Friday 2 May 2014

The Shell House Co Dublin

                           Above Image: First cross the metal bridge....
                           Below 2 Images:  ....Then turn left and follow this lane.
                                                          Then look for this entrance.

                                          Above Image: The entrance door.

                                     Above Image: Remains of shell decoration

                                Above Image: The graffiti illuminates the interior

                                  Above Image: The adjacent stone bridge

This curious little ruin lies in a woodland setting in Bushy Park, Rathfarnham. The parkland was donated to Dublin Corporation in 1951 by the Shaw estate, distant relatives to George Bernard Shaw whose ancestor Sir Robert Shaw took up residency in the Bushy Park estate in 1796. The estate was a dowry to his wife Maria from her father Abraham Wilkinson. The little ruin we have here today is what remains of a shell house, a type of Summerhouse decorated with cockles and shells which were collected from the nearby Dublin coastal strands. The building was created as a tea room for the Shaw's to relax and enjoy in a woodland setting. The small shell house is worth seeking out if only for the sylvan walks surrounding it.
We visited on a spring evening thinking it might take some time to locate in the woods but it turned out much easier than expected. We entered the parkland through one of the entrances in the South boundary wall that runs parallel to the River Dodder. A short trek through the trees brought us directly to the spot. The shell house stands adjacent to one of the stone bridges that crosses the narrow lake often referred to as the Duck Pond.
The unusual structure is hexagonal in shape with arched windows and a doorway. It has been constructed using rocks in a manner not unlike the way field walls are built in the West of Ireland. Inside, the graffiti artists have come to call and have coloured the walls which in this case actually adds some effect. From outside the bold colours give a luminosity to the interior. The original plaster is all but gone now but there are still a couple of spots where shells remain embedded, illustrating a little of how decorative it must have looked when it was complete. When the building fell out of use and into ruin is unclear but the more upper class style of the 1800's may not have entirely spilled into the next century when travel and more exciting ventures would have outclassed sipping tea in the woods.
Outside the shell house there are some tall trees, some felled and petrified and also a strange mixture of leafy vegetation adding a slightly eerie ambiance to the surroundings. The little ruin almost looks as if it could be a witch's house deep in the woods in some old fairytale. While the light flickers down through the trees this is a nice spot but I would warrant it would be a different situation after nightfall. Locals have informed that while the park is quite safe during daylight it is really not advisable to cross the park at night, and we are not talking about witches here either. Still however it is worth a visit if in the area and in need of a change of scene without having to trek into mountain woodland.
To find the shell house take the R114 (Butterfield Ave.) from Rathfarnham Village. At the junction with the Rathfarnham Shopping Centre turn right onto Fairways. Drive straight on for approx 200m and you will reach a T-Junction with the R112. Turn right and drive for approx. 300m until you see a small lay-by on your left for parking cars. Just past the lay-by on your left is a metal pedestrian bridge crossing the Dodder. On the other side turn left and follow the lane way until you see a set of stone steps on your right leading up to an entrance in the park boundary wall. Once through the gate walk directly ahead for approx.100m towards the stone bridge. The shell house is located just before the bridge on the right.


  1. Still a lovely spot for tea. Wish I had one in my own yard here in Illinois. Of course we are miles from an ocean, like 1000 miles, so getting the shells might be difficult. Will have to fill my suitcase with some of yours when net I visit Ireland Thanks again for all the great photos!

    1. Thanks Donna. Yes the beaches here are full of them. Could be a good idea for an exporting enterprise!

  2. There is a complete Shell House in Carton House estate in Maynooth. You can go up and see in the window