Dublin has many famous landmarks, but one that should be more famous is the “Hungry Tree,” which is slowly digesting a park bench.
In the grounds of the King’s Inns, the training ground of centuries of Irish lawyers and barristers, stands a vast London Plane tree of unknown age. Although listed as one of Ireland’s Heritage Trees by the Tree Council of Ireland, but its real claim to fame is the park bench it’s been slowly swallowing up over time.
The steel bench is now firmly lodged within the tree’s bulk, and visitors love to take pictures of themselves on the bench being “eaten” by the tree. Local slang refers to Irish barristers as benchers, but whether that is because they like posing on this bench while attending the King’s Inns as students, or because people wish the tree would eat a few of them as well as the bench, is unclear.
You’ll find the bench immediately inside the impressive wrought-iron gates at the corner of the King’s Inns property on Constitution Hill. It’s a reasonably well-known site from various films that have been made in Dublin (often period pieces) such as Anne Hathaway’s Becoming Jane and Glenn Close’s Albert Nobbs. While not far from the main tourist thoroughfares of central Dublin, you’ll need to plug the location into your phone or mark it on the map ahead of time, as there are no signs leading to this destination. Of course, many locals will know the right direction in which to point you, but whether they will or not is another question;-)
Since the Lord of the Rings films vividly showed us the Ents fighting Orcs and throwing boulders around, children can be forgiven for initially keeping their distance from the Hungry Tree, as it does look as if one of Tolkien’s fantasies has come to life. But, most will quickly warm to the sheer oddness of the spot, and can’t wait to tell their friends about the “tree that ate a bench” on their return to school.
In a city full of museums and galleries, the ‘Hungry Tree’ is a whimsical and memorable detour for the whole family.