40 FREE Things to Do in Ireland When on a Budget

For travelers, budget restrictions often influence the destination. Luckily, some of the greatest parts of Ireland won’t cost you a penny.  From unspoiled places to great wonders, Over in Ireland guides you to a cost-free journey across the country.

The country is mistakenly reputed for being an expensive place to sojourn.  The state and city councils have implemented multiple measures to offer complementary entertainment for everyone. All of the six national parks and thousands of conserved trails are free of charge. Museums, gardens, historical and religious sites as well as hundreds of festivals are also cost-less all year long. 

With low-cost airlines, free campgrounds, affordable car rental, and the following list of 40 free things to do; you will have no excuse for not visiting the enthralling Eire Land.

#1  Phoenix Park

Also known as “Dublin’s playground,” Phoenix Park is a 707-hectare (1747-acre) enclosed surface area. These ancient royal hunting grounds have become the residence of a herd of wild deer since its importation, in the 17th century. Easy to spot throughout the year, the cervine fauna generously shares its territory with humans seeking a break from the city.

Early birds will start their day with a healthy run around the grassland when party animals will cure their hangover relaxing by The Glen Pond. Parents will enjoy a walk while kids are safely playing and culture buffs. will discover symbolic monuments such as the Papal Cross (erected when Pope John Paul II visited) or the Wellington Testimonial (the largest obelisk within Europe).

St Stephen Green and the National Botanic Gardens are two other green zones that are worth the detour in Dublin.

#2  National Library of Ireland

From books to estate papers, the library owns the biggest collection of Irish written intellectual records. You will find manuscripts, digital and printed versions of illustrious native authors (such as Yeats, Joyce and Higgins), historical and trade events, genealogical guides and a complete periodical database.

Several free exhibitions also take place all year long.

#3  “Dublin Discovery Trails”

Download the app, take one of the eight historical routes and listen to the audio guide. Learn about rebellious Dublin, observe ancestral artworks and uncover the hidden gems of the city. Head then to Grafton Street where passionate buskers play their favourite sounds.    

#4  Irish national war Memorial Garden in Dublin

This place of remembrance encompasses a gorgeous sunken rose garden and a powerful memorial. Indeed, about 50,000 soldiers of the Irish regiment died while fighting the 1rst World War. Harry Clarke also left a meaningful tribute that you will find in the Bookroom. 

#5   Killarney National Park and Muckross Abbey

image of Killarney National Park

The park offers breath-taking vistas of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland. This 10,236-hectare (26,000 acres) biosphere reserve hides an abundant and unique wildlife. Every year 15,000 Greenland white-fronted goose travel to Ireland and take residence from mid-October to the beginning of April.

Hike one of the six [easy to strenuous] trails and meet the Neolithic Red Deer alongside dozens of other mammals, wild birds, reptiles and fish.

Located in the park, the Franciscan Friary of Irrelagh, known as the Muckross Abbey, is a 15th-century well-kept ruin.  Its burial, still in use today, is the resting place of the poet and rebellious chieftain: Geoffrey O’Donoghues.

#6  Curraghchase Forest Park in Kilcornan

If you happen to be in County Limerick, Curraghchase is a fantastic 313-hectare (774-acre) recreation park with lakes, white swans and woodlands. Once the home of the critic and poet Aubrey de Vere, it then became a public forest park in the ’70s. Several waymarked routes with different length and for all levels (including wheelchair accessible ones) are available. Who knows, you might meet the hawfinch?

The entrance to the park is free, but there is a €5 parking fee (per car). You can avoid this service charge by leaving your vehicle 1.5km (one mile) before the entrance.

#7  Limerick City Gallery of Art

The Romanesque edifice presents the most significant collections of artworks in the West. Over 500 artists, from the 18th century onwards, are indeed displayed in the permanent exhibition. Every two years, EVA International, a massive visual expo, occurs in the gallery (next one 2020).

#8  Glenveagh Gardens and National park

An 1870’s castle surrounded by a one-of-a-kind Victorian garden. From the grounds, surrounded by colourful flowers and gorgeous statues, you’ll enjoy a first-class view over the pristine Lough Breagh and the rugged Derryveagh Sierra. Passionate arborists will be ecstatic to discover the garden’s tree trail.

