Home See & Do How to see Trinity College Dublin and the Book of Kells (and why you’ll love them)

How to see Trinity College Dublin and the Book of Kells (and why you’ll love them)

by Mama Loves Ireland
Trinity College Dublin

All you need to know to plan a visit to Trinity Colleg Dublin and how to see the Book of Kells: tips for visitors. 

Trinity College and the Book of Kells are two of the most famous attractions in Dublin and among the most beautiful and fascinating spots in the city.

Located in Dublin city center, overlooking monumental College Green, Trinity College is a historic Dubin university dating from 1592.

Inside its imposing and stunning campus, you can admire its beautiful architecture, get a taste of college life but mostly admire the incredible Book of Kells, a medieval manuscript like no other. 

This is all you need to know to plan a visit.

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Trinity College Dublin location and access

Trinity Colleg Dublin is in Dubin City center, on the Southside of the river.

It develops over a large, walled campus and it is accessible via several entrance gates. The most impressive is the main gate on College Green, which I recommend you use to enter the campus for convenience and visual impact. 

Access to the college campus is free.

The Book of Kells is housed in the old library building on campus. Access to the Book of Kells is ticketed.

Due to high demand and current restrictions, the best way to get tickets is online. Click here to reserve your spot

Good to know: on the official Book of Kells Website you can access a free audio guide that will help you along your visit.

Book of Kells Exhibition Opening Hours:

The Book of Kells Exhibition is open 7 days a week.

May to September opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 9:30 – 17.00 and Sunday: 9:30 – 17:00

October to April opening hours Monday – Saturday: 9.30 – 17.00 and Sunday: 12:00 – 16:30

Please note: face coverings are currently mandatory for all visitors age 13 and up.

Why see Trinity Colleg Dublin and the Book of Kells

There are many reasons to visit this historic campus.

The Book of Kells is a unique medieval manuscript famous worldwide for its intricate and stunning decorations.

The Long Room, Trinity College Dublin’s old library, is one of the most beautiful in the country and holds one of the few remaining copies of the Irish Declaration of Independence.

The Long Room houses one of the most ancient harps of Ireland, now the symbol of the country.

The campus as a whole is architecturally significant and enjoyable to visit for tourists thanks to its pleasant outdoor spaces.

A visit to Trinity College takes 1-2 hours. The Book of Kells Exhibition and the Long Room require about 45 minutes.

Please note that no photography is allowed inside the exhibition.

What is the Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is a Medieval manuscript and one of the treasures of Ireland.

The manuscript is in Latin and contains the four canonical gospels and it is based on their Vulgata text by St Jerome, dating from 384AD.

As well as the Gospel texts, the Book of Kells also has other pieces of writing including canon tables, Breves Causae (summaries of the gospel stories), and Argumenta (prefaces characterizing the evangelists.

The Book of Kells is written on calfskin (vellum), 340 folios and measures 330 x 255 mm.

The Book of Kells is written in elaborately decorated writing called Insular Majuscule, which is a formal type of script that originated in Ireland.

Historians cannot agree on the date of the Book of Kells. However, the dominant academic opinion currently attaches the book two the Monastery of Iona and that of Kells and believe the book dates from the IX century AD. 

The Book of Kells is stunning as well as significant. The writing is wonderfully elaborate, with letters and pages carefully decorated with a meticulous depiction of plants and religious symbols. 

Each page is a work of art: the book contains the portraits of some of the evangelists and drawings of elaborate narrative scenes, which are among the earliest medieval documents of the kind ever found. 

The Chi Rho page (folio 34r), introducing Matthew’s account of the nativity, is the single most famous page in medieval art. 

There is no agreement on the number of authors of the book, but academics believe there were three main hands at work for the decorated pages and four scribes. The book is visually stunning and uses several pigments, including red and yellow, for decorative purposes.

Despite the detailed look of the book, its writing is careless. Philologists have noticed how several pages repeat themselves and often, the scribe’s eye skipped letters of entire words. This led them to believe the book was probably for ceremonial use rather than daily reading. 

What else to see in Trinity College

Trinity College Campus has several buildings and area worth seeing. 

The Long Room

The Long Room is the old Library of Trinity College and one of the country’s most beautiful and significant libraries.

Trinity College Long Room Library

Located on the floor immediately above the Book of lels Exhibition, the Long Room has been in use since 1732 and hosts over 200 000 books: since 1801 the Library has the right to claim a free copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland.

The library is a sight to behold. The room is 65 meters long and has a vaulted ceiling From top to bottom, the walls are covered in dark wooden bookcases filled to the brim with leather-bound books. The long room has side chambers filled with light streaming in from large windows, giving the whole room a cathedral feel.

The room is dotted with 14 sculpted marble busts of philosophers, writers of the western world and men connected with Trinity College Dublin, including that of Jonathan Swift.

The library also houses one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic ead outside the General Post Office on 24 April 1916 by Patrick Pearse. The Long Room also has what is believed to be the oldest harps in Ireland, dating from the 15th century and a symbol of the country. 

Trinty College front square and campanile

The front square of Trinity College is where you find some of the most historical and significant buildings on campus including the Dining Hall, Examination Hall, Front Gate and Campanile.

Front square in Trinity College Dublihn Campus

Many of these are only accessible to visitors on special occasions.

As you walk inside the Trinity College Campus, you will notice the main Trinity Campanile, one of the most photographed spots in the city. 

The campanile dates from 1853 and is a bell tower: one of the college traditions says students who pass under it while the bell tolls fail their exams: many pass under it after graduations only, to mark the end of their college journey. 

Provost’s House

only open to the public on specific occasions, this building dates from 1759 and has one of the most elaborately decorated interiors of its time. 

Trinity sports fields

The Trinity sports fields do not hold any special interest in terms of sightseeing but they are a great place for a rest and tapping into college atmospheres in summer especially.

Located at the back of the campus, in summer it is where many students hang out also thanks to the presence of a small cafe. If you are looking for an outdoor break with college students and tourists this is a great place!  

Visiting Trinity College and the Book of Kells with kids

Trinity College Dublin is one of the easiest places to visit in Dublin with kids.

The campus is free to acces, car-free and perfect for small children to safely run around.

The Book of kells is unlikely to hold interest for small kids; however, I recommend you bring your school-age kids to see the Book of Kells and Trinity College library as they are impressive and there are educational materials for them to play and engage with it.

Before you go, I recommend you head to the education section of the Book of Kells Exhibition Website, where you can find children’s videos and downloadable materials to help them engage with the book and the library before and after the visit.

We also got hold of a coloring and sticker book from the souvenir shop.

This helped made the kids excited about the visit and helped us reinforce what they had learned once back home, when we all sat down to color (this is also a great rainy day activity if you need to pass a few hours in your hotel or anyway indoors waiting for the rain to pass!)

The Book of Kells Exhibition is stroller friendly.

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