FolkestoneJack's Tracks

A morning at the Casino

Posted in Dublin, Ireland by folkestonejack on August 27, 2016

The first stop in our long weekend in Dublin brought us to one of the most underrated sights of the city, the Casino at Marino. It is a joyous and wonderfully playful miniature house commissioned by James Caulfield, 1st Earl of Charlemont, at the end of an extended grand tour in Europe. Today, the Casino stands as one of the finest 18th Century neo-classical buildings in the country, if not the continent.

The Casino at Marino

The Casino at Marino

On your approach to the building you could be forgiven for thinking that it houses just one large room, deceived by the grand entrance and vast windows that dominate the faces, but there are actually sixteen rooms inside! Further ingenuity can be seen in the faux columns that hide drainpipes, in the urns on the attic which are actually disguised chimneys and in the doorframe of the original entrance which incorporates a pull down window.

The Casino allowed Caulfield to show off his collection of antiques and exquisite furnishings in the most perfect of settings, but the costs incurred in the process forced his heir to sell off all of this. The small house shone at its brightest for an incredibly short span of years but made an impression on all who visited in that time. Today it stands alone, following the break up of the Marino estate in 1881 and the demolition of Marino House in the 1920s.

Our tour guide led us on an hour long wander through the interior that was never less than fascinating. The loss of the original furnishings means that you can’t see the magnificence of the interior as Caulfield knew it, but our guide did a great job of conjuring this up with words and fleshing this out with accounts from Caulfields’ contemporaries. It is also good fun to contrast the interior and exterior views of those large windows as you climb the stairs up to the impressive state room.

It has been said that the interior falls a little short as it is currently presented, notably with the heartbreaking cover-up of the floor in a protective plastic sheet and an inauthentic ‘freshening up’ that has been the subject of some criticism, but I think that it is an incredible space to visit nevertheless.

One of the four lions that guard the Casino

One of the four lions that guard the Casino

Our visit was well timed, coinciding with the opening of one of the many underground spaces that lead out from the building. The new exhibition, Tunnel Vision: Going Underground at the Casino Marino, includes the opportunity to visit the puzzling long tunnel.

The original purpose of the long tunnel is hard to fathom and none of the theories adequately explains its existence. At one time it was thought that it might have been to allow servants from the main house to service the Casino whilst remaining unseen, but recent geophysical surveys have shown that the tunnel never extended any further than it currently does.

The long tunnel

The long tunnel

Witness statements indicate that the long tunnel was used by Michael Collins to test fire machine guns intended for use in the War of Independence until locals reported that this was less discrete than they imagined. However, no trace of bullet marks or other such evidence have been found in the tunnels. In short, there is as much mystery about the recent history of these underground spaces as their original usage!

The Casino is such a great place to visit that I can’t believe that it is so overlooked on the tourist trail. If you get the opportunity to go on a guided tour I strongly recommend it – you’ll find it hard to beat the passion and enthusiasm of the team here.

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