminent writer born around these parts. The park is best experienced in autumn, with the leaves lining the path as you amble through with trees shepherding you on either side. Looking up, the sun appears through the cracks in the leafless branches, tinting the tips with flecks of amber.
Dublin has much to offer by way of parks, with these just some of the spaces dotted around the city. With social distancing requirements over the past few months, these parks have been a godsend for many who would otherwise have felt stifled and restricted. These parks offer a sense of freedom, a space to exercise or to walk, or simply to sit on a bench and breathe in the fresh air. We’re lucky to have them.