Wonderland of sites for sore eyes
Our heritage is everywhere; a fluid concept that encompasses ruined cottages and stone walls, ring forts and Claddagh rings, stories and woven rugs, high crosses and Carrickmacross lace, blanket bogs and beehive huts, corncrakes and black porter. It will never mean the same thing to everyone, which is why some sites, landscapes and buildings have been destroyed, some traditional crafts have died out, and corncrake numbers decline.
Since 1991, there has been a designated Heritage Day each September, with free admission to sites around the country, and many associated events organised specially for the day. This has been extended to a week in the Republic, by popular demand, this year, National Heritage Week runs from September 3rd to 10th.
Last year, about Duchas sites on the first day of the designated week. About 200,000 people had gone to some site or event by the end of the week. With some 450 events listed in this year's programme, it's hoped many more will participate.
A booklet with listings of all the many events taking place during National Heritage Week is available free of charge from Duchas, the Heritage Service. Call freephone 1850-600601. The following events are an selection from the booklet.
Ballealy Cottage, Shane's Castle Estate, Randalstown. Guided tour of a romantic restored estate deer-keeper's 1835 lodge. Free. Sat Sept 9th, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Irish Landmark Trust, tel 01-6704733.
Weavers' Cottages, Clonegal. Weaving and spinning workshops and demonstrations in these restored weavers' cottages, which will be opening for the first time in Heritage Week. Churning demonstration, and exhibition of lace and woven cloth. Opening Sept 8th 10th; call for exact times. Adm free. Carlow County Council and Clonegal Heritage Committee, 0503-70300.
Ennis Friary, where other events will also take place. Talk on families associated with Ennis in 18th and 19th centuries, by local historian, Sean Spellissy. Free. Sun Sept 3rd, 11 a.m. Duchas, 065-6829100.
Anne's Grove Gatehouse, Anne's Grove House, Castletownroche. Guided tour of the gate lodge, which was designed by Benjamin Woodward in 1853 as a tiny mock Gothic miniature castle. Sat Sept 9th, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Irish Landmark Trust, 016704733.
Cobh Museum, High Road, Cobh. An exhibition on the history of Spike Island. Ex-residents will be reminiscing informally about life on island. Sun Sept 3rd, 3 p.m. Free. Cobh Museum, 021-4814240.
Donegal County Museum, High Road, Letterkenny. There's a rare chance to visit the museum's workshop to see artefacts undergoing preservation, and ask staff there about conservation. Tue Sept 5th and Thur Sept 7th, 1 p.m.-3 p. m. Adm free. Donegal County Museum, 074-24613. Also at the museum, a demonstration of traditional Donegal crafts, such as sprigging (embroidery on linen), fruit grafting, knitting, and basket weaving. Wed Sept 6th, 11.30 a.m.-3.30 p.m. Adm free. An Taisce, 074-22121.
Casino, Marino. If you've not yet been to this exquisite box-of-tricks of a building, this is the time to visit Ireland's most special 18th century neoclassical building. Sun Sept 3rd, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Guided tours at a nominal cost: families £1, individuals 50p. Duchas, 01-8331618.
25 Eustace Street, Temple Bar. Who'd have thought an entire Georgian townhouse, from 1720, has managed to survive intact in a part of Dublin that seems to have been converted into one large pub? Talk and tour of the house. Places limited. Wed Sept 6th, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Free. Irish Landmark Trust, 016704733.
Dun Aonghasa Visitor Centre, Inis Mor. Arainn. We rarely look at what's on our own doorsteps, but Arainn schoolchildren are being invited to go on special guided tours of their most famous fort. Wed Sept 6th - Fri Sept 8th, 11 a.m. Adm free. Duchas, 099-61008.
Nora Barnacle House Museum, Bowling Green, Galway. This is where the spouse-to-be of James Joyce grew up, and which Joyce twice visited, in 1909 and 1912; a tiny atmospheric house with photographs of the famous couple. Mon Sept 4th - Sat Sept 9th, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Free Sept 8th and 9th, Other days, £1. Nora Barnacle House, 091-564743.
The Old Forge, Gneeveguilla, near Castleisland. Demonstrations of shoeing horses and donkeys. Sun Sept 3rd, 3 p.m. Adm free. Cumann Luachra, 064-58619.
Crookstown Mill, Ballytore, Athy. Guided tour of the mill, and information on High Crosses of Ireland - and also of the windmills of Europe and Asia. Proof that the Irish are an esoteric people. Open through Sept, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Adults £1.50, students/ senior citizens free. Crookstown Mill, 0507-23222.
Meet at Town Clock, Carrick-on- Shannon. Guided walking tour of Famine graveyard and Tumna ancient cemetery. Sun Sept 10th, 3 p.m. Adm free. Carrick-on-Shannon and District Historical Society, 078-43178.
Glin Castle, Glin. A chance to have a tour of the castle, which is also a family home to the Knight of Glin. Gardens also open, for this day only. Sat Sept 9th, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adm free. Glin Heritage Centre, 068-34173.
Father Nicholas Callan Park, between Darver Church and Readypenny Inn, Readypenny. This park is being officially opened by the local community to coincide with Heritage Week. Father Callan came from this area in the 18th century, and invented the induction coil, a key discovery in the development of electrical power. There will be a talk about his work. Sun Sept 10th, 3.15 p.m. Adm free. Darver Historical Research Group and Darver Environmental Group, 042-9379256.
Meet Pontoon Bridge. Unusual walking tour of the area, led by a geologist, focusing on the geology and landscape. Sat Sept 9th. 2 p.m. Adm free. Geological Survey of Ireland, 01-6041432.
Cairn T, Loughcrew, Oldcastle. Newgrange may be where everyone heads to first, but the Loughcrew cairns are really special, scattered on hills, and containing stunning stone carvings, with patterns you don't see anywhere else. The atmosphere is always potent, but bound to be even more so with a talk on witchcraft by what Duchas describes as a "modern day witch". Sun Sept 3rd, 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Adm free. Duchas, 049-8542009.
Workhouse cemetery, Sister Senan Ave, Edenderry. Ecumenical service at the workhouse cemetery; an opportunity to reflect and pay tribute to those from generations past who lived through unspeakably hard times. Sun Sept 3rd, 3 p.m. Adm free. Edenderry Historical Society, 0405-31640.
Meet Mountshannon Quay, Co Clare. It's not such a long way to Tipperary from this location in Clare. Boat trip to Inis Cealtra on Lough Derg, with a tour of the monuments on the island. Sat Sept 9th, 3 p.m. Fee for boat. An Taisce, 067-23122.
Swiss Cottage, Kilcommon, Cahir. The odd and graceful confection of 18th century thatch and twisted wood, with its elegant interiors, and rare original Parisian wallpaper. Sun Sept 3rd, 10 a.m.-5.20 p.m. Families £1. Individuals 50p. Duchas, 052-41144.
Ballyhack Castle, Ballyhack. Storytelling with knighthood themes for children. And an opportunity to become a knight for a day. Staff will bring children through the castle, explaining the stages to being a knight - page and squire. In the little church at the end, children will be knighted with a sword. Sun Sept 3rd and 10th. Storytelling at noon and 2 p.m. Castle open 9.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m. Adm free. Duchas, 051-389468.
Wicklow Head Lighthouse. A talk, with the chance to see inside the restored lighthouse. Sun Sept 10th, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Adm free. Irish Landmark Trust, 01-6704733.