The Collins Barracks, Dublin

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I’m back in Ireland again working in Naas, my fourth visit this year. I came over on the fast ferry from Holyhead on Sunday, arriving just before 1 o’clock, which meant I had a few hours I could spend in Dublin during the afternoon. I decided to visit somewhere I hadn’t been before – the Collins Barracks which are the home of the  National Museum of Ireland (Decorative Arts and History).

Collins Barracks was the first purpose-built military barracks in Europe and is the second oldest public building in Dublin (the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which now houses the Irish Museum of Modern Art, is the oldest). It was built in 1702, in the then fashionable neo-Classical style to a design by Thomas Burgh (1670-1730), and extended in the late 18th century and 19th century. The old barracks, which had billets, stables, a riding school, drilling grounds and firing ranges,was continuously occupied by the British and then Irish army until  1997 the when the buildings were converted to house the Museum.

Originally called simply The Barracks, and later The Royal Barracks, the name was changed to commemorate Michael Collins, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army, who was killed at Béal na Bláth, County Cork four months before the barracks was surrendered to the Free State Army.in 1922.

The Barracks stand on the north side of the Liffey, facing the Guinness works. This was the view from a top floor window from the South side of the square.

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The small park, Croppie’s Acre, commemorates the 1798 United Irishmen uprising. Croppy was a derogatory title given to Irish rebels who cut (or cropped) their hair in the style of French Revolutionaries.

This is the main entrance to the Barracks. A very typical Georgian neo-Classical style four storey building. It has a central pavilion with a triangular pediment in the centre of which is a large clock face.

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Walking through the arch, you enter a large square / parade ground surrounded on all four sides by four storey buildings, faced with granite, with arcaded colonnades on the east and west sides, in which the main museum collections are displayed.

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It’s a rather eclectic mix of weaponry, furniture, silver, ceramics and glassware; as well as examples of Folklife and costume. There are exhibitions devoted to the Easter Rising of 1916, the Modernist designer and architect, Eileen Grey, and a collection of Asian art. Probably the most popular exhibition (it was certainly very busy when I was there) was Soldiers and Chiefs, which tells the story of  Ireland’s military history from 1550 into the 21st Century.

The Barracks complex includes another square of, a little less grand, buildings surrounding another parade ground

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They’re not in such good condition and seemed to be unoccupied and falling into disrepair

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There was evidence of the previous occupants stencilled on one of the buildings

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2 thoughts on “The Collins Barracks, Dublin

  1. Glad you found one of our treasures. I particularly loved the exhibition of clothing through history, known as The Way We Wore. And the barracks is easily accessible now via The Luas from O`Connell St. I must drop in and catch that Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition over the summer. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • I guess it doesn’t feature on many tourist itineraries being a bit off the beaten track. But it is easy enough to get to by the Luas and by car – once you master the one way system! I enjoyed the Eileen Gray exhibition and the Oriental art and I agree with you about the Way we wore. The 1916 rebellion exhibition was interesting too.

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