Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Irish National Heritage Week

This past week was one of the busiest in our house because it was National Heritage Week. As we travel around Ireland throughout the year I always make a point of bringing our children to OPW sites or any other historical attraction in the town we are visiting. I feel it’s important to teach them from a young age about their rich history & heritage here in Ireland. That’s why when the guide for Heritage Week came out I got my highlighter and started to plan an action packed week of fun and learning. Unfortunately this year back to school fell in the middle of Heritage Week so we didn’t get to do as much as we would have liked. 

During Heritage Week there are over 1700 mainly free events around the country, in addition to most OPW sites being free of charge other attractions either reduce their admission fees or offer free admission at certain times, perfect for days out on a budget especially if you have a large family as we do.

Over the course of the Week we participated in 20 activities in counties Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Dublin and Laois. Each morning as my husband headed off to work I bundled 5 little people into my car and we took to the road for highly educational fun filled adventures. It’s so hard to choose our favourite. I’m sure if I asked the children they’d each name something different so I’ll give you a quick low down of my top 3 events.

1.   Stradbally Hall, Co. Laois
Many of you will have already seen the exterior of Stradbally Hall if you’ve attended Electric Picnic or the National Steam Rally both are held on the estate during the summer months. It’s very rare that this exquisite house is opened to the public so when I saw it in the guide I was sure to pencil it into our plans. 

During the English plantations, Queen Elizabeth I gifted the House to Francis Cosby; the house has remained in the Cosby family to this day. I was enthralled with the family history as Adrian Cosby regaled us with stories and exploits of his ancestors. The house itself is stunning with fixtures and fittings still intact from the early 1800’s. I actually wanted to do the tour the following day too as I loved it that much but we had plenty more on our list. 

The tour cost €10 per adult but was free for children.

2.   Beekeeping Talk, Altamont Gardens, Co Carlow
The Carlow Beekeepers Association had a very informative talk about bees and their role in crop production and the food chain. Part of the display consisted of a glass sided hive; my children loved this as they got to see bees making honey right before their little eyes. 

Afterwards we took a stroll around the gorgeous Altamont Gardens with its 500 year old trees & beautiful lake side walk then we cooled down with a drink in the tearooms. This was a free event, Altamont Gardens are open throughout the year admission is free but there is a nominal fee €2/€3 for a guided tour. We will be going back to do the guided tour as the gardens are amazing, especially in full bloom.

3.   A Rumbustious Perambulation, Casino in Marino, Dublin
This was by far the best event we attended; actually it was two events as we had booked in for a costume tour of the Casino in Marino before the walking tour.  Over the course of an hour we were expertly guided through the 18th Century Country House learning all about Lord Charlemont & his extravagances as we went. 

Each of the 16 rooms is beautifully decorated from the parquet flooring to stucco ceilings. I loved the Neo–Classical architecture of the building designed by Sir William Chambers, lots of tricks & illusions are found throughout the Casino.  I gathered the children & made our way outside only to be met by Lord Charlemont in period costume alongside him was Pat Liddy one of Ireland’s leading historians amongst many other accomplishments.

What followed can only be described as a high jinks perambulation littered with local history to The Crescent in Clontarf. Our little ones thought it was very funny that we happened upon a group of locals in full costume outside an ale house gathered in a mass demonstration against Lord Charlemont’s relentless taxes.

Hilarity ensued as they traded catcalls back & forth across the road even passersby & motorists got involved in the short protest! Both the guided tour of the Casino & the walking tour were free of charge during Heritage Week. Normal admission is Adult €4, children €2 or a discounted family pass €10, as it’s operated by the OPW it’s also free the first Wednesday of every month.

Next up is Culture Night on Friday 18th September 5pm – 11pm where arts and cultural organisations and venues all over Ireland either open their doors to the public or extend their hours to allow greater access. Irish Rail is currently giving away 100 family rail passes to help you celebrate Culture Night, just fill in the online form HERE!

We'll be attending the launch of Culture night tomorrow evening, Wednesday, so be sure to check mine & Sue's Twitter HERE & HERE for the highlight reel of what's in store!

Did you attend any events during National Heritage Week? Let us know if we missed anything. 

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