The Book of Kells

Ireland's most treasured medieval manuscript, dating back to the 9th century.

TravelCurious Tip

The Old Library of Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is housed, imposes limits on the number of visitors who can enter at one time, which can cause a queue. Be sure to get there early on busy days!

The Book of Kells is perhaps the finest historical artefact anywhere in Ireland. Created in roughly the year 800 by a tireless group of monks, it consists of 340 sheets of the highest quality vellum (prepared calf skin) on which are transcribed the four gospels, together with subsidiary texts and numerous elaborate illustrations.

The Emigration to Ireland

The origins of the book have been subject to considerable debate over the years, and there are at least five competing theories regarding its creation. Probably work on it started in a monastery on the small Scottish island of Iona. The issue then becomes confused because the location was plundered by Vikings in 806, leaving dozens dead, and after which the resident monks left for Kells in Ireland. How much of the text was finished by the time they moved is impossible to determine. Either way, it remained in Kells Abbey for centuries, miraculously escaping the repeated Viking raids on the Abbey, and eventually found its way to the Old Library of Trinity College, Dublin, where it has been on display since the mid-19th century.

Unprecedented Complexity

Looking at the illuminated manuscript today, you cannot help but feel a sense of awe at the intricacy and density of the illustrations and text. The calligraphy is extremely impressive, in the “insular majuscule” style, and appears to have been written by three different scribes. There are ten full-page images of then-unprecedented complexity, including one of the Temptation of Christ and another of the Arrest of Jesus. They all employ a far wider range of colours than was typical at the time, and the Book of Kells’ imagery is particularly noted for its combination of minute detail and bolder, larger-scale compositions. For anyone interested in history, this is not to be missed.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Dublin
Trinity College
Ireland's most prestigious university, retaining a tranquil collegiate atmosphere in the midst of the city.
Irish Houses of Parliament
Today a branch of the Bank of Ireland, the old Irish Parliament buildings were a radical Neoclassical creation.
Trinity College Library
Wander through the endless rows of historical novels.
Dublin local pubs
There are currently 751 pubs in Dublin's city! Take a beer in one of its historical pubs also great spots for live music.
Grafton Street
The most popular shopping street in Dublin!
Molly Malone Statue
Iconic black bronze statue of Molly and her cart of fish.

Related Tours

The Best of Dublin Private Full-Day Tour, including Book of Kells and Guinness Storehouse
Explore the beautiful and historic city of Dublin, Ireland’s iconic capital situated on the sea and surrounded by mountains. Famous for its heritage, architecture and friendly atmosphere, on your private tour you will: 

  • Enjoy the personalised attention of a private local guide and explore the highlights and lesser-known gems of Dublin, a UNESCO city of literature.
  • Admire the historic buildings and learn the stories and legends associated with them, including Christchurch the city’s impressive gothic cathedral and Dublin Castle dating back to the 13th century.
  • See the Temple Bar a famous buzzing neighbourhood and also one of Dublin’s most famous pubs established in 1840 - renowned for serving 450 varieties of whiskey
  • Visit the picturesque 27-acre park St. Stephen's Green, formerly a marshy common used for grazing, witch burnings and public executions and now a popular place for Dubliners and visitors to relax from the hustle and bustle of city life. 
  • Visit the grounds of the historic Trinity College University and see the famed Book of Kells and magnificent Trinity College Library (tickets included).
  • Explore Dublin's rich and turbulent past, exemplified in the multitude of statues and architectural styles throughout the city.
  • Stop in at the National Gallery of Ireland to see the Museum's most famed artwork: The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio.
  • Jump in a taxi with your guide (included), and cross the city to the Guinness Storehouse. 
  • This tour ends with timed entrance tickets to the Guinness Storehouse that you can explore at your own leisure (tickets included). 
  • End your day with views over the city of Dublin from the Storehouse Gravity bar (pint included). 

Enjoy a full-day tour of Dublin, Ireland’s beautiful capital city, famous for its warm and friendly welcome, situated on a beautiful bay at the edge of the River Liffey and surrounded by spectacular mountainous countryside. 

Dublin’s picturesque cobbled streets are famed for their ‘craic’ (good fun) and are filled with vibrant art, markets, cafes and pubs as well as historic buildings. Many famous historical figures have made Dublin their home, from beloved literary figures like W.B.Yeats, Oscar Wilde, (both of whom lived at Merrion Square,) Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, to political and military figures like Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. 

Dublin has a varied concoction of history – dating back over 1000 years. You’ll learn about the Viking and Norman influences and you see the medieval churches and 13th Century Dublin Castle. You’ll learn about the Christian takeover of Celtic traditions and spirituality. And hear all about the long struggle for Irish independence from the British as you stand outside the spectacular parliament buildings. 

Enjoy strolling along with the cobbled Temple Bar neighbourhood – with its lively atmosphere of live music and buskers – and stop inside the bar famous for serving over 450 types of whiskey! 

A real highlight of your tour of Dublin is to visit Trinity College – Ireland’s historic elite university and considered equivalent to Oxford and Cambridge in England – and its astonishing library, home of the Book of Kells – and exquisite set of Gospels dating to circa 800 C.E. 

Your guide will also show you inside two of Dublin’s museums: the National Museum of Archaeology to see the famous Bog Man, a well-preserved Iron Age bog body found in June 2003, and the National Gallery to see Caravaggio’s painting The Taking of Christ.

You’ll take a taxi to the Guinness Storehouse where your guide will leave you to enjoy the self-guided tour of this iconic brewery, where you’ll learn all about Ireland’s most famous beer – and enjoy views over the city as you enjoy a well-earned pint of it at the end of this fascinating day! 


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