Casino Marino

Despite being very small there is nothing modest about Casino Marino; with its Georgian design and Neo-classical overtones and execution this building is as luxurious inside as it is stunning outside. Rather than a building or a piece of architecture, Casino Marino can be better viewed as a wonderful work of art – one that contradicts the usual demands of great architecture towards immense size and grandeur. Casino Marino achieves stately proportions of beauty in a building not much bigger than a house in a modern day estate; by doing so it challenges our perception of what we demand in great buildings. The designer and builders of Casino Marino were artists. These Artists used as their tools of trade not paints and brushes, but stones and mortar. The stones, pillars, carvings, stairs, and designs that come together to create Casino Marino are all made with beauty in mind, and there is no angle and no inch of this building that isn’t attractive and beautifully conceived. You will certainly be able to find older buildings, and bigger buildings, during your Dublin holiday, but you would be unlikely to find one that is as memorable or inspiring.

What does Casino Marino mean?

Casino means house and Marino means sea. Together the two words combine to mean house by the sea.

What is Casino Marino?

Casino Marino was originally built – but not designed – as a garden pavilion to complement the Earl of Charlemont’s vast North Dublin estate. The estate was called ‘Marino House’ and encompassed large luscious lawns, which overlooked the North Dublin coast. These days the views are obstructed somewhat by the road north out of Dublin, and other man-made structures of ‘progress’. The purpose of the villa/pavilion was to provide a place of refuge for the Earl and his guests and to take advantage of the estate’s coastal location. Other than the lawns that surround it, the pavilion that is Casino Marino is now all that remains of the estate.

Casino Marino (exterior view)
A view of the exterior of Casino Marino, on a rainy day.

Who was the Earl of Charlemont?

The ‘Earl of Charelmont’ was the family title of James Caulfeild, who in the Georgian period was a member of the Anglo-irish ruling class. He was a well-travelled man whose political sympathies lay with Grattan’s demand for Irish political independence. The late 18th century was a time of great cultural improvement in Ireland and many of Dublin’s present architectural attractions date from this period, for example Trinity college and the Shelbourne Hotel – and, of course, Casino Marino.

Who designed Casino Marino?

Interestingly the architect who designed Casino Marino never once set foot in Ireland. William Chambers originally designed the pavilion as an accompaniment for Harewood House in Yorkshire. Astonishingly the plans were rejected in Yorkshire – but were seen by and taken up by the Earl of Charlemont. Although Chambers would never get to see the construction of his finest design he came to recognise it as his best work. His design would come to be Dublin’s gain and Yorkshire’s loss.

What is the external design of Casino Marino like?

The foundation design of Casino Marino is made up of two squares. The smaller measures around 50 square feet and lies inside a larger square of around 80 foot square. The four corners of the inner square are raised to create platforms which stretch to the four corners of the outer squares. At the end of the four platforms there is perched a lion; these four lions have guarded the building for around 250 years.

Casino Marino lion
One of the four lions that guard Casino Marino

Between the four raised platforms are wide stairs which lead up to the inner square, upon which sits the main building. The main building is shaped like a Greek Cross, so from east to west the building is slightly wider that from north to south. Looking at the north facade you can see four pillars and a huge wooden door. Looking at each of the south, west and east facades you can see a big window and four pillars. There are, in total, 12 pillars: one at each of the inner squares four corners; one at either side of the door on the north facade; and one on either side of the windows on the south, west and east facades. The south and west corners are ornamented by stunning parapets with stone carvings of Greek Gods and Goddesses. At the pinnacle of both the south and west parapets are beautifully carved urns which had a hidden function as chimneys. The north facade is dominated by a huge wooden door which gives the impression that the building might be the home of a giant (Fionn Mac Cumhaill – Google it, and then come back).

Design of Casino Marino
The design and elevation of Casino Marino. Note the inner square and the outer square. Also note the Greek Cross design of the main building – which lays on the inner square.

What is the internal design of Casino Marino like?

There are three floors that make up Casino Marino, each made up of about four rooms. The middle floor, is made up of the entrance hall and reception rooms; it is this floor that you will arrive in when you enter the building from the north entrance.

The huge door on the north side of Casino Marino is not a door at all – in fact only one of the panels opens up to form the entrance. When the entrance panel is opened a rope falls down. The rope is attached to a window, which slides down from inside the panel above. This completes the symmetry of the windows on the north, south, east and west of the building. It also means that inside the building the view to the north can be enjoyed without allowing insects inside.

Inside the door is the entrance hall, which is decorated with a sumptuous inlaid floor. Facing are three mahogany doors. Above, the ceiling is decorated with beautiful plasterwork patterns, and above the three doors is a decorated semi-dome. The middle double door opens up into the blue saloon, which is the main reception room, where you can see a big fireplace and a coved, coffered ceiling. The ceiling is decorated with a carving of the Roman God Apollo who looks down from the centre of a huge painted sun. The floor is inlaid with a stunning Chinese star carved from woods originating from the eight corners of the then British Empire.

The door on the left of the three doors in the reception leads into the library, but it is often referred to as the zodiac room because along the frieze in the ceiling are carved the twelve signs of the zodiac.

The door on the right opens into the China Closet room, which was re-decorated in the 19th century after a fire.

The top floor is made up of the servants room and the state bedroom.

The bottom floor is the basement level which is made up of a kitchen and leads to tunnel which stretch out under Casino Marino and under the lawns around it. The story goes that Michael Collins, one of the revolutionary leader of Ireland during the war of independence hid out in these tunnels and practised on guns brought over from America.

How many rooms are there in total in Casino Marino?


Getting there

Casino Marino is about 3 miles from the centre of Dublin.

By Bus: you can take bus numbers 14, 27, 27A, 27B, 42, 43 and 128 from Connolly Train Station.

By Dart: take the Dart North to Clontarf Road Station. Walk to Clontarf Road and turn left. Across the road after about ten minutes walk you will see the Malahide Road. Casino Marino is just off the Malahide Road on the left.