A guide to Dublin’s rebel museums for the 1916 centennial

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the Easter Rising, the seminal event in Irish revolutionary history, which led, in six short years, to the establishment of today’s Irish Republic.

The Rising lasted only six days, from Easter Monday to Saturday, but the brutal British reaction to it galvanized the Irish people into action. Initially, the Rising was unpopular with the locals. Many Dubliners had close ties to the British establishment, such as the “separation women,” the wives and family of Irishmen off fighting in the Great War for Britain. But the swift British military trials and executions of the leaders shocked the Irish people and turned the fifteen martyrs—Sir Roger Casement, the sixteenth and last rebel executed, would be hanged on August 3 in London—into national heroes.

In Dublin today there are nine museums—including three new ones—and landmarks dedicated to the men of 1916 and the heroes of the War of Independence. Their efforts eventually secured 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties from the British for the first time in 700 years—a David and Goliath quixotic feat that still amazes a century later.

1. Kilmainham Gaol


There is probably a no more solemn place to begin a tour of rebel Dublin than at Kilmainham Gaol. The jail is a stark, bleak monument to 18th century penology. (Ironically, its dreariness and creepiness makes it one of the favorite places for movie-makers in all of Ireland.) It was here that 14 of the sixteen leaders were executed. They surrendered on April 29 and the executions began on May 3, and continued unabated until May 12, 1916.
The guided tour, which takes about 45 minutes, brings you throughout the jail. One of the first stops is the Catholic Chapel where Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the signatories of the Proclamation and a Commandant-General in the Irish Volunteers, married his fiancée, Grace Gifford. Within the hour he was taken out and shot. The tour also shows you the cells where many of Ireland’s prominent rebels—Charles Stewart Parnell, Padraig Pearse and Eamon de Valera among them—were held. Perhaps the highlight of the tour is a walk in the breaker’s yard, where the 1916 rebels were executed. One cross marks the spot where thirteen men were shot standing and another cross marks the spot where the socialist labor leader James Connolly, severely wounded in the leg during Easter Week, was executed sitting in a chair. Besides the tour, there is an impressive museum with many artifacts from 1916.
Kilmainham is about a 10-minute taxi ride from the center of the city and can also be accessed by bus. During the summertime there are long lines and it’s a good idea to get there early.

2. Arbour Hill Cemetery


After visiting Kilmainham it might be fitting to grab a waiting taxi and take a short ride across the River Liffey to Arbour Hill, the final resting place for the executed leaders. Arbour Hill was a British military installation, prison and cemetery. After the executions the British were wary of the Irish propensity for celebratory funerals for their rebels (the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa is a prime example) and under the cover of darkness brought the bodies to an open pit at Arbour Hill and poured quicklime over them—insuring there would be no parades in their honor.

Today the area is serene as the long mass grave of fourteen rebels sits quietly in front of the Irish Tricolour. The name of each rebel is marked on the side in both Irish and English. President Kennedy, on his visit to Ireland in 1963, laid a wreath here in honor of the dead martyrs.

3. Visitor Centre at Cathal Brugha Barracks


One of the hidden historical treasures of Ireland is located at Cathal Brugha (formerly Portobello) Barracks in Rathmines, a short taxi ride from the city center. The barracks is named after Ireland’s first Minister for Defence, yet its visitors center is a monument to Brugha’s arch enemy, General Michael Collins, the first leader of the Irish Army after independence. Collins was perhaps the greatest revolutionary of the 20th century, the inventor of urban guerrilla warfare, whose ruthlessness—his personal squad, “The Twelve Apostles,” assassinated the British Secret Service in Dublin in one morning—and political savvy in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, brought the modern Irish state into existence. He is admired by such diverse international personalities as Mao Tse-Tung, Yitzhak Shamir (the seventh Prime Minister of Israel), and Nelson Mandela.
The small museum, which was originally a military jail, has a sordid history of its own. Francis Sheehy Skeffington—nationalist, pacifist, feminist—was murdered here, along with two other men, by a crazed British officer during Easter Week 1916. The bullet holes are still evident in the bricks of the small courtyard.
In the museum itself there are several artifacts belonging to Collins. The desk he used at 5 Mesphil Road is there (the marks from the British jimmying the drawers remain) as is one of his Colt revolvers. Behind the desk on the wall is the tricolor flag that covered his coffin in 1922. There are also weapons used by his notorious Squad. The rest of the museum is a history of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Defence Forces Ireland, from 1922 to the present day.
The reason this museum is such a secret is that admittance is by appointment only. It is only open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Appointments can be made by contacting the Barracks Adjutant at 353-1-804-6362. The tour is conducted by a member of the Irish Army and usually, if time permits, he is happy to take you around the grounds and show you the buildings that Michael Collins used as his residence and offices just before his death in 1922.