Glenveagh National Park hides 16,000 hectares (around 39,500 acres) of pure wilderness. From 1km to 16km, choose one of the seven hilly hikes and discover untamed heaven on earth.

The gardens and the national park are free, but entering the castle will cost you €7.

#9  Majestic Slieve League cliffs

image of Slieve League cliffs

While everyone rushes to the notorious Cliff of Moher and pay an €8 fee, you will experience the highest cliffs (by 3 times) of the country at no cost. This natural wonder is definitely worth the trip. Several viewpoints are easily accessible. For those seeking for more thrill, the One’s Man Path will lead you to the uppermost part of the bluff (experienced hikers only).

#10 Donegal Heritage Trail

image of Donegal Heritage Trail

Tour fourteen Historical sites at no cost while discovering the most beautiful sceneries of Inishowen Peninsula. From Burt to Malin Head, your visit will consist of a 4,000-year-old entombment chamber, 1,500-year-old cross, two castles, stone circles and a lot more.

For further details, click here

#11 Doe Castle

Surrounded by the waters of Sheephaven Bay, this 15th-century castle is also known as Caisleán na dTuath. Jaunt the grounds, and uncover the tragic love story between Aileen (the owner’s daughter) and Turlough (the son of O’Boyle from Ballymore).

#12 Festina Lente Gardens in Old Connaught Ave

Festina Lente, “hasten slowly” in Latin, is the way to go in this Victorian-designed garden. Offer yourself a curing walk through its Sensory Therapeutic Trail. This healing journey aims to stimulate and energise your senses. Follow the lavender scent through the woodlands and reach the pool garden.

This non-profit organisation also hosts a horse-riding centre.  

Note: Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens, an old nursery situated in Kilbride, is renowned for its unique trees.

#13 Wicklow Mountains National Park

image of wicklow mountains national park

With over one million visitors each year and a 20,483-hectare (50,614 acres) surface, Wicklow is the largest of the six national parks. This conservation area is suitable for everyone seeking a natural escape. You can choose to walk one of the nine routes (from 1 to 11km) or cycle the three suitable ones (Orange, Green and Purple). Off-road wheeled adventurers will need a permit. Bouldering and climbing are two other thrilling activities (at your own risk).

#14 Carlow Garden Trail

Drive through this award-winning garden trail and explore over 20 botanical and horticultural attractions (some of them apply fees). Due to its sunny climate, the grounds are open all year long. The fervent growers will appreciate discovering the different sizes, species and styles.

Free admission includes:

  • The five-star Arboretum Inspirational Gardens
  • The restored Duckett’s Grove
  • The Altamont Gardens
  • The Oak Forest Park
  • Rath Wood

#15 Carlow County Museum

This museum also won a national prize for its collection in its four galleries. In the two permanent exhibitions, you’ll find artefacts belonging to John Tyndall and Captain Myles Keogh as well as gallows and petrified fossils. The remaining others have featured exhibits such as ‘The Quiet Revolution,’ the beginning of electricity in agrarian areas.

#16 Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow

Visual Carlow has the most extensive showroom in Ireland. They have four galleries opened to the public all year long. Their access and exhibitions are free of charge. With virtuosi such as the 9 Stones Artists, Steven Mc Kenna and Marjetica Potrč, why deprive yourself?  

#17   Kilkenny Castle Garden

Built in the 12th century, Kilkenny Castle is an aegis symbol and an emblem of Norman settlement. You can enjoy the architecture from outside or visit the free areas within the premises. These complimentary zones cover the Butler Gallery, the Medieval Room, the kitchen and tearoom (to see more, a €6 charge applies). In this 20-hectare (50 acres) land, you’ll find a Gaelic Cross-shaped rose garden, the River Nore canal walk and a kids playground.

#18   Kilkenny’s National Design and Craft Gallery

If you are an art & craft person, this place is a must! You will learn some techniques, discover handmade innovations or participate in one of the many complimentary talks and workshops. Mixing cultural elements to any of the creations is one of the most essential aspects of the piece making process.

#19   Ballycroy National Park

This 11,000-hectare of wetlands awards with 3 loop trails from 6 to 12km and the 40km Bangor hike. Moderate to high fitness levels can undertake those paths. As there is no accommodation, camping is allowed and free of charge. If you are a big group (10+) or willing to make a fire for the night, you will have to get a permit from the park staff. Look around and spot the wild American mink, the Eurasian pygmy shrew and other unique mammals. Birdwatchers and anthophiles are also in for a treat.

