After passing the
ornamental gateway of Phoenix Park, the pedestrian finds himself on a broad road
with a splendid surface. This is the main avenue of the park and leads straight
as an arrow to the Castleknock gate nearly four miles away. On the right hand is
the ornamental plot known as the People's Gardens.
Further along the main road the unimposing white front of the Viceregal Lodge comes into view on the right hand. It was originally a small two-story building, the residence of the chief ranger. Further along a wide and spacious common appears on the left. This is the famous Fifteen Acres.
After passing the Fifteen Acres, the next object of interest is the Phoenix Monument, standing in the very centre of the park in a circle of some extent formed by clearing away the woodland. During his term of office in 1745, Chesterfield erected this pillar, which bears an effigy of the unique classical bird, with which the park, not undeservedly, is compared. The open space around was a fashionable promenade during the period when the court resided at Chapelizod. Chesterfield's taste effected another improvement in the park. He planted a fine elm avenue from one extremity to the other, following very much the course of the present main road, but serpentining so that on the city side of the Phoenix Pillar it lies to the right of the main road, while beyond, it appears on the left. The trees were arranged in successive clumps, not in single or double file. Some of them are still standing, despite the storms of nearly two hundred winters.
After the Phoenix Pillar is passed, the park becomes delightfully wild. The road seems like a highway through a forest. On every side there are the beautiful vistas characteristic of sylvan scenery. The best direction to take now is to break away after a while from the main avenue towards the left, travelling to the south-east. Eventually the Furze, or Furry, Glen is reached, a deep hollow lined on either side with furze bushes and innumerable hawthorn trees.
A road winds through the bottom of the ravine, leading to the Knockmaroon gate, from which there is a fine view of the upper Liffey, stretching away in long, placid reaches through a country of brilliant verdure and fertility. The river here is as different from the river at O'Connell Bridge as the Thames at Richmond from the Thames at Westminster. On these sunny waterside slopes are the strawberry beds, from which the village below takes its name.
A walk along the bank here will reveal to the visitor why Ireland is called the "Emerald Isle." The fields are almost vivid in their bright, living green, and the foliage is nearly as gay in its hues.
A few miles up the valley are the sleepy towns of Lucan and Leixlip, fashionable resorts in the remote past, when the sea coast was thought only fit for fishermen and coastguards. Their tall, grey stone houses look despondently on empty streets. The demesne walk from Lucan to Leixlip beside the Liffey, is perhaps the most delightful, certainly the most tranquil and soothing, piece of woodland scenery in County Dublin. The wooded heights around here are studded with old castles and ruined churches, so that the river seems like a miniature Rhine.
At Leixlip again there is a beautiful natural picture to be seen, the cascade known as the Salmon Leap. Here, at certain seasons of the year, the fish going upstream, by herculean efforts, jump from the lower to the higher level. Apparently they have been doing the same thing these thousand years, for the Danes, who settled here long ago, were so impressed by their performances that they called the settlement Lax-Hlaup (Leixlip), from two Norse words meaning salmon and leap.
On return to the park by the Knockmaroon gate, another route may be chosen for the homeward journey. After passing through the Furry Glen, it will be necessary to keep to the right along the southward boundary wall. The Hibernian Military School soon appears on its hill to the left, and just opposite is the gate giving access to the old-world village of Chapelizod. Here, just as at Lucan and Leixlip, the houses have an air of faded gentility. They seem to have been built for grander inhabitants than they lodge at present. Chapelizod, the chapel of Izod, or Isolde, was the residence of that auburn-haired and passionate Irish princess, immortalized in Malory's romance and Wagner's opera.
From "Chapters of Dublin History".