4. Pearse Museum


Padraig Pearse, the “President” of the Provisional Government during that fateful Easter Week, was the first to be executed on May 3, 1916. For good measure, the British also executed his brother, Willie, although Willie had little to do with the planning of the uprising. Padraig Pearse was picked as the “face” of the revolution by Tom Clarke, the incorrigible Fenian, because of Pearse’s writing and speaking skills. His speech at the grave of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa at Glasnevin Cemetery in 1915 marked one of the pivotal moments in the march to revolution. He is also the author of the 1916 Proclamation, Poblacht Na hÉireann, the equivalent of America’s Declaration of Independence.
At the time of their deaths the Pearse Brothers were running St. Enda’s, a progressive Irish school in Rathfarnham, which is about 20 minutes from the city center either by the #16 bus or taxi. The school is located on the grounds of the Hermitage, where United Irishman and famed Irish patriot Robert Emmet is said to have secretly romanced his sweetheart, Sarah Curran.

Recently the 18th century building has been faithfully restored and serves as a museum to the Pearse brothers. In it you can see the dorm where the students lived, plus Padraig Pearse’s office. There are also several sculptures by Willie Pearse on display.

5. National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks


The National Museum of Ireland has a long tradition of exhibitions relating to Easter Week 1916. The Museum will put on show one of the largest display of materials from this period in a new exhibition entitled “Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising” at the Museum of Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, opening on March 3, 2016. Many of the exhibited objects have never been on public display before while others, such as the Irish Republic flag which flew over the GPO, have been specially conserved.

Through the combined effect of the objects, words and imagery of the period, visitors to the exhibition will be confronted with the physical reality of the events of Easter Week, following the stories of those caught up in the events of that momentous week—civilians, combatants and survivors alike. Collins (formerly the Royal) Barracks is located off Wolfe Tone Quay at Benburb Street and is a short taxi ride from city center. It is also accessible by Luas Tram or foot. On the second floor is a separate exhibit remembering those who fought in the War of Independence.

6. Glasnevin Cemetery


For some reason the Irish have a great affinity for cemeteries and one of Dublin’s most fascinating places is Glasnevin Cemetery—the afterlife home of over one million Dubliners. It features the world’s first cemetery museum and offers a guided tour of the cemetery where so many of Ireland’s heroes are buried. Over 75,000 people visited the cemetery last year, making it one of the most popular—and unlikely—tourist destinations in Ireland.

As you walk in you’ll see the grave of Sir Roger Casement, the only 1916 martyr buried here. Next to Casement is the grave of Kevin Barry and the other “Forgotten Ten,” young men who were executed by the British in the period between November 1920 and the Truce in July 1921.

Behind these graves is the appropriately named “Republican Plot” where some of Ireland’s most famous rebels are buried. Here lies Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, John Devoy, Cathal Brugha, Harry Boland, Maud Gonne, Countess Markievicz and the GPO nurse who led Padraig Pearse to surrender, Elizabeth O’Farrell, among others. On its outside ridges you’ll find the grave of Eamon de Valera who, for 50 years, was either Taoiseach (Prime Minister) or President of Ireland.

A short stroll away is the grave of Michael Collins, just outside the museum’s café. His grave is covered with flowers and notes from admirers. After visiting Glasnevin it’s not a bad idea to exit through the south gate and enjoy a pint at one of Dublin’s great drinking spots, John Kavanagh’s Gravediggers Pub. Glasnevin is 15-minutes from the city center and can be reached by #9 bus or taxi.

The newest rebel museums

7. Richmond Barracks


Richmond Barracks will officially open on May 2, 2016 to commemorate the centennial of when the first Easter Rising rebels were marched through its doors. On July 31 they will celebrate “Francis Ledwidge Day” in honor of the poet/soldier who died in the Great War. Richmond Barracks is close to Kilmainham Gaol and one may want to visit both of them on the same trip.
After the rebels surrendered at the end of Easter Week they were brought to Richmond Barracks in Inchicore for classification. The big shots like Padraig Pearse and Tom Clarke were quickly condemned to death and removed to nearby Kilmainham Gaol for execution. The British then had to separate and evaluate the rest of the rebels according to their importance. (It was at this time that Michael Collins famously and casually walked across the room and joined a contingent of far less dangerous Volunteers, saving himself a stiffer sentence.)

The insurgents were fingerprinted, but no mug shots were taken, which would turn into a big problem in the years to come when no one in the British Service knew what Collins looked like. Richmond Barracks was also the destination of teenage rebels like Seán Lemass, future Taoiseach of Ireland, and Vincent Byrne, a shooter in Collins’ Twelve Apostles who, ironically, would be the commandant in charge of the Barracks by 1922. Many women of the Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army were brought here including the Countess Markievicz and Elizabeth O’Farrell who arranged, along with Pearse, the rebels’ surrender.

