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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 17°C
# digging for treasure
Fancy joining an archaeological dig? Check out some of our favourite heritage events
Ireland’s canals, mines, breweries, potteries and cotton mills tell us much about our heritage. Let’s celebrate them.

HERITAGE WEEK IS definitely one of my favourite times of the year, as there are so many opportunities to experience the wealth of Ireland’s heritage and to get hands on with the story of our past.

This year there are over 1,800 events planned, and by the end of the week it is estimated that over 400,000 people will have attended the many talks, tours, workshops, archaeological digs, re-enactments or nature trails.

The majority of these events are free, and they are led by local enthusiasts, historians, archaeologists, specialists and experts.

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This year the Heritage Council is turning its focus on Ireland’s Industrial heritage. Canals, mines, breweries, potteries, forges, railways, cotton mills tell us as much about our heritage as celebrated archaeological sites, cathedrals and large country houses. Throughout the country we can see the remains of our industrial past: bridges, canals and railways, that are still in use today and contributing to our economy.

In most counties, however, there are signs of long gone industry – a derelict mill, a rusting machine, a chimney all marking the sites of a once-thriving workplace and community. Our industrial past tells the story of change, development and creativity in Ireland. National Heritage Week 2015 is the perfect time to find our more about this fascinating, but often neglected, aspect of our past.

Here are just a few suggestions for the week ahead. To discover events in your area please visit

Digging for History at Swords Castle

If you have ever fancied the idea of joining an archaeological dig, then Heritage Week at Swords Castle is the thing for you. Members of the public are invited to register to help with digging, washing and bagging historic objects throughout National Heritage Week. No experience is required but you must be over 18 and you must register first.

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Get grinding wheat at Elphin 

Join the volunteers at the Elphin Windmill in Roscommon for guided tours of this wonderful restored windmill. The mill was built by Edward Synge in 1740 to grind wheat, oats and barley into meal for the local population but when the price of flour fell after the Napoleonic Wars, the mill was abandoned. In 1992 local volunteers stepped in to save the windmill, the only one of its kind in the West of Ireland and today it is a functioning mill and open to visitors.

Kildare Town Medieval Festival 

Family fun day bringing to life the rich medieval history of one of Ireland’s oldest towns. There will be music, street theatre, mini walking tours, food and activities for all age groups.

Linen Making in Laragh, County Monaghan 

In tribute to the industrial heritage of the small Monaghan village of Laragh, the local Heritage Group have planted flax and have been counting down the 100 days it takes to mature. On the 30th August (noon-6pm) they will harvest the flax and turn it into linen with tools and implements created or restored for the purpose. Once, three linen and tweed mills in Laragh employed over 700 people. Now just 50 people live there. The Heritage Group was set up by Paula McCaul who moved to the village with her young family in 2012.

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Bord na Móna’s Lough Boora Discovery Park celebrates 75 years of industrial heritage 

With a special commemorative event taking place on August 22nd, Bord na Móna is inviting families (of all ages), vintage machinery enthusiasts and historians, to join them for Lough Boora Discover Park Family Fun Day. Celebrate, share and enjoy 75 years of Industrial Heritage with entertainment for all the family, food stalls filled with mouth-watering local produce, vintage carousels and an iconic Punch and Judy show. Roller bug, toy tractor and vintage toy car races are also planned. Visitors to Lough Boora Discovery Park will also get the opportunity to become familiar with historical Bord na Móna machinery from eras past with a displace of the Bord na Móna Heartland Expo looking back and celebrating over 75 years of history in the local community.

High Nellie Bike Tour in Offaly to Durrow 

The Derrinlough to Durrow High Nelly Heritage Cycle is a 110k, 2 day adventure that retraces one of William Bulfin’s, ‘Rambles in Eireann’ bicycle journeys taken in 1902. Bulfin braved the sometimes hazardous weather conditions and rough terrain of the Irish countryside to complete a three thousand mile round trip on his brand new High Nelly bike, purchased from Pierce Engineering in Wexford. The Derrinlough to Durrow High Nelly Heritage Cycle will visit the Heritage towns of Birr, Roscrea and Abbeyleix, and then onto the town of Durrow, Co. Laois where William Bulfin lingered on his bicycle journey in 1902, describing this lovely town as “A Gem in the Basin of the Nore”. Please note only High Nellie bikes or genuine replicas will be allowed to join. Period dress is optional.

Heritage Week / YouTube

The Story of Wool at Rothe House & Gardens, Kilkenny 

Artist Ann Griffin Bernstorff from the Ros Tapestry Project will be joined by Phillip Cushen of Cushendale Woollen Mills to tell the story of the Irish Wool Industry. The talk will be illustrated by canvases and a panel of the Ros Tapestry itself, currently being stitched in Rothe House. Donations of €2 requested for attendance with concession of €1 for seniors, students and members of Kilkenny Archaeological Society.


Following on from the fantastic event last year, this year’s Archaeofest looks to be another fun way to get hands on with the past, with lots of activities for all ages. Kids can take part in the Epic Excavation or have a go on the Bouncy Dolmen, and lots of archaeologists and specialists will be there to answer any of your questions about bones, insects and excavations.

There are lots of great events all over the country. If you know of any events in your area please do let us know with a comment below.

Related: The widowed Máire Rua married Cromwell’s junior officer to keep her Burren house 

Also: The doctor who wanted to turn a castle into a mental asylum but blew it up with dynamite

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