If you have any interest in the Irish presidency or the historical aspects of Áras An Uachtaráin, then a tour of the house is something that comes highly recommended. While the house is a working building and also of course the residence of the 9th President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, public tours are available on Saturday mornings on a first come first served basis and are free of charge.
Arriving at the Phoenix Park Visitor’s Centre, we joined the queue and after a short wait, we picked up our tickets for that morning’s 11.30am tour as the 10.30 one was already full up. This gave us a chance to nip back out to the National War Memorial Gardens which are nearby.
We got back in time and boarded the OPW bus which picked us up and drove us the short distance back out to Chesterfield Avenue and up the entrance of the Aras where the gate was opened by a member of the Gardai at the gatehouse.
As we made our way up the tree lined avenue, the historical importance of our surroundings became immediately apparent as the plaques under many of the trees displayed the names of the dignatries who had planted them across the years.
We pulled up at the main entrance where you will have seen VIPs like President Obama or Queen Elizabeth arriving in the past. We were then ushered to the visitor’s entrance and first brought to see the President’s car – a 1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith landaulette
This car has been used to carry each of the Irish presidents to their inauguration since Eamon DeValera’s in 1959 and is affectionately known as “Dev’s Car”. The last inauguration it was used for was that of President Mary McAleese in 1997. The car currently has no engine.
Upstairs we went and entered the Francini Corridor named after the Italian Francini brothers who designed the impressive ceilings. The corridor also displays the busts of all previous presidents. As we are not allowed to take photographs within the house itself, the next few photos are from the President’s website http://www.president.ie
We are first brought into the State reception room which again is recognisable from the news – it’s where new ministers receive their seal of office after election and VIP visitors sign the guest book. Here we walked on the amazing carpet manufactured in Killybegs no less!
On then to the State Dining Room – again a room steeped in history but only built onto the original house ahead of the visit of Queen Victoria in the late 1800s. Paintings of all previous presidents hang here and this is also where the Council of State will meet as well.
I’ve done this tour a couple of times but never in the summer so I was delighted on my last visit in August that we were able to go into the gardens where I’d never been before. Other rooms included on the “winter tour” are the Council of State Room and the President’s Study.
Out we went into the warm Dublin sunshine with a spectacular view out to the Dublin mountains where we were greeted by the President’s two dogs Shadow and Bród.
We were given a talk by the head gardener and the trees planted by Queen Victoria and Pope John Paul were pointed out to us.
Next we moved on to the Queen’s Walk and onwards to the main garden.
It was such a beautiful day and I really wanted to stay a bit longer but we were moved on through the Turner Peach House and then back to the buses.
I love this tour and try to do it at least once per year. It’s generally slightly different each time and most definitely educational and informative.
As we left I managed to snap this final image of the house as we drove past in the bus…
For information on the tours see the website
Visited August 2015.