By Elaine Whelan
Free is everyone’s favourite four letter word. Entertaining children can be an expensive task so free day activates are a god sent. It’s not always easy to find free activities whether you are at home or on a road trip. Here are just a few of Ireland’s family attraction that won’t cost you a cent!
National Museums of Ireland (Dublin)
The three National Museums in Dublin are all free to visit. The Museum of Archaeology is located in Kildare Street, the Museum of Decorative Arts & History is at Collins Barracks and the Natural History Museum calls Merrion Street home. Each of the three museums have child friendly exhibits that will have both you and your little ones fascinated.
The National Botanic Gardens (Dublin)
These gardens are located in Glasnevin. Just three kilometres from Dublin City Centre, these gardens are a spectacular site to behold. Hours can be spent strolling through the fairy trails, gardens and glasshouses of this site for free. Children will be enchanted by the colourful arrays of flowers surrounding them. The National Botanic Gardens also run drop-in activities for kids on Sundays, where they can enjoy fun activities in the dedicated Children’s Garden. Get some fresh air into your lungs on your trip to the big city.
Science Gallery (Dublin)
The Science Gallery in Dublin’s Trinity College is internationally recognised as a leading cultural venue. Admission to the exhibition is free and visitors can enjoy contemporary art and science exhibitions alongside a cutting-edge programme of events including talks, workshops, music performances, food presentations and film screenings. This living science experiment encourages young people to learn through their interests.
The Spire of Lloyd (Meath)
Different from your usual lighthouse, The Spire of Lloyd in Kells is an inland lighthouse. It was designed for the First Earl of Bective in 1791 to watch horse racing and the hunt. At 30m high, one can see magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as far as the Mourne Mountains in County Down on a clear day.
Sathya Sai Donkey Sanctuary (Sligo)
Founded in 1991, the Sathya Sai Donkey Sanctuary offers a place of peace and refuge for old, injured, unwanted, abandoned, neglected and abused donkeys. The Sanctuary is situated at Castlebaldwin, County Sligo, only 5kms off the main N4 Sligo to Dublin road. It also sits in truly magnificent surroundings adjacent to the Carrowkeel Megalithic Site, which is also well worth the visit while you are here.
Field of Dreams Sanctuary (Limerick)
Kids adore animals and animals adore kids too. The Field of Dreams Sanctuary in Limerick is as good as any petting zoo that you have to pay admission for. With dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, goats, pot-bellied black pigs, donkeys, ponies and rabbits the Field of Dreams Sanctuary is sure to delight your little animal lovers.
Hunt Museum (Limerick)
Every Sunday from 2-5 pm, Limerick’s Hunt Museum is free to enter. The museum offers a treasure hunt sheets for kids and also runs a free arts and crafts club the first Sunday of most months. The museum features a variety of exhibits and artefacts. It even includes works from Picasso and other famous artists.
Nenagh Heritage Centre (Tipperary)
Take a step back in time in Tipperary at the Nenagh Heritage Centre. Housed in an interesting mid-19th century building, it contains a model of the North Tipperary Gaol, a recreated schoolroom from 1913 Ireland, a recreation of the original kitchen from the North Tipperary Gaol, dating from the mid 1800’s and an Irish Dairy, which shows the stages of butter-making and the various utensils used in Irish farming life. Admission to the centre and guided tours are free each day.
Blackrock Castle Observatory (Cork)
The first Friday of every month allows visitors to enter the Blackrock Castle Observatory for free to enjoy a free astronomy night. Visitors of all ages can experience family-friendly workshops, lectures, stargazing with Cork Astronomy Club, and the award-winning interactive astronomy exhibit, Cosmos at the Castle.
OPW Heritage Sites
During the summer months you can visit any of the OPW Heritage Sites around the country for free on the first Wednesday of every month. Why fork out big bucks when you can visit for free! This applies to all of the sites around Ireland:
- Cork Charles Fort, Desmond Castle (French Prison), Ilnacullin (Garinish Island)
- Donegal Donegal Castle, Glebe House and Gallery
- Dublin The Casino, Marino, Dublin Castle, State Apartments, Kilmainham Gaol
- Galway Athenry Castle, Aughnanure Castle, Dún Aonghasa, Portumna Castle and Gardens, Patrick Pearse’s Cottage (Teach an Phiarsaigh)
- Kerry Ardfert Cathedral, Derrynane House, National Historic Park, Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir, The Blascaod Centre, Ross Castle
- Kildare Castletown
- Kilkenny Dunmore Cave, Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny Castle
- Laois Emo Court
- Leitrim Parke’s Castle
- Limerick Adare Castle
- Louth Old Mellifont Abbey
- Mayo Céide Fields
- Meath Battle of the Boyne – Oldbridge Estate, Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre (Newgrange and Knowth) Please note that the monuments can only be accessed via the Visitor Centre. A: Exhibition B: Exhibition & Newgrange C: Exhibition & Knowth D: Exhibition, Newgrange & Knowth Hill of Tara Trim Castle (including keep) Trim Castle (excluding keep)
- Offaly Clonmacnoise
- Roscommon Rathcroghan
- Sligo Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery Sligo Abbey
- Tipperary Cahir Castle, Rock of Cashel, Roscrea Heritage (Castle and Damer House) and the Blackmills Swiss Cottage
- Waterford Reginald’s Tower
- Wexford John F. Kennedy Arboretum, Tintern Abbey
- Wicklow Glendalough Visitor Centre