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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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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