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heritage ireland

Heritage Week: Here's how to kick off your weekend

In this special edition of our Heritage Ireland series, Neil Jackman takes his pick of Heritage Week events and fun…

HERITAGE WEEK IS definitely one of my favourite times of the year, as there are so many opportunities to experience the absolute wealth of Ireland’s heritage.

There are talks, tours, exhibitions, demonstrations, and more all across the country. This year’s theme is ‘Family; generations exploring heritage together’, and a large number of the events are specifically geared towards introducing children and families to experience Irish heritage.

Here are just a few of the events that are on around the country on the first weekend of Heritage Week.

Heritage Week 1

  • Today = Saturday, 23 August
  • Tomorrow = Sunday, 24 August

Dublin area

Archaeofest 2014 (Merrion Square, Dublin. Today, 11am – 4pm, free)

Heritage Week officially launches at Archaeofest in Merrion Square, Dublin today. Archaeofest is a free one-day event, organised by the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland in conjunction with the Heritage Council which celebrates the rich archaeological heritage of Ireland. Archaeofest last year was a really fun day out, and this year it looks even bigger and better, with lots to see and experience for the whole family.

It features a bouncy dolmen, demonstrations of flint-knapping, viking combat, ancient and medieval crafts like butter-churning, nael-binding (crochet), medieval music and you can meet a Viking scribe and carpenter.

There will be a tent full of archaeological specialists just waiting to answer all your questions about archaeology, and there will be interactive hands-on displays by the National Monuments Service, the Heritage Council, the Discovery Programme and Grassroots Archaeology. You can see how archaeologists use techniques like geophysical survey to see what lies beneath the surface, and there is a wonderful chance for children to get hands on experience of excavation with the Big Dig by the School of Irish Archaeology.

Tour of Arbour Hill Cemetery (Arbour Hill, Dublin 7. Tomorrow, 2-3pm, free)

Arbour Hill Cemetery has been used as a military cemetery by both the British and Irish armies. This free tour focuses on the story of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, and promises to be a fascinating insight into the struggle for Irish independence.

National Print Museum Family Fun Day, (National Print Museum, Dublin 4. Tomorrow, noon - 4pm, free)

Don a hat and apron and become a mini printer for the day! The museum will be a hive of activity with printing demonstrations, face painting, mini workshops and arts and crafts. See their website for more.

Tallafest14 (Tallaght village. Today, noon-6pm, free)

A free fun event organised by Tallaght Community Council to promote the rich and varied heritage and arts in Tallaght.

Rest of Leinster

Meath – Beat your Drum for Heritage Week (Hill of Tara, Meath. Today 2-5pm, free)

Join 200 drummers on the Hill of Tara to celebrate National Heritage Week. Suitable for ages 8-plus, no experience necessary, hand drums provided. Also on the Hill of tomorrow between 12.30–4pm, you can enjoy a free demonstration of birds of prey, with falcons, hawks and owls.

Louth – Medieval brewing demonstration, (Old Mellifont Abbey, Louth. Tomorrow 2-5pm, free)

Learn how the monks made mead and ale. Taste and discover that mead, although made from honey, is not sweet but strong! Taste ales made by modern day monks using traditional methods.

An ideal day out for craft beer and ale enthusiasts and aspiring home brewers. Perhaps not one for the kids unless you fancy an ‘interesting’ car journey home.

Laois – Bug Hotel Build and Bug Hunt (Emo Court, Today, 11am–2pm, free)

Heritage Week isn’t all about archaeology and history, but also includes lots of great events and demonstrations about Ireland’s natural heritage. On Saturday afternoon in the lovely grounds of Emo Court, you can help to build a bug hotel to give all the local creepy crawlies a permanent home. Organised by the Irish Wildlife Trust.

Offaly – Battle of Giants (Lough Boora Discovery Park, Sunday 12–5pm, free)

This Heritage Week, Lough Boora Discovery Park becomes the spectacular backdrop for a fun family day out on Sunday 24 August. Legend would have it that Fionn MacCumhaill once went into battle with the Scottish giant Angus. Lough Boora Discovery Park will host its own Battle of Giants where little ones can play their part in the re-enactment of the legendary battle.

The event, in association with Barretstown, is open to all and with a host of activities planned to suit all ages, it looks to be a fun way to kick off National Heritage Week.

Attendees can also expect to enjoy interactive workshops, a Kids Zone, Zorbing and archery for older kids, and encouraged to make the most of the various nature and bike trails onsite as well as the newly-opened Lough Boora Discovery Park Visitor Centre.

Offaly – Clonmacnoise Summer School (Cluain Ciarán, today 10am – 5.30pm and tomorrow 9.45am – 1.15pm. See here for details, there is a fee)

The Clonmacnoise Summer School features a series of lectures and talks about the history, archaeology and legacy of the great monastery of Clonmacnoise. Speakers include Ray Simpson, archaeologist Heather King, Sean McDonagh and myself. Includes music by Noel Carberry.

