One of the best-kept Irish holiday secrets is the Office of Public Works, OPW, and the Heritage sights that they manage. An even better secret is the Heritage card that affordably provides unlimited admission to the OPW Heritage Sights.
The Office of Public Works or OPW is tasked with providing infrastructure for the state of Ireland. This infrastructure includes everything from government office buildings to flood prevention infrastructure. A minor activity, but not to tourist, is their responsibility to manage the historic sights and monuments in Ireland. The OPW has responsibility for over 750 sights, and many are open to the public. The Heritage Ireland website will give you a link to all the public sights and a short description. I have provided a few alternate links to my favorite Heritage Sights below.
The cost of entry into the sights varies from free to €9 and most are €4 or €5 for an adult. Senior prices are €1-3 cheaper. I recommend 4 or 5 specific Heritage Sights that should be on every top ten list for an Irish holiday. In addition, many of the less known sights make a great stop along the way since they are interesting and many times have a “tea room” for a coffee or coke and a snack.
If you follow my recommendations, you should buy a Heritage Card at your first OPW stop. You will get your money back with visits to the top 4 or 5 sights on my list below and additional stops will be gravy. It is also convenient to “pre-pay” and not have to worry about having enough cash, as many of the Heritage Sights do not take Credit Cards. The price for an adult Heritage card is €25 and for seniors (over 60) the price is €20.
The five sights that I think should be on your top 10 list are:
Kilmainham Gaol – Historic jail that has historical significance relating to the 1916 Rising. For this sight it is best to book a slot ahead of time.
Dublin Castle – An ancient castle that was renovated to a Palace a few hundred years ago. In brief terms, this building fulfills the entertainment function of the US White House. It is best to show up early and get your tickets for a tour later in the day, and then go to the time slot for your Kilmainham Gaol tour. It is worth the wait for a guided tour.
Newgrange and/or Knowth – Ancient Portal Tombs built 500 years before the pyramids. You need to arrive early in the day for this sight, or take a bus tour from Dublin.
Clonmacnoise and/or Glendalough – Great examples of Ecclesiastic Communities in Ireland that predate formal towns and settlements in Ireland.
Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa) – An ancient ring fort overlooking a beautiful cliff on the island of Inishmore.
Kilkenny Castle should probably be on this list, but I have not visited, and the location
can be out of the way for many itineraries.
Some of the places to consider along the way are:
Athenry Castle – A great example of a restored Norman Castle. The town still has the road layout of the original medieval walled town. Ask for a tour from Chris who does a great job.
Sligo Abbey – Restored Abbey in the town center of Sligo City
Donegal Castle – Restored Castle in the town center of Donegal City
Aughnanure Castle – Restored Castle just outside Galway City near the town of Oughterard. On the way to Sligo from Galway
Rock of Cashel – An Ecclesiastic Community in the town center of the city of Cashel. This is on the way to Waterford … more or less …. and the town is known for great blue cheese.
Ennis Friary – Restored Friary in the town center of Ennis
Coole Park – The estate of Lady Gregory who was a cofounder of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and active in the Gaelic revival of her time. This is the home of many beautiful scenes that inspired WB Yeats poetry.
Hopefully you will view this blog and the Heritage website as valuable resources when planning your Irish Holiday.
See You In The Pub!
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