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I recently went on a trip with the Cavan town Irish Country Women’s Associaton (ICA) to Dublin. As part of their annual trip they had decided to visit Glasnevin Cememtary and The National Botanic Gardens. My mother is a member of the Cavan branch and encouraged me to attend as I had never had the opportunity to visit these sites before.

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Glasnevin Cemetary was somewhere I had always wanted to visit so I was excited to finally be getting the chance to go. The cemetery is a place that is filled with history. Many infamous names from Irish history have found their final resting place there. To begin with we were giving time to explore the museum and check out the various exhibiton spaces they have.

The City of the Dead exhibition was the first place that I encountered. This exhibition tells the story of the people that are buried in the cemetery and the history of the site. This includes some of the more colourful aspects such as grave robbing and body snatching.  Glasnevin was Ireland’s first non-denominational cemetery. Here are buried people from all waves of life side by side. The design of the exhibition is very interesting and holds your attention. I really liked the mannequins and the layout of the space. There are interactives that you can use to gain more information on your topic of choice. I like when you go to a museum and leave with a tiny new piece of knowledge and one of the aspects that I found most interesting was the story of the body snatching. This became such a huge issue as it was difficult for people to get hold of cadavers, the only legal source of corpses was prisoners who were condemned to death, other than that you would have to think of more inventive ways to supply this demand. The exhibition lists the many different people who are buried here including John Gray, a doctor, politician and Journalist who chaired the Vartry Water Scheme which fought to bring fresh water to Dublin. The wall of religions is a lovely aspects of the exhibition and gives an insight into all the different denominations that are buried in the cemetery.

20140712_114810The next section of the museum is the Milestone Timeline which is an interactive that represents the lives of almost 200 Irish citizens who are buried in Glasnevin. It details different people of note as well as ordinary citizens who lived and died in Dublin. This is an interesting element of the museum and allows you to get to know the many different types of people who are resting there. There is also a temporary exhibition gallery which housed an exhibition on the Cumann na Mban, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to check out tis exhibition in much detail as our guided tour was about to start.

20140712_121405Our guide’s name was Laura and she was fantastic. She was extremely knowledgable and was able to answer all the many questions she was asked astutely. The tour began with a history of the site, it opened in 1832 and the cemetery spans 124 acres. We were given an insight into the expanse of the site with Laura telling us that there are more people buried in Glasnevin cemetery than there are alive in Dublin today, 1.2million living in the capital versus that 1.5 million people that now slumber in the grounds of Glasnevin.

The list of famous people buried in Glasnevin is astounding. As you walk around the site you are constantly met with different political figures, names that you learn about in history class. Parnell is buried here, as is Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha, Eamonn Develera and Daniel O’Connell. During the tour we had the chance to see each of these burial plots.

The most ostentastious one is that of Daniel O’Connel. A round tower has been built to house O’Connell remains, it took 22 years to complete and is 50metres high. On his death his body was left to Ireland, his heart to Rome and his soul to Heaven. His body is now encased in an exquisitely decorated tomb inside this round tower. Personally, I found this burial to be too over the top. I understand the desire that people had to honour O’Connell for all that he did for Ireland but I think this round tower takes away from the fact that this is after all a grave, the final resting place of this man. The grave of Parnell is the one that I found most beautiful, to mark this site there is a large stone with just the word parnell on it. I like this simple marker and found it to be a beautiful way to honour a person’s life. However Laura later let us know that Parnell’s end was actually quite tragic. On his death there was not enough money to fund a proper burial for Parnell and so his body was buried in a cholera pit along with 13,000 other people. This also proved advantageous in that no one would dare to dig up the grave for fear of getting infected.

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The graveyard is vast and on a guided tour you do not get the chance to visit much of the site. The tour is more a look at the highlights, the burials that the majoriyt of people want to see. I have to say our guide was really good and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I would hope to visit again and explore more of the cemetery. One of the things I would really like to do is take that time to look at the changing nature of the grave markers. I find it fascinating to see how grave stones have changed over time and the different styles that have taken hold.1405162883121

The next part of our day was a guided tour of The National Botanic Gardens. I think the botanic gardens are a beautiful oasis in the city. Our guide gave us an insight into the various roles of the garden. The many different species of plants and flowers that grow there are fantastic and the colours and scents are a joy for the senses as you explore the garden. There is a wild garden where the plants and flowers have been left to grow as the wish rather than cultivated into designed borders and rockeries. The vegetable garden is stunning with herbs and vegetables growing larger than any garden I have ever seen. The glass houses with their tropical plants are a wonder. You get a sense of being on a tropical island with leaves larger than you could ever imagine. The various plant houses are beautiful. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time on our tour to explore them in any debt but we did get a taster of what the gardens can offer.

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The tour is a nice way to get an introduction to the gardens. I really enjoyed the tour, our guide was lovely and was very passionate about the good that the gardens are doing with educating people about horticulture and giving them a chance to see exotic plants that they normally would not get the opportunity to see. I aim to return to the gardens myself to explore them at my own pace and get a chance to see aspects that we did not have enough time to view. Having somewhere like the Botanic gardens in the middle of a vibrant and fast paced city is very advantageous to the people who live there. It is a fantastic place to go and escape. I could definitely see myself wasting away afternoons in the gardens, looking at the beautiful flowers and enjoying being amongst nature. I would definitely recommend the gardens to anyone who wants a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dublin and would recommend both sites to anyone who is looking for a way to spend an afternoon. The ICA group all enjoyed their visit and were raving about the various aspects on the way home. The contrast between the two sites meant that there was something for everyone, whether you are interested in history or not. Both guides were insightful and a joy to listen too. It makes such a difference when you visit a site if you get a guide that is genuinely interested in the story they are telling. I would definitely recommend these sites to everyone.

I look forward to seeing what the ICA group will pick for their next trip!!

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