The tombstones at Ireland's largest and most historically important burial site read like a 'who's who' of Irish history, as most of the leading names of the last 150 years are buried here, including Daniel O'Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. It was established in 1832 by O'Connell as a burial ground for people of all faiths – a high-minded response to Protestant cemeteries' refusal to bury Catholics.
A modern replica of a round tower acts as a handy landmark for locating the tomb of O'Connell, who died in 1847 and was reinterred here in 1869 when the tower was completed. Charles Stewart Parnell's tomb is topped with a large granite rock, on which only his name is inscribed – a remarkably simple tribute to a figure of such historical importance. Other notable people buried here include Sir Roger Casement, executed for treason by the British in 1916; the Republican leader Michael Collins, who died in the Civil War; the docker and trade unionist Jim Larkin, a prime force in the 1913 general strike; and the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The history of the cemetery is told in wonderful, award-winning detail in the museum, which tells the social and political story of Ireland through the lives of the people, known and unknown, buried in the cemetery. The City of the Dead covers the burial practice and religious beliefs of the roughly 1½ million people whose final resting place this is, while the Milestone Gallery features a 10m-long digitally interactive timeline outlining the lives of the cemetery's most famous residents.
The best way to visit the cemetery is to take one of the daily tours (11.30am and 2.30pm year-round, also 1pm June to August) that will (ahem) bring to life the rich and important stories of those buried in what is jokingly referred to by Dubs as 'Croak Park'.