Dead cool: Glasnevin Cemetery Tour

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a bit of a nerd. And not the “wears hipster glasses” nerd, I mean a proper, sat in the library on my lunch break nerd. History was one of my favourite subjects in secondary school, and most particularly the Irish history sections. As the great philosophers Take That once said, never forget where you’ve come here from.

I’ve lived in Dublin for four years, but I never ventured to Glasnevin Cemetery, despite it only being a quick 15 minute bus journey from where I lived. Unaffected by the “seriously? You’re going to a graveyard?” comments from some of my friends, I set off one gloriously sunny Friday in June.

Oh, but it’s more than just a graveyard. On Dublin’s north side, Glasnevin is home to more than one million inhabitants, and there are more people buried in the grounds than there are walking the capital’s streets today.

O Connell Monument, which greets you as soon as you enter the graveyard, is the tallest round tower in Ireland.

Tours run every hour on the half hour, from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. An adult ticket is €12, or €10 if booked online. The ticket offers you access to the museum, which is a self-guided tour spanning two floors of the welcoming building to the cemetery. Here you get an insight to some of the history of the cemetery itself, including figurines of the gravediggers, some records of the first people buried in the grounds, and an insight to the idea of cremation. (I won’t lie, that bit freaked me out a bit, and it was the first time on the tour that I was reminded of my own mortality.)

The first thing you see on entrance to the cemetery is O Connell Monument, dedicated to the memory of libertarian (and fellow Munster head) Daniel O Connell. Soaring to a spectacular 168 feet, the tower is the highest in Ireland. It used to be fitted with wooden stairs, which were blown to pieces by a bomb attack in the 1970s. The stairs are due to be replaced within the next few years, and the view from the top is said to be unbeatable- the gaze travels to all counties surrounding Dublin, and on particularly clear days you might even see your way across to Wales. I’ll definitely be back when the stairs is fitted for a look at these views.

Our tour guide Niall brought us to the resting places of some of Ireland’s political greats, like Parnell (my own personal birthday buddy), Daniel O Connell (not the singer) and Éamon De Valera. It also featured those of Peadar O Kearney, who wrote the Irish National Anthem (spoiler alert: I was the only one who knew that), and the parents of James Joyce.

With every grave we visited there was chatter among those viewing it, be it sharing anecdotes with their friends or simply asking who it was dedicated to. There was just one grave that reduced all of us to total silence.

20150605_125115By far the most visited grave in the whole cemetery, Michael Collins’ final resting place lies less than 100 metres from the pedestrian entrance to the grounds. When he was buried in 1922, the funeral cortège stretched three hours back to O Connell Street. That’s respect. Fresh flowers are placed on the grave every week, and Michael himself even gets flowers and cards every Valentine’s Day. Women love a hero, wha?

Each tour lasts about a half an hour, and I highly recommend holding on to your receipt when you book and pay for your tour. The receipt gets you ten per cent off in the on site cafe, and you have to sample the scones on offer- they’re  simply to die for. A nose around the gift shop is also a must, as it’s full of great historical books filling you in on the lives of some of those lying in repose here.

This is not a sponsored post. It is my honest and personal opinion of the experience. I received no form of remuneration for this review.

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