For those seeking a more relaxing coastal walk, the Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail is located 8km away.

#20 Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage

Known as “The Reek,” the 764-metre peak is the most sacred mountain in the Emerald Isle. A spiritual path, taken continuously for over 5,000 years, has gathered Christian pilgrims and animist pagans. Every last Sunday of July, people climb up to the two Teampall Phádraig (remains of a 5th-century chapel and a 1905 church) and pray where Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days. Fervent believers also hike Croagh Patrick for Garland (last Friday, July) and Assumption Days (15th of August). Those three dates are the insurance of both a mesmerising and cultural journey.

#21   Ballintubber Abbey, the Only Irish King Church still in Use

Founded by King Cathal Crobdearg Ua Conchobair in 1216, it is the only Irish-made cloister still operating today. Make sure to participate in the daily-celebrated mass, a profound cultural experience. If time allows, make sure to visit the Holy Well (where Saint Patrick baptised people in the 5th century).

Five times a year, the abbey organises the Tochar Phádraig, a 35km ancestral pilgrimage.

#22 Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina

One man (Jackie Clarke), obsessed by Irish historical items, collected over 100,000 material throughout his life. When he passed away, one of his last wishes was to give public and free access to his priceless collection. A generosity that opens us the door to 400 years of bygone days and access to rare maps of the 17th century and an original of 1916 Easter Proclamation.

#23   Burren National Park

Burren, from the Irish ‘Boíreann’ (rocky place), is Ireland’s smallest national parks. Its 1,500-hectare of rugged acreage (3,700 acres) hides different types of sedimentary rocks, fossils and cliffs. Mediterranean and Arctic plants share the scarce land with survivalist amphibians, over 35 mammal and bird species and 27 varieties of butterflies. The waters are split between eels, salmons and many other fishes. You can pick one of the seven paths, stroll for thirty minutes or hike up to three hours.

There is a free shuttle bus every day (10.15AM to 6PM) departing from Corofin.

#24   Little Ark in Kilbaha

image of little ark in kilbaha

When a priest does not have neither a place of worship nor a land, he builds a mobile church by the beach. That is how the Little Ark came to life in 1852. Six years later came to life Our Lady, Star of the Sea; the shelter of the “spiritual wooden box.” Its founder, Father Michael Meehan, was buried by the shore, at the Ark’s initial spot.

#25   Quin Abbey near Ennis

Rebuilt in the 15th century, this abbey used to be a monastery before burning in 1278. The grounds evolved then into a Norman Castle, a church, a friary and finally a college for hundreds of students. A decade later, Oliver Cromwell, a former English military, massacred the remaining monks and demolished most of the sanctuary.

#26   Connemara National Park

picture of Connemara National Park

Meet the famous Connemara ponies, take one of the four Diamond trails (from 0.5 to 3.7km) or just sit back and relax while your children enjoy the playground. Moors and bog blankets, the Twelve Bens Mountain range and extensive woodlands surround the 2,000-hectare (5,000 acres) recreational area.

#27  Even More Free Museums in Dublin

image of Dublin Trip Museum

When you visit Dublin there are lots of great free things to do. One of the best free things to do there is to check out all the free museums in Dublin.

From the historic Irish Museum of Modern Art to modern Dublin Science Gallery you can spend days getting lost in art.

#28   Library in Ballybunion

image of Library in Ballybunion

Disassembled in Rattoo (its original site) and reassembled by the sea in Ballybunion, this ancient gothic church became a literary heaven. If you are seeking for great views, good books and an outstanding historical location; you just found it!

#29   Clara Bog Nature Reserve

The 1km boardwalk through the raised bogs is just epic. This protected area is a magical world full of prismatic dragonflies, aqua damselflies and stunning butterflies. The visitor centre, open from May to October, is also free of charge and displays an interactive exhibition of the reserve’s fauna and flora.

