The Best Park in Town

It’s only when you leave home that you appreciate what’s there.

The Phoenix Park under a winter sky.

So it is with Dublin’s Phoenix Park. During the three years I lived in Dublin, I took the Park for granted. Practically every weekday, I ran through this vast expansive wood and grassland, doing laps around its eleven kilometre circumference or racing straight through it on my way to town and work. With its 707 hectares of enclosed grounds, I was never stuck for a place to run.

But now that I’ve travelled elsewhere in the world, I understand better what a unique place the Phoenix Park is.

Nowhere else have I found such an expansive place to run in. The park has spoilt me with so much grass, so many trails, so many trees, and so much space that I now find any other park substandard.

A glimpse of the Dublin Mountains just beyond the park.

When I was back in Dublin last December, I couldn’t help but break out for a run in the Park. Over the M50, through the Castleknock gates, I raced straight down the thoroughfare of Chesterfield Avenue, past the St. Stephen’s Day walkers and families out to work off some of the day before’s excess Christmas calories.

Crossing over the M50 to get to the Phoenix Park.

The going was muddy underfoot, but I was ecstatically happy to be finally back in the muck and the dirt. In Hanoi, there is so little grass to run on that I am consigned to running on the roads most of the time. But nothing beats the softness of running on Irish green grass, with none of the complaints that I sometimes get from hips or knees on aggressive tarmac runs.

Luxurious woodland to run through.

Passing the Irish President’s home and the American Ambassador’s Residence, I take a right at the Phoenix roundabout and head straight towards the Papal Cross. Despite the descent of the church’s popularity since the Pope’s visit to this very spot in 1979, many families are out climbing up and around the Cross, taking in the views of the park and the snow capped Wicklow and Dublin Mountains behind.

The Papal Cross where Pope John Paul II held mass in 1979.

And a run in the Phoenix Park wouldn’t be the same without a chance encounter with the resident deer. I come across them on the corner of the Cross’s plain, young deer with their parents, huddling together for safety and warmth.

Some of the Phoenix Park's abundant deer.

It was good to have a run around Phoenix Park, even if it was just for nostalgia’s sake. At least this time around I ensured I made the most of it. I’m fully aware that it will be a while before I’m spoilt with such an ideal place to run again.

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4 thoughts on “The Best Park in Town

  1. Moire what a great post. You couldn’t have created that run if you were a film director. Makes me want to go down there now for a run. I did 10k in there but it only took in the road. There were some lovely views but I obviously only got a glimpse of what the place has to offer. You stories remind me how much more exciting it is to run on trails and mountains. Bunch of us are doing the oxfam trailtrekker 100km thing this year again. Are you going to be around in August / sep. You’d love the trail and if you got 3 other people of a similar level to you you’d probably win it as most people walk it! Anyway great post and look forward to reading more. Glad you’re having so much fun running around the world. Dean

    1. Hey Dean, good to hear from you. Not sure where I’ll be in August / September, but if I’m home the Oxfam Trailtrekker sounds like fun. Hope you’re ale to get out and about yourself in the Mournes – I saw some recent pictures of them covered in snow, so beautiful.

      Keep enjoying the hills and keep in touch!

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