50 free days out this summer

Fancy a festival or a day out that won’t break the bank? We’ve got 50 of them. Ciara McDonnell reports

50 free days out this summer

1. Waterford Greenway

With 46km of easy cycling paths built on an old railway line, which run from Waterford city to Dungarvan, the Waterford Greenway (right) is an ideal family day out. Choose a shorter patch of the route for you and your kids, and download the Deise Greenway App, which will help you navigate your day in line with playground and bathroom breaks as well as copious ice cream and coffee stops.


2. Puck Fair

As one of Ireland’s oldest ‘gathering’ festivals, the Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co Kerry dates back to 1613. There are lots of activities to keep the family occupied, with a carnival, lots of dancing and of course, the crowning of this year’s Puck — a Kerry mountain goat. The fair runs for three days, during which there are free creative workshops that the whole family can get involved with, as well as plenty of costume competitions, delicious local food and of course, music. August 10 to 12, Kilorglin Co Kerry.


3. Burren Perfumery

Any aspiring fan of cosmetics will adore a trip the Burren Perfumery this year. Inspired by the flora and beauty of its surroundings, the Burren Perfumery creates scents, balms and lotions made from Irish herbs and flowers. Visitors can check out their herb garden where they can see the plants that go into the perfumes before heading to the blending room and getting a lesson in making gorgeous creams and perfumes. The onsite tearoom is a must visit. The cakes are out of this world.


4. Bray Air Display

Now in its 12th year, the Bray Air Display in Co Wicklow attracts thrillseekers from around the country and it’s easy to see why. Spectators can expect ‘extreme formation’ aerobatics in the skies, with high-speed formations such as the ‘Hammerhead,’ and the ‘Palm Tree Split’ set to thrill the crowds. In tandem with the air display, the seaside town of Bray plays host to a food market over the weekend so come hungry!

July 22 to 23, Bray County Wicklow.


5. Childs Play At Triskel Arts Centre

Triskel Arts Centre in Cork City is an extremely child-friendly space, and a perfect spot to introduce your children to art this summer. It is hosting a collection by Australian artist Michael Kempson until August 26, stunning prints of 50 ‘National Animals’ of countries worldwide. It is inspired by the time he spends with his grandchildren visiting the zoo.


6. Street Performance Laya City Spectacular

Fitzgerald Park plays host to the Laya City Spectacular again this year on July 15 and 16. Featuring all kinds of amazing street performances, as well as a brilliant food village and lots of music, this is a fantastic day out for the family. This year, Imaginosity, Dublin’s Children’s Museum will bring the Imagination Playground to the park, with lots of multi-sensory shapes for kids. Science fans will love Imaginosity’s Ready Steady … Grow show which focuses on the magic of the human body.


7. Sea Fest

The annual maritime festival returns to Galway this July and the programme includes a seafood fair, seafood cookery demonstrations with celebrity chefs and seafaring family fun. There will be tours of ocean-going vessels, leisure craft and boats, exhibits on marine life and lots more fun and educational activities. Well worth a visit Until July 2.


8. Salmon Festival

With one third of its programme entirely dedicated to family events, the Ballina Salmon Festival is one of the top free tickets of the summer. As well as lots of salmon, there will be a teddy bear’s picnic, a creative writing competition for under 13s, discos, a puppet show and lots of fishing and rafting expeditions, it’s a fantastic way to spend a few days in the west of Ireland.

July 7 to 14. ballinasalmonfestival.ie

9. Carlow Garden Festival

An incredible way to introduce children to gardening, the Carlow Garden Trail is running the Carlow Garden Festival from July 21 to 30. Featuring talks from gardening experts from around the globe as well as some of Ireland’s best-loved faces, the festival will take place across the 21 stunning gardens and parklands that feature on the Carlow garden trail. Kids will love the guided nature trails, family picnics and workshops.


10. Donkey Sanctuary

Visit Cork’s Donkey Sanctuary (far right) just outside Liscarroll this summer where over 5,200 donkeys have been rehabilitated since it opened. The sanctuary is easily navigable with buggies and is small enough to avoid toddler exhaustion. After visiting the gorgeous donkeys and mules on site, visitors are given the opportunity to adopt their own donkey.


11. Gruffalo Trail

Colin Glen in Dunmurry, Belfast is home to Ireland’s very own Gruffalo Trail. Each character has been magically recreated by sculptor Andrew McIntyre and set against the backdrop of a stunning forest park. Walk through the Gruffalo Archway and meander through the leafy park to a beautiful Gruffalo-themed seating area next to the cascading Colin River.


12. OPW Wednesdays

On the first Wednesday of every month the Office Of Public Works offer free admission to those who want to visit their sites. That means, you can visit the likes of Charles Fort, Garnish Island, Derrynane House and Ennis Friary for free. Do your research, pack up the car and take in some of the country’s most prestigious tourist attractions without lightening your wallet.


