While visiting Dublin, one of the must-see historic sites is the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College. Your kids will be awe-struck by both the medieval manuscript and the Harry Potter-like library that’s part of the college. A tour should definitely be on any itinerary for a trip to Ireland!
The Book of Kells is a medieval manuscript of the four Gospels, created around 800 AD by monks on an island off the coast of Scotland. When the island was invaded by the Vikings, the surviving monks evacuated to the monastery in Kells, Ireland (hence the name), where they completed the beautiful book full of gilt-edged pages and richly pigmented colors. The book survived wars and occupations, and is now housed at Trinity College in Dublin.
Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university and was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. Its library’s Long Room is the stuff of book lovers’ dreams. The college itself boasts of many famous graduates, including Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, and Oscar Wilde.
Be sure to watch this video for more information about the Book of Kells and its journey to Ireland.
Any visit to Dublin must include a walk through Trinity College. Its Parliament Square is beautiful!
Tours are given by students at the main entrance but with the COVID closures, you can tour the grounds through this video.
Plan ahead to purchase tickets to the Book of Kells exhibit (currently closed due to COVID). We had a private 4-hour tour of Dublin through Ciao Bambino, which included our entrance to the exhibit and the Long Room.
The Book of Kells exhibit is very interesting and walks you through the history of the book and its journey to Ireland. Younger kids may not be as interested in reading the displays but older kids will find it fascinating, especially if they’ve studied the middle ages in history class.
The main event is housed in a separate room. My children loved crowding around the book, encased in glass. The topic they found most fascinating is the way the book is displayed. Our tour guide told us the pages are turned every 3 days so you never know what page will be showcased during your tour. Photographs are not allowed in the exhibit.
After seeing the book, you’ll exit into the Long Room, easily one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen!
It is truly awe-inspiring, from its arched ceilings to its massive displays of books and historical artifacts, including Brian Boru’s harp, the oldest harp in Ireland and its national symbol.
Your kids will be amazed at the library. My younger son kept saying, “I feel like I’m in a Harry Potter movie!”
For an amazing 360° virtual tour of the library, check out this link!
I love taking my children to visit colleges when we’re traveling and Ireland is no exception. Trinity College is a beautiful and historic place to visit, and the Book of Kells is not to be missed!!
- Cost: 32EUR/family pack (2 adults, 2 children); 16EUR/adults; 13EUR/students
- Recommended for: 10 and up
- Tour time: 1 hour
- Gift shop located after Long Room and online
- Transportation: The college is located in the heart of Dublin, an easy walking distance from most of the tourist sites. There is a Trinity stop on the green line of the Dublin tram.
- Dining options: There are tons of restaurants located nearby, notably around Grafton Street. We enjoyed our family-friendly meal at The Gotham Cafe. Rick Steves recommends the nearby Duke Pub, one of the oldest pubs in Dublin.
- Nearby hotels: We stayed at The Westbury and loved it. The closest major hotel to the college is the Dublin Westin.
- Nearby attractions include: The former Irish Houses of Parliament – now part of the Bank of Ireland) – if the rooms are open for tours, they’re well worth a peek (pictured below), National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Merrion Square Park, Temple Bar area, Dublin Castle, and Grafton Street (Dublin’s main shopping street)
Books to Read:
All links are Amazon affiliate links
- 14 and up:
- The Dublin Saga (The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd (for older teens)
- The Book of Kells: An Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin
- How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe
- The Library of Trinity College Dublin
- The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders (Trinity Library is on the cover!)
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up: