Wednesday 23 January 2019

Broaden their minds with free heritage tours

Parkes Castle in Leitrim. Admission is free every day at the moment
Parkes Castle in Leitrim. Admission is free every day at the moment

Grace Larkin - Straight Talking

The first Wednesday of every month sees most of the heritage attractions in the country free to visit. I decided to take advantage of this to keep three eager children entertained.

Our first stop was Parkes Castle in Leitrim. A short drive took us to another world. As work on the courtyard is ongoing, admission is free every day at the moment.

As we entered the castle, the children were given a sheet with pictures on it and were asked to find them in the rooms. This turned it into a game which was fantastic. Going through the different rooms and different displays, I felt my age when my children were most impressed by the 1990's Telecom Eireann phone!

With the gorgeous weather we sat in the shade of the castle walls and had a picnic. A free event but one they enjoyed.

Next we went to Sligo Abbey. I'm ashamed to say it was my first time inside the walls. Again their imaginations (and unfortunately their feet) ran wild as they felt they were on the set of a Harry Potter film and had landed in Hogwarts. My oldest is nine and had an interest in the history but for the younger ones exploring the passages was great fun.

Wednesday is also the day for free events at Sligo Library in July and August. Following a storytelling with Imelda Ní Ríain at the library, we decided to visit the country museum, again ashamedly, a first time for me. The kids enjoyed the swords and guns (probably something I should be worried about) and were amazed when I tried to explain the age of the Neolithic displays.

With heritage week just around the corner I have been looking through the brochure to pick out what might interest them. The Model is running a History of Play exhibition for the week of August 18 to 24. Created by artist Eamon O'Kane, this colourful three-dimensional installation, invites children to explore shape, colour and constructive design through imaginative and creative play.

On August 18 Treading on my stones is an introduction to the Geology of North Sligo with the help of Drumcliffe Church stone walls, artefacts and gravestones. Meanwhile on August 26 there is a Viking picnic in Knoxpark near the river in Ballisadare. Scenic Knoxpark has major archaeological significance and a public art trail: it could be the site of a Viking settlement. Families are invited to bring a picnic and enjoy an expert guided tour.

We have a wealth of activities on our own doorstep and lots of times it costs nothing only the price of your petrol to enjoy. It's free to give them memories that will last a lifetime.

For more information on summer events at Sligo Library check out their Facebook page or For Free Wednesdays at heritage sites log on to and for Heritage Week events check out

Sligo Champion