13. Galway Arts Festival

All events at this year’s Galway Arts Festival are not free of charge, but there are plenty of free street performances to keep the family enthralled. Transe Express promises to delight audiences with its high–energy interactive street show Chariot of the Sea, transporting the audience to a magical world as they weave through the city streets and i–Puppets — mysterious skeletal puppets will explore the city on July 28 and 29. July 17 to 30


14. Unravel The Knots

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin runs Teen Labs throughout the summer, and this July the focus is on Japanese arts and crafts. Teens will learn to draw and tie a range of Celtic and Japanese knots with maker-in-residence Corinne Okada Takara.

Limited to 15 teens per session. Free, booking essential. www.cbl.ie

15. Explore Cork For Free

Put your walking shoes on and take to the city this summer. The Crawford and Glucksman galleries are free of charge, as is the Cork Public Museum. Pack a picnic to eat by the Lee.


16. Festival Of Curiosity

45,000 people will descend on Dublin on July 20 for the annual Festival of Curiosity. This year’s theme is Playful Days and Curious Nights and over 14 venues will come alive in an energetic fusion of interactive installations, pop-up playgrounds and curiosity carnivals to immersive experiences, performance, visual art, theatre, film, secret tours, night cycles and urban escapes.

July 20 to 23. festivalofcuriosity.ie

17. Find The Fairies

Co Kerry is home to two brilliant fairy trails. The trails at Derrynane House, Parknasilla and Russborough House are located in lush forestry and have ample picnic tables and easy walking trails which make it ideal for a family day out.


18. Curragh Chase Forest Park

With 313 hectares of mixed woodland, 8km of multi-purpose way-marked trails, play areas and picnic tables, Curragh Chase Forest Park in Limerick has something for all ages. This woodland estate is set around the shell of the home of poet Audrey De Vere, and has lots to discover, from a pet cemetery to a medieval cross.


19. Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival

Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival is building up for a mega celebration of its local heritage. Expect live music, a donkey derby, a busking competition and lots of free children’s activities. August 4 to 11.


20. National Heritage Week

Each year, during the last week of August, many national and hundreds of community organisations participate by organising events throughout the country. From tracing your family’s history to exploring your local parkland after dark, this is a fabulous week to get to know where you’re from a little better.


21. Yoga In The Park

Zen out en famille by starting your Saturdays with a round of yoga in Fitzgerald Park. Last summer around 250 people gathered weekly in front of the bandstand for a yoga session and this year is proving just as popular.

Classes start at 9.45am each Saturday until September.


22. Walk With Badgers

Join Cork Nature Network on a walk to learn all about badgers (below right) and their ecology.

Walkers will explore badger habitat and look out for signs of these beautiful creatures in Island Wood, Newmarket.

August 25 corknaturenetwork.ie

23. Youth United in Music

On July 29 head to Fitzgerald Park where Cork City Council is hosting Youth United in Music’, a showcase of the best youth musical projects showcase from around the city.


24. Enniscrone Black Pig Festival

This quirky festival takes place in Sligo in July each year. There are a huge amount of family activities on offer, from a paddle boarding competition to treasure hunts to a soapbox derby. July 27 to 30.


25. Mayfield Arts Guided Arts Walks

Take the family on one of these free guided art walks through the grounds of Fitzgerald Park, curated by Cuig artists and educational coordinator Daragh Murphy.

The walks take place from the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion on an hourly basis.

July 7 and August 4.


26. Castlecomer Discovery Park

Explore Castlecomer Discovery Park, set in a spectacular 80-acre woodland. From zip lining to crafting to pedal boating, Kilkenny’s fantastic park will keep the family occupied all day long.


27. Summer Stars

The Summer Stars programme returns to libraries all over the country this year.

Each child will receive their own Summer Stars Reading Card to record their progress and the Summer Stars Reward Stamp will be added to their card at the library for each book read.


28. Beautiful Beasts

The Ark children’s gallery in Dublin is hosting Beautiful Beasts, a collection of animal sculpture. After kids have viewed the exhibition, they can make their own animals at the gallery’s creative stations.


29. Digital Scavenger Hunt

The Digital Scavenger Hunt is part of Cork City Council’s Summer in the Park initiative, and sees groups of treasure hunters or scavenger hunters, armed with digital cameras or mobile phones, head off to learn about the park as they crack codes and take pictures.

July 4, 11, 18, 25; 1-4pm, Digital Scavenger Hunt, Fitzgerald’s Park

30. Summer Of Space

With over 50 public events taking place across Cork city and county, Summer of Space is the biggest ever celebration of space studies that Ireland has ever hosted. From watching a model rocket launch to listening to talks by some of the world’s most famous space explorers, this is not to be missed. Until August 25


31. Family Comedy Weekend

Farmleigh at the Phoenix Park in Dublin will be home to some of the country’s top comedians in August as it hosts its Family Comedy Weekend.

This interactive weekend will host family friendly stand-up, kids comedy workshops, joke writing classes, stories and poetry.

