Thursday 20 June 2019

'In an always-on world, the Phoenix Park is the perfect escape'

Tranquil: John Meagher at the Furry Glen. Photo: Tony Gavin
Tranquil: John Meagher at the Furry Glen. Photo: Tony Gavin
John Meagher

John Meagher

I live in Islandbridge, next to the Liffey, and a few minutes' stroll from the Phoenix Park. I spend part of virtually every day in this gloriously verdant oasis, removed from the rush of city life, and it never fails to captivate.

No matter what the season, the Phoenix Park is a place that beguiles. It's the greatest stress-reliever I've ever known and even an hour in its vast expanse can work wonders. And it really is big - there are 1,750 acres here, most of them accessible to anyone who ventures in through its many gates.

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I had little interest in running until I started to make the Phoenix Park part of my daily routine and then, inspired by all those lycra-clad souls tackling the incline of the car-free Kyber Road or running along deer paths near St Mary's Hospital, I joined in. No looking back. There's a runners' paradise to be found within those centuries-old boundary walls - you can comfortably do marathon training in here without encountering a single traffic light or having to retrace your footsteps.

And running is an especially great way to get a feel for the wonders of the park. So too is cycling. Or walking - if you give yourself plenty of time. Too often, visitors enter at Parkgate Street and confine themselves to the area close to the Wellington Monument, or make a beeline for the zoo - one of the country's most popular attractions. Others simply drive along the central thoroughfare - Chesterfield Avenue - as a means from getting from Castleknock to the city and vice versa.

But there's so much more, including the Furry Glen - and its pretty lake - on the south-western fringe, and the Magazine Fort near the Islandbridge exit, and the tree-canopied paths around the Butcher's Wood at the Castleknock side.

I love taking in the view of both the War Memorial Gardens and the ever-changing city skyline from the benches near Military Road. I revel in the quietude of the wall-side route between Knockmaroon Gate and the entrance to Farmleigh Park, itself a green space to be cherished. And I love an evening stroll along Chesterfield Avenue and the hope that, one day, I might manage to locate the tiny cross of stones that marks the spot of the murders of the Invincibles in 1882.

In an always-on world, the Phoenix Park is perfect to escape without your phone. And its lustre never fades.

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