Dead Interesting | Glasnevin Cemetery Museum and Guided Tours
Hop on a bus to Glasnevin Cemetery – a seemingly unlikely place to visit but an absolute treasure trove of information about the history of Ireland.
Opened in 1832, Glasnevin is a Victorian Garden Cemetery and is Ireland’s national cemetery. Located only 2.5km from the bustling city centre, Glasnevin is a peaceful oasis in urban Dublin. The cemetery encapsulates the history of Ireland and is the burial place of over 1.6 million people including an abundance of iconic historical figures.
Arriving at Glasnevin offers visitors a wonderful surprise. Many expect a dull, morose, possibly even depressing cemetery visit. However, from the moment they arrive, it is evident that this is far from the case. The combination of architecture, iconography, the spectacular O’Connell tower, mature indigenous trees, wildlife, the beautifully manicured landscaping and sheer vastness of ornate monuments speckled over 124 acres is eye catching and awe inspiring.
Glasnevin is a goldmine for genealogists, history-buffs and anyone with an interest in Irish history. There are more people ‘at rest’ in Glasnevin than there are living residents in the whole of Dublin City. Ireland’s vast and fascinating history is dissected via immensely enjoyable historical anecdotes by knowledgeable and charming guides. They will take you on a journey to visit the graves of Ireland’s heroes such as Michael Collins, Eamon De Valera, Daniel O’Connell, Maud Gonne, Countess Markievicz, to name only a few.
One of Glasnevin’s wonderful guides, Bridget Sheerin really enjoys watching visitors spotting names similar to their own. She says: “There is a sudden sense of mystery, wondering if they are related. There is an immediate connection, something familiar, even a sense of a possible belonging”. Each burial record has been digitized and information is available online or through resident genealogist, Lynn Brady. That’s over 1.6 million names.
Glasnevin offers a window into Irish history. The tours are filled with wry stories that bring it to life. Include a trip to the museum afterwards and it’s clear that to leave Dublin without visiting Glasnevin would be a grave mistake.
The cemetery’s founder, legendary Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell is buried beneath the spectacular O’Connell tower, the tallest of its kind in Ireland, standing at 168ft. O’Connell’s crypt is particularly beautiful. He rests in a lead lined coffin in a tomb capped by a slab of stunning Kilkenny marble. Inscriptions around the ornate walls designed in the Celtic Romantic fashion were influenced by designs from the Book of Kells and include O’Connell’s final words: “My body to Ireland, my soul to heaven and my heart to Rome”.
Following a bombing in 1971, the tower has been restored to its former glory and is now accessible to visitors. Climb the 198 steps to breath-taking views of Dublin, Wicklow and the Irish Sea.
Glasnevin is a not for profit organization. All proceeds are redirected to the restoration of the cemetery. The mission today remains as it was handed from Daniel O’Connell. This is “to bury people of all religions and none”, to preserve and honour the heritage of past generations, serve and respect the needs of the present generation and provide a legacy for future generations.
Since the museum opened in 2010, Glasnevin has won a multitude of awards. It is proudly listed as a Top Attraction on TripAdvisor, highlighting the landmark as a cemetery of historic importance. This is something that people might not expect of a cemetery, but it is testament to the pride and integrity held by those who work there and those who visit.
Daily Guided Tours
The General History Tour visits the gravesides of the inspirational figures that shaped the Ireland we know today. This tour runs at 11:30am and 2:30pm daily, with additional tours taking place during the summer months.
The Dead Interesting Tour offers an alternative view of the varied heritage that Ireland’s largest cemetery holds and the history within its walls. Learn of its sculpture, symbolism, architecture, sporting heroes, natural life and the lesser known stories of extraordinary lives and extraordinary events. This tour runs at the weekends and on Bank Holiday Mondays at 1:00pm.
From April to September, opening hours for Glasnevin Cemetery are 10am – 6pm. From October to March, they are 10am – 5pm. For more information visit www.glasnevinmuseum.ie or call +353 (0)1 882 6550. Meanwhile, for group bookings email [email protected]