August 29 and 30


32. Viking Invasion

Get up close to the lives of our most feared and revered ancestors for a fun, family friendly weekend packed full of free events to celebrate our Viking heritage at The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park in Mayo.

July 1 and 2.


33. Children’s Story Trail

The Giant’s Lair at Slieve Gullion Forest Park in Newry, Co Cown, is an innovative magical living storybook.

The trail takes visitors on an unforgettable journey of intertwined fairy house and arts features creating a fantastical childhood land of mystery, dragons, giants, witches and fairies.


34. Free Sundays at GPO

Throughout the summer months children have free entry to the GPO Witness History visitor centre in Dublin. Children will see the interactive maps, personal stories and video booths detailing the consequences of the Rising, and can even use Morse code to proclaim the Irish Republic on the radio.


35. Earagail Arts Festival

The Wild Atlantic Weekend at the Earagail Arts Festival in Co Donegal is a family friendly circus wonderland.

From jugglers and clowns to illusionists, acrobats and rope- walkers, this is a fabulous way to spend a family weekend.

July 8 and 9.


36. West Cork Literary Festival

The children’s programme at this year’s West Cork Literary Festival has lots of fantastic free events on offer.

From a book clinic, which will help children choose their next book to read to a writing workshop with Sibéal Pounder, this is a bookworm’s paradise.

July 14 to 23.


37. SprÓg at Spraoi Festival

SprÓg continues to be one of the hottest summer dates for the diary.

This children-focused festival within a festival in Waterford hosts workshops and activities for a week, free of charge.

August 4 to 6.


38. Kilkenny Arts Festival

While lots of the events at Kilkenny Arts Festival cost money, the Secret Garden pop up is always free. Every day a range of artists offer pop-up performances in some of Kilkenny’s loveliest gardens.

August 11 to 20.


39. Family Fun Day

At Cork Pride Cork Pride Festival is kicking off with a family fun day in Fitzgerald Park this year, packed full of live music, theatre performances, lots of food stalls and the Scruffy Do dog show.

There will be face painters and magicians on hand all day to keep the smallest members of the family occupied.

July 30.


40. Durrow Scarecrow Festival

As well as lots of craft workshops and a scarecrow treasure hunt, the Durrow Scarecrow Festival in Co Laois is really an opportunity to see 120 scarecrow designers from around the country battle it out to be crowned the winner of the All Ireland Scarecrow Competition.

July 30 to August 7.


41. Loughrea Medieval Festival

The last few days of August sees the medieval town of Loughrea come over all historical as it celebrates its heritage in style.

Expect puppet shows, children’s hurling matches, kids medieval workshops and lots of live music.


42. Irish America Fest

To celebrate the American Independence Day, New Ross in Wexford throws Irish America Fest each year.

This year, they are holding a giant picnic in the park at Pearse Park, where families can come along with a picnic and enjoy lots of free activities like penalty shoot outs, crazy golf and much more.

July 2. irishamericaday.com/picnic-in-the-park

43. Academy of Popular Music

This is a five-hour musical marathon taking place in Fitzgerald Park. Bands from the Academy of Popular Music will play from 12-5pm, making it the ideal spot for a day in the sun and a family picnic.


44. Doonbeg Seafood Festival

As well as the prerequisite seafood, Doonbeg’s annual festival is a wholehearted family affair. With a regatta, duck race, fish market and vintage rally to keep grown ups enthralled, children will be glad to hear that face painters are on hand to prepare for an afternoon of pony and trap rides and treasure hunting.

July 25 to 27.

45. Rosscarbery Family Festival

The first weekend of August every year sees the Rosscarbery Family Festival take over the seaside village.

Entirely youth-focused, expect teen discos, sandcastle competitions and fancy dress battles to take place.


46. Take A Dip

Ireland is home to 149 Blue Flag beaches, so why not take advantage of the summer weather and spend the day splashing about with your family.

Pack a picnic, and a change of clothes and you will spend an entire day outside and feeling great.


47. Robotics Competition

Lego fans will love to watch the next generation of great minds tackle the world of robotics in a competition, which will test the limits of today’s robots.

The performance of the robots will be evaluated by a group of experienced judges.

July 14, Nexus Hal CIT.


48. Townlands Carnival

Macroom 21st July Townlands Carnival is a three-day family event set in the grounds of Rusheen Farm estate, with its walled gardens, ancient and managed woodlands and valleys.

The programme includes a dedicated children’s area and entertainment for the younger festivalgoer all weekend, as well as lots to keep the grown ups happy.

July 21.


49 Millstreet International Horse Show

Millstreet Horse Show is Ireland’s largest annual equestrian event A must for aspiring jockeys, young horse classes feature strongly; including the renowned Young Irelander loose jumping competition for three-Year-Old horses and the National Discovery for four-year olds.

August 2 to 6.


50. Whale Watch

Join Cork Nature Network for a land-based event looking for whales and dolphins from the Old Head of Kinsale. A great chance to learn about the marine mammals of Ireland

July 15.


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