OPW-run visitor sites will be free to enter for the rest of 2021, Minister says
USUALLY, a family visit to the magical monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise will set you back €20.
When it reopens shortly, visitors would normally expect to pay €8 each to walk through the chilly, storied corridors of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.
For the rest of this year, however, visits to both will be free – along with dozens of other heritage sites run by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Entry charges to all fee-paying OPW heritage sites are being waived to support the domestic tourism industry and encourage people to get out and explore.
"The measure is effective immediately and will remain in force until the end of the year,” it says.
Sites range from Brú na Bóinne, the gateway to Newgrange and Knowth in Co Meath, to Ross Castle in Killarney (usually costing €5pp, or €13 per family).
Many OPW parks and gardens remained open to local visitors in lockdown, but a much wider range and variety of facilities are returning as inter-county travel resumes.
"Since the careful and gradual easing of restrictions in late April, we have been able to open the outdoor spaces at many historic heritage sites and on Monday this week, the doors of such iconic attractions as Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Dublin Castle and Kilkenny Castle opened to visitors again,” said Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan.
“With a growing list of open heritage sites and the easing of travel restrictions, we have a renewed opportunity to explore the treasures which the OPW holds in trust for the nation.”
Previously, the OPW’s ‘Free Wednesdays’ saw charges waived for many sites on the first Wednesday of the month – though popular attractions like Kilmainham Gaol continued with entry fees to manage demand.
For the rest of 2021, however, all will be free.
Not everywhere has reopened yet, of course, and many indoor facilities remain closed due to Covid 19 restrictions. There is currently no access to the burial chamber at Newgrange, for example.
That may change as the year evolves.
54 out of 90 OPW sites with visitor services are either partly or fully open around the country, it says, from stone forts like Dún Aonghasa to medieval castles in Trim and Cahir, stately homes like Castletown House in Co Kildare, and Garinish Island in West Cork.
Visitors should also note that advance booking will be essential in many cases – Ireland may be lacking overseas visitors, but summer will be full of staycationers looking for things to do, and many attractions are running at limited capacity or operating pre-booked time slots.
However, other sites like Kilkenny Castle and Dublin Castle don’t put all tickets for sale online, so visitors may still be able to buy one at the ticket desk.