Have a family day out at one of Ireland’s 25 heritage sites that are free for U12s

Rock of Cashel

Children under the age of 12 are being given the opportunity to visit all the paid entry OPW heritage sites for free this summer as part of an initiative to encourage families to explore our heritage, writes Olivia Kelleher

The minister of state for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, aims to encourage children to experience some of the best cultural and heritage sites in the country.

“We have some wonderful places to visit like Clonmacnoise, Kilkenny Castle, Newgrange and the Rock of Cashel and I want every child to have an opportunity to visit them with their families during the summer holidays and up to the end of the year,” said Mr Moran. The OPW already offers free entry for children under six years of age and the minister said he was anxious to reinforce the message that a visit to a heritage site can be a great family day out for all ages.

“I’d like to spread the message to families that wouldn’t normally think of coming to a heritage site and encourage them to make a visit,” he said. “As the under-12s are now able to go free it will make for a very attractive day out.”

Here is a sample of the paid heritage sites which are now free to enter for under-12s.

1. Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary

The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St Patrick’s Rock, it is also known as Cashel of the Kings.

Reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St Patrick in the 5th century AD.


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Long before the Norman invasion, The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster.

2. Charles Fort, Kinsale, Co Cork

This star-shaped military fortress was constructed between 1677 and 1682, during the reign of King Charles II.

One of the largest military forts in the country, Charles Fort, has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history. Picture: Dennis Horgan
One of the largest military forts in the country, Charles Fort, has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history. Picture: Dennis Horgan

As one of the largest military forts in the country, Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history.

3. Garnish Island, Glengarriff, Co Cork

Garnish is world-renowned for its gardens which are laid out in beautiful walks and it has some stunning specimen plants which are rare in this climate.

Garnish Island
Garnish Island

The island was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953, and was subsequently entrusted to the care of the Commissioners of Public Work.

4. Desmond Castle, Kinsale, Co Cork

Desmond Castle was built by the Earl of Desmond around 1500.

Desmond Castle
Desmond Castle

A fine example of an urban tower house, the castle consists of a three storey keep with storehouses to the rear.

5. The Blasket Visitor Centre, Dingle, Co Kerry

The Blasket Centre is a fascinating heritage and cultural centre/ museum, honouring the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands until their evacuation in 1953.

Blasket Islands
Blasket Islands

6. Cahir Castle, Co Tipperary

Once the stronghold of the powerful Butler family, the castle retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure.

Cahir Castle
Cahir Castle

It is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles.

It is situated on a rocky island on the River Suir.

7. Ross Castle, Killarney, Co Kerry

Ross Castle sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake and was built by O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century.

Ross Castle
Ross Castle

The castle came into the hands of the Brownes, who became the Earls of Kenmare and owned extensive lands now part of Killarney National Park.

8. Derrynane House, Co Kerry

Derrynane stands at the very tip of the Iveragh Peninsula in Co Kerry.

Sheltered in the woodland stands Derrynane House, the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, lawyer, politician and statesman, and one of the great figures in modern Irish history.


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9. Ennis Friary, Co Clare

Ennis Friary was one of a series of Franciscan friaries that benefited from O’Brien patronage between the 13th and 15th centuries.


A post shared by Jenny Young (@jenniyoung) on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:00am PDT

The 14th century heroic tale ‘Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh’ — ‘The Triumphs of Toirdhealbhach’ — tells how Toirdhealbhach Ó Briain, king of Thomond supplied the friary with sweet bells, holy crucifixes, and a good library.

10. Ardfert Cathedral, Co Kerry

Dedicated to Saint Brendan it was the seat of the Diocese of Ardfert from 1117.

It is now a heritage tourism site.


A post shared by michelle young (@shellydimples1) on May 15, 2017 at 3:40pm PDT

11. Roscrea Castle, Co Tipperary

The stone castle consists of a gate tower, curtain walls, and two corner towers dating from the 1280s. Built in the early 18th century in the Queen Anne style, Damer House is an example of pre-Palladian architecture.

Roscrea Castle
Roscrea Castle

12. Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly

Clonmacnoise is an ancient monastic site near Shannonbridge, Co Offaly.


Founded by St Ciaran in the mid-6th century, it was a great centre of learning, visited by scholars from the world over.

13. Dublin Castle

Erected in the early 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement, Dublin Castle served for centuries as the headquarters of English, and later British, administration in Ireland.

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle

14. Newgrange, Co Meath

Consisting of a series of chambers Newgrange is a 5,200-year-old passage tomb in the Boyne Valley.


15. Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, Co Meath

Brú na Bóinne visitor centre is situated on the south side of the River Boyne overlooking the World Heritage Site. The centre has exhibitions that describe the society that created the Neolithic tombs.

16. Ceide Fields, Co Mayo

The Céide Fields are the oldest-known field systems in the world, over five-and- a-half millennia old. It is a unique Neolithic landscape of world importance, which has changed our perception of our Stone Age ancestors.

17. Boyle Abbey, Co Roscommon

The Cistercian monks established the abbey at Boyle in 1161. They had made three unsuccessful attempts to settle in the province of Connacht. The monastery was completed about 1220.


#boyleabbey #ireland

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18. Parke’s Castle, Co Leitrim

A restored plantation castle of the early 17th century on the shores of Lough Gill, once the home of Robert Parke and his family.


Parke Castle over looking Lake Gill #parkecastle #lakegill #sligo #ireland #travel #castle #lake #clouds #dotanot

A post shared by Abbi Mason (@abbimason) on Feb 28, 2016 at 1:13pm PST

19. JFK Memorial Park, Arboretum, New Ross, Wexford

The park consists of 622 acres including 4,500 types of trees and shrubs, 200 forest plots, rhododendrons and dwarf conifers.

20. Glendalough Visitor Centre, Co Wicklow

Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Early Christian monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin.


21. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Kilmainhaim Gaol opened in 1796 as the new county gaol for Dublin. It operated as a prison until 1924.

Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol

22. Hill of Tara, Co Meath

The Hill of Tara near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in Co Meath. It contains a number of ancient monuments and, according to tradition, was the seat of the High Seat of Ireland.

23. Carrowmore, Co Sligo

Carrowmore is one of the four major passage tomb complexes in Ireland. It is located at the geographical centre of the Cúil Irra peninsula in Co Sligo.


24. Glebe House, Co Donegal

Glebe House, the home for nearly 30 years of the renowned artist Derek Hill, is situated on rising ground, beside Lough Gartan.

25. Tintern Abbey, Wexford

It is a Cistercian Abbey located on the Hook Peninsula in Wexford. The Abbey, which is today in ruins, was founded in 1203. Some of the abbey has now been restored.

Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey

- For further information on the list of paid sites which are now free to under 12s go to www.opw.ie


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