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Visiting Dublin Castle

Updated on February 21, 2016

If you visit Dublin, Ireland, one of the top sites you must see is Dublin Castle. Located in the heart of Dublin, the castle is a great place to get a taste of Irish history and culture. There has been a castle on the same site in Dublin since 1204, although most of the current buildings date from the 19th century. If you visit the castle, you’ll be able to see elaborate state apartments, a royal chapel, multiple museums, and the renowned Chester Beatty Library. All of these attractions make the castle well worth visiting. Furthermore, it’s just a couple minutes’ walk away from Temple Bar and other key Dublin attractions, so it’s easy to fit in to your site-seeing schedule.

The History of Dublin Castle

The history of Dublin Castle dates back to 1204 when John, King of England and Lord of Ireland, ordered that a castle be built to enhance the city’s defense and to enable the administration of justice. The castle had been built by 1230, containing a central square, tall walls, and four towers. One of these towers, called the Record Tower, still stands today. Inside the square there would have been a collection of wooden buildings. Unfortunately, in 1684 there was a massive fire that damaged almost all of the castle. Dublin castle was rebuilt, leaving only the Record Tower. The new castle was built in the style of a Georgian palace. New construction in the 1720s updated the castle walls, buildings, and entrance, creating the castle you can see today.

Dublin castle served as the central administrative location of the Irish government. The Viceroy or Ireland, who represented the monarch, held Dublin Castle as his primary residence. Law courts and the Irish parliament also met in Dublin castle for many years. Upon Ireland becoming a Free State in 1922, however, Dublin Castle ceased to serve as Ireland’s administrative center. It continued to serve, however, as the site of important ceremonial events, such as visits from foreign ambassadors, presidential inaugurations, and European Council meetings.

The State Apartments

The state apartments are one of the top attractions of Dublin Castle. They were built as both the private residence and public quarters for the Viceroy of Ireland and his court. They were the center of government administration and of elite social life. Today, they are still used for important state functions. Whenever they are not in use, however, they are open to the public through guided tours. If you visit, you’ll see impressive halls, a portrait gallery, the throne room, and more. You’ll also hear from your tour guide about the history of the castle.

The Chapel Royal

The Chapel Royal is probably the most beautiful part of Dublin Castle. It was built in 1814 in the Gothic style, and it is famous for its opulent interior. The most impressive feature of the chapel is its vaulted arches. It also has a beautiful stained glass window. In addition, the chapel features a number of beautiful wooden carvings and coats of arms of key historical figures such as Ireland’s justiciars and lord deputies. This makes the chapel interesting both historically and artistically.

The Dublin Castle Museums

There are two museums within Dublin Castle: The Garda Museum and The Revenue Museum. The Revenue Museum, located in the crypt of the Chapel Royal, displays the history of taxes and duties in Ireland. You can see things such as measuring devices used by the Revenue Commissioners and interesting illegal items that have been confiscated at airports and ocean ports. The Garda Museum is dedicated to the history of An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s national police service. The museum, located in the castle’s Record Tower, contains exhibitions and archives about the Irish police prior to 1922.

The Chester Beatty Library

The Chester Beatty Library, which is free to visitors, is not just a library; it houses impressive exhibits on historic cultures from around the world. In particular, it is famous for religious history and rare manuscripts. There are two large collections: Sacred Traditions and Artistic Traditions. Within both collections, you can see miniature paintings, rare books, drawings, prints, manuscripts, and more. The Chester Beatty Library has one of the largest collections of artifacts that are important to the history of Islam, and it is also well known for historic texts from the history of the Old Testament and New Testament. Its most famous objects are a copy of The Gospel of Mani and a volume of the very first illustrated edition of Life of the Prophet. For those interested in religious and textual history, the Chester Beatty Library is a must-see. Even if you are not particularly interested in religious texts, you’ll likely enjoy a glimpse at the intriguing history and appreciate the beauty of the artistic items.

What to Expect When You Visit

Dublin Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin, so you should always expect a bit of a crowd when you visit. You can take a look at the castle courtyard and the Chester Beatty Library for free. If you are short on time or have a tight budget, it is worth your time to stop by the castle and take a look. It’s a beautiful area to walk around, and the Chester Beatty Library is a fascinating museum to visit.

If you would like to see the inside of the castle, you’ll need to do so through a guided tour. Tours include the state apartments, the medieval undercroft, and the chapel royal, and they cost €8.50. If you’d just like to see the state apartments, you can do a self-guided tour for €6.50. For the extra €2, however, you get a lot of extra information about the history of the castle and all the events it has been involved in. If you have the time, it’s probably worth it. Tours run from 10:00 to 16:45 Monday through Saturday and from 12:00 to 16:45 on Sundays. You should expect the tour to take a little over an hour, so if you want to walk around the grounds as well, plan on giving yourself about two hours (and more if you want to spend time in the Chester Beatty Library). The castle also includes a gift shop and café, so you can stop in for a cup of tea and a bit to eat if you get hungry after your tour.

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