8. An Post GPO Witness History


The General Post Office on O’Connell Street remains the most iconic building in Ireland and now it has a museum of its own. “An Post GPO Witness History” is an engaging, interactive visitor attraction bringing history to life through technology, video, sound and authentic artifacts—many previously unseen.

An immersive semicircular audiovisual space puts visitors right inside the GPO during the five days in which it was both the military command center, and the seat of the Provisional Irish Government. A digital recreation of Dublin as it was in 1916 provides both an immersive street level experience, and a “God’s Eye” strategic overview of events, to highlight the difficulty of coordinating a national revolution from the GPO, in a city under siege from overwhelming Crown forces. It reveals dramatic instances of shocking violence, and inspiring courage, shown on all sides. Visitors undergo the full terror of the devastating British artillery bombardment that reduced the center of Dublin to smoking ruins. The exhibit opens on March 29th and the tour is open 365 days a year, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m

9. 1916 Rebellion Museum at 16 Moore Street


By Friday of Easter Week the rebels had to abandon the burning GPO. They came out on Henry Street and made their way to Moore Street. After tunneling through several buildings, men like Pearse, Clarke, Plunkett, MacDiarmada and Connolly—five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation—assembled in #16 where they decided to surrender.

By 2000 numbers 14, 15, 16 and 17 Moore Street were in danger of being destroyed as gentrification threatened Moore Street, which, with its fish and vegetable mongers, has remains much the same in the 21st century as it was in the time of Joyce and O’Casey. Then the “Save 16 Moore Street” came to the rescue. After much wrangling the Irish government bought the buildings and they were saved from destruction. Even today there is much controversy surrounding the project and although slated to open at the Rising’s centennial in April, the project may run late.


Ten best kept tourist secrets Dublin has to offer

Dublin is one of Europe's top tourist spots, attracting almost four million visitors every year.
But well-known tourist attractions like Trinity College and the Guinness storehouse are just some of great things travelers can discover.
Here are ten of the best kept secrets Dublin has to offer.


1. The U2 Wall

The graffiti-covered wall at Windmill Lane studios stands as a testament to where the iconic Dublin band recorded some of their greatest tunes.
A music lover must-see, this fan wall is more of an accidental gallery than a contrived piece of art
Situated at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, it’s covered in cartoons, lyrics and declarations of love from home and abroad for the greatest band on the planet.
While the studio itself was demolished in April to make way for apartments, the wall – much like the band – remains intact.


2. National Leprechaun Museum

If you fancy something a little more left of center, why not visit the cute National Leprechaun Museum?
Learn the history of the leprechaun and other figures of Irish mythology at the museum on Jervis St.
Venture inside the house of a giant, find the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow and even learn how to spot fairy folk in everyday life.
Every bit as mad as it sounds.


3. Grangegorman Military Cemetery

Some might find visiting a graveyard spooky but this cemetery feels more like a chilled out sanctuary.
History buffs will enjoy learning about the World War I casualties buried throughout the graveyard.
The Graveyard is on Blackhorse Avenue, off the Navan Road so if it’s a nice day pack a picnic and head to the Phoenix Park afterwards.

Forty Foot

4. The Forty Foot

Swimmers have been diving off this bathing spot at the southern tip of Dublin Bay for over 250 years.
If you really want an authentic experience – and can stomach the mortification along with the cold – hop into the water naked as this bathing area was traditionally a nudist bathing haunt.
After drying off, head to the Martello Tower once inhabited by Oliver John St Gogarty and James Joyce right next to the baths.
Now the James Joyce Tower and Museum, it’s also where the opening of Joyce’s iconic novel Ulysses is set.


5. Experience a GAA Match

You’d be hard pushed to find a more exciting day out than watching a Gaelic football or hurling match in Croke Park.
Check the GAA website for fixtures so you can catch a game during your visit – or check out Experience Gaelic Games for a more hands on experience.


6. City of a Thousand Welcomes

Dublin is considered one of the friendliest cities in the world, so who better to show you around than a local with insider knowledge?
The City of a Thousand Welcomes is an innovative scheme which helps tourists connect with locals.
More than 3,000 Dubliners have signed up as ambassadors to guide tourists around the city.
Experience the capital with a local by your side and make sure they bring you for a pint of the black stuff.


7. Take a tour around Kilmainham Gaol

If history is your thing, a visit to Kilmainham Gaol is unmissable.
A tour through this former prison where 1916 rebels were executed will give you a real feel for Ireland’s resistance to English rule.
You’ll be horrified by tales of life and conditions of 18th and 19th century prisoners, where death in the cells was common.


