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OPW announces free and half-price admission to dozens of Irish heritage sites

OPW sites like the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre and Dún Aonghusa will be free to visit in an effort to encourage domestic tourism.

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Many OPW sites will be free for the remainder of 2020. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Many OPW sites will be free for the remainder of 2020. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Many OPW sites will be free for the remainder of 2020. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Ever been to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre?

What about the Neolithic Céide Fields in North Mayo, the Rock of Cashel or the cliff-edge Dún Aonghusa on Inis Mór?

Well, with staycations the order of the day this summer, you can not only catch up on those visits - but do so for free or half-price.

Over 30 heritage sites will be free to visit for the rest of the year as part of the Government's July Stimulus Plan, to encourage domestic tourism.

The initiative will offer "a different holiday experience" and allow people to relive childhood memories, said Patrick O'Donovan, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The measure will run from Monday, July 27, through the rest of 2020.

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Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly. Photo: Deposit

Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly. Photo: Deposit

Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly. Photo: Deposit

Other sites waiving their entry fees entirely include Castletown House in Co Kildare (normally €10/€5pp), Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin and Ormond Castle in Co Tipperary (both normally €5/€3pp).

Covid-19 restrictions are in place at many of these, however - meaning the visitor experience is substantially different.

There is no access to internal spaces at Charles Fort in Kinsale, for example, and visitor centres remain closed at sites like the Hill of Tara and Jerpoint Abbey. Visitors should check what is open at heritageireland.ie before travelling to manage expectations and avoid disappointment.

In fact, of the OPW's 70 visitor sites around the country, more than 20 remain closed either wholly or in part due to Covid-19 (the visitor centre at Glendalough is closed, for instance, but the monastic site is open).

More visitor centres may open in the coming months, of course.

Several of the sites reducing charges include Clonmacnoise and the Rock of Cashel - both now half-price (normally €8/€4pp and €4/€3pp respectively).

Others will maintain their normal fees to control numbers.

These include Kilkenny Castle, Kilmainham Gaol (€8/€4pp) and Brú na Bóinne (€12/€8pp), the newly refurbished visitor centre serving as a staging post for visits to Newgrange and Knowth.

"There are concerns that they might be overwhelmed with large numbers of visitors and create a significant Covid-19 risk," the OPW said in a statement.

"As a society, we have all endured a huge amount in the past few months and I’m hoping with this measure to remind people of what’s on their doorstep here in Ireland and encourage them to help Ireland’s tourism industry to make it through 2020 and come back with a real bang in 2021," Minister O'Donovan added.

A full list of the OPW sites and charges is at OPW Heritage Sites.

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