Free to go: summer outings for all the family
A selective guide to places that won’t cost a cent to visit
Yes, children can pick the flowers at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, if they are attending one of the flower-pressing workshops on June 29th, July 27th or August 22nd (3pm each day).
Places are free but must be pre-booked with the visitors’ centre on 01-8570909 or email email@example.com.
The same goes for pond-dipping on July 20th. Meanwhile, families visiting at any time can avail of the Summer Trail, with questions and accompanying map, for an enjoyable way to learn more about the gardens.
Ireland’s biggest free air show takes place over Bray, Co Wicklow on Sunday, July 21st, 3pm-6pm. If that day doesn’t suit, or you can’t face the crowds, there will be a practice for the air show the previous day, from noon to 1pm. This is part of Bray Summerfest, which runs throughout July and August. See braysummerfest.com.
Free performances and workshops by the aerial dance company Fidget Feet, from Donegal, will be one of the highlights of the Fleadh Cheoil, in Derry, this year’s UK City of Culture, August 12th-19th, when the streets of the walled city will resound with traditional music. See fleadhcheoil.ie.
Back to the Stone Age
Céide Fields in Ballycastle, Co Mayo, which claims to be the most extensive Stone Age site in the world, is running a free family day on Tuesday, August 6th, 10am-6pm. Demonstrations and hands-on activities will include grinding wheat on a Stone Age quern stone and working with flint. This coincides with the Mayo North Welcome Home Festival (August 1st-9th). See ceidefields.com and northmayo.com.
The exhibition Homecoming: JFK in Ireland in the National Library on Kildare Street is one to go to with the grandparents, particularly if they can remember the US president’s four-day visit 50 years ago. It includes photographs, footage and interviews, touchscreens and items from various collections. Runs until August 13th. See nli.ie for more details.
Blackrock Castle Observatory in Blackrock, Co Cork, hosts free open evenings on the first Friday of every month. They start at 6pm with family-friendly half-hour sessions led by an in-house teacher and astronomer, followed by a talk at 8pm. The next one is July 5th (there won’t be one in August due to the bank holiday) and includes access to the ongoing Tara Oceans exhibition, which features some amazing photos from a marine expedition. See bco.ie or tel: 021-435 7917.
Farmleigh House and Gardens in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, has a lively summer programme that includes art workshops for children aged six to 12 (July 13th and 27th and August 10th and 24th), food markets (July 7th, August 4th and 5th, 18th and September 1st) while on August 18th, Australian ecologist Dale Treadwell will be there to entertain and educate on the subject of butterflies and bees. (Note, places in art workshops are allocated on first come, first served basis on the day.) See farmleigh.ie.
Fancy seabird watching at Coliemore Harbour in Dalkey, Co Dublin (every Tuesday in July) or making a bumblebee home (July 21st) or an evening bat walk (August 30th)? Every week between June and the end of August there is at least one guided event as part of the entirely free (but pre-booking is often required) “Exploring Nature” programme organised by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in conjunction with several wildlife organisations. See dlrevents.ie.
Patchwork for kids
As part of the Irish Patchwork Exhibition, members of the Irish Patchwork Society will lead workshops for beginners aged eight and up at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, on three Tuesdays in July (16th, 23rd, 30th) from 11am-1pm. Places are free but must be booked in advance with the visitors’ centre on 01-8570909.
Explore raised bog without getting your feet wet along an outside walkway at Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre in Kenagh, Co Longford, and catch a glimpse of pond bugs and insect-eating plants along the way.
Inside the centre there is an 18-metre stretch of Iron Age bog road, constructed out of oak in 148 BC.
Learn about its origins, the mystery that surrounds its use and how it was excavated from the surrounding bogland and preserved for display. See heritageireland.ie or tel: 043-3322386.
Okay, you will have to pay the ferry man . . . but Scattery Island Centre is free to visit when you get there and there is no charge for the guided tours.