12 amazing things to do in Ireland for free

With travelling abroad effectively ruled out for the time being, here are 12 things that you can do in Ireland that cost absolutely nothing.

Kilkenny Castle Parklands

In 2018, Kilkenny Castle Parklands was the most visited non-fee-paying location in Ireland, attracting 799,032 visitors. Kilkenny Castle was the home and headquarters of the powerful Butler family since 1391. The Castle Park includes all the walled demesne parkland to the south of Kilkenny Castle and the formal terraced gardens to the north comprising a total of 50 acres. The estate overlooks the Nore River and features mature trees and shrubs with an ornamental lake numbered among the many items of interest.

National Gallery of Ireland

Located in the centre of Dublin beside Leinster House, the National Gallery of Ireland is one of the most popular attractions in the country. It was founded in 1854 but didn’t open its doors for another decade and is absolutely worth a day out to visit. The Gallery has an extensive, representative collection of Irish paintings and is also notable for its Italian Baroque and Dutch masters painting.

Glendalough (main image)

Glendalough is one of Ireland’s most famous and historic landmarks. It is a glacial valley in Co Wicklow, renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin. Despite attacks by Vikings over the years, Glendalough thrived as one of Ireland’s great ecclesiastical foundations and schools of learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214 AD and the dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were united. If you have never been, then what are you waiting for?

Doneraile Park

Located on the banks of the Awbeg river in north Co Cork, Doneraile Park comprises of approximately 166 hectares and is an outstanding example of an 18th century landscaped park in the Capability Brown style. Mature groves of deciduous trees, several restored water features and a number of deer herds can be viewed along the many pathways within the Park.

Farmleigh House and Estate

Situated in Phoenix Park, Farmleigh House is the official Irish state guest house and was formerly one of the Dublin residences of the Guinness family. It covers an area of 32 hectares and contains many beautiful features, including the main house, which is a fine example of Georgian-Victorian architecture. For 45 minutes, a knowledgeable guide will take you from the eighteenth century, when building commenced, right up to the present day.

Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara is a low-lying ridge located between in Co Meath and it is said that a quarter of the landscape of Ireland can be seen from the hill. Though best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the Hill of Tara has been an important site since the late Stone Age when a passage-tomb was constructed there. Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. A guided tour of the site takes roughly 40 minutes.

Newbridge Silverware Museum

The Newbridge Silverware Museum is a contemporary shopper’s paradise and is highly recommended on the tourist trail of Ireland’s Ancient East. The Visitor Centre attracts over 300,000 visitors each year and houses the complete range of Newbridge Silverware products and incorporates the award-winning Café Carleton, the famous Museum of Style Icons and the unique guided factory tour.

Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Located in South Armagh, Slieve Gullion is Ireland’s Mountain of Mystery. The Forest Park offers walking trails, a scenic drive, an adventure playpark, Giant’s Lair children’s story trail and a courtyard with coffee shop. Rising some 576m above the surrounding countryside, the broad slopes of Slieve Gullion dominate the landscape of south Armagh. The mountain itself lies at the centre of a pronounced ring of hills – the Ring of Gullion.

National Botanic Gardens

Home to over 17,000 living plants, the National Botanic Gardens drew more than 640,000 visitors in 2018 and covers nearly 20 hectares. It Gardens has a collection of plants from all over the world. Three hundred of these are in danger of extinction and some no longer exist in the wild. Visitors can enjoy features such as the Herbaceous borders, rose garden, the alpine yard, the pond area, rock garden and arboretum.

The Dark Hedges

One for the Game of Thrones fans. The Dark Hedges in Co Antrim has always been one of the most visited stops when touring Northern Ireland. In Game of Thrones, you might recognise this location as the place where Arya Stark escaped from King’s Landing. The hedges also frequently appear during season one and two as King’s Road and appear totally unchanged with no digital enhancements making them one of the most recognisable filming locations.


OK slightly different! Bundoran in Co Donegal has been hailed as one of the world’s top 20 surf towns by National Geographic. It’s fascinating to watch experienced surfers tackle the high waves and something I would highly recommend. While in Bundoran, you should also check out the Fairy Bridges and the Wishing Chair – both highly regarded locations on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Dog’s Bay Beach

Just a short drive from Roundstone village in Connemara lies Dogs Bay, one of the most spectacularly beautiful beaches in the world. Dogs Bay is a horseshoe shaped bay with more than a mile-long stretch of white sandy beach. It backs on to Gurteen Bay, and together they form a tombolo which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Definitely worth visiting when the sun is shining.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 19 June, 2020