Whether you want to feel like you’re in the Beauty and the Beast or you just love books and bookish places, you’ll find many historic libraries open to the public on the Emerald Isle. Here you have this list with the best and most beautiful libraries in Ireland, all available to visit and actually read in!
Ireland is quite often known as “a country of scholars and storytellers”. And it’s no surprise that this Island is littered with remarkable libraries. First and foremost the magnificent and stunning Trinity College Long Room. However, there are also some hidden librarian gems scattered around this country.
A library is a place that is dedicated to holding the vast knowledge of every subject imaginable. There may be no greater repository of information than libraries, a glorious assembly of printed pages that can take us on adventures, educate us, and fill our days and nights with details of worlds beyond our own. Some of them are architectural masterpieces, some others are more secretive and express all the intimacy reading only can reveal. And Ireland having birthed epic myths, timeless folktales, and classic works of literature that are known around the world, has some beautiful ‘mind palaces’ where all of these works are contained and ready to let you dive in. Each library’s interior is so aesthetically pleasing that you won’t know whether to reach for a book or your camera. Prepare to swoon, book lovers! Here the best, most beautiful libraries in Ireland.
With its dome-shaped ceiling, aqua-marine tinged, the National Library of Ireland is the first ‘mind palace’ we’re going to kick-off with. This very elegant building located in the heart of the capital is a real-life knowledge fortress. The Library collects, preserves, promotes and makes accessible the documentary and intellectual record of the life of Ireland and contributes to the provision of access to the larger universe of recorded knowledge. It is open, free of charge, to all those who wish to consult the collections. During your visit, whether it be out of curiosity or for academic purposes, you can’t miss the Reading Room. With its 75 seatings and its polished wooden tables with green table lamps, it’s located on the first floor and is the first area that you should visit if you intend using the Library’s printed or microfilm collections. Visitors are welcome in the Reading Room as part of their monthly History and Heritage tours that take place at 1pm on the second Saturday of every month.
Let’s move our attention toward Northern Ireland, Armagh to be precise. This city, southwest of Belfast, welcomes one of those ‘old-style’ libraries that every bookworm will be delighted to visit and discover. When you open the Georgian door and climb the staircase, you’ll think that you’ve stepped back in time to the eighteenth century. Founded in 1771 with the only aim to share the knowledge contained in Archbishop Robinson’s collection, this library is a cultural temple and refuge for all those nostalgic souls and narrative minds. This book treasure cave hides Jonathan Swift’s own original copy of Gulliver’s Travels, containing notes in his own handwriting and it’s totally available to take a look at it. Grab a seat and just enjoy the ‘travel’.
Admission is free, but donations are more than accepted.
The Russborough House library (Co. Wicklow)
Moving back to the southern part of this island, we end up in the County of Wicklow where inside the iconic mansion of Russborough House, lies the most aesthetically pleasing library. Though this library is smaller than some others, and you can’t borrow books from it, you can still visit it, and, let’s say that being the book lover you are you might find yourself with a book in your bag, you can sit down and enjoy reading it. With its leader sofas and the wide window which lights up the room, all those mahogany shelves swamped with books and globes are just “libraries goals”.
The access to the library is included in the mansion tours for €12 (discounts for students, senior citizens and kids are available).
Marsh’s Library (Co. Dublin)
Back in Dublin where this hidden library has lain since 1707. Placed not very far away from St. Patrick Cathedral, Marsh’s Library is a historical landmark that portrays perfectly the early Enlightenment period, with its original oak bookcases, housing more than 25,000 rare and fascinating books. The interior of the library, with its beautiful dark oak bookcases, has remained largely unchanged since it was built three hundred years ago. It is a magnificent example of a late Renaissance library. In fact, it’s one of the most well-preserved libraries all over the Emerald Isle. With the chance of quietly strolling down the dark wood shelving and the corridors teeming with a great collection of books, you will feel like dreaming with your eyes wide open. Marsh’s Library boasts a wonderful reading room, which however needs to be booked, in case of use by scholars or students (this does not imply the tours). All visitors are more than welcome to walk through its corridors and admire the magnificence of how it has been preserved through the times. Visitors are asked to pay an entrance fee of €5, or €3 for students and senior citizens. People under 18 enter for free.
Linen Hall Library (Co. Antrim)
Going up and down this amazing country, we couldn’t help but take into account the Like Hall Library, in Belfast. This multi-floor landmark is probably every bibliophile’s dream. One of the oldest and indeed most beautiful libraries in Belfast, it takes its name from the former “linen warehouse” where it’s now situated. Volumes of local history, fiction, plays and poetry line its shelves, as well as significant archives and manuscript holdings including records of the Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge which is intrinsically linked to the story of Belfast. Since 1788, it has been home to many internationally renowned collections as well as operating as a modern, fully-functioning library. The general tour of the library is €5 if you happen to be there and want to discover some interesting facts about the capital of Northern Ireland. However, if you might happen to be there as en enthusiast reader, grab a seat and pick a book. And maybe even a scone with a cuppa: what is a good book without a great cup of tea after all?
The Royal Irish Academy is the main research centre in Ireland. Here all the best researchers converge to keep research alive and up-to-date. This is a venerable institution of Irish intellectual life, being the academy for the sciences, humanities and social sciences. And this lovely building is a splendid home for it. Academy membership numbers over 450, election based in recognition of academic achievements. It’s in this sort of environment where we find one of the most underrated and hidden ‘mind palaces’: the Library of the RIA. The Academy Library is an important research centre for the study of Irish history, language, archaeology and the history of Irish science. With its large reading and research room divided into multiple intermediate floors, the Library is full of surprises ready to be discovered. Like their Exhibition, everyone is most welcome to visit the Academy. They always welcome new readers to the library. They can offer a guided tour to let you learn about the history of the Academy and some of the famous writers, historians and scientists associated with our institution. Visit their website for more info.
Where: 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
With the great hope to have given you the chance to tickle your curiosity about some hidden library gems in this amazing country, grab a book and dive into a tale as “old as time” inside one of the most beautiful libraries in Ireland. Let us know in the comment section below.