#30   The Seven Wonders of Fore

It includes:

  • 13-century Monastery Built Upon Bogs by the French Benedictine
  • The Mill Without a Race, St. Féichín decided to erect a mill where no water was passing. Once the work finished, he pushed his crozier into the soil, and the water (flowing underground) began to flow.
  • The Water that Flows Uphill, a magical optical illusion.
  • The Tree that Won’t Burn, a sign of spiritual devotion
  • The Water that Doesn’t Boil, an empty well with healing powers.
  • The Anchorite In a Stone, the cell of the last hermit of Ireland
  • The Lintel Stone Raised by St. Féichín’s Prayers

#31   Lewis Glucksman  in Cork

This multi-awarded (10 times!) superstructure presents interesting exhibitions on architecture and space. You will learn about elaborated techniques and understand the genius behind modern constructions. Throughout the other expos, artists share an intimate perception of the contemporary world.

#32   Crawford gallery in Cork

The museum displays over 4,000 European and Irish artworks and historical items. You will find stained glass pieces, miniatures, ceramics, sculptures, paintings and photography from both modern and old times.

Every Sunday (and Bank holiday), at 2PM, the gallery offers free tours!

#33   Holycross Abbey

In the peaceful village of Holycross, near the River Suir, lies a sacred land with a stunning revitalised 12th-century abbey (now a parish). Inside you will find the relics of the Holy Rood (part of the True Cross). Uncover the legend of “The Church of the 8 Hands” or partake in one of the 15 weekly mass for a real cultural experience.

#34   Mount Melleray Abbey in Cappoquin

Every morning, at 4:30 AM, the dedicated monks, living in this 19th-century edifice, perform the holy Vigils. It is a magical moment for early birds searching for a spiritual occurrence. Night owls will be able to catch various prayers until 8PM.

#35   Lough Gill in the Yeats Country

This protected site, surrounded by forests, is the residence of friendly otters, sea and river lampreys as well as the endangered crayfish and the favourite Atlantic salmon. Over a dozen of Islands are scattered in the 12.8 km2.

The Nobel Prize, W.B. Yeats, wrote The Lake Isle of Innisfree, inspired from his tender age memories in this very same body of water.

#36   Sligo County Museum and Library

In this Presbyterian Church, you will find another sizeable enlightening spot with poems, paintings, photographs and artefacts from the Yeats brothers, Sean Keating and many other remarkable personas. The quirkiest item is undoubtedly the firkin of a century-old bog fat.

#37   Autograph Tree in Coole Park, Galway

Over 20 literary big names and geniuses left their engraving into the tree bark of a colossal Copper Beech. All of those legends came to visit Lady Gregory, the Abbey Theatre co-founder alongside both W.B. Yeats and Edward Martyn. The 1.75km Family Trail will lead you to the famous trunk.

The Seven Woods Trail, a 4.5km walk, will bring you into the many woodlands described in Yeats poems.

#38   Galway City Museum

A modern building exhibits its city’s History. The museum offers beautiful vistas over the river, the (free) 16th-century Spanish Arch and Galway Bay. It displays a thousand of scientific and archaeological donated artefacts.

#39   Medieval Galway City

image of Medieval

From June to August, twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), you can join a free tour of Galway City that departs from Druid Lane. You can also make your own expedition and your peregrinate through Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Ring Museum, the Hall of the Red Earl and the 15th century Lynch’s castle.

#40   Snorkel Trá an Dóilín

The unique underwater world of Carraroe (County Connemara) hides colorful beds of Maerl algae. No sand on that beach, instead you will step on multi-chromatic dead corals. Put on your favorite bathing suit and swim from cove to cove in this internationally awarded Blue Flag Beach.

More Free Things to Do:

  • The Hill of Tara
  • Newman’s Corn And Flax Mill
  • Historical cities: Waterford, Birr, Trim and Kells 
  • The Northern Lights
  • The beaches and seawatching from shore/ colonies etc
  • Wexford Lavender Farm
  • Markets  such as the Old English Market or Ha’penny
  • The coastal walk from Bray to Greystone
  • Templemore Park Fairy Trail
  • Yawl Racing, Achill Island (every weekend through summer)
  • The Grand Canal and the Royal Canal
  • The Abingdon Car Collection
  • Outdoor sculptures in Russborough
  • Monaghan County Museum
  • Museum of Style Icons in Kildare
  • Go on a free guided heritage walk in Enniscrone
  • Visit Queen Maeve’s Tomb in Knocknarea
  • The Bronze Age Drombeg (13) Stone Circle
  • Blackrock Castle Observatory, free every first Friday of every month

Good to know: Every first Wednesday of each month, all OPW (Office of Public works) heritage sites are free of charge.

 
 
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