The Phoenix Park

Margaret Gormley, Chief Park Superintendent, OPW

Even though the formation of Ireland’s only Royal Deer Park commenced in 1662, today The Phoenix Park extends to over 700 hectares and represents a unique natural and cultural landscape that is both a historic park and an urban park.  It provides a setting for a range of activities and amenities and acts as a location for a number of important public institutions and residences. As a natural and built park, enclosed over 300 years ago by a demesne wall, The Phoenix Park is unique in Ireland. Its location, size and use can be compared to similar large parks in other cities, including Regent’s Park in London, the Bois de Boulogne in Paris and Central Park in New York.

Research has shown that Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Man had long associations with the lands that now form The Phoenix Park.  Fifty percent of all mammal species found in Ireland occur within the Park and over forty percent of all bird species occurring in Ireland have been recorded therein. A herd of wild Fallow Deer have roamed the Park since the 1660s. There are twenty-five different habitats and six different types of woodland.  Almost all the semi-natural grassland in Dublin is found in The Phoenix Park. 

The Park has over twenty-five kilometres of roads, seventeen kilometres of cycle trails, twenty-seven kilometres of footpaths and eleven kilometres of perimeter wall.  The Park caters for an average of nine million car journeys per year, the majority of which are merely passing through. It is essential that the sensitive finite resource of The Phoenix Park is sustainably managed and guided by The Phoenix Park Conservation Management Plan.

The cultural heritage of The Phoenix Park enriches people’s lives often providing a deep and inspirational sense of connection to history and landscape. It provides a sense of place, locations for community cohesion and social inclusion, promotes cross cultural enjoyment and space for over 2,300 recreational events. The Park is also good medicine, in that it provides numerous opportunities for green exercise which helps us all to lead healthier lifestyles. The major role of the Park in the tourism economy at local, national and international levels is often undervalued. The range of science and learning experiences are numerous.

The long-term vision for The Phoenix Park combines its protection, conservation, enjoyment and tranquillity as an important unique historic landscape for the residents of Dublin and visitors to Ireland. Given the international significance of the Park, it will continue to be a place, managed by the Office of Public Works, where people go to experience heritage, culture and nature, comparable to the best parks in the world.

It is hoped that this exhibition will foster a better understanding and appreciation of historic parks, where successive generations have toiled and places where current and future generations will be uplifted and inspired to reap the benefits of these wonderful parks.

Phoenix Park Page Column