Fantastic freebies -
Ireland's best free of charge attractions
With all the fantastic scenery, surely you don't have to pay for any entry fees in Ireland? But I'm afraid you do as so many of Ireland's finest scenic attractions now hold you at ransom with fairly ludicrous parking or entry fees, like at the Giant's Causeway and Cliffs of Moher.
Although you can kind of see the point that there are conservation issues and facilities to be provided, we've not all got the cash to splash at every single place we want to stop. Maybe you went on a whiskey bender on Temple Bar and didn't pay attention to the prices you were paying for your Midleton Very Rares. Or may be you were stung by extortionate insurance charges on your rental car before even leaving Dublin Airport.
For these unfortunate people - and the cheapskates - we've come up with this list of free places to visit in Ireland that we hope may help a little.
National Museums of Ireland - Natural History, Decorative Arts and History, Archaeology
The National Museum of Ireland is split into three buildings in Dublin which is a great way for you to pick your area of interest. With stuffed animals and cages of insects he Natural History Museum is more geared towards kids, the Archaeology and Decorative Arts and History sections delve into Ireland's history through collections of artefacts and provide heavier experiences. These are very good rainy day visits.
One of our favourite spots in County Dublin is Ardgillan Castle and Demesne. Curiously the castle ain't all that but when acting as a centre point of the surrounding lawns and forests and the backdrop of the mountain and sea views this place is stunning. For €6.50 castle tours are available but not really essential and you do really need a car to get here.
There are plenty of walks in Ireland but this one makes this particular list thanks to its proximity to Dublin city and the fact that the town centre parking is nearly all free. A series of looped walks head out from Howth town centre onto a beautiful yellow gorse-coloured peninsula. The end of a fairly strenuous walk is the perfect time to tuck into some traditional fish and chips.
The Irish countryside is littered with ancient tombs and monuments and Loughcrew is not only one of the best but it's also within easy driving distance of Dublin. The three hilltop cairns in the area all boast burial tombs dating back to 4000BC which amazingly in this area is a bit of a blasé feat. A walk up to the cairns - no minibuses here - provides the payoff of the tombs plus 360 degree views of the greenest rolling hills.
Rock of Dunamese
Spectacular views can be had of the multicoloured farming landscapes of the Laois countryside from the ruins of this 12th century hilltop castle. The ruins are wonderfully climbable which make them the perfect stop to stretch your legs.
Grianan of Aileach
We have no idea why this place is not far more famous than it is. Maybe because it's hard to find and even harder to pronounce? Either way, this 6-7BC ring fort commands the most spectacular views of the Inishowen Peninsula and County Donegal. Located only 25 minutes from Derry.
Just off the main Dublin to Belfast road is a microcosm of Irish monastic ruins. This tiny graveyard boasts excellent examples of an early Christian round tower and high cross. A lovely little stop to break up your journey.
Hill of Slane
At the heart of the Boyne Valley is the Hill of Slane. Not one to visit as a standalone attraction but this viewpoint and climbable ruins is an enjoyable bridesmaid to the one of the areas other historical highlights.
Provided you don't drop €100.00 on a scarf (or the same on a cake) then this is a good free attraction if in the Wicklow Mountains. The birthplace of an Irish woollen institution offers a mill tour, scrumptious café and shop full of eye wateringly priced but very high quality food, cookbooks and clothes.
Castle ruins are ten a penny in Ireland but those at Ballycarbery Castle are some of the most dramatic. The ivy covered walls of the crumbling castle remains have the incredible backdrop of the Ring of Kerry's coastal scenery. It's accessible from the main road by a bit of a walk and it is a ruin in poor state but an ideal photo opportunity.
Under the table-topped Benbulbin mountain is Drumcliffe Cemetery. Stop to visit the resting place of W.B Yeats, one of Ireland's national poets, and stay for the dramatic mountain views.
Carrowkeel is both a hike and a historical visit. A good walk from the car park up a rocky landscape leads one to a 5000 year old passage tomb cemetery. Unless you go on a guided tour there's not much you will learn about this place but use it as a place to stretch your legs and get some nice views instead.
The interior of Derry's Guildhall (city hall) is the ornate centrepiece of the walled city centre. It's free to take a look inside at the impressive stained-glass windows and organs or hand over a few pounds for a guided tour.
Stormont Parliament Buildings
At the time of writing, not much is happening in Northern Ireland's parliament building at Stormont as the parties are currently refusing to work together. On the plus side, this seemingly gives them more time to provide guided tours. A fascinating introduction into the complex world of politics in Northern Ireland plus a tour of the attractive buildings.