Friday 23 March 2018

10 Best: Heritage hot spots

Pol O Conghaile

National Heritage Week begins next Saturday. Pol O Conghaile picks the top events

Viking adventures in Dublin

Wanna see a medieval skeleton? What about listening to the languages of old Dublin?

Or exploring the city's early maps?

Every day at 11.30am during Heritage Week, guests can join a costumed tour of Dublinia's Viking & Medieval Dublin exhibitions.

After that, head for the History Hunters Exhibition, where you can learn how archaeology, history and science combine to piece together ancient lives and lifestyles.

It's a portal to the past in the modern city centre. Booking is essential.

Details: Free. Tel: 01-679 4611;

Nautical nights in wildest Wicklow

How do you squeeze luxury self-catering into a lighthouse? Here's your chance to find out.

The 18th-century Wicklow Lighthouse, a granite beacon perched like a pepper canister on the east coast, has been restored by the Irish Landmark Trust.

Dating from 1781, and surrounded by sea on three sides, its octagonal rooms are set into walls a metre or so thick, with 109 steps leading to the top-floor kitchen.

Self-guided tours run from 10am to 4pm on August 28. If you want to spend a night, a two-night midweek break costs €334 for four people.

Details: Free. Tel: 01-670 4733; irish

Nature walks on the Burren, Co Clare

The Burren seems more moonscape than landscape, but there's plenty of life hidden away amid the gashes and grykes of its limestone slabs.

On August 28 at 2pm, Dr Stephen Ward of the Irish Wildlife Trust will be at the Murroogh lay-by, south of Black Head, to examine the impact of ice and man on this rocky treasure.

A week earlier, there's an open day at the Michael Cusack Visitor Centre in Carron, with a nature scavenger hunt and an adults' and children's scarecrow competition (€5).

Details: Tel: 01 860-2839 (wildlife walk); 065 708 9944 (open day);

Night-time bat walks in Galway

Galway City turns into a mini Gotham under cloak of darkness, with colonies of bats flitting about its old buildings and tree lines.

Their high-pitched calls are too sharp for us to hear, but the Galway Bat Group is taking a bat detector, which translates them for the human ear, for a walk on August 24 at 9.15pm.

Other bat walks, led by the Irish Wildlife Trust, leave at 8.45pm from Curragh Chase Park in Co Limerick (August 21) and 8pm in Moynalty, Co Meath (August 28).

Details: Free. Tel: 091 493863;

Medieval murders in Kerry

Got a young Gil Grissom on your hands? Then head along to Bone Investigators at Kerry County Museum, where you can combine contemporary 'CSI' with an Irish history lesson.

The free archaeological dig will give kids the chance to excavate an ancient skeleton and even investigate a medieval murder. The all-ages event takes place from August 20-26 in Tralee, and booking is recommended. If that all sounds a bit grisly, the Rose of Tralee fashion exhibition is a gentler alternative ...

Details: Free. Tel: 066 712 7777;

Monastic manoeuvres in Kilkenny

The Augustinian priory at Kells in Kilkenny isn't just one of the biggest medieval monuments in Ireland.

It's also crawling with life -- and we don't mean the ghosts of old monks either.

Senan Gardiner leads a family fun walk, seeking out the creatures who call the stately old ruin home, with participants meeting up at the car park at 1pm on August 27.

The walk is one of a series of 28 organised by the Irish Wildlife Trust, covering pretty much every county throughout National Heritage Week.

Details: Free. Tel: 01-860 2839;

Wildlife watching in Killarney National Park

Heritage Week coincides with the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria's visit to Killarney, and though the town has changed beyond recognition since then, the national park itself thankfully has not.

You can explore the waters and the wild on a walk along the Muckross Peninsula with Chris Barron of the Irish Wildlife Trust, on August 20 at 10.30am.

He'll be looking at woodlands in the area, and hoping to spot white-tailed eagles and possible red or sika deer.

Book in advance.

Details: Free. Tel: 01-860 2839;

Cosmic capers in Cork

Heritage isn't confined to Planet Earth, you know. Take Blackrock Castle Observatory, where the award-winning 'Cosmos at the Castle' exhibition, examining the possibilities of life in outer space, is on show in a building that began life as a 16th-century fortification.

Admission is free from 11am-1pm on August 27, and there's a free tour of the tower and dungeon at 12.30pm by a brand new animated tour guide. Watch out too, for the intriguingly titled talk: 'Is Cork Really Irish?'

Details: Free. Tel: 021 435 7917;

Creepy crawlies in Co Kildare

There's no shortage of butterflies fluttering by at this family-run farm outside Straffan, and kids go free on a talk-and-walkabout on August 27 at 1pm.

Participants will learn how to identify individual species of butterfly, but there are plenty more creepy crawlies on show besides, including stick insects, snakes, iguana, giant Atlas moths and bird-eating spiders.

The farm opens early throughout Heritage Week (from 10am), before entering its own winter chrysalis on August 31.

Details: €8/free. Tel: 01-627 1109,

Haunted houses in Co Carlow

You may already by familiar with Huntington Castle and its gardens in Clonegal, Co Carlow.

Next Saturday, however, there's a chance to go behind the scenes from 2pm-6pm, with a unique tour of the private rooms and personal histories of the people with whom the castle has been associated.

The characters include Nora Robertson, who shot many of the beasts hanging on the walls, and Grace O'Malley, whose granddaughter married Lord Esmonde.

And that's not even starting on the ghosts ...

Details: €8/free. Tel: 053 937 7160;

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