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Kilmore Quay | © Seeks2Dream/ Flickr
Kilmore Quay | © Seeks2Dream/ Flickr
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15 Things to Do Over Ireland’s National Heritage Week 2017

Picture of James Hendicott
Updated: 12 August 2017
Ireland will celebrate its heritage – as it does every year – with a series of events running from August 19–27, 2017. National Heritage Week takes in some fantastic experiences, be they eating food that fell out of fashion centuries ago or learning how the country’s preserving some of its many abandoned sites, and best of all, most of them are free.

Spread across the entire country (in fact, comparatively little of the event occurs in the capital Dublin), there’s an incredible amount to check out, from events taking place on historic sites to glances at how the heritage is explored and examined today. We trawled through the entire list of offerings to pick out some highlights.

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Attend a medieval festival

The town of Youghal in County Cork goes old-school on August 20th, with a full medieval re-enactment in the form of an award-winning festival. The free event at St Mary’s College Gardens features battle re-enactments, century-old food options (not literally, of course), and the brave stall at which to grab a haircut that was all the rage five or six centuries ago. They’ll also be stands striking coins and producing wool. Learn more here.

St Mary’s College Gardens, Emmet Pl, Youghal-Lands, Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland, +353 24 81814

Hike the Ancient Pilgrim Routes of the ‘Irish Camino’

Ireland’s traditional pilgrim routes are based on the paths walked for spiritual purposes by ancient saints and pagans, with many held up as longtime traditions that have run for centuries. Today, they form the increasingly popular ‘Irish Camino’, and Heritage Week is putting together tours of five of the best for an absolute bargain price of €5 each over the course of the week’s events. Various dates – read about it in detail here.

Croagh Patrick
Croagh Patrick | © Dale Simonson/ Flickr

Go whale-watching

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group gather in County Down to show you their favourite spots where you can get a glance at everyone’s favourite marine life from on shore, with a three-hour free meet starting from the vividly named Bloody Bridge. The event forms part of an ‘All Ireland Whale Watching Day’ on August 26th. There are no guarantees of sightings, of course, and binoculars are highly recommended. View event specifics here, and get updates on the Facebook group here.

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Build a bug hotel

We love this wonderfully daft-sounding idea, which has the added benefit of taking place at Dublin’s National Botanic Gardens, one of the city’s great often-missed (by tourists) gems. The event on August 21st, which requires pre-booking, is designed to help children create the perfect location for creepy crawlies, and learn about their importance in nature’s great cycle – but it’s also a time of mucky outdoor play. Learn more here.

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Botanic, Dublin 9, Ireland, +353 1 804 0319

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Do daily yoga (in a gorgeous building)

The pillared rooms of Dublin City Hall will host five free morning yoga sessions, running from August 21st to August 25th, in partnership with a local sports centre. You’ll need to pre-book and will probably want to bring a yoga mat too. Check out the details and grab a place here.

Dublin City Hall, 2 Dame St, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 222 2204

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Explore the Waterford Coast by kayak

Ardmore Adventures offer one of very few paid events of Heritage Week, with their enticing history and wildlife tour of the Waterford coastline by kayak. For your €35 (€30 for kids), you get a guided tour into local cave formations, with the guides telling you tales of ancient history (the formation of the rocks), bugs and birds, modern developmental history and how to stay upright in the waves. Tours last three hours and take place on August 20th, 22nd, 24th and 26th. Check it out here.

Ardmore Adventures, Strand Cottage, Main St, Duffcarrick, Ardmore, Co. Waterford, Ireland, +353 83 374 3889

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Dig into lush local cuisine in the Burren

Hit up the fantastic Burren Smokehouse and Burren Storehouse in County Clare for smoked salmon and locally brewed beer fresh from the Burren Brewery whilst learning about the brewing and smoking processes on August 20th. Try a selection of beers, grab plenty of local knowledge on the incredible craggy stone-plateau of the Burren, and then finish it all off with the All Ireland hurling semi-final on the big screen as you tuck into a few more foodie delights. Find more info here, €10 (€20 for a family).