Tomorrow features a guided tour of Athlone Castle followed by a return trip down the Shannon in a Viking ship. Booking essential, please contact and the fee for the day is €35.

Kildare – Historical Walking Tour of Kildare Town (Kildare Town Heritage Centre, daily, for times and fees, please see here)

Discover the story of one of Ireland’s most historical towns with a guided walk through Kildare town, stopping at St Brigid’s Cathedral, the castle, and much more. For the more adventurous you can enjoy a rare opportunity to climb to the top of the round tower!

Marc O'Sullivan Marc O'Sullivan


Mayo – Family fun day at the bog (Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre, Westport, tomorrow noon-4pm, free)

Another great way for the kids to get hands on with nature, as they can go pond-dipping, mini-beast hunting and wildlife watching with the Education Guides.

Galway – Family fun day (Aughnanure Castle, Oughterard, tomorrow, 1-5pm, free)

Displays and exhibitions including traditional music and dancing.

Roscommon – Guided talk at Roscommon Abbey (Tomorrow, 2–4pm, free)

A guided talk about the fascinating history of Roscommon Abbey followed by a stroll through the town including stops like St Coman’s Cemetery and the always impressive Roscommon Castle.

Sligo – Electric Abbey (Sligo Abbey, tomorrow 3-4.15pm, free)

If you fancy a bit of music there is a chance to catch Electric Sibin, one of the north-west’s most original acts in the wonderful setting of Sligo Abbey.


Cavan – WWI Trench Experience (Cavan County Museum, tomorrow 2–6pm, free)

Visitors will have an opportunity to experience life as it was in the trenches for soldiers during WWI.

This is a great experience for both children and adults, those with a keen interest in World War I history or anybody who would like to learn more about Ireland’s involvement in the ‘war to end all wars’.

Donegal – Family fun fay (Donegal Castle, tomorrow 10-4.30pm, free)

Open day at the castle, where you can enjoy free guided tours, demonstrations and exhibitions of arts and crafts.

Fermanagh – Rock Detective Club (Marble Arch Visitor Centre, Enniskillen, tomorrow, 11am–4pm, free admission but booking required)

A fun treasure hunt/orienteering course with a difference as you can explore the family tree of plants dating back over 340 million years. You’ll also get the chance to learn about some of the geology of the Cladagh Glen and discover why this area is just like one big leaky plumbing system!

Please note that booking is required at this free event, so contact the Border Uplands Project on 028 66348855 to reserve your place.

Conor Healy Photography Conor Healy Photography


Kerry – Whale Watch Ireland 2014 (Bray Head and Clogher Head, tomorrow 2–5pm, free)

Join the experts of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group for an informative land-based guided whale watch. Be sure to bring your own binoculars! See for more information.

Waterford – Road Bowling (Fenor Village, Co Waterford, tomorrow, 11.30am-13.30pm free admission but booking required)

Try your hand at the heritage sport of road bowling: guides will take you along the approximately one-mile course of the Waterford countryside. Please note that booking is required, so please contact the organiser – Copper Coast Road Bowling Tuition, 089 438204

Cork – Earl of Desmond Treasure Trail (Desmond Castle/French Prison, Cork, tomorrow from 2.30-3pm or 4-4.30pm, free admission but booking required)

The Earl of Desmond’s tax is missing! Get clues to help the merchant find the missing money and return it to Maurice. Suitable for children aged 8 -12 years but they must be accompanied by an adult. Please note you must reserve your place by contacting, or calling 021 4774855.

Clare – Open Day at Loop Head Light-Keeper’s House (Loop Head, tomorrow, 10am–4pm, free)

Enjoy a self-guided tour of this restored nineteenth century lightkeeper’s house, to see the conservation work by the Irish Landmark Trust.

Clare – Mini Beast Hunt, (Burren National Park, Clare, today, 10.30am–12.30pm, free admission but booking required)

Be a nature detective and join in a hunt for insects amongst the meadows and woodlands of the Burren National Park. Suitable for children aged 4-10. Please note that booking is required for this event so contact, 065 68277693.

Tipperary – Storytime for Children (Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, today, 3-4pm, free)

Hear tales of Irish legends, myths and folklore with Mary Hickey. For children aged 5–10 years.

The Heritage Council The Heritage Council

  • This is just a tiny taster of what’s on offer over the next week. Be sure to visit to find events in your area.

Do any of the events catch your eye? Let us know your suggestions for things to do during Heritage Week.

You can discover more great heritage sites and places on Neil’s blog, Time Travel Ireland.

Neil has also produced an acclaimed series of audioguides to Ireland’s heritage sites, they are packed with original music and sound effects and a really fun and immersive way of exploring Ireland’s past. They are available from

If you’d like to receive daily updates about great heritage sites then please consider following us on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

All photographs © Neil Jackman /

Read more of Neil Jackman’s weekend guides to Irish heritage gems>

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