Ballsbridge is the name for an area just south east of Dublin’s city centre. It lies within the old, vast Fitzwilliam estate, and it was almost devoid of significant settlement for much of its history. Then in the mid-1800s, improved roads, early rail and then the tramway system saw it rapidly become one of the most attractive and highly prosperous parts of Dublin, built with broad, tree-lined avenues flanked by grand Victorian and Edwardian mansions. Ultimately the district even became a semi-autonomous “township” known as “Pembroke” complete with its own municipal government, library and town hall.
To this day some of the wealthiest people in Ireland live in the area, including business magnates, construction tycoons and a host of ambassadors and embassies. Yet in the smaller stable lanes where the rich kept their horses and carriages, behind their grand mansions, a series of “mews lanes” grew up, which have been home to artists, writers, journalists and rebels. Playwright Brendan Behan and poet Patrick Kavanagh were just two of the famously difficult, hard-drinking bohemians of the area. The area is also home to the Royal Dublin Society (or “RDS”) one of the oldest philanthropic bodies of its type in the world.
Our walking tour of the Ballsbridge area starts outside the RDS and examines both the society and its illustrious history, and the curious part the society played in the Easter Rising of 1916. From there we walk west, back towards Dublin, taking in dozens of interesting sights and fragments of history – including a famous writer, who worked incognito as a librarian, and Eamon de Valera, the school master and Easter Rising Commandant who escaped execution by the skin of his teeth and went on to become Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and later President of Ireland. We’ll look at local places associated with famous figures from history and politics, from literature and from rebellion, and will even take time to look at a small handful of superb buildings, from Arts and Crafts cottages, Victorian mansions, libraries and bridges, to two iconic examples of 20th century modernist architecture. Despite the settled prosperous nature of the area, Ballsbridge was also the setting for some of the hottest and most lethal fighting during Easter Week 1916, on Northumberland Road and Haddington Road and we’ll also discuss this ferocious combat before our tour concludes.
All this and more, in just over two hours of gentle walking and relaxed discussion, around this most curious and contradictory of Dublin neighborhoods.
This tour is run as a public tour from 1- 3 times per year, when, like all our public tours, it’s naturally open to all. If any of these Ballsbridge tours are currently scheduled, then they will appear in the listings on our Public Tours Page. If you live in Dublin, and are primarily interested in our Public tours, then by far the best way to hear about them is to sign up to the monthly newsletter.
Alternatively, we also offer and run the tour as a private activity for your own, private group, on a date of your own choosing. Please use the green button to select your date and to select and book your own private tour. Thank you.