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Your guide to Kilmainham: Art, prison cells and a gem of a pub in this old neighbourhood

Popular with everyone from the Vikings to the British.

The grounds of IMMA, looking towards the HSQ development
The grounds of IMMA, looking towards the HSQ development

Your Neighbourhood is a series of local area guides from TheJournal.ie, presented by KBC. We’re bringing you the best of city neighbourhoods combined with the latest property data. 

KILMAINHAM IS AN ancient area of Dublin.

It was home to the first Viking base in Ireland, and they weren’t the last people to find it appealing – the English also made it the centre of colonial power, ruling from the Manor of Kilmainham until Dublin Castle took precedence in the 16th century. 

Probably as a consequence, the area is dotted with major institutions – from the Royal Hospital (now home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art) and Kilmainham Gaol, to the expanse of St James’ Hospital spreading south of James’s Street. 

Residentially, though, Kilmainham is a mix of typical Dublin redbrick housing – from the cottages of Ceannt Fort to larger homes along the western end of the South Circular Road – with a number of new developments. The area just south of Heuston Station in particular has seen large-scale office and apartment construction over the past few years.

Take me there! OK, here you are on the main road between the gates of IMMA and Kilmainham Gaol. 

So what’s the big draw? Kilmainham is a historic area close to the city centre, with a good mix of housing and amenities, where a long-standing population blends with the usual city-centre mix of professionals, students and other relative newcomers. It’s fairly well supplied with green space too – with the War Memorial gardens and the grounds of IMMA at the neighbourhood’s north end. 

Kilmainham is fairly unusual among Dublin neighbourhoods in that it doesn’t have an obvious ‘village’ centre – there’s no single cluster of shops and cafes that defines the neighbourhood. That doesn’t mean, though, that there’s no community spirit. 

What do people love about it? It’s a diverse neighbourhood, says resident Rosie Plunkett, and the mix creates a buzz. 

My favourite thing about living in Kilmainham is the diverse and friendly community. Of course, like any area close to the city there is increasing gentrification, but it feels like there are still a lot of people and families who have lived in the area for a long time. Kilmainham feels like a neighbourhood, with a genuine variety of ethnicities and social groups, where people live pretty comfortably with each other side-by-side. You have lots of encounters with people, and it feels quite alive as an area.

And… what do people NOT love about it? More community space would help foster a neighbourhood spirit, says Rosie. 

My least favourite thing is that there isn’t really a community space in Kilmainham. It would be really nice to be able to gather as a neighbourhood. There is some green space, in the War Memorial Gardens and in IMMA but it’s all on private land. It would be great to have a gathering place that was free and easy for the public to use.

What’s the story with house prices? Not the worst in the city. The average asking price of a property in the second quarter of 2018 was €319,933 according to Daft.ie – well below the city average of around €420,000. 

How long will it take me to the city centre? It’s a bit more than half an hour’s brisk walk into town from the crossroads of Emmet Road and the South Circular. 

On the bus, it’s served by the 13, 68, 68a, 69, 79 and 79a Dublin Bus routes, while the Luas red line passes through the grounds of James’s Hospital and out to the west. 

And if you’re getting out of town to the west and south, Heuston Station is right on your doorstep.  

Where should I get lunch? Storyboard is technically in Islandbridge, but it’s worth the five-minute walk towards the river for one of the city’s best venues for breakfast, lunch or coffee – serving thoughtful and delicious takes on sandwiches, salads and sweets.

Alternatives: Union 8 is a neighbourhood bistro serving unpretentious takes on breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next to Kilmainham Gaol, the Lime Tree Cafe serves coffee and cakes (and more). 

And what’s my new local? Definitely the Royal Oak, an old-school Dublin bar that’s been called ‘a country pub in the city’ (in the best possible way).

Alternatives: Try the Patriots Inn on the South Circular, which also has regular live music. 

Schools and supermarkets? There’s a SuperValu in the HSQ development just up from IMMA. Slightly further afield is the Lidl on Thomas Street. There’s also the Dublin Food Co-Op, selling organic food in the Old Chocolate Factory development.

There are three primary schools nearby: Canal Way Educate Together (multidenominational, mixed, 281 pupils); St James’s (Catholic, mixed, 245 pupils); and Gaelscoil Inse Chor in Islandbridge (Catholic, mixed, 238 pupils). 

The nearest post-primary school is CBS James’s Street (Catholic, mixed, 145 pupils).

OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Kilmainham trivia to impress a local. The striking Victorian cell blocks of Kilmainham Gaol have been used as a location for a number of movies. But one of the more surprising is Paddington 2, which filmed scenes there in 2017 for a segment where poor Paddington is “behind bars without marmalade sandwiches”, as this blog post details. 

Do you live in Kilmainham? Share your opinion in the comments!

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About the author:

Michael Freeman

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