Burren Smokehouse, Kincora Rd, Rathbaun, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, Ireland, +353 65 707 4432

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Explore Galway’s heritage by bicycle

Galway City Cycle Tours promise to explore the city’s extensive and varied history and heritage, including a few local gems, on August 27th. That might include the story of the mayor forced to hang his own son for murder or the tale of the iconic Claddagh Ring. It will probably take you to Salthill’s wind-battered promenade, and up the Corrib River. But they’re keeping all of those specifics under wraps until the day – the only advanced info is the meeting point, the Famine Memorial. Click here for more information.

Famine Memorial, 53 Grattan Rd, Galway, Ireland, +353 91-564946

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Tuck into a serving of medieval ale and mead

How did they party 10 centuries ago? This probably won’t tell you, and truthfully, it links back to the alcohol made by monks all those years ago, so we can probably safely assume that this particular party wasn’t all that wild. Nevertheless, it’s a free exploration of how the hard and soft stuff was made back then, along with a taste at the end. It’s all set against the backdrop of an ancient County Louth abbey, which sounds pretty great to us. The event takes place on August 20th. Here are the details.

Old Mellifont Abbey, 2 Dominick St, Mellifont, Drogheda, Co. Louth, A92 PR84, Ireland, +353 41 9826459

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Go back in time in Walled Bandon

Another County Cork town keen to explore its ancient history, Bandon’s Walled Town Festival is a free family-friendly event filled with period games and battle/life re-enactments. They’ll also be old-school puppet shows, as well as demonstrations of skills from long ago, including weaving, smoking, blacksmithing, thatching and basketry, and some hands-on workshops. The event occurs on August 27th. Learn more here.

Allen Square, Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland, +353 87 3104354

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Explore a Wexford Sea research vessel

Learn about the marine biology and ancient landscapes found under Wexford’s Kilmore Quay, as you take the chance to hop onboard one of Cherish and Infomar’s specialist research vessels. Available on August 20th and 27th, the people involved in the research are also a key attraction, as they talk you through their work, its aims and its discoveries. Check it out here.

Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland, +353 1-6393721

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Go otter-spotting in a Dublin suburb

The city centre might be the preserve of pigeons so feisty that they’re occasionally a talking point in parliament, but the outskirts of Dublin have some really great wildlife, including dolphins, seals and plenty of foxes. The otter, on the other hand, is not a creature that’s regularly associated with the city, but the Dodder – one of Dublin’s lesser rivers – has a few, and the Irish Wildlife Trust knows where to find them. Get involved in the search for river mammals on August 27th for free. Find more information here.

Meet at The Dropping Well, Milltown Rd, Rathmines Great, Dublin 6, Ireland, +353 86 1744938

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Learn how an abandoned medieval town was saved

Rindoon in County Roscommon is an impressive abandoned medieval town that’s now been saved for posterity by Ireland’s Heritage Council. In fact, there are plenty of abandoned sites around Ireland (explore some of the best here), as the country has never recovered its pre-famine population, but few have such a compelling history. You can learn all about it in this short presentation, which takes place (bizarrely) in Kilkenny, almost half the country away. It’s fascinating nevertheless and takes place on August 21st. Find more details here.

The Heritage Council, Church Ln, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland, +353 56 777 0777

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Take kids for a nature exploration at the Hill Of Tara

The Hill of Tara is an iconic Irish site, with evidence of its use dating back to neolithic times. The historical relevance takes in British control of Ireland (a key battle was fought here in the 18th century), ancient celebrations of summer and winter solstice, and its former status as a seat of old Irish kings. On August 23rd, the site hosts a free nature exploration for children aged 8–12. They’re keeping schtum about exactly what that will involve, but some details are here.

Hill of Tara, Castleboy, Co. Meath, Ireland, +353 46 902 5903

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Join in a dawn chorus at astonishing Newgrange

Famous as it is at a local level, Newgrange is probably a touch underrated internationally. The carefully aligned tomb, which predates the Pyramids, interacts with the movements of the sun and the seasons, and an annual draw takes place to decide who gets to sit inside for summer and winter solstice. There can be few better ways to explore it than creating your own dawn chorus, with song sheets provided for the early morning meet up. As a one-off for the event on August 19th, entry to the site will also be free. Discover more about the event here.

Newgrange Monument, Newgrange, Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland, +353 46 9097407

Find out about all the events taking place during Heritage Week here.