8. The Little Museum of Dublin

This adorable little museum tells the incredible tale of Dublin in the 20th century.
Launched in 2011 with a public appeal for historic objects, this little gem has gone from strength to strength since.
The Irish public have responded generously and today there are over 5,000 artifacts in the collection.
Children attend free civics classes here every morning. The museum also launched the City of a Thousand Welcomes project.


9. Dublin Literary Walking Tour

Immerse yourself in the lives of our greatest writers like James Joyce and Jonathan Swift.
Tour participants visit the places where these famous Dublin writers lived, taking in some of the city’s most iconic landmarks at the same time.
You’ll learn which writer was a university athletics champion and who stole and married the gal of a fellow famous novelist.
Literary idols like James Joyce, Johnathan Swift, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde will come to life on this tour, leaving you feeling both learned and cultural.


10. Howth loop cliff walk

The views on this breathtaking walk are simply spectacular. On a clear day you can see all the way out to Wicklow Head – and all it will cost you is the price of a Dart ticket.



Ireland’s most unusual tourist attractions

Sky Garden
There are mainstays of any tourist guide to Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol, the Guinness Brewery, the Cliffs of Moher and Newgrange are permanent fixtures on such lists, and rightly so, given their historical significance, natural beauty and access to the black stuff.
While Ireland has a rich tapestry of tourist destinations, there are attractions that we feel don’t receive the attention that they deserve. We’ve put together a short list of some of Ireland’s quirkier destinations that you may wish to consider on your next trip across the Atlantic.


Cork Butter Museum

While a butter museum may not sound like a must-see tourist hotspot, the Cork Butter Museum actually tells a very important story about Ireland’s development. The museum’s website describes butter as ‘Ireland’s most important food export’, and as Cork’s butter market was the world’s largest, what better place could there be to learn about something so vital to Ireland’s history? The Butter Museum includes such highlights as a 1,000 year old keg of butter, a tour of butter making through the ages and a comprehensive collection of Irish butter labels.


Irish Sky Garden

Located near Skibbereen, West Cork, the Irish Sky Garden is the creation of artist James Turrell. It’s a massive conceptual garden built around a huge crater that contains a central plinth. Lie on the plinth and look upwards and you’ll see the sky framed perfectly by the rim of the crater. Just keep your mouth closed if it’s raining.


Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Visiting a cathedral is nothing unusual for a trip to Ireland. More often than not, they’re beautiful buildings steeped in history. Where Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin differs, however, is the bizarre contents of its medieval crypt. Open to the public, Christ Church’s crypts contain a mummified cat chasing a mummified rat (mentioned by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake) and the heart of Laurence O’Toole (patron saint of Dublin) amongst other oddities.

Dublin Christchurch

Indian Sculpture Park

Victoria’s Way in County Wicklow is home to ’33 black granite stone sculptures and three bronzes…ranging in size from 5ft 6ins to about 15ft’. The creation of a wealthy German with a love of the Far East is behind the Indian Sculpture Park, which contains a number of stunning pieces of art. Please note that the park closes during the winter.


St. Michan’s Mummies

A return to the crypts for this attraction, this time at St Michan’s church in Dublin. Deep down beneath the church lie the mummified remains of some of Ireland’s most influential families of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the remains lie in incredibly ornate coffins, and all are in remarkable condition due to the dry air beneath the church. If you’re going to visit one large collection of mummies while you’re in Ireland, make it this one.



Viking Week-end!

Dublinia Logo
Dublinia Logo

Hailing from Gudvangen, a real working Viking town, also known as the Viking Valley, it is located in the The Nærøy Fjord in Norway. There are approximately 60 inhabitants who live there and live the way of Vikings past. From the 3rd to the 5th August, the Norway natives will take over Dublinia, exhibiting the primitive way of life in Gudvangen, which mirrors that of Vikings past.

Hosting a range of demonstrations and talks, this once in a lifetime experience will open Dubliners’ eyes to an era bygone, or so one would have thought! From learning the fabric creation technique of Naalbinding with Marie to listening to the awe inspiring Sagas and mythological tales told by Lars, visitors will discover the legacy of a time of warriors! Visitors’ to Dublinia will also discover what life is really like as a Viking merchant and chieftain from Georg and learn all about different Viking games with Rogers.

Visitors’ will be in for an extra special treat as the extraordinary Norse visitors display the strength, skill and courage of Vikings in demonstrations of Glima, a form of Viking wrestling, which will be held in the courtyard of Dublinia. Hailed as one of the top cultural attractions the city has to offer, Dublinia will be home to the Norse Vikings from 3rd to 5th August inclusive from 10.30am – 4.30pm each day as part of its exciting summer programme of events which will take visitors back into a time unknown where they can explore the wonderful ways of Dubliners past. Located on St. Michaels Hill, Christchurch, an historically important position in the heart of Dublin City, Dublinia is open daily from 10am to 5pm.