Continuing our series on Dublin’s Hidden Gems, the rooftop garden in the Chester Beatty Library is a place that very few people know about.
I found it by accident myself once when I brought some of my students to see the wonders of the artwork the library had to offer. When I overheard the security man contacting his comrade on a walkie-talkie, requesting assistance on the rooftop, I knew my students had to be involved. Like a character in Willy Russell’s ‘Our Day Out’, I kept pace with the security guard, on the spiral staircase leading to the garden wonderland. Luckily the lads had just become over-excited by the chimney stacks Mary Poppins would have been proud to sing about.
The second time was more recently, far more relaxing, and an experience worthy of a recommendation. In making your way to this secret space, you pass a number of sites that are worthy of your glance. Once you enter the grounds of Dublin Castle you will find information stations set out by the OPW, the body who manage and maintain our heritage sites. There is a map at the Ship Street Gate, outlining all of the sites available to explore. Originally built for King John of England in 1204, the current buildings are made up of the castle yard, Garda museum, Treasury Buildings, the Print Works, Chapel Royal, the Revenue museum, state apartments, and tea rooms.
The castle currently acts like the government’s good sitting room, only used for special occasions. It hosts the inauguration of presidents, puts on fancy meals for foreign dignitaries and stores all the good furniture and china. As you walk from the Palace Street Gate off Dame Street, it feels slightly like you are a character in a Dickenson book. You leave the large stately buildings to turn the corner at the Chapel Royal to see the Georgian style buildings and cobbled streets. You half expect a bucket of dirty water to spill from the top floor window, followed by the toothless screams of a long haired maiden.
Whatever it is you are leaving behind, I promise you, as the electronic doors of the roof garden swish open, you are immediately transfixed by the ability to lose yourself in nature. You are immediately welcomed by the wind whistling through the delicate leaves of a bamboo plant. The chimneys spectate from their front row seats surrounding the right hand wall of the garden. The other wall gives a better view of the beautiful Celtic designed circular space known as Dubh Linn at the front of the Library entrance, as well as a stunning skyline view of the city.
As I sat in this very calming space, the most dominant sound was the various whistles and squawks of birds in the area, with a slight hum of city life in the distance. The sun shone right down into each corner of the garden, with a light breeze making its way through the small windows in the wooden panels on all sides. The garden itself is a small space boasting indigenous materials including wood, stone, lush green trees and scented plants and flowers. Despite its location in an historic Dublin, it is a modern space surrounded on all sides by a developing city.
An airplane fills the sky with sound, reminding the garden dweller of the link between the multicultural contents of the library rooms, and the reputation of the Irish people for welcoming people from distant lands.
Chester Beatty Library
All photos © Gemma Carroll