Monday 26 September 2016

Excavations, castles and caves: 7 things to do in Ireland this Heritage Week

Cormac Fitzgerald

Published 23/08/2015 | 17:43

A sword fight at last year's festival
Photo: Heritage week
A sword fight at last year's festival Photo: Heritage week
Artifacts uncovered at the Swords Castle archaeological dig this heritage week Photo: Heritage week
Last years skullduggery inspectorium event Photo: Heritage week
Last years skullduggery inspectorium event Photo: Heritage week

Heritage Week is underway in Ireland. For seven days, over 400,000 people will take part in over 1,800 heritage events across the country.

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From archaeological digs in Swords to steam engine rides in Stradbally, there's a wealth of (mostly free) events arranged by local volunteers to celebrate Ireland's diverse and sometimes forgotten past.

Independent.ie brings you seven of the best:

1. Archaeological dig at Swords Castle

Where: Swords Castle, Main Street, Swords, Co Dublin

Last years skullduggery inspectorium event
Photo: Heritage week
Last years skullduggery inspectorium event Photo: Heritage week

When: Every day this week 10am-4pm

Take part in a real-life archaeological dig in Dublin at Swords Castle. Members of the public are asked to help excavate sites to uncover what may be buried there. Volunteers will get the chance to dig, wash pottery and bag artifacts in supervised conditions. There have been reports of old bones and coins found already. No experience necessary, but you have to be over 18 and need to register first.

2. Loughrea Medieval festival

Where: Loughrea, Co. Galway, Ireland 

When: All day 28-30 August

Artifacts uncovered at the Swords Castle archaeological dig this heritage week
Photo: Heritage week
Artifacts uncovered at the Swords Castle archaeological dig this heritage week Photo: Heritage week
Volunteers taking part in an archaeological dig in Swords Photo: Heritage week

The Loughrea Medieval festival will be a weekend festival dedicated to Loughrea's rich Mediavel history and celebrating its status as having the only functioning moat in Ireland. A huge number of events (many free) will take place throughout the weekend, including a Mediaeval clan banquet, puppet shows, historical walks, battle re-enactments and much more. All events on the Saturday and Sunday will be completely free of charge.

3. High Nelly heritage cycle

Where: From Derrinlough Co. Offaly to Durrow Co. Laois

When: Saturday August 29 and Sunday August 30

The High Nelly Heritage Cycle will re-create one of the routes taken by travel writer William Bulfin in 1902. Bulfin travelled 3,000 mile around Ireland with his High Nelly bicycle over 100 years ago. He wrote about his trip in the book "Rambles in Eirinn" and cyclist will now be able to take a tour on the route he took. The two day cycle will take in the heritage towns of Birr, Roscrea and Abbeyleix before pushing on to the town of Durrow.

A sword fight at last year's festival
Photo: Heritage week
A sword fight at last year's festival Photo: Heritage week

The tour will cost €50, with food and an overnight stay included in the price. But cyclists beware: in order to keep the event authentic only High Nelly bikes or there genuine replicas will be allowed on the tour!

4. Celebrating Ellen Hutchins

Where: Various locations in West Cork

When: 22-30 August

Ellen Hutchins, who died in 1815, was Ireland's first female botanist. Born in Ballylickey in 1775, she discovered many new species of plant, at least 10 of which were completely new and named after her. This celebration of Hutchins' life will take in talks, exhibitions of her life, nature walks around her favourite plant hunting grounds and more.

5. Archaeofest 2015

Where: Merrion Square, Dublin 2

When: August 29 11am to 16pm

One for all the family here with a day of archaeology curated by the Institute of Archaeologists. There will be experiments, excavations and much more on offer. No booking needed, kids are more than welcome, and it's completely free!

6. Rock Detective Club

Where: Marble Arch Caves, Co Fermanagh

When: Wednesday August 6

Another one for the kids here, the winner of last year's best children's event award is back with a treasure hunt that really rocks! Children will be able to hunt through Fermanagh caves while learning about the family tree of plants that dates back 340 million years.

7. Romans in Kilkenny

Where: Lyrath Estate Hotel, Purcellsinch, Co Kilkenny

When: August 30 1-5pm

The Romans never made it to Ireland…or did they? This event will let you visit the Roman military camp and hear archaeologists talk about the discoveries that show the close connections Kilkenny had with the Roman world. No booking required and it's free!

These are just a fraction of the rich events that are on offer for free in Ireland this week. Visit heritageweek.ie for